A female woodpecker at work on a dead backyard tree in Halifax, August 2016.
I’m sitting at my home desk, watching a female pileated woodpecker eviscerate a standing dead tree in my backyard greenbelt in search of a meal. If the backyard neighbour had her way it would already be pulled down, but it’s arguably on ‘our side’. Thank goodness: this is such an important tree. It used to be taller, but through various animal uses it has been structurally weakened and sections have come down in windstorms. The hole near the top of the photo was dug by a pair of northern flickers this spring, but they were forced out of it by lazy but persistent starlings, who raised two young there. A local red squirrel has a cache in the top of that side, and I see his tufted ears as he takes inventory. The woodpecker is almost through to the other side now – she can crawl right into the hole to work – and if this wind gets any stiffer I think we’ll see the tree shortened yet again. But I won’t be pulling that snag down. I’ve got front row seats to a rare display of urban nature.
She then checked all our trees for weak points, including this oak I’ve been worried about.
Later the same day: This bird is better than a professional arborist. She has visited all our trees now and judged them sound. This is a relief to me, though an annoyance for this hungry animal.
Cows grazing along the Old Guysborough Road.
I had a great day today at a workshop organized by the Nova Scotia Eastern Habitat Joint Venture folks, who administer the North American Waterfowl Management Plan activities in this region. Many of my existing collaborators on farm wetland and biodiversity issues across government and NGOs were present, to share our work and discuss common interests in the Musquodoboit River area. It was a beautifully sunny morning, on a warmer than average day, and so wonderful to get out of town and into the countryside. Great to be feeling a growing interest in social science within the conservation and agricultural science community.
Response rate after the fourth Marginal Land survey reminder.
We are sitting well after our fourth Marginal Land Management survey mailout, with around 370 returned of the thousand sent. Above is a nice example of normal distribution in action, being the bump in responses by day after that last reminder. Today the final postcard is going out. Not all 370 were completed, as there is an option to tick ‘do not wish to participate’, but we do expect to meet our target of 33% completed by the time the final wave has passed. We are pleased, given the time of year when we have had to implement (the result of funding horizon), and the nice dry weather that has characterized it, meaning farmers have many demands on their time. Kudos to Simon Greenland-Smith for great management of this process.
I wanted to use Wile E. Coyote and Bambi, but the publisher wouldn’t let me.
In 2014, we surveyed farmers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia , asking which animal species they considered a nuisance. It was a novel survey design, as it did not prompt with species names but rather elicited them from respondents. We then asked farmers to tell us about their monetary loss from each listed species, the acceptability of that loss, how they cope with it, any cultural benefits it provides, and – finally – whether they’d rather have the species or not. Statistical analysis revealed that tolerance was unrelated to perceived monetary losses. Rather, tolerance seemed linked to the type of nuisance they represented to the farmer: threat or damage. Coyote and deer were useful archetypes of each kind, and of the different mental algebra that farmers undertake: deer were very expensive but also enjoyed, and thus the loss was seen as a reasonable trade-off and the species tolerated. By contrast, coyote were not expensive, but were also not enjoyed and thus not tolerated. More work is needed to understand the nature of non-monetary costs, such as trauma, as part of the inversion. The paper is available this week open access at Diversity, part of a special issue on Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes, led by lab alumni Kate Goodale.