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Strong Wildlife Management Area - Woodcock Management Report
MDIFW maintains Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) throughout the state with the intent of providing high quality wildlife habitat, allowing recreation for the public, and to demonstrate the benefits of specific habitat management techniques. The western mountain Region is home to six WMAs, and all but the Strong WMA are dominated by wetland habitats. Management activities on those areas focus on the maintenance of a diverse complex of wetland habitats, providing important nesting and staging areas for waterfowl and wading birds.
The landscape at the 90-acre Strong WMA is much different, containing a mixture of upland hardwoods, old fields, and low-lying alder patches. This combination of habitats offers the regional staff the opportunity to actively manage for woodcock, a migratory species that spends the spring, summer and fall in Maine. In order to prosper, woodcock require a diversity of young, vigorously growing habitats, which are most often located on moist soil. We use habitat management techniques that focus on retarding forest succession to provide woodcock with the right combinations of these habitats. This land management strategy also benefits ruffed grouse, as well as a suite of species relying on early-successional habitats.
Management for woodcock at the Strong WMA began in 1983, when the old fields leftover from a long history of farming were reclaimed. Open fields are a key component in woodcock management because they are utilized during courtship (for singing grounds) as well as for roosting areas at night. In order to prevent these areas from reverting to forests, the fields are mowed a minimum of once in a 3-year period. Woodcock also need habitats that provide food and cover, which is achieved by periodically thinning the low-lying hardwood and alder stands located adjacent to these open fields. A matrix of habitat blocks have been delineated and mapped throughout the alder and low-lying hardwood stands in order to systematically select 1/20th of these blocks to be cut every year. Each block, typically 40 feet wide by 100 feet long, is cut once in a 20-year period, which overtime creates a patchwork of alder and hardwood stands in a variety of age classes (0 to 20 years old). Maintaining this diversity of stand-types supplies woodcock with a continuous source of vigorous, young growth. Research has shown that young, open hardwood stands in proximity to open fields are important to woodcock for nesting and raising their young. Likewise, young and vigorously growing alder stands readily supply nitrogen to the soil, growing plenty of earthworms, which are a very important food source for woodcock.
These management techniques are borrowed ideas, adapted from strategies illustrated in the publication “A Landowner’s Guide to Woodcock Management in The Northeast” developed at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge located in Calais, Maine. This publication is available online at: http://www.umaine.edu/mafes/elec_pubs/miscrepts/ne_woodcock.pdf The work associated with woodcock management at the Strong WMA could not have been completed without the assistance of a variety of volunteers including forestry students from the Foster Regional Vocational Center.
If you are traveling through the western mountains and are interested in woodcock, take some time and visit the Strong WMA.
Robert Cordes – Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist
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