Comparison of Reclaimed and Unmined Woodcock Summer Diurnal Habitat in West Virginia

Reclaimed surface mines are used by American woodcock (Scolopax minor) as diurnal habitat during summer in West Virginia. However, habitat quality of these sites relative to that of other (unmined) diurnal habitat in West Virginia has not been previously evaluated, making it difficult to assess the potential for using mine reclamation to create woodcock habitat. We compared vegetation and soil characteristics at points where we flushed woodcock on reclaimed surface mines (25 flush points at 11 sites) and unmined locations (26 flush points at 13 sites) in West Virginia during the summers of 1995-1997. We provide baseline information on soil characteristics of unmined summer diurnal habitat in this part of the woodcock's range and assess relative quality of reclaimed summer diurnal habitat. Quality of overhead cover was similar at reclaimed and unmined areas, but unmined sites provided more lateral cover because of greater stem densities (x¯ = 16,715/ha, SE = 3,550 vs. x¯ = 4,249/ha, SE = 745, P = <0.001). Soils in unmined habitats had greater moisture retention capabilities and organic matter content, but soil pH was low in both reclaimed and unmined areas and could depress earthworm availability in both types of habitat. Existing reclaimed habitat is of similar quality to unmined habitat in some respects but also has some deficiencies; thus, managers should continue to focus on maintaining high quality unmined habitats, but also seek to take advantage of the potential of mined areas as woodcock habitat through reclamation efforts specifically targeted to this species.

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