As landowners, whether it’s a small yard or acres of woodland, we can all make a difference for wildlife. Some people grow plants in pots on their apartment balcony for bees and hummingbirds. Others manage a small garden with veggies that get pollinated by local pollinators or shared with some sneaky critters like rabbits or chipmunks. Some folks manage a yard full of native plants visited by a host of insects and other animals. And finally a few, like my partner and I, manage larger acreage to benefit all sorts of wildlife. Property size is not that important: if you diversify it, manage it, and care about it, a nice diversity of wildlife should thrive. If the land is connected to other protected land, all the better.
Our current land size is about 235 acres. Our goal is to manage the area as a diverse landscape that provides food, water, and shelter for as many desirable native animals as possible. Long-term, it will be placed in permanent protection. With help from Moosewood Ecological, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Cheshire County Conservation District CCCD), foresters and Cheshire County Extension Service, we surveyed the property and developed conservation, stewardship and forestry plans to maximize our goals. With funding and technical assistance from both CCCD and NRCS, we started work on the property in 2015 when we began enhancing an existing old meadow to attract more pollinators.
Our next step was to clear about 15 acres of “unhealthy, poorly managed forest” to provide important habitat for a variety of species of conservation concern that could use the property. The goal is to create three different zones. One area will become a pollinator meadow, another area would be left to regenerate back into a healthier, diverse forest and remaining acres will become early successional habitat- low growing shrubs and plants. This section would be divided into 3 parcels, each mowed at a different time to allow a diversity of age structure. For early successional habitat to be successful, you need to mow every 5-10 years to keep trees from coming back. You know NH forests, leave them and they instantly become woods!
In addition, we found about 20 old apple trees located under a dense stand of pines so we “released” them from the overstory trees so they could thrive in better sunlight. And it worked! All apple trees blossomed the following spring.
In the area, we have found signs of black bear, bobcat and moose, and have observed woodcocks, ruffed grouse, and bobolinks, all species of interest to NH Fish and Game. Each spring we watch the woodcocks do their aerial mating display over the meadow, and remote cameras in the surrounding woods capture images of wildlife we rarely see.
Thanks to support from CCCD and NRCS, we continued to enhance the existing meadow with invasive plant management and installation of native pollinator seeds. We also did extensive invasive species management throughout the cut area. We were not able to put seed down in the new pollinator site last year as planned since the seed supply ran out unexpectedly. Instead, this spring we planted a cover crop of daikon radishes to help loosen soil compaction and provide some much needed aeration, as well as winter peas and crimson clover to add nitrogen to the soil. All are annual plants and are really good for pollinators. The bees have been buzzing the radish flowers like crazy!
This fall, the site will be seeded (we bought seed early this year) with a wide variety of pollinator plants, such as wild bee balm, golden Alexanders, butterfly weed, purple coneflower, blue vervain, coreopsis, little bluestem, and New England aster. The hard part is waiting a couple of years for the pollinator patch to really show its colors!
More updates to come in future blogs! You can also stay up to date on our programs and events by liking the CCCD on Facebook! www.facebook.com/CheshireCCD