Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Timberdoodles and Wildlife Along the Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic Coast region is a highly urbanized area that stretches from southwestern Maine to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. That makes it even more critically important to resident wildlife and migratory wildlife.

Recently, conservationists in the region have joined forces and funding to launch the Atlantic Coast Regional Woodcock Initiative, reports the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI).

But what caught my attention in the article I read was the mention of timberdoodles. It's a name that I had never heard. It's a bird also known by the folk names bogsucker, night partridge, brush snipe, hokumpoke, and becasse. It's the American woodcock.

A WMI initiative is aimed at creating habitat for timberdoodles, but it will also benefit New England cottontails, bobcats, golden-winged warblers, Eastern towhees, whip-poor-wills, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys and bog turtles, as well as scores of other species that use young forest for all or some of their life needs. The populations of many of these animals have fallen in recent decades.

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) lives in young upland forest and brushy woods near rivers and streams. Woodcock eat worms and insects, which they catch by probing in the soil with their long bills. They breed across eastern North America from Atlantic Canada to the Great Lakes, and spend the winter in lowlands mainly in the southern and Gulf Coast states.

In the past, woodcock were abundant because plenty of young forest – also called early successional habitat – existed in their range. But many brushy areas have grown into mature forest, where woodcock do not live. And human development has destroyed much of the birds' former habitat. Because of these factors, the timberdoodle population has fallen by about 1.2 percent each year since the 1960s.

Habitat-management efforts on designated public and private lands will create demonstration areas where other managers and landowners can learn how best to create, rejuvenate and maintain young-forest habitat.

The Appalachian Mountains Regional Initiative began in 2008 and involves parts of Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia, and already has 10 Demonstration Areas up and running.

Here in NJ, the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex County is part of the initiative and a woodcock interpretive trail is in the planning stages.


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