Posted: Jun 12, 2014 2:40 PM GDTUpdated: Jun 12, 2014 2:40 PM GDT
By MARTY RONEY
LAKE MITCHELL, Ala. (AP) - Eric Spadgenske carefully places a noose of twine inside the cavity of a long-leaf pine and fishes out a rare thing - a red cockaded woodpecker nestling.
He balances atop a narrow, aluminum ladder, some 20 feet above the ground and carefully places the seven-day-old chick in a padded metal coffee can held in a pocket of his orange safety vest. The creak of his leather safety belt signals his attention has returned to the tree to bring out the other nestling.
Spadgenske is state coordinator of the Partners for Fish & Wildlife with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He made the trip to Chilton County on Monday from his Daphne office to band nestlings at Lake Mitchell. Alabama Power Co. owns some 1,500 acres of red cockaded woodpecker habitat. The bird has been on the endangered species list since 1973, and there are about 200 nesting pairs throughout the state, Spadgenske said.
"The reason they are endangered is they are very habitat specific," Spadgenske said, giving his Woodpecker 101 speech to a small group that has tagged along to watch the banding. The trip included a boat ride and then a hike through steep and rocky terrain to get to the nest tree. "They are the only woodpecker that nests in living trees, and they prefer the long leaf pine.