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Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association
2013 annual meeting
Great woodlot owners
gather in Great Village
Learn more about the changing goals and needs of forest landowners, the potential for small-scale biomass projects to serve as a new market for low-grade wood, and looming changes to the provincial silviculture programme at the 2013 annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association.


Also planned: A look at forestry regulations and landowner outreach programmes in other provinces; and the presentation of the Friend of the Acadian Forest award.
A complete agenda can be found at
The meeting will be held 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Masonic Lodge, 30 Station Road, Great Village. The lodge is about 30 kilometers northwest of Truro. To view a map, click here.
The public is welcome to attend. The cost is $15 for NSWOOA members and $20 for guests. Lunch is included.
Reservations are not required, but would be appreciated. Contact Andy Kekacs, programme director, at 902-817-4763 or for more information.
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March 2013

March of the Salamanders 


Spotting a yellow-spot


Spooted Salamander
Yellow-spotted salamanders are about to begin their annual
migration back to the pools in which they were born.
                                                             (Photo by Krista Hilchey)


By John Brazner 

Wetland Program Coordinator

Nova Scotia Environment


It's not quite a Canada Day parade, but the annual March of the Salamanders will soon be seen in wet spots throughout eastern North America.


The most spectacular part of the show usually begins on a dreary night in April, but the stage is set sometime in the fall. Heavy rains back in September or October most likely triggered the movement of salamanders to overwintering sites in animal burrows or under large logs or rocks. Woodpiles are a favoured wintering spot as well, so be careful when retrieving logs for an evening fire. You may find a hibernating salamander has taken up residence there.


Salamanders are "amphibians," which means "double-life. The double life they lead is partly on land and partly in water. They breed in water just like most frogs, but salamander larvae eventually grow four legs and a long tail. Then they walk off into the forest to forage for spiders, snails, slugs, earthworms and beetles.


Nova Scotia is nearly the perfect place for salamanders. It may be a bit cool, but they like places with lots of rain and moss-covered forest floors. They need to keep their delicate skin moist to avoid dehydration.


The most common time to cross paths with a salamander is coming soon. They head en masse from overwintering sites to breeding pools not long after the ice goes out. If you put yourself in the right place at the right time, it's quite an event.


The slow march of yellow-spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) is about as good as it gets for salamander watching in Nova Scotia, although we do have four other species that live in the province. Yellow-spotted salamanders are distinguished by their large size (up to 20 cm), long life (up to 20 years) and, of course, their yellow spots.


The migration of "yellow-spots" to small wetland pools from nearby (usually 500 metres or less) wintering sites for breeding is triggered by the first rainy nights in April, when temperatures are at least a few degrees above freezing. These pools are often vernal pools.


Being vernal or "of the spring" means they are usually at their fullest in spring, are usually quite small (a few hundred square metres), often dry up during summer and are typically fish-free. That's good for salamanders because fish such as brook trout consider soft-bodied salamanders to be quite a delicacy. Although capable of breeding in a variety of ponded wetlands, yellow-spotted salamanders are most successful in vernal pools in woodlands with a mix of hardwood and evergreen trees that provide plentiful shade.


If you are willing to brave the fog and drizzle and are in just the right spot, you can see hundreds or even thousands of yellow-spots heading for a breeding pond in a single night. And if you are really lucky, you'll get to see males perform their elaborate underwater courtship ritual.


Remember, though, that this all depends on a plentiful supply of small woodland pools. These are just the kind of "soggy-areas" that are often overlooked when we make decisions about our forested lands. If we want to ensure that salamander and other amphibian populations remain healthy - and continue to provide an important source of protein for birds, snakes and small mammals - these small pools will need your help and forethought to be conserved.


Part 1
Restored forests as wildlife
habitats: How you can help


By Bob Bancroft


In the last four issues of this newsletter, I have outlined methods to rehabilitate forests to achieve a more healthy ecological condition, using disturbance forests (ones that grow in on open ground) as a canopy to maintain the damp, shady ground conditions that favor the regeneration of original Acadian Forest species like hemlock, white pine, sugar maple and yellow birch.

 Bob Bancroft

Young disturbance forests also lack a broad range of wildlife habitats found in natural woodlands. For one thing, they have few or no trees with holes or cavities where creatures from mice to black bears can take refuge, and where species like flying squirrels and yellow-shafted flickers usually nest.


The last two species will serve as cases in point for this article, because their presence adds significantly to the ecological health of the forest.


Scientists discovered recently that flying squirrels can play an important role in ecologically healthy forests. By eating fungi (mushrooms) while travelling through forests and dropping the fungi's reproductive spores in their scat (poop), northern flying squirrels spread a number of mushroom species. Threads of fungi live on the root systems of trees, where they help to convert and supply nutrients that trees need. So forests with tree holes or cavities that shelter flying squirrels can contribute wider ecological benefits for the woods as a whole. Clearcuts quickly end that relationship.


Yellow-shafted flickers (a brown woodpecker with a white rump) spend a great deal of time probing in the ground with their beaks, where they unearth and eat enormous quantities of overwintering insects - like codling moths and other species that pupate in the soil under apple trees. In one meal a flicker can consume as many as 5,000 ant eggs, larvae and ants. I love to see them spending time in the orchard as well as the woods.


If you want species like flying squirrels and yellow-shafted flickers to inhabit your woods, but the existing trees are not old enough to have developed sufficiently large holes, you can build and erect nest boxes as an interim measure. Thirty-plus years ago, I put up a variety of sizes of nest boxes in appropriate places to attract different species. The largest box was for a barred owl.


These all have to be built with rough wood surfaces on the inside, or horizontal slits cut into the wood, so that youngsters can climb the wall to leave the box. Otherwise, they can be trapped and die. Nest box specifications by animal species are available. Usually old nest box lining materials should be removed and replaced with new wood pieces before the next breeding season. This reduces the number of fleas and lice overwintering in wait of a new crop of nestlings.


We gather and use rotten birch to line the nests. After three decades of tree tending on our lot, there now are dead and dying trees for all but the largest animal species. So we have stopped erecting small boxes. The natural hole a flicker makes as a nest in the spring may be used by a flying squirrel for overwintering. Next spring, a saw-whet owl may occupy the same hole for its nest.


We continue to maintain the barred owl box until the day they can find a natural hole in a large tree. Nest box plans are available at libraries, bookstores and on line. It makes a great winter project. Youngsters can be enlisted to help build and erect these boxes as a way for them to learn to be caretakers of nature. Bumble bees nested in one of my boxes. They pollinate flowers!


After 30 years, the bottoms have fallen off many of our older, smaller nest boxes. I leave them up for bats. Special designs for communal female bat houses can be found, which allow them to rear their young and adjust brooding temperatures. Bats are the main predator of night-flying insects such as moths, beetles and mosquitoes. A bat can eat 30-50 percent of its body weight in bugs each night. Bats can help protect gardens and farm crops.


Restoring nature's ways helps to build healthy woodlands!


NSWOOA| PO Box 823, Truro, NS B2N 5G6 |
Truly sustainable forest management means that all values of our woodlands
-- ecological, social, cultural and economic -- are preserved for future generations.

Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.