Forestry Friday … The Critical Period

Critical Period means the time of year when the special timber operations practices set forth in these regulations are required to minimize nesting disturbance to a species of special concern.

-California Forest Practice Rules

Forestry, Northern Goshawk, goshawk, protection

This Northern Goshawk fledgling was ready to take me on.

Species of Special Concern include Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Northern Goshawk, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcon.  Species of Special Concern are not the same as Threatened and Endangered Species.  T and E species rise to a much higher standard of protection.  They are protected under rules originating from the Endangered Species Act.  

When a nest site of a Species of Special Concern is identified in a timber harvest plan area, a buffer zone is established around it.  The buffer zone sizes differ according to the species.  The critical period is based on the nesting season for that particular species of bird.  No timber harvesting is allowed within the buffer zone during the critical period.   After the critical period, harvesting can take place, but the nest trees are always retained.  There are limitations as to the type of harvesting that can take place in the buffer zone, such as no clearcutting is allowed.  The harvesting practices allowed in the buffer zones are tailored to each species. depending on their needs.

The Northern Goshawk fledgling in the picture was discovered after my crew and I stumbled onto a nest tree.  We were marking trees when one of the guys came and informed me he saw a “great big bird in a nest.”  When we went to investigate, I could see right away it was a Northern Goshawk fledgling, and there wasn’t one, there were two. 

The young birds were branching.  This is when they hop from branch to branch strengthening their wings before they have mastered flight.  We stopped marking and began moving away from the nest.  One of the Goshawk parents was nearby but moved away from us.  This was a relief because Goshawk parents are well known for attacking people that are too close to their nest.  This usually happens when the chicks are very young.  Apparently, they are less protective when the chicks are older.  We watched the young birds from what we thought was a safe distance, so as not to spook them.  Then, one of the youngsters glided out of the nest to a branch in a nearby tree.  Its sibling, not wanting to be left alone, followed.  Only this bird wasn’t as advanced in its flight training as the first.  It glided downhill and smacked straight into the trunk of a white fir tree and tumbled to the ground.  I told the crew, “Oh my God, I think we just killed it.”  Fortunately, it popped up on its feet, screeching all the while.  

I sent the crew to mark timber in a different area.  Then, with my camera in hand, I headed down the hill to check the condition of the young Goshawk.  It was mad as hell and ready to give me what for. Otherwise it was okay.  I took a few pictures and backed off to let it calm down.  I knew, at this age, it would be able to hop its way back up the trees to safety.   The parents weren’t far away and would tend to it.

For the Northern Goshawk the buffer zone is twenty acres and the critical period is from March 15 through August 15.  The forester who prepared the timber harvest plan knew the Goshawks were living in the plan area.  He protected their nest tree, by making it a no harvest area.  However, the uncooperative goshawks had decided to move out of a perfectly good nest and build a new one in the logging unit.  We were the first to discover the new nest.  As a result, a new twenty acre buffer zone was established around this nest and none of the trees we marked in the area were harvested. 

osprey, sawmill, forestry

This Osprey was behind the sawmill last week. It might be our boy from the nest tower.

The buffer zone for the Osprey is 5 acres and the critical period is from March 15 through August 15. 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

golden eagle, eagle, photography, nature, wildlife

Golden Eagle

If harvesting is done with a helicopter, they can operate no closer than one quarter mile of the nest tree.  This is true for Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk and Osprey.  Peregrine Falcon get a one half mile buffer.

The Great Blue Heron, also known as "The Fly Up The Creek".

Great Blue Heron

The herons and egrets have a 300′ buffer around nest trees.  Their critical period goes from February 15 through July 1.

Golden retriever, Blitz, pheasants

Blitz says, her critical period is pheasant season.

47 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … The Critical Period

  1. Beautiful images and very interesting information I have never read before. I always view this as a negative from a timber harvest perspective, but when I read your accounting it is quite admirable and worthy…of course!


    • Most forest workers I know are just like most other folks. They enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and any number of outdoor activities. They get excited at the sight of a bear or an eagle just like other people. Their portrayal in most popular media doesn’t really fit the people I work with. When it comes to protecting the public trust resources like wildlife and water, they take it seriously, because this is their home.


      • Well said Sir – the forests I know are true superhighways for wildlife, connecting habitats and breeding grounds. Full respect to all those who work so hard for so long to protect and nurture the land. Sustainable off-take is easily achieved – so many other species are practising it every day. Please keep up your wonderful work!


        • Thank you so much. Sustainability is being achieved every day in our business. Growing trees is all about renewal. With good stewardship we can protect those public trust resources important to everyone. Good stewardship is just good business. A thoughtful approach to management and everyone wins.


  2. Great (and much needed) post! And an excellent summary of the information — Its important, especially today, to keep awareness high of how the timber industry works to protect our more sensitive species. I’ve got a job interview today, and I was actually looking for a nice summary of information on species that warrant a little extra protection. Perfect timing 🙂


    • I’m glad the post helped and good luck on the job interview. I hope you nail it Cassie!
      Sometimes we take the things we do for granted, but most folks just aren’t aware of them. I enjoy using this forum to give a little sneak peek into the world of forestry.


  3. Really good info here, Tim. It makes me really happy to know that the timber compaines are totally following rules/regulations to ensure these birds do not become threatened or endangered.

    The photo of the goshawk is a really good one. Now you might use the photo as a guide for a drawing or painting. And that would be a really good thing too. 🙂


    • I probably will, but I just haven’t quite got that far yet. In fact, I took that picture back in 2006 and it took me a while to find it for the post. One of these days I hope to have time to get all the pictures organized. After that we’ll have to tackle the old photos and slides. We have boxes of them.


  4. Wow! I am totally sending you a resume. I would love to do this part of your job. .. Most likely other parts I’d pass on. . Ha! I know you guys get a lot of flack for your job, but you do help the environment.
    Our area has been inundated with Bald Eagles these past weeks. I work next to a large waterway type forest preserve, and they are a daily sight now. Too high for photos, but I’ll get to the preserve soon to test my camera phone zoom lense!
    The heron photo rocks!


      • You’re most welcome. Sites that offer photography are particularly meaningful to me, as it gets me out of the house, so to speak. It provides a freedom I cannot experience just yet until I’m well. Therefore, your posts and others, carry me through the day. Thanks again for your beautiful work.


  5. A 20 acre buffer for the Goshawk – wow. And only 300′ for the heron! SO interesting – that reflects a lot of research, I imagine. I’m glad the “little” guy was OK. He seems to be trying his best to look threatening, but the result is (at least at my distance) a chance to see lots of feathers and a great expression!


    • That goshawk really fluffed himself up. I sure wasn’t going to try to catch him. Actually, I had a decent zoom so I didn’t get too close. I didn’t want to spook or provoke him into hurting himself. Those goshawks have a reputation for ferocity. When the chicks are little, they will attack people who get too close to the nest.


      • Your crew is really lucky to have you – your knowledge is wide and deep, and your attitude is admirable. I know what you mean about getting so close that the wildlife gets hurt. One is so tempted to look closer but it’s not always a good thing for them. It’s funny how certain species have that knack for attack – back east, Mockingbirds, pretty passerines though they are, can be ferocious in nesting circumstances. Ive seen then attack cats on the sidewalk – too funny!


  6. Pingback: Wild Wednesday … Northern Goshawk | THE FORESTER ARTIST

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