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Forestry at Richardson Memorial Preserve Benefits Birds

By Tom Aversa for the Fall 2023 Newsletter

In 2021, SRLT stewardship committee members devised a harvest plan with assistance from Two Trees Forestry to promote regeneration of a diverse, wildlife friendly woodland in accordance with a 2018 forest management plan.  Before the harvest we marked out potential trails and did preemptive invasive plant removal. Logging began that October with forest operator Tyler Reynolds excelling in his responsiveness to our directives, which included leaving snags, creating brush piles, and minimizing damage to the soil structure. The forest management didn’t cost us, yet we were able to avoid cutting the valuable hardwoods and desirable conifers which will support future forest regeneration.  

Post-harvest, three trails run like the spokes of a wheel northward from the northern edge of the lower hayfield.  They connect along the boundary of Doug and Nina Miller’s property.  Doug and Nina serve as Richardson’s stewards and have helped transform the preserve into a must-see destination.  Perhaps the most scenic trail runs along Sandy Stream, but the uphill harvest zone now provides valuable early successional mixed-age forest for a diversity of songbirds.  It also hosts a short spur trail which loops by the Carl Richardson memorial.  It looks great with the beginnings of a healthy forest stand in evidence.

Bird surveys during the summer of 2023 revealed avian usage which far exceeded our expectations. Not only were the forest warblers and thrush still present, but other interesting bird species were also using the area. In addition to at least 14 species of breeding warbler at the preserve, two other birds which seldom breed in western Waldo County were found nesting. The very presence of Field Sparrow anywhere in the area is notable, so when at least two breeding pairs with offspring were found, it was more than a mild surprise. Dark-eyed Junco also produced young, which is an unusual occurrence anywhere in the watershed. Two other rare Waldo County species that utilize early successional habitat were also found – Prairie Warbler and Eastern Towhee, with the former also confirmed nesting. Other species that nested here this summer included Common Raven, House Wren, Indigo Bunting and White-throated Sparrow. For those who appreciate larger birds, Barred Owls, Red-shouldered and Cooper’s Hawk were also present in 2023.

 

The preserve supports both forest and open country birds. A grant awarded by the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative allows us to continue our successful grassland bird management despite the devastating discovery of PFAS contamination here in 2022. That forced us to suspend two agricultural leases which severely impacted our grassland bird management program. Funds from Cornell will allow us to continue to keep grasslands open and promote use by Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow and Indigo Bunting.

If you enjoy mammals, abundant deer can often be viewed from Stevens Rd. Proceeding beyond the kiosk along the mowed path to the woodland boundary in the lower field will reveal much more along the trail system, but don’t miss the birds using the hedgerows on the way downhill. You need to check out Richardson Memorial Preserve if you enjoy birds and wildlife!        

 

Photos below by Tom Aversa

INBU 6.20.23b.JPG

Indigo Bunting

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Field Sparrow

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Prairie Warbler

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