Habitat for Local Wildlife

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A friend of mine recently shared a video he saw on the internet regarding the decrease in bird population, that really concerned us. The gist of the video was about how the loss of habitat affects the food source, and is contributing to the decline. Butterflies depend on a variety of plants found in meadows for their food source and reproduction. Caterpillars are an important food source for the hatchlings. Many farms and natural meadows with native plants have been lost to developments. Beautiful lawns do not provide a substantial food source.

The video suggested, if possible, reducing the size of the lawn and planting native flowering plants to benefit insects, birds and other wildlife. For property that abuts a field or a forest, it is relatively easy to do. Just stop mowing a planned amount of lawn to create a natural area. I’ve done this and it actually looks quite nice and creates a buffer from the lawn to the forest. Over the years I have increased the buffer to create a smaller lawn and more natural area. I mow once a year, in early October, when nesting is over and the butterfly cycle is complete.

Connecticut is 61% forested. Many forests are old growth which support a limited amount of species. Many critters, such as ruffed grouse, golden-winged warbler, woodcock, New England cotton tail rabbits and a variety of reptiles and amphibians need emerging (young) forests. Most people don’t like to hear this fact, but the way to achieve a new forest is by cutting down trees and letting nature run its course.

Behind my property, logging occurred about 10 years ago. It has been amazing to watch the re-growth occur. This has become a perfect habitat for the species named above. I don’t advocate clear cutting an entire forest. If you have a 100 acre area, you could cut 10 acres. Wait eight to 10 years and cut a different 10 acres and so on. Nature does this by fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and disease. Most people don’t like to see a forest cut down, but if it is managed properly, there are many benefits.

Now if you are blessed to own acreage, don’t go out tomorrow with a chainsaw and start cutting. Get professional advice from a forester specializing in wildlife habitat. There are many species of birds, reptiles and mammals that nest in meadows. Many of these species are in decline due to mowing at the improper time such as spring and summer. During this time the animals are nesting and raising their young.

If you own a meadow not used for hay, waiting to mow until mid October would greatly increase the survival of these species. We all need a place to live. If we all do a little it really adds up. It’s good for the soul to be aware of our environment with all the different bugs, birds, reptiles and mammals with which we share our world.

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