by Jeanne Siviski

The drumming of a grouse in the distance.  A trailside tree peppered with rings of yellow bellied sapsucker pecking holes.  The cry, like a squeaky wheel, of a black and white warbler as it flitted by.  The forest at Pine Tree Camp in Rome was filled with bird trills last Saturday during the Women and Our Woods Outdoor Workshop. The day-long course was broken down into four segments: forestry with birds in mind, orienteering, chainsaw safety and wildlife tracking.

Women and Our Woods partnered with Women of the Maine Outdoors to present the program.

Amanda Mahaffey, the Northeast Region Director of Forest Stewards Guild, taught the land owners how to assess bird habitat in the forest based on the amount of living and dead plant materials found at differing canopy levels.  Within these various canopies, Maine and the Northeast provide breeding habitat for more bird species than any other part of the country.

The group passed a clearing which Mahaffey identified as an example of a timber harvest that resulted in beneficial habitat for the Eastern Wood-Pewee. They depend on gaps within forests for flying out to catch insects in the air. 

It’s often easier to identify birds by their calls than by seeing them, Sally Stockwell, the Director of Conservation at Maine Audubon, said.  Birds are often named with an onomatopoeic approach, with names that sound like their calls, and the Eastern Wood-Peewee is no exception.  It is also one of the 20 birds on the Audubon’s list of conservation priority species.

Several participants in Patty Cormier’s orienteering course said they were eager to try out their newly acquired pacing skills at home.  But Cormier’s session covered not just how to get your bearings in the woods, but also, what is in the woods, how healthy is that forest, what might be stressing a tree, how fast is a tree growing, would a thinning  be beneficial, along with questions posed by the group.  Asked about inventorying a forest, Cormier pulled out a forester’s prism and demonstrated its use.   Cormier is a District Forester with the Maine Forest Service and a Maine Woodland Owners board member and chapter leader.

During the afternoon session, tish carr coached participants on correct methods for starting a chainsaw.  Women, she said, can make use of the strength in their legs when operating a chainsaw.  Safety first was the motto during her teaching session, beginning with the use of head-to-toe safety gear. carr is a licensed forester and arborist.













In the tracking wildlife portion of the workshop, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Outreach Coordinator, Amanda Shearin, said that, this time of year, many animal tracks lead to vernal pools. They are basically a woodlands “buffet,” she said, filled with wood frog and salamander egg masses.  They may seem like small fries, but Shearin explained that salamanders make up a large portion of a forest.  The total biomass of salamanders found in a forest can be greater than the biomass of birds or small mammals.  On this spring day filled with bird song, outweighing the birds seemed like an especially impressive measure.

Posted in: Wildlife
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