Mattawamkeag River System Wildlife Management Area, Page Farm Compartment, Penobscot County, Maine

About the Page Farm Project

The Page Farm Compartment’s 1,206 acres lie within the 6,838-acre Mattawamkeag River System Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in east-central Maine. The terrain is a mix of floodplain forest dominated by spruce, fir, and cedar; bogs; upland hardwood forest; and old farms reverting to shrubland and woods. The region’s abundant wildlife includes deer, black bear, moose, snowshoe hare, bobcats, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, marsh hawks, eagles, and many kinds of songbirds.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Habitat managers identified the Page Farm unit, with its old fields and apple orchards, as an ideal area to manage for woodcock and other young-forest wildlife. A first step was to repair and upgrade Lower Drew Road, leading in to the unit, so that logging and other habitat-management equipment could get to the site and the demonstration area could be maintained in the future and visited by the public.

Strip cut provides feeding habitat for woodcock.

Strips, cut approximately 16 feet wide, will provide great feeding habitat for woodcock, plus help other wildlife that need regrowing woodland./C. Fergus

On the east side of the unit, land managers and biologists mapped out 16 feeding strips 100 feet wide and of varying lengths, side by side on approximately 50 acres. To the west, across Lower Drew Road, they laid out a grid of 5-acre blocks covering some 70 acres.

The first strips and blocks were cut in winter 2010-2011. After mechanical tree harvesters removed merchantable trees, a tracked vehicle with a brontosaurus cutting head chewed down limbs, stumps, and trees that were too small for the commercial harvest. When clearing strips, workers avoided damaging apple trees that had sprung up in the mid-twentieth century when forest began reclaiming the abandoned farmland.

The strips and blocks have a high concentration of aspens. Harvesting the aspens in winter, when the trees’ nutrients are held in their root systems, spurred the aspens to resprout vigorously, letting them become a major component of the forest that will regrow on the site. Aspens are valuable timber trees, used for paper pulp, oriented strand-board, and other wood products; they also make excellent cover for wildlife. Woodcock forage for earthworms in aspen stands, and the trees’ buds are an important winter food for ruffed grouse. Other trees growing on the harvested strips and blocks include red maple, white birch, and black cherry. Alder, sumac, dogwood, raspberry, and other shrubs have sprung up on these acres newly exposed to direct sunlight.

A brontosaurus cutting head chews down older shrub growth.

A brontosaurus machine chewed down trees between apples, restoring an old orchard as prime wildlife habitat./R. Robicheau

At the core of the management area – between the strips and blocks – are several old fields totaling around 18 acres. Since their abandonment, the fields had become choked with trees, shrubs, and weeds. With funding from the National Wild Turkey Federation, managers brought back the fields by cutting down trees, removing stumps, and going over the exposed soil with a bulldozer equipped with a root rake. The cleared fields were then seeded with grasses and clover. They will be mowed as needed to keep trees from invading them again. Managers also spot-planted thickets of oaks, plums, crabapple, nannyberry, and beaked hazelnut – good sources of fruit and nuts eaten by a range of wildlife.

An old orchard borders the fields. Logging removed a stand of mature white pines that were overshadowing the orchard; then a brontosaurus machine wove back and forth between the fruit trees, browsing down saplings that were beginning to shade out the lower-growing apple trees. The cutting set back shrubs to an earlier growth stage. The shrubs, including alder, dogwood, and blackberry, along with herbaceous annuals such as goldenrod and aster, now provide dense cover in summer and fall, protecting woodcock as they probe for earthworms in the rich soil beneath the apples. Many other wild animals, including grouse, deer, and bear, eat fruit produced by the restored orchard.

This mix of diverse habitat types lying close to one another will help many kinds of wildlife.

Woodcock use regrowing forest habitat.

Woodcock use new regrowing forest habitat on the Page Farm Compartment of Mattawamkeag River System WMA./T. Flanigan

Wild turkey and ruffed grouse hens will escort their young into the mowed grassy areas to feed on insects. Male woodcock will conduct breeding displays in the fields in springtime, and timberdoodles will roost on the ground at night in those same areas during late summer and early fall.

The strips and patch cuts will provide feeding and brood-rearing habitat for woodcock as well as nesting areas for grouse, turkeys, and many species of songbirds. As trees in these areas gradually grow older, woodcock will nest in their slightly more open understory. Managers have scheduled more logging at five- and 10-year intervals into the future, so that there will always be areas of different-aged forest growing on the Page Farm unit.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife plans to harvest tracts of adjacent forest on the Page Farm Compartment; the cut-over areas will provide even more feeding and brood-rearing habitat for woodcock and important cover for other wild species that need young forest during all or part of their life cycles.

Funding and Partners

National Wild Turkey Federation, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program), Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

Take Maine Route 170 north out of Springfield. Turn right on Mud Pond Road, then left on Lower Drew Road. The demonstration area is in Drew Plantation just west of Mud Pond. The road to the Page Farm unit is passable by high-clearance vehicles. For more information contact Mark Caron, Regional Wildlife Biologist, at 207-732-4132, e-mail