Doing the Right Thing In the Right Place: Monarchs and Woodcock at Umbagog NWR
Today we’re taking a closer look at Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and the outstanding work they are doing to manage habitat for the American woodcock and the Monarch butterfly!
Located on the border of New Hampshire and Maine, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge sits in the heart of the Northern Forest, where the southern deciduous forest transitions into the northern boreal forest. The diversity of habitats in the 32,800 acre refuge provide vital breeding and foraging areas for a wide range of wildlife. Staff actively manage the refuge’s forests to improve a range of habitat conditions, and this variety of habitats accommodate a suit of species of conservation concern. The American woodcock is one of these species. Woodcock utilize early successional habitat for nesting, feeding, courtship, and roosting. The long billed bird is best known for its throaty peent calls and aerial displays at dusk.
Managing for the American woodcock can prove demanding as the upland bird has four very specific habitat requirements. Manipulating the land is intense work, but the reward of conserving this species is worth it. As an added benefit, other wildlife species utilize this management strategy, including the monarch butterfly. Consisting of weedy fields and small shrubs, early successional habitat allows for the healthy growth of milkweed, the monarch’s host plant.
Much like a bird, the monarch butterfly migrates each winter to Mexico, utilizing milkweed and wildflower habitat throughout Canada, United States, and Mexico. With both monarchs and woodcock populations on the decline, habitat restoration is of utmost importance! Here’s how Umbagog helped two species for the price of one.
To provide proper roosting habitat for the American woodcock, patches of five acre fields are bush hogged on a 2-3 year alternating rotation, to ensure the availability of continuous woodcock roosting habitat. The maintained fields bloom with various types of native wildflowers, a great nectar sources for pollinators! To boost the healthy growth of milkweed, refuge staff works closely with the local elementary schools to propagate the young milkweed seedlings. Working with students allows Umbagog staff to reach out to the local community about the species they are working to conserve. The students also lend a helping hand to busy staff by caring for these plants and ensuring they survive. For the past two summers, Youth Conservation Corps students have also aided the refuge staff by planting the propagated milkweed in maintained roost fields throughout the refuge, boosting habitat values for both the monarch butterfly and the American woodcock.
By working to improve habitat and educating students about the importance of these species, the US Fish and Wildlife Services aims to preserve habitats and instill in others the knowledge to save our declining ecosystems. Click here to learn more about monarch conservation.