Wagner Codyville Woodcock Habitat Project, Washington County, Maine

About the Wagner-Codyville Tract

This is classic North Woods country: sparsely populated, heavily forested, and veined with flowages, wetlands that flood each spring during snowmelt. The land is covered with northern hardwoods, especially aspen and birch, as well as conifers such as spruce, pine, and fir. The region provides a rich habitat for wildlife, including large and small mammals and a variety of breeding and migratory birds.

The 375 upland acres within the 500-acre Codyville tract lie along the Tomah Stream flowage in eastern Maine, about 10 miles west of the St. Croix River, which forms the border with Canada. The parcel was formerly owned by Georgia-Pacific, a large forest-products company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Today it is overseen by Wagner Forest Management, of Lyme, N.H. Wagner has a strong commitment to sustainable forestry: managing tracts so that they provide a steady stream of valuable wood products while promoting forest health and recreational opportunities.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Foresters are managing the Codyville tract to convert an old forestry plantation, plus some abandoned and overgrown farm fields, to a more-natural northern hardwoods ecosystem, creating high-quality habitat for woodcock, ruffed grouse, white-tailed deer, moose, bear, snowshoe hares, and the many kinds of songbirds that need young forest.

Vigorous new growth of aspen on the Wagner-Codyville tract.

When aspens are cut, their root systems send up junglelike new growth -- perfect habitat for woodcock, songbirds, snowshoe hares, and many other wild animals./C. Fergus

After an earlier round of logging in the 1970s, larch, jack pine, and red pine were planted on the tract; also, native species including spruce, fir, white pine, aspen, white birch, and red maple began growing there. Now, some of those trees have reached marketable size.

In setting up the woodcock habitat area, foresters laid out a grid of 4-acre blocks. During winter and spring 2010-2011, the timber was harvested on one quarter of the blocks. Larger trees went for forest products, mainly pulp for making paper but also some pine logs for lumber; smaller trees were chipped and sold as fuel for biomass power generation. Workers also made improvement cuts on blocks that were not harvested by removing smaller, poorer-quality trees to let the larger, dominant trees grow faster and become healthier through better nutrient and water uptake. In the future, when loggers return to harvest the remaining blocks, thanks to the improvement cuts the trees will yield higher-quality wood and will resprout more quickly and vigorously.

The Codyville tract sits on a gravel esker, a geological formation where the well-drained soil dries quickly. This meant that heavy mechanized equipment could be used for logging from late winter into April and May, just before the hardwood trees put out leaves. (Logging machines generally cannot move about on the land during the spring thaw, because they would dig deep ruts in the soil, leading to erosion and possible loss of site productivity in the future.) Cutting just before leaf-out drew an especially strong response from the trees’ underground root systems, where nutrients had been stored over winter and were waiting to be transformed into new vegetative growth. The result? A thick, dense resprouting of hardwoods, particularly aspen. Cut during the dormant season, aspen clones (the expansive root systems that send up many individual trees) spread and expand. Over time, this cutting technique will shift the forest from mixed hardwoods and softwoods to a greater percentage of aspen.

Aspen is a valuable forest-products tree; it is also a favorite of woodcock, which forage for worms on the ground in aspen stands. Ruffed grouse eat the trees’ high-energy buds in winter, and deer, snowshoe hares, and moose browse on aspen sprouts.

Chestnut-sided warblers also use young-forest habitat.

It's not just about woodcock: many birds, like this chestnut-sided warbler, need young forest, too./T. Berriman

Many migratory birds – including least flycatchers, black-billed cuckoos, common nighthawks, chestnut-sided warblers, and white-throated sparrows – nest among the crowded stems in thick young aspen stands. Birds of the older forest, such as thrushes and warblers, bring their newly fledged young into these dense areas to feed on the plentiful insect life that young-forest patches support.

On the Codyville tract, logging will take place on another 25 percent of the blocks in or around the years 2020, 2030, and 2040, so that after 40 years there will be four different age and size classes of trees.

As log landings are created, some of them will be mowed periodically to keep them open and functioning as woodcock singing grounds. Most log landings are about 150 feet long by 45 feet wide, or a quarter-acre in area, adequate for one male woodcock to use for singing and flight displays during the spring breeding season. There will be one singing ground for every four 4-acre units. Woodcock also use newly cut forest blocks for singing and displaying until the dense regrowth of young trees transforms the blocks into brood-rearing and feeding cover. Toward the end of the planned 40-year cutting cycle, the older blocks will become more-open nesting habitat.

Another cover type that woodcock need is roosting habitat: areas of patchy vegetation to which the birds fly at night, to rest on the ground during darkness. The sparse, low plant growth of roosting habitat lets woodcock get airborne to escape from ground predators like weasels, while protecting them from aerial predators such as owls. On the Codyville tract, a nearby gravel pit serves as a permanent roost field. Woodcock also will roost on newly logged patches and on recently mowed log landings.

Funding and Partners

Wagner Forest Management Ltd., U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The Wagner Codyville Woodcock Habitat Project is in Codyville Plantation about 8 miles east of Topsfield, south of Maine Route 6 on Todd Farm Road. For more information, visit www.wagnerforest.com.

PDF icon Todd Farm Woodcock Habitat.pdf2.29 MB