Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Habitat On My Mind

I recently attended a Ruffed Grouse Society habitat presentation. Having acquired an eye for grouse cover, the presentation explained a bit of why the grouse prefer the cover they do, and hopefully will allow me to find more, and better cover in the future. Forestry management, and timber cutting were among the subjects discussed, as well as the decline of several species as a result of poor management, and restrictions on cutting. Here are a few interesting facts from the presentation;

* In New England there are 338 vertebrate species. Of those, 257 have a primary or secondary dependence on woodland vegetation. Of those, 233 have a primary or secondary dependence on second growth woodlands.

* Grouse prefer woodlands between 10 and 25 years old.

* Grouse prefer forest patches of mixed hardwoods and evergreens, greater than 20 acres, near young saplings, and within 300 feet of open land.

* Aspen in the most important tree species to the Ruffed Grouse. Aspen is a short lived tree which readily takes advantage of clear cuts, and sunlight. Aspen is one of just a few species of tree, which when cut, sprouts multiple new trees from it's root system.

* Clear cutting will benefit wildlife, but each species has it's own requirements. While Cottontail Rabbits will benefit from cuts about 12 acres in size, the Olivesided Flycatcher requires cuts greater than 35 acres. When cutting any lot, cut from south to north to maximize sunlight.

* Since 1970, in Massachusetts there has been a 43% decline in woodcock. The eastern region of the woodcock's range has seen a decline of about 32% during that time period.

* A woodcock hen will lay 4 eggs. Should her clutch be lost a second clutch will be laid, but it will only contain 3 eggs.

***Special thanks to Andy Weik, RGS N.E., NY, and Eastern Canada, biologist for catching a couple inaccuracies in my note taking, and e-mailing me so I could make appropriate edits.

***Andy and his hunting cohorts have an entertaining blog, Grousers, which I've linked. Take a look, if you haven't already.

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