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Proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs

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Proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs

Rosyfinch
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This post was updated on .
A simplified proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs, Sandia Ranger District,  Cibola National Forest, New Mexico.

The "Bird Log" at Capulin Springs in the Sandia Ranger District of Cibola National Forest has become famous as a magnet for birders around the world. Here, in a readily accessible location, they may see most of the birds (and mammals) that inhabit the mountains of Central New Mexico, as it is the only source of water in that locality for much of the year.

Over the years, the old log, which was naturally hollowed out and served to contain the water from a nearby spring, deteriorated to the point that it no longer held the water. This past year the log is scheduled to be removed and plans were made by the US Forest Service to replace it. While no suitable hollow log was located, a large intact log was brought to the site and a certified chain saw operator must carve out the substitute.

As it turns out, the USFS has no certified sawyers available, and has turned to Central New Mexico Audubon to assist in locating (and funding) a properly qualified sawyer. The problem is that the certification process could take many weeks. The new log was scheduled to be in place by July 4, 2012, when CNMAS planned to conduct a cleanup operation at the site.

Rather than attempting a more elaborate attempt to re-create the old log which requires the  services of an expert chain saw artist, I suggest an approach that may be accomplished by one of the local USFS-certified sawyers within a few hours and allow the restoration to be completed by early July, 2012. I request that CNMAS and USFS review this proposal and perhaps enlist the support of the Friends of the Sandia Mountains (FOSM), a volunteer group whose ranks include several USFS  certified chain saw operators.

The steps, assuming that the log is placed horizontally with the intended open side up (see figure below):

1. In a single cut, remove a longitudinal slab to create a flat plane on top of the log. The cut could be about 1/4 to 1/3 the diameter of the log.

2. In the center of the plane, create a "V" shaped trough by making two longitudinal cuts, beginning and ending about a foot from each end of the log. The trough should be shallow, about 4-5 inches deep, leaving at least 2-4 inches of flat plane along both long sides to serve as a perching area. Remove the wedge with two cuts at each end just deep enough so as not to penetrate the sides of the log. This will create a reservoir.

3 Cut a shallow 1 inch trough to allow water to escape at the low end of the log.

4. Position the log so that the water flows gently from the pipe through the small exit trough.

While it is true that this solution would not replicate the classic old log, it could function very well in attracting wildlife and providing excellent viewing opportunities for visitors.


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Re: Proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs

Rosyfinch
Administrator
This post was updated on .
The above post simply addressed the concerns of a birder who is a member of Audubon and expressed the hope that the "new" log would be ready in time for a cleanup of the site in early July.  As understood by the correspondent, the problem was merely the unavailability of a certified sawyer. In consideration of the limited availability of certified chainsaw operators, the post suggested a less work-intensive approach as an alternative to replicating the existing log, which is fully hollowed out.

We have since learned that this is only the tip of the iceberg. More work must be done before the log can be put into place. The replacement log has been identified, but the old log needs to be removed from its concrete foundation. The very heavy new log then must be moved to the site, lifted up to the foundation and stabilized before any chainsaw work can be performed. This may require mechanized equipment, which itself poses an environmental concern in this sensitive wetland area.

The creation of the trough or "bird bath" cannot be done until the above activities are accomplished. These will require significantly greater human and material resources that will require close cooperation between all the interested parties.

Some time ago, water stopped flowing along the log and leaked directly unto the ground. Birds were still attracted to the water, but did not use the log, which is positioned ideally for viewing them. USFS volunteers added several years of new life to the log by simply placing a heavy gauge (3/16 to 1/4 inch thick) black rubber sheet along part of the water course where holes had developed, along about 2-3 feet at the end where the water enters. The rubber sheet had to be repositioned a couple of times, as it was displaced either by wildlife or vandals. Once it was entirely removed and a new one had to be purchased. Used in construction under shower pans, this product is readily available in hardware stores in 6 foot squares for under $15.00.

A longer strip of rubber sheeting may now be needed to cover the additional leaks that now occur all along the length of the log. This may be worthy of consideration in order to keep the log functioning until the replacement project can be completed. The strip should be cut only wide enough to cover the bottom of the log and curve up slightly on each side, about 12 to 16 inches.

If anyone visits the log, a report on the placement and condition of the rubber lining would be appreciated.
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Re: Proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs

nmflicker
That sounds like a good idea, Ken. Have you been in touch with Sam  
Beard or anyone else from FOSM?

Melissa
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Re: Proposal to rehabilitate "The Bird Log" at Capulin Springs

Rosyfinch
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Yes, Melissa. I believe that FOSM (Friends of the Sandia Mountains, a volunteer organization) sees that there is less urgency about the immediate need for a chainsaw operator, and that there is now time for planning and implementing all that has to be done before the chainsaw is required. USFS certification of volunteer chainsaw operators covers cutting down and bucking trees, but not specifically the creation of a trough in a log.

The most daunting task will be moving the heavy log into position. Most of the FOSM volunteers are retirees and should not be expected to take on such a manual task. Could any assistance be provided by younger Audubon members and other organizations with an interest in conservation and/or wise use of the forest?

Maybe with enough volunteer muscle power, levers, rollers and chains this could be accomplished without motorized equipment (after all, look at the pyramids in Egypt and the Ponderosa logs in the church atop Acoma Sky City, carried in from Mount Taylor). I hope that Audubon follows through with the Forest Service to assure there is coordination of efforts and that sufficient resources may be directed towards all the necessary tasks.  

I assumed that replacement of the log (AKA "wildlife drinker") was part of the Forest Service plan as published, so that must be clarified. Some thought that Audubon had agreed to undertake the project, while my impression was that the organization simply had input into the planning process.

See my blog and comment section at this link for more information about the plan and my input to USFS during the public comment period.

Three alternatives were proposed. Both #1 and #2 would relocate the main entrance to the Spring and Snowplay area in the interest of highway safety. Both would replace the deteriorating log with a new one from a local tree. Both alternatives #1 and 2 would also improve the bird observation area above the spring by removing the picnic table and fire pit, replacing them with benches for comfortable and ideal observation of the log and birds. Alternative #1 would improve the roadways and parking/ picnic/ gathering facilities, but also attract many more visitors to this pristine area. Alternative #2 would close the entire roadway below the one-way road gate to vehicular traffic. Alternative #3 is actually to do nothing.

The USFS 2008 Decision Letter announcing selection of Alternative #2 stated that the existing deteriorating log at Capulin Spring would be replaced with a natural log cut from a dead tree in the local area. It did not indicate that this would be accomplished by a third party, so my assumption is that USFS resources are limited and this part of the work may not have been funded. I have not seen the funding documents or budget in support of the chosen alternative. This issue should be explored to avoid misunderstanding about Audubon's role.
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