Our Focus on Outcomes – Some Tentative News
As forest stewards we believe that intentions are nice, actions are good, but outcomes are what matter most. Accordingly, we are always hungry for chances to assess outcomes.
One of those chances came yesterday morning. At 7:15 AM, not long after the near solstice sun came over the hill, we finished the last of three annual spring bird counts in our Manning Forest. In the coarse of the three counts we noticed many things, but one stood out. When we last monitored birds in this forest in 2007 we were pleased to hear two species that are of special interest because they seem to be some of our best indicators that our forests are becoming older and more complex – Brown creeper and Pacific slope flycatcher. What stuck us as we completed this year’s counts was that there seemed to be more of both species. Driving home we wondered “what might the numbers tell us about ways that the forest community has change in the past thirteen years?”.
Comparing the numbers, we find that they verify our hunch; they have increased.
Brown creepers increased by 60% from 10 in 2007 to 16 in 2020.
Pacific slope flycatchers increased by 41% from 17 in 2007 to 24 in 2020.
Before getting too excited about this news we need to be clear that this quick and dirty comparison passes no one’s standard of scientific rigor – particularly Pam’s! There is much more work to be done before conclusions may fairly be drawn.
We can’t help but wonder about what factors contribute to these increases, though it is tough to know. Of course we hope that our improved habitat plays a role. We also assume that the “theory of relativity” is a factor. We know that significant clear cutting by neighbors surrounding this forest, and all of our forests, increasingly makes our older forests isolated islands in a larger sea of young, homogeneous plantations. This makes our habitat better relative to the larger landscape. A third consideration is how these species are fairing overall, throughout their ranges. Many unknowns.
But regardless, as we dry out wet boots, hang up binoculars and clipboards, and log in this year’s “harvest” of data, we can’t deny the satisfaction that comes from knowing that this little forest is providing a better home for birds and other life with each passing year. When we look for good news in these tough times it helps to grab it when it comes and as Joan Baez recently advised, we do well to be uplifted by small victories, without losing sight of the need for larger ones.