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Woodpeckers and tree care

Thursday, June 24, 2010, by Autumn Alexandra Amici and Anthony Rivera
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 The overall goal of this project is to understand the effects of tree care practices on habitat for cavity nesting birds, primarily woodpeckers. Most cavity nesting birds seek out dead snags for creating a nest. As cavity excavators, these birds provide habitat elements for a suite of species and are therefore important for biodiversity.

While the dead snags that are important for these cavity-nesting birds may go unnoticed in a preserved area, they can be hazardous in towns and cities. By assessing the prevalence of cavity nesting birds in snags throughout an urban to wild land gradient, we can begin to understand the importance of snag maintenance.

Our summer's work is focused on monitoring nests found along an urban to wild land gradient to find out the activity of these nests. We are exploring this gradient with trips to the Quabbin Reservoir, Belchertown, and the Norwottuck Bicycle Path in Hadley. Our main study subjects include Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Downy Woodpecker. Each day we set out to locate the nest trees, set up the scope on the cavity, and monitor for any activity at the nest for thirty-minute observation periods. During 

these observation periods, we record the adult birds' visits to the nest, which allows us to determine the stage of the nest. At this point in the summer, many of our nests have reached the fledging stage (when the babies leave the nest), and therefore we will be completing the monitoring soon. We then will begin the second phase of our project, which includes vegetation surveying, as well as working more heavily on our individual projects.

Our other independent project will focus on noise pollution along the urban to rural gradient. Even preserved areas, such as the Quabbin Reservoir, suffer from noise pollution via low flying planes. With a temporal analysis of ambient noise at several plots, we hope to learn more about how urbanization may be impacting the acoustics of each location. Using a sound level meter and prerecorded woodpecker calls, we will be testing for the amplitudes of various noise pollutants (cars, trains, etc.), and for sound propagation in each environment. 
The first of our individual project's overall goal is to assess the relationship between various levels of urban development on arthropod density and snag abundance for the three main study subjects—Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Downy Woodpecker. The supporting objectives for this goal are: 1. Quantify arthropod abundance and feeding substrate throughout the summer season at replicated plots in wildland, suburban, and large (growing) town habitats; 2. Compare habitat quality for potential woodpecker use in known woodpecker nesting plots versus adjacent random plots for the three urbanization treatments; 3. Combine the data collected from this portion of our larger study to create possible management recommendations for snag maintenance.