Forest Management Tips

Managing Wildlife Habitat: The Marbled Murrelet (Part 1)


The winter plummage of the marbled murrelet is black above and white below. Photo: Bob Whitney

Responsible habitat management is a defining characteristic of private forest stewardship in British Columbia.

To help small-forest owners be the best forest stewards they can be, we’ve put together some information about species of interest on the coast of British Columbia.

Because our 2-part series “Everything You Need to Know About Northern Goshawks” was a success, we’ve followed up with a second 2-part series all about the mysterious marbled murrelet.

In this first post we introduce some defining characteristics of the species and briefly explain why, as a forest owner or land manager in British Columbia, it’s important to pay close attention to the marbled murrelet.

Why Do Marbled Murrelets Matter?

Presently, marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) are blue-listed by the BC Conservation Data Centre (you can learn more about what it means to be on the blue list from the B.C. Ministry of Environment website).

The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is also listed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) — a federal committee that assesses and designates which wildlife species are in danger of disappearing from Canada.

The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) also lists the marbled murrelet as a Schedule 1 threatened species. In 2014, a federal recovery strategy was published with an addendum scheduled for completion in 2016.

The Basics: What is a Marbled Murrelet?

The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a small, plump seabird, about 25 centimetres long with a short, pointed tail and bill.

Marbled murrelets spend most of their lives on the water in near-shore marine environments (within 0.5 km of shore).

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the marbled murrelet as “a chunky Pacific seabird, unique among its puffin relatives because it makes its nest high up in large coastal trees.”

The marbled murrelet belongs to the auk family or Alcidae. In British Columbia, the only other seabird of similar size and shape is the ancient murrelet.

Where do Marbled Murrelets live?

Marbled murrelets are found in coastal waters and adjacent inland areas from the Aleutian Islands (low numbers) through southern and southeastern Alaska, B.C., Washington, Oregon, and central California.

In Canada, marbled murrelets are found only on the Pacific coast. The current Canadian population (estimated at 99,100 birds) is about 28% of the estimated global total of 357,900 birds.

Marbled murrelets require both terrestrial and marine habitats. Like most seabirds, the marbled murrelet spends most of its life on the ocean and only comes on land to breed.

Marbled murrelets nest as solitary pairs at low densities, typically in coniferous, old-growth forests within 50 km of the coast and below 800m elevation.

What do Marbled Murrelets Look Like?

marbled murrelet

Marbled murrelets during breeding season. Photo: Knut Hansen

Male and female marbled murrelets are the same size (9.4–9.8 in or 24–25 cm) and have similar colouring.

In winter, the marbled murrelet plumage is black above and white below.

During breeding season, the plumage on the top of the head, back and wings are dark brown, while the throat, chest and abdomen are brown flecked with white and cinnamon (giving a mottled or “marbled” appearance).

Marbled murrelets beat their stubby wings rapidly when they fly through the air. This, combined with their zigzag flight pattern, has inspired some observers to describe the marbled murrelet as “an oversized bumblebee.”

Murrelets have small, webbed feet they use to paddle when they’re on the surface of the water. Underwater, murrelets demonstrate great speed and agility—using their muscular wings as flippers and their feet for steering, they essentially “fly” underwater.

What do Marbled Murrelets Sound Like?

The characteristic call of the marbled murrelet is a high-pitched “keer-keer” (a lot like a gull) used for communication between individuals and most often heard around dawn or dusk as the birds fly to and from their nests.

Please stay tuned for the next post in our 2-part marbled murrelet series with information about:

  • Habitat requirements
  • Identifying nests
  • Understanding breeding habits

A big thanks to Molly Hudson, biologist with TimberWest, for her expertise in helping us put this information together.

Learning about Northern Goshawks with TimberWest

TimberWest resource specialist, Dave Lindsay and Molly Hudson.

TimberWest resource specialists, Dave Lindsay and Molly Hudson, with a map of the area we visited.

An arm-pumping PFLA handshake of appreciation to TimberWest biologists, Dave Lindsay and Molly Hudson, for their informative and engaging goshawk tour—a highlight of this year’s PFLA field tour, June 1st, 2016 near Campbell River.

In British Columbia, there are two subspecies of goshawks, coastal and interior. The coastal population is estimated to be roughly 1000 birds.

The coastal subspecies gets a lot of attention in BC because these birds are:

  • Red-listed by the 
Conservation Data Center
  • An identified wildlife species under
 the Forest and Range Practices Act
  • Designated a species at
 risk by the Private Managed Forest Land Regulation
  • Listed as threatened by COSEWIC and the Canada Species at Risk Act

On Vancouver Island goshawks are frequently found nesting in second-growth stands.

There are different strategies for how to manage goshawks. TimberWest’s management model is to train field personnel to identify the species—the birds, their nests, feathers, and other signs of goshawk activity they might come across in the field—so they can identify and manage the species’ habitat early on in the planning process.

Through the process of identifying, observing and managing the coastal goshawk subspecies for decades now, TimberWest has developed a well-respected reputation for having a pro-active, science-based approach to goshawk management.

PFLA tour participants were fortunate to learn firsthand from Dave and Molly’s expertise about the specific characteristics and habitat requirements of the species, along with TimberWest’s survey techniques and best management practices.

Goshawk nest in a second-growth stand on TimberWest property near Oyster River.

Goshawk nest in a second-growth stand on TimberWest property near Oyster River.

We heard the goshawk calls surveyors play during their twice-annual goshawk nest surveys: once during May-June when they play the adult goshawk alarm call and then again in June-July when they play the juvenile’s begging call.

TimberWest also uses this time to check old nests and record the quality of the nests in the area.

It’s worth mentioning, the nest we visited was actually occupied by a Barred owl—a first for TimberWest.

Thanks again to Dave Lindsay and Molly Hudson for taking the time to show us around and share their knowledge and expertise with us.

You can learn more about how to identify goshawks, what a goshawk nest looks like and timelines for breeding chronology from our 2-part series titled “Managing Wildlife Habitat: Everything You Need to Know About Northern Goshawks”.

You can also see more photos from the field tour on PFLA’s Facebook page.

3 Reasons Drone Technology is Good for Forest Management


Colin Filliter of Sauvair demonstrates drone technology to PFLA field tour participants.

One of the highlights from PFLA’s 2016 field tour, June 1st in Campbell River, was a drone technology demonstration by Colin Filliter of Suavair. Colin uses drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), to capture low-elevation imagery.

In case you missed it, and you’re interested to learn more about the application of drone technology in silviculture surveys, here are 3 reasons drone technology is good for forest management.

Better decision making

The equipment Colin uses captures high-definition imagery that covers an entire cutblock, not just a small sample. All imagery is transmitted to a live 720p feed so you can make important management decisions in the field. The imagery is also recorded, in 1080p or 4K, so you can review the images once you’re back at the office, as many times as you need, and determine the best management decision.

Applications include:

·      Free to grow surveys
·      Brush assessments
·      Log boom inventories

You can also compare archived imagery to future imagery to evaluate the impact of treatment prescriptions over time.

Improved safety

Walking over steep ground and across thick slash is a high-risk activity. In fact, slips, trips, and falls are the leading cause of injuries to foresters in British Columbia.

Because UAVs fly over hazards they significantly reduce or eliminate the need to walk through high-risk areas, while at the same time ensure the complete area of a block is covered. Less caulk time means less risk of injury and improved safety overall.

Greater production value leads to lower costs

Flying over hazards is not only safer, but more cost effective and time efficient. Drones are able cover distances a lot more quickly than human beings can. Colin estimates the technology they use is about 300% more productive than a traditional ground surveying crew.

Higher production compared to traditional ground methods means drone technology can significantly decrease your cost per hectare.

To see the drone technology in action, you can check out Colin’s video below or visit the Suavair website.

Here’s a group photo Colin captured from the demonstration. You can check out more photos from the field tour on PFLA’s Facebook page. Thanks again to Colin for the demonstration.

Suavair demo

Top 8 Tips for Avoiding Ticks

how-to-remove-ticksAs a forest owner or land manager you spend lots of time in the woods.

Because known cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Canada, and we’re a safety-first kind of association, we’ve put together a post about how to identify ticks, how to avoid ticks and how to properly remove a tick should you need to.

What are ticks?

Ticks are tiny bugs, about the size of a sesame seed. They’re arachnids, closely related to spiders, and distinguishable from insects by their eight legs. Ticks can’t fly or jump, but they wait on tall grasses or bushes and attach themselves to humans and animals as they pass by.

Because they need blood to survive, ticks live in areas frequented by potential mammal hosts. Areas with dense deer populations are often hotspots.

Why are ticks a problem?

The trouble with ticks is they carry diseases that can be passed on when they bite. The risk of getting a tick bite is greatest in the spring and into the fall when the weather is warm (but in mild climates without much snow ticks can also be active in the winter).

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America. It takes its name from where it was first identified: Lyme, Connecticut. It can cause serious, long-term disability if left untreated. Early antibiotic treatment is essential, so identification of the disease in its early stages is very important.

Do all ticks carry Lyme disease?

No, not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Two species—Ixodes pacificus found along the western coastal region of Canada, and the more predominant Ixodes scapularis found in the western, central and eastern regions—are most likely to carry the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.


These two species are commonly referred to as the black-legged tick or deer tick. Their main hosts are deer and white-footed mice, but song birds are widening areas where ticks are found. Both species evolve in four stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.

You can find more information about identifying ticks on the Canadian Lyme Disease website.

Where to look for ticks on your body?

Ticks prefer warm, moist areas of the body. If a tick latches onto your socks or shoes it will make its way up to your groin area. If your sleeve or arm brushes up against some tick-infested grass, they’ll make their way up to your armpit instead.

Always check these areas first then check the rest of your body. Pay particular attention to any areas that have hair, especially on your head and face. It’s easy for ticks to hide in hair. On both humans and pets, ticks love to attack behind and around the ears.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

When someone is bitten by a tick, it typically takes a week or more for symptoms of lyme disease to show up. The most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • swollen lymph glands

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Ticks favour moist, shaded environments; especially leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats.

Check this detailed map to find Lyme disease and endemic risk areas in Canada.

Top 8 tick habitat precautions

  1. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants.
  2. Check your clothes for ticks often. Ticks will climb upwards until they find an area of exposed skin.
  3. Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
  4. Walk on pathways or trails when possible staying in the middle. Avoid low-lying brush or long grass.
  5. Apply insect repellent to your skin and clothing, especially at the openings such as ankle, wrist and neck.
  6. Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
  7. Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets.
  8. If you find a tick on your skin, remove it within 24 to 36 hours.

If you’re someone who regularly spends time in high-risk areas, you can find more detailed tips for high-risk areas on the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website.

How to properly remove a tick?

In the video below, University of Manitoba tick expert Kateryn Rochon explains the proper way to remove a tick.

Safety First! How to Make Forest Safety Your First Priority

Because safety is a top priority, and a lot can change in a short period of time, we’ve collaborated with one of our favourite resources again to highlight some important points to consider when putting together a safety plan for your operation.

Working in the woods is physically demanding and dangerous work. Things can happen really fast. If you don’t know what you’re doing, or you’re not in good shape, you could get hurt. It’s important to tailor a safety plan that works for you, your property and your operation.

BC Faller Training Standards

If you plan to be anywhere near a chainsaw, it’s a good idea to read the BC Faller Training Standards (an updated version of the Fallers’ and Buckers’ Handbook) produced by WorkSafe B.C.

Take it with you into the woods even before you plan to cut. Check out the trees in your stands and look for some of the potential danger situations described. Spend the time to think out the steps involved in felling specific trees and how you would handle different situations.

Know when to ask questions and when to ask for help. Seek out advice and be ready to learn—from people with more experience, from special reference materials and from your own experiences.

General Safety Tips for Forest Workers

  • Know basic first-aid. At minimum, carry a whistle and a pressure bandage and know how to stop bleeding and treat shock.
  • Consider taking the one-day Level 1 Occupational First-Aid course (time well spent!).
  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Leave a note in your vehicle if your plans change.
  • Carry a communication device with you. Check in frequently with someone who knows where you are.
  • Ideally, don’t work alone. Have a buddy with you.
  • It’s always a good idea to wear hard hats and high-visibility vests when you’re in the woods.
  • Never approach a working machine until you’re certain the operator can see you.
  • Fatigue, adverse weather conditions, poor visibility, inexperience and poor communication are frequently contributing factors to injuries in the woods.

Remember: safety is a state of mind. Your attitude and your actions are important.

Be alert. Be prepared. Be careful.

See below for the basic equipment of a safe (and long-lived) woodland operator.

Hiring a crew to do the harvesting for you?

Poor log markets, over the past several years, had a devastating effect on B.C.’s local workforce. A lot of experienced and qualified contractors were forced to leave the business. The result is a potential shortage of workers and equipment available to meet an increased demand for harvesting activity.

Statistics show incidents of injuries rise as markets pick up after a period of inactivity and a new crop of inexperienced workers step up to meet the renewed demand for harvesting. Given this set of circumstances, it’s more important than ever for forest owners to be diligent about a safety plan for their operation.

Make it a priority to have a conversation with your contractor about safety and certification.

In British Columbia, it’s a legal requirement for manual tree fallers in forestry operations to be trained and certified. The BC Forest Safety Council is the certifying body that ensures competency standards and an appropriate level of experience.

When you’re hiring a contractor, look for a certified faller and a certified crew. Once you’ve chosen your contractor, have a pre-work meeting to walk and review the site with your contractor. Point out any potential hazards, for example:

  • Old gravel pits
  • Mine shafts
  • Unstable slopes
  • Dead snags

Be sure to share any and all information that might impact the safety of the operation.

Public safety is your responsibility.

You’re responsible for the public’s safety on your property. If you have trails, roads, public access or any other potential for people—dog walkers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, star-crossed lovers—to access your operating area you need to take steps to keep them safe.

  • Close trails
  • Lock gates
  • Post signs
  • Be alert
  • Notify your contractor of any area used by the public

Who’s excited for more safety information?

If we whet your appetite for more safety information, there’s good news!

Ron Judd (WorkSafe BC) will present at PFLA’s forestry conference (June 2nd, 2016)

With decades of experience investigating what went wrong and what factors contribute to injuries, accidents and fatalities, Ron Judd brings a wealth of knowledge, information and insights to share with forest owners and operations managers. We look forward to welcoming him.

As always, a big thanks to Managing Your Woodlands: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale Forestry in British Columbia for the parts excerpted above.

Early Start to the 2016 Fire Season

smokey bear holding a shovel and pointing with the words "only you"

British Columbia’s wildfire season is off to its busiest start in 10 years. As of noon, May 13th, category 2 open fires are prohibited in the Coastal Fire Centre. Open burning restrictions remain in effect until October 21, 2016.

The severity of the fire season depends on a combination of factors, including: snow pack, wind, precipitation, type of vegetation and terrain, lightning strikes, forest floor moisture content, fuel loads and drought levels.

While it’s too early to tell what this year’s fire season has in store, it’s not too soon to start thinking about how to best prepare yourself and your property for the fire season ahead.

With this in mind, we’ve included info from an earlier post, to help prevent, and in the event that it happens, be prepared for, wildfires.

10 Wildly Successful Wildfire Prevention Tips

1. Have a plan — Like most things in life, having a plan can seriously mitigate the harm caused by unexpected events. Develop a written or verbal fire prevention and management plan, appropriate to the level of fire risk and hazard on your property, and make sure everyone who works on your property knows the plan.

2. Know your trouble spots — Being aware of potential problem areas can significantly reduce the risk of problems arising. Take stock. Have a clear inventory of low and high-risk areas on your property.

3. Be prepared — The boy scouts were onto something. Knowing what to do when a situation arises is essential. Ensure you and your operational personnel are adequately trained and equipped to conduct safe and effective fire suppression duties.

4. Have the right tools — Knowing what to do is one thing, having the proper equipment is another. You and your crew should have access to an inventory of appropriate fire management resources and equipment. Now is a good time to check on your inventory and make sure you have enough supplies on hand and everything is in good working order. Tools include:

  • Hand tools
  • Pumps
  • Retardants
  • Water supplies
  • Tanker trucks

5. Know how to get to your water — Make sure you have clear access to your water source. If a winter wind storm knocked over a tree and it’s obstructing your ability to get to your pond, this is a problem. Take a tour of your property and make sure any obstacles preventing easy and quick access to your water sources are removed.

6. Know when not to operate — Knowing when to shut down your operation is key. It’s important to monitor weather conditions and pay close attention to fire danger ratings. During high-risk weather conditions avoid any activity that might cause sparks.

  • Fires
  • Machines
  • Equipment
  • Chain saws
  • Cigarettes

7. Know thy neighbour — Sharing resources is a great way to maximize capacity while minimizing costs. It’s worthwhile having a conversation with near-by neighbours to consider a cooperative fire management strategy. Working together can help reduce your expenses and increase your efficiency.

8. Manage your forest’s fuel load — Fires need fuel to burn. Seasonally appropriate prescribed burning can significantly minimize forest debris and reduce the risks of fires starting in the first place. Check out an earlier post to learn more about responsible prescribed burning.

9. Nobody cares about your land as much as you do — 9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by human beings. You invest considerable time, effort and resources managing your forest land. Not everyone is mindful of fire risks. Restricting public access to your land during periods of high and extreme fire risks is the best way to help reduce the risks of fire on your property.

10. Report wildfires immediately — Perhaps this goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, report wildfires immediately to the appropriate authorities. To report a wildfire, please call directly to the Coastal Fire Centre Dispatch Centre Emergency Line at 250-951-4200, or alternately to 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on cellular networks.

Here’s some information about the terminology used to describe a forest fire we borrowed from the Coastal Fire Centre’s Spring 2014 newsletter.

 The Anatomy of a Forest Fire

diagram showing the different parts of a wildfire

The anatomical parts of a forest fire are:

Bay(s) — A marked indentation in the fire perimeter, usually located between two fingers.

Finger(s) — An elongated burned area(s) projecting from the main body of the fire resulting in an irregular fire perimeter.

Flanks — Those portions of the fire perimeter that are between the head and the back of the fire which are roughly parallel to the main direction of spread.

Head — The portion of the fire perimeter having the greatest rate of spread and frontal fire intensity which is generally on the downwind and/or upslope part of the fire.

Back — The portion of the fire perimeter opposite the head; the slowest spreading part of the fire.

Island(s) — Area(s) of unburned fuels located within the fire perimeter.

Point(s) of Origin — The location(s) within the fire perimeter where ignition first occurred.

For more information on wildfire prevention and response contact the Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

6 Things Every Forest Owner Should Know About Carbon Markets

Wye LakeIn anticipation of his presentation at PFLA’s 2016 conference in June, we asked carbon market expert Matt Walsh to help us put together a short post highlighting some key points for Canadian forest owners to know about carbon markets.

1. Finally, every country on the planet agrees.

After many years of arguing about whether climate change is a problem and, if so, what to do about it, in December 2015, all 196 countries in the world agreed to a climate change treaty. The treaty imposes obligations on every country to reduce carbon emissions. Yes, even China, India and Saudi Arabia.

2. Canada is now a global leader.

Canada was instrumental in creating an ambitious target for the climate change treaty. In the process, Canada has jumped from equal last on climate leadership to one of the top five countries globally. Domestically, we’ve seen the new Prime Minister challenge the provincial leadership to come up with viable climate change plans. This process is happening right now all over the world.

3. How fast countries transition to a low carbon economy will define economic power in the next decade.

The challenge for every country is to complete this process as quickly and painlessly as possible. Countries who fall behind will become globally uncompetitive as the treaty obligations start to bite. The global economic power structure in the next decade hinges on this transition process.

4. The treaty sent a clear message: pollution is no longer ‘free’.

Investors and business heard this message and are getting out in front of it. Here are two examples:

Since the treaty, investment capital has started to flee heavy emitting industries. The world’s largest investment funds are starting to factor the future cost of carbon into their listed company valuations. This is a major problem for oil companies and any other company that is currently a heavy emitter of carbon. In the near future, the cost of those emissions will appear on every income statement and be included in every company valuation.

Apple, along with 153 other global corporations, has publicly declared its emissions reduction targets and is in the process of implementing a variety of programs to achieve its goals. Carbon offsets are essential for these companies to achieve their targets.

5. A global carbon market is coming.

A global carbon market was specifically provided for in the treaty and work on its design is already underway. The stated goal is to have the market operating by 2020. Regional carbon markets are also in development. You can find more details about what this might look like, and what the expected pricing will be, at the PFLA conference in June.

6. Trees are still the only viable solution.

The role of forestry in addressing climate change is specifically acknowledged throughout the treaty. While a lot of money is currently being poured into technological solutions to climate change, a viable solution, at a planetary scale, is still decades away. Until then, the humble tree holds the key. You can find out more about what this could mean for you as a forest owner at the PFLA conference in June.

Thanks to Matt Walsh for the information. You can find registration and schedule information for the PFLA conference here.