Our first year at Piedmont NWR included training on how to clear a 10 foot swath in the shape of a circle around the bottom of the cockaded woodpecker tree.
Thankfully this didn’t have to be done around all of the woodpecker trees; only the ones that was in the prescribed burn areas.
First you have to know how to recognize a cockaded tree. LOTS of pine trees can have LOTS of round holes in them which you might think was the tree. To make it easier to identify the active trees (meaning trees in use by that woodpecker), white bands are painted around the tree, probably about 6 foot off the ground.
OR if it is a new “man-made cavity” in the tree, that tree has a huge band around where the cavity is.
THAT is what we are going to be talking about today…in a minute…or two…
In case you may have forgotten our “tree cleaning experience”, let me refresh your memory.
After you have located where the trees are, you set off into the woods to get to those trees. Just getting there is a trip, literally, in itself. If you cannot drive to it, you walk to it…or try to.
When I think of “grapevine” I think of a dance step, or maybe some place near Traverse City, Michigan that grows a lot of grapes to make into wonderful wine. Here they are devious, low lying weeds that will sneak up and seize you by the ankle. And most likely, if you are rookies like us, you will fall flat on your face wondering what the hell was that? How did I end up here? After this has happened at least twice, you start high stepping thru the woods as if you were a prancing horse.
It is bad enough to fall down, but normally you are also carrying your equipment which consists of two fireman’s rake, a lopper or two, and one turbo charged, industrial sized, gas operated leaf blower. Falling down with these can be dangerous…and make you look quite foolish.
Not too many of the trees are easily approachable. They are not that kind of tree that stands in the forest just waiting for a hug. They are unfriendly. After all, they alone have been the chosen trees by the endangered cockaded woodpecker! Dan and I did our fair share of landing our face and sometimes on our back…which then reminded us of an armadillo that had been over turned and couldn’t correct the problem.
The guys that work here can literally sail across the top of the weeds and if they should fall down, it is only a nano-second and they pop right back up and keep on going like nothing happened. As you get older you don’t tend to pop up from anything, let alone a fall while lugging equipment around.
So yesterday, Jason and Nathan were going to put in 4 more man-made woodpecker boxes. I believe Jason said this makes 24 for the season and the last of them for the season.
There is a LOT of equipment to be hauled to the trees with this endeavor as well. There are light weight skinny ladders, consisting of 3 - 10 foot sections for each of the cavity whisperers. There is a lineman’s bag which is full of all the things they will need while 30’ up in the air (which if I can remember it all; the cavity box, a chisel, a hammer, paint, putty, a screen, a putty knife, a couple of large cans of white spray paint, a draw knife, possibly a bottle of water, nails, shims, their life insurance policy, next of kin notification, and I don’t know what else I may have forgotten). They also have about a 60’ length of rope and safety belts in order to fasten themselves to the tree. There is also a small chainsaw involved, as well as safety gear consisting of ear plugs and hard hats.
I tried to help carry stuff, but being so damn wary of weeds I didn’t carry more than my camera, one length of a ladder and my own weight.
The guys took off
The photos I am going to try to post (Blogger hasn’t been too cooperative lately) hopefully will tell the story.
DAN AND NATHAN CARRYING EQUIPMENT TO A CHOSEN TREE
NATHON ON A COMPLETED LADDER SET UP
JASON MARKING SIZE OF HOLE TO CUT
NATHAN CUTTING HIS HOLE...REMEMBER 30 FEET UP IN THE AIR!
If the hole isn't quite right, then you must chisel till it is.
JASON INSERTING WOODEPECKER BOX
SUCCESS!!! THE BOX IS IN.
NATHAN STARTING TO APPLY PUTTY TO INSERTED BOX
Just like frosting a cake! Only 30 feet up in the air!
JASON PAINTING THE WHITE AROUND THE TREE TO SIGNIFY THE NEW CAVITY
After painting the "bulls eye" hole it is time to go start another tree!
Jason, (forefront) and Nathan (background) up their next choice of trees to insert a couple more boxes. Each box takes at least an hour from start to finish to get it in.
The reason for the man-made cavities is in hopes to entice more cockaded woodpeckers to an area to establish new colonies.