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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

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Photo: Al Woodliffe 7. Retain stick nest trees and buffers A number of large bird species (e.g., hawks, owls, ravens, crows, herons) nest in the forests of southern Ontario. These species build large stick nests, typically in a crotch near the canopy of a large diameter living tree. These rare habitat features are used repeatedly and are characterized by large or extra large trees with unusual forks. Guidelines recommend retaining all trees with stick nests and, depending on the species and activity of the nest, a tree length buffer or greater. In woodlots without stick nests retaining at least one large forked tree per 10 ha will ensure an adequate number of future nesting sites for these birds. 8. Maintain buffers around water features Ponds, springs, seeps, riparian areas (vegetated areas along streams and rivers), shorelines, wet pockets, and depressions function as areas of critical habitat for many plants and animals. These areas can be particularly sensitive to disturbance. The Prothonotary Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, and Louisiana Waterthrush are three bird species at risk in Ontario. They are all associated with wet, swampy areas with small pools or streams of open water. Woodland ponds and seeps serve as breeding sites for a number of amphibians. The riparian vegetation is important in maintaining water quality by preventing erosion and silt runoff. We recommend leaving no-cut buffers in and around these sensitive environments. Roads and skid trails should avoid crossing these areas, and avoid choosing trees for harvesting that would fall across these areas. Activities should not fragment habitat or sever travel corridors. Many species, particularly salamanders, are poor dispersers (not mobile). You should maintain high canopy cover to protect water temperature and moisture levels. Where trails need to cross streams or drainages it should be at right angles and minimize disturbance in this area by using culverts or bridges. Red-shouldered Hawk nest — Photo: Kyle Aldinger Stream through woodland buffered by vegetation — Photo: Lucas Foerster 70 Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity

9. Limit timing of harvesting activities Since many forest birds are only in southern Ontario woodlots during the breeding season (April 15–end of August), curbing harvesting activities during this period can minimize disruption to forest birds. As well, harvesting in the winter when a deep snow layer exists can reduce surface disturbance and cause less damage to existing understorey vegetation. As the forest floor is susceptible to disturbance during harvesting operations, soil exposure, compaction, and rutting all work to reduce biodiversity by disrupting the recycling of soil nutrients, reducing ground cover, limiting regeneration, eliminating habitat for soil biota, and creating opportunities for increased soil erosion. In wet areas, harvesting should only occur when ground is frozen or very dry to avoid rutting and soil compaction, which will ultimately affect growth and regeneration of the developing forest. Any partial harvesting program should also avoid the active growing phase (mid- May to late July) when the bark is loose and trees are highly susceptible to damage. In some cases, tree species with light seeds (i.e., yellow birch, red pine) will benefit from surface soil scuffing (site preparation) to allow the seed to sit on mineral soil. Balancing this need for these tree species, while limiting damage to the site would be best accomplished during dry periods in late summer or early fall. 10.Manage exotic invasive plant populations Invasive exotics pose real threats to the existence of native plants and animals by squeezing them out and destroying their habitats. Non-native vegetation often provides fewer insects for foraging birds, inferior nesting substrates, and competes with native vegetation for resources and space. Garlic mustard, European or glossy buckthorn, common buckthorn, multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, autumn olive, and Dames rocket are a few non-native species that readily invade the woodlots of southern Ontario. Successful exotics may possess dominant biological characteristics that allow them to rapidly invade and out-grow native species for moisture, light, and nutrients. In their native habitats, organisms have natural predators, competitors, and diseases that act as checks and balances. However, when introduced to new areas, these controls may not be in place and problem exotics can thrive, and become pests. Exotics not only displace native species, but they may introduce diseases that native species have no immunity to, create economic costs, destroy wildlife habitat, and even further endanger protected species. Controlling exotic plants is an essential part of preserving and protecting our natural heritage for future generations. Once an invasive exotic becomes established, it can be considerably more difficult to control or eliminate. You can help prevent the introduction of invasive exotic plants by requiring loggers to steam or pressure-wash their equipment before entering your woodlot. Disturbed areas such as landings, trails, and garbage piles can create openings that exotic species readily invade. Avoid creating excess roads, skid trails, and large landings in harvesting operations. Planting these areas with native plants immediately after harvest will help prevent exotics from becoming established. Skidder stuck in deep mud — Photo: Terry Schwan Dames rocket an exotic invasive plant species — Photo: Robert McCaw Guidelines for Forest Management and Maintenance of Forest Bird Diversity 71

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