Woodcock depend on the Downeast coast’s young hardwood forests and shrublands, old farms reverting to forest, poorly drained alder thickets and forested openings both as migration stopovers and for nesting and brood rearing habitat. Males need openings for breeding displays and singing, and larger clearings of several acres are important evening roosting sites. Woodcock probe in moist soils under young trees and shrubs for earthworms which typically make up 80% of their diet. Seeds, small insects and other invertebrates account for the rest. Each fall, these unusual-looking birds migrate to their wintering grounds in the southeastern and Gulf Coast states.
Because its climate is moderated by the waters of the Gulf of Maine, coastal Washington County offers some of New England’s most productive woodcock habitat. Late spring snows are less likely to frustrate nesting near the coast. And, during the fall migration hard freezes come later allowing the woodcock more time to feed and fatten to be in prime condition to head south.
Balancing the needs of species like woodcock for early successional growth with the needs of species that require mature forest is an intriguing conservation challenge for organizations that undertake active habitat management. Making good decisions about the size, configuration and location of areas to maintain for woodcock habitat and whether or not fires or other natural disturbance regimes are adequate to meet the needs of woodcock requires a local as well as landscape-scale perspective.
The "Brontosaurus" at work and views of the roosting field during and after cutting.
During March of 2009 David Look of Jonesport used his excavator fitted out with a “Brontosaurus” head to enhance woodcock habitat on PRWF property on Crowley Island in Addison. He cleared a roosting field of about 8 acres on the point just south of Bryant’s Island that will be mowed annually and cut a feeding strip of about 1.5 acres nearby. Additional strips will be cut at five year intervals in suitable feeding cover to establish a rotation of varied age growth. In addition to the roosting field and feeding strip three small singing grounds with a total area of 2 acres were cleared along the access road.
PO Box 154 • Addison • Maine • 04606 • [email protected]