Monitoring

Our Habitat Stewardship Technician deploys a Songmeter within Pinery. A week later, this unit will be retrieved and redeployed to another location in the park. Sound files are removed from the unit at pickup and returned to the office for further processing and analysis.

 

Effective management of species at risk requires an understanding of both species’ habitat needs and the physical distribution of desired habitat. Our Songmeter Minis provide a lightweight solution allowing for acoustic monitoring of bird vocalizations and distribution throughout the park. Songmeters record the sounds of the surrounding birds from a fixed location creating an inventory of the species that occur.

These recordings reveal not only where the birds are, but also give us clues about activity, whether that be feeding, establishing territory, or chiseling out a nest cavity. However, we need to combine acoustic measures with in-field habitat measurements to understand what habitat features the birds require. During the breeding season, parkwide vegetation surveys and our monthly roadside Whip-poor-will survey help fill in these gaps.

Parkwide surveillance with Songmeters allows for the mapping of bird distribution. This map depicts the range of Red-headed Woodpeckers in Pinery through the 2021 breeding season. Woodpeckers appear confined mostly to the areas around Heritage, Riverside, and Wilderness Trails.

 

Open and closed canopies are found in Pinery and may greatly influence woodpecker occurence. Our project’s Red-headed woodpecker survey aims to uncover the habitat features that are most predictive of woodpecker occupancy in Pinery.

 

Our first survey investigates the habitat requirements of Red-headed Woodpecker across areas of the park known to be occupied by woodpeckers in the past. While searching for woodpeckers, we take measurements of the surrounding vegetation, canopy openness, and snag density to uncover what components of the habitat most greatly influence woodpecker occurrence. If we can expose the features that are most related to woodpecker occurrence, we can use this information to replicate these conditions in other areas of the park.

The Eastern Whip-poor-will roadside survey conducted over the last decade allows us to examine the year over year changes in occupancy at different locations throughout Pinery. Generally, these surveys have revealed that the occupancy of whip-poor-will in the park is increasing by roughly 3.2 percent per year suggesting an overall improvement in the amount of suitable habitat within the park. It also shows where areas of decline may occur – typically in areas where the shrub layer has grown denser over time.

Our hope is to correlate this information with our parkwide acoustic surveillance and examine the effectiveness of roadside surveys in measuring the population of Eastern Whip-poor-will in Pinery.

Roadside Eastern Whip-poor-will surveys are conducted during the summer months at the height of the full moon. These surveys have been conducted by park staff for over ten years. This information reveals that the parks population of Eastern Whip-poor-will may already be growing!

Combined, acoustic and in-field monitoring of the birds and their habitats are used to guide future management plans aiming to recreate appropriate habitat for our target species within the park.

 

Direct Stewardship

Efforts to directly improve Red-headed Woodpecker and Eastern whip-poor-will success are underway in Pinery!

The removal of invasive plant species, especially the park’s historic pines, will open the forest, providing new insect foraging opportunities for both of our species of interest in the air and on the ground. The clearing of this space also provides the desired nesting habitat for Eastern Whip-poor-will.  

Prescribed burns will clear much of the understory vegetation, opening additional space while creating snags suitable for Red-headed Woodpecker nesting. Although the park was unable to burn in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are hopeful in our burn plans for 2022.

In open areas where burns are not feasible, combining invasive vegetation removal with the deployment of artificial nestboxes for Red-headed Woodpecker may provide nesting habitat where snags cannot be created. We’re interested to see whether the nestboxes will be used by Red-headed woodpeckers and which style of nestbox they may prefer.

Three different styles of nestbox are being tested, which will be successful? (left – unaltered log; middle – initial cavity entrance bored out; right – hole and cavity fully excavated).

 

A nestbox deployment photo series: Top left, a rope is thrown over a natural crotch near the top of a tree. Top right, the thrown rope is attached to a pulley that is pulled up to the top of the tree. This line is tied off to another tree to maintain the height of the pulley. Centre left, additional rigging is attached for the nestbox and the pull rope. The pull rope is attached to a tree out of frame with a climbing grigri permitting the rope to move in only one direction. Centre right, rigging is lifted into position on the tree. When the pull rope passes through the grigri (out of frame) the nestbox is lifted off the ground and into the tree. Bottom left, the lifted nestbox is positioned on the tree with an extra guiding line and telescoping poles (out of frame). A guide line is attached to the cable that secures the nestbox to the tree which allows for the cable to be pulled tight from the ground. Bottom right, the ropes and pulleys are removed and the nestbox is ready to accommodate arriving Red-Headed Woodpeckers.

 

A nestbox positioned high in a tree is preferred by Red-headed Woodpeckers. We are hopeful that these nestboxes will accommodate woodpecker breeding in places where burns aren’t feasible.

 

Education

We understand that the work conducted within the park is only one part in creating adequate spaces for these species. It will take the work of many other individuals and groups beyond the park’s boundaries to make a real impact.

To that end, the HSP has created some educational materials for distribution designed to highlight the threats these species face and what actions would benefit their recovery. These materials are freely available to park guests at the Visitor’s Centre.

Park naturalists also provide educational programming and talks throughout the summer that focus on protecting species at risk. We also provide additional outreach at special events in the park and the surrounding community.