January 25, 2015
I spent the weekend in coastal Georgia, performing field work in a mixed timber and natural stand forest. The two of us performing the work had the whole 1000+ acre forest to ourselves, following the roads and trails around the property.
Unsurprisingly, the roads were the easiest to follow. Lined with pines or standing water, they were alternatively grassy or sandy, depending on how much the owners of the property used them on a regular basis. We performed bird surveys along the roads, listening and watching for sparrows, towhees, chickadees, wintering warblers, and even Red-shouldered Hawks.
Certain sections of the property have been logged recently, and right now are beautiful golden meadows. There has been a great deal of rain this winter, and shallow ponds and very large puddles now sit in what was once a once bone-dry field, reflecting the blue of the sky. Because of all the water, these fields were hotbeds for frogs! We couldn’t see them, but we definitely heard chorus frogs, peepers, and southern leopard frogs. It was a beautiful sound.
We did some sampling in the fields, but mostly just enjoyed them. Turkey and Black Vultures rode the air currents over the clearing, a few times dipping low to the ground quite close to us. In addition to the frogs, the wind created a soft, rippling sound as it blew through the tall grasses, slowly dispersing small seeds.
We left the forest at sunset. No, planted pine stands are not the most ecologically diverse, and they do not support the greatest number of species. Still, the forest owners are attempting to manage their property sustainably, cutting for timber but also preserving habitat.
As we drove away, the sun winked at us through the long rows of pine trunks, and presented a striking landscape.