RCW Burn Prep December 2011

Withlacoochee State Forest

I often volunteer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission better known as the FWC and the Department of Forestry.  Volunteering provides me an opportunity at an education I would otherwise not be able to attain.  When volunteering there is many tasks that I have the opportunity to assist with.  On this day I would be assisting the RCW program with burn prep.  What does that mean in plain English you ask?  RCW, short for Red Cockaded Woodpecker, is a federally protected species of woodpecker.  This small bird measures about 7 inches in length and is found commonly throughout the longleaf pine ecosystem. At one time there were an estimated 1.6 million groups or family units of these birds throughout the United States but the primary habitat of these birds has been reduced to 3% of its original expanse. Today there remains only about 5600 groups or 14,000 birds throughout the southeastern United States.  We have a population of these woodpeckers in the Withlacoochee State Forest and it was my job on this date to assist with preparing these trees to withstand a controlled burn in the area.  The birds require low growing ground cover for forging.  Along the Brooksville Ridge in the sand hill ecosystem fires are a natural occurrence.  This keeps the natural growth in check and provides the perfect habitat for these protected woodpeckers.  When natural fires do not occur, prescribed burns take their place.  The Department of Forestry will do prescribed burns in these areas to help prevent wildfires.

Red Cockaded Woodpecker nest tree

To protect these nesting trees from damage during these controlled burns we were to rake the ground cover and cut back the “duff” to prevent the fire from getting close to the base of the trees and damaging them and possibly catching the entire tree on fire there for destroying the nests.  This is not an easy job as in most cases this is done by hand by volunteers in very hot weather.  These nesting trees are rarely located along the roads and require some bushwhacking to get to their locations.  Once a nest is located trees are banded or painted with the white ring to more easily be identified when trying to relocate them.  Mary had advised us which sections of the forest were to be burned in the next few weeks and gave us the locations of each of the clusters or family nesting areas of the RCW’s.  Over the next 7 hours we raked and cleared a 15 foot area around the base of these trees and a 7 foot area around neighboring trees thought to also the potential nesting sites.

Clearing 15 feet around base of nesting tree

It was a pleasure working with Mary and Barbara on this day.  I was able to learn so much about these small birds that I never once would have given a second thought to.  The recovery efforts for the RCW began in 1973 with a recovery plan written in 1979 and revised in 1985 and 2003. Recovery will be achieved they have numerous self sustaining populations.  Because of the work of so many volunteers these beautiful endangered birds will have the opportunity to recover their numbers.  I’m glad that I was able to do my part to help these little birds and possibly giving the opportunity to my grandchildren to be able to enjoy them.

Long Leaf Pine Citrus Tract

For more information on the RCW program please visit: http://myfwc.com/conservation/terrestrial/rcw/

You can also visit Barbara’s blog on volunteering with this program at: http://www.riverbanksoutdoorblog.com/volunteering-2/fwc-volunteer-installing-red-cockaded-woodpecker-nesting-boxes

For information on volunteering with the FWC please visit: http://myfwc.com/media/1529346/Ireland-letter.pdf

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About notacluegal

Jeanene was born in Pittsburgh, PA. As a young child her family was very active in the outdoors. Things changed when her parents decided to travel down different paths in life and with that decision so went many of the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Being lucky to live in the suburbs Jeanene always had a backyard to play in and loved being outdoors. As the years passed she took every opportunity to be outdoors. She bought land in Tennessee and as a single mom moved her young daughter to the mountains. The were many life lessons learned on that mountain. There was no plumbing on the property – or even a house, but that did not stop her. She learned to live off of what was available and built her own cabin from the trees on her property. Those were rough years but the most rewarding. Now Jeanene resides in Tampa, Fl. and works as an office manager full time….but still yeans to be outdoors. Jeanene started “Not a Clue Adventures” to teach everyone she could how wonderful the outdoors are! That camping and fishing and hiking can be done by everyone and at many different levels. Single mom’s no longer have to be afraid to take their sons and daughters outdoors. By working with young couples, single parents and even seniors, she gets to teach others about her love for the outdoors and hopes to open their eyes to new adventures. In 2009, Jeanene completed certification as a Leave No Trace Instructor. She also works closely with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the Florida State Parks. Jeanene is also certified in First Aid/Adult CPR.
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