District wraps up birding series

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District (PCSWCD) recently completed its free, 3-part series of birding workshops.

In April Bob Duchesne, bird guide and author of “Maine Birding Trails,” led the Birding by Ear presentation. The attendance was great and the enthusiasm to learn more about bird identification was high. Duchesne used a PowerPoint presentation to help break down information about the 300 species of Maine birds.

He told the PCSWCD that “the best way to start recognizing birds by call is to learn what is in your own backyard. After you learn them add a few at a time to increase your knowledge base.” Event participants learned that there are many birds that have similar songs or look similar; therefore, it is important to know a bit about bird habitat to properly identify them.

The next event in the series, the PCSWCD’s annual Law Farm Bird Walk, was also led by Duchesne along with his wife Sandy. There were 40 participants for the walk. Even though it was a windy day, the group heard and saw many birds.

The walk started in the parking lot where Duchesne identified five birds right away. Some of the birds that were seen or heard included chipping sparrows, white throated sparrows, chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, ovenbirds, blue headed vireos, yellow bellied sapsuckers, blue throated green warblers, black and white warblers. There was even a pileated woodpecker that flew over and a merlin was seen chasing a chipping sparrow.

In June the PCSWCD teamed up with Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District, Maine Audubon and the Forest Stewards Guild to hold a Forestry for Maine Birds presentation geared toward landowners, foresters, loggers and woodland owners. The event started at the Somerset County Cooperative Extension office then moved outside to the Yankee Woodlot Demonstration Forest. There were many people from around the state that attended, and the sizes of their woodlots varied from several hundred acres to 18 acres.

To start Maine Audubon’s Sally Stockwell, director of conservation, lead an indoor session covering the different types of habitat needed for various species of birds. Stockwell mentioned that some live or forage on the ground, so they need understory for protection as well as leaf litter and dead fall which provide insects for food. Several birds use the area between cleared land and the wood’s edge to live and forage.

Stockwell said one thing to remember is “a messy forest is a good forest,” meaning that leaf litter, duff, downed trees of various sizes, and standing deadfall all provide wildlife with places to live and eat.

Amanda Mahaffey of the Forest Stewards Guild discussed the importance of having a forest management plan (FMP) for your woodlot. Joe Dembeck, executive director of the Somerset County district, mentioned that there is financial help available to write a forest management plan through Natural Resources Conservation Service.

When the group went to the Yankee Woodlot, Mahaffey spoke of the different habitats as the group walked through them. She had everyone evaluate the different areas of the forest for dead fall, mid story and upper story. Dembeck talked about the different harvests that were made to the woodlot. When the group was standing in the different harvested areas several of the birds Stockwell had described during her presentation were heard or seen. It was a good reinforcement of the information the group was given.

For more information on the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District’s birding series or any of its events or programs, follow the district on Facebook at, visit or

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