Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Habitat Management for Birds- Interview with Dave Scarpitti: Part One

I had the good fortune to sit down with wildlife biologist Dave Scarpitti and discuss his topic for a break-out session at the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting. Dave is an Upland Game Bird Biologist with MassWildlife and will be speaking about habitat management in Massachusetts and how birders can play a role in this conservation effort.

Many birds have learned to adapt to their urban surroundings. Can you give some examples of birds going through such a transition right now?

Red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures can be seen circling around highways- this is something that we've seen within the last 100 years. These are birds that have been around for thousands of years so they have learned to adapt to their current environment. The highway provides an open space for hawks to hunt small prey and it provides roadkill for the turkey vultures.

Humans have altered every square inch of land so everything has learned to adapt.

What are the types of birds in Massachusetts requiring large tracts of woodland and grassland?

There are many, but the most notorious are the ones that require the largest areas of land. 5 acres is not good enough- some of these birds need 30-40 acres of uninterrupted land.

Upland sandpipers (related to shorebirds) have evolved to live inland, and they really have declined since the end of widespread agriculture in MA. Others include grasshopper sparrows, vesper sparrows, and bobolinks. Crane Wildlife Management Area features large open tract areas of land that these types of birds require. The northern portion serves grassland birds, while the southern portion serves quail.

The Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area on Cape Cod provides 1,800 acres of conversation land for hunting and maintaining an open tract of land of land for birds and other wildlife. Parking is located in Falmouth near the Nickelodeon Cinema. The land was purchased by the state in 1958 from the Crane family and is named after Charles Crane's daughter Frances Crane who was killed in a car accident after leaving the Falmouth Playhouse.

The largest open area is the meadowland, featuring a large grass strip from the former Falmouth Airport. This is area is actively maintained with mowing to prevent it from reverting back to forest and it supports several species of threatened plantlife, including native grasses.

The area is also stocked with quail and pheasant for hunting, and also offers other recreation opportunities such as mountain biking, horseback riding and walking. As a matter of fact, I blogged about how much my friends Chelsea Harry and Chris Walsh's dog Jackson enjoyed the area back in a December post. He was exhibiting instinctive bird dog skills and flushed out a bird in the meadowland.

Watch for tomorrow's continuation of the interview where Dave talks about wintering birds and migratory flyways.

1 comment:

Larry said...

I like searching for new protected areas like that.-Massachusetts seems to have many more areas than Connecticut.