The outdoor steward: Managing my woodland for wildlife and bird habitat
Every day for a few years, I would drive down my lane from the road to my house, about a quarter mile, and I would see this dead tree standing just a few yards off the trail. I figured it was just a matter of time before I turned it into firewood.
This spring, when I went to chop it down, I noticed the woodpeckers were pounding holes in it and there was an opening where two branches split where a red squirrel had created a sanctuary. I couldn’t bring myself to whack it. The tree is still standing.
This change of plans got me thinking that maybe it was time to explore this 11.5 acres of old woods and see what was there. I’ve spent my summers on this property since 2010, but I hadn’t itemized this small woodland.
It turns out there are a lot of scroungy-looking pine trees, some aging groves of birch and lots of varieties of spindly trees I can’t identify. There are also some huge pines, thick spruce, and a few oak and apple trees. The floor of the forest was littered with rotting branches and deadfalls. I began to think that maybe it was time to renovate these woods to make them more attractive to animals and birds.
Every day when I say my evening meal prayer, I thank the Good Lord for Internet search engines that allow me to look up all the information that I need to know to take on one of my latest projects. This time it was managing my woods for animal and bird habitat.
I discovered that, whatever your reasons for wanting more wildlife on your property, you won’t achieve success unless you meet the criteria for food, shelter, cover and water. It also helps to have some space.
I have a little food from the apple trees, but that only works in the fall. The deer just enter my yard and eat all the plants I put in every spring, but there is a lot of other wildlife I don’t see because there is nothing for them to eat. I need to change that.
There’s not much shelter, too. The forest floor is pretty bare except for the rotting timber that has fallen. There is little cover to speak of but I have a few dents in the forest floor that fill up with a couple of feet of water and work great for mosquito breeding.
So, I’m committing to renovating my forest and making it more animal-friendly. I recently acquired a Honda Pioneer 1000 to act as the government mule and pack stuff in and out and help with wood removal and hauling whatever I need to plant.
I picked up a Husqvarna chainsaw and figure the first act will require a lot of whacking and stacking of wood. It will be an interesting experiment that I’ll blog about as the process goes full throttle next spring. I’ve been told this is a project that will take some time.
I’ll be pleased if it does.