Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reclaiming the Route 22 Field

Second only to environmental education, wildlife and habitat management is one of Westmoreland Sanctuary's most important initiatives. The forests and fields are largely left to grow and mature with very little interference except under conditions which are likely to lead to the habitat's decline or unsuitability for wildlife.

One habitat that needs periodic maintanence is the sanctuary's fields and meadows. Periodically it is neccessary to stop the invasion of woody shrubs that slowly (or not so slowly) invade the field habitat. Prior to this year, most attempts at keeping woody growth at bay involved a lot of manual labor, including cutting shrubs by hand as they reached an unruly size. One year we rented a super mower and spent the entire day push mowing the entire field adjacent to NY route 22 until the mower gave up on us.
Thankfully, the Bedford Riding Lanes Association donated a couple hours of time and their tractor with brush hog to help us mow down the field. Scott Vigliotti (pictured above), BRLA's trail man, was able to mow the entire field in a fraction of the time it would have taken us to do it with the rented super mower. The tractor and brush hog were able to mulch up any shrub standing in its way.
Pictured here are two of our most unwanted species growing in and around the edges of our fields and meadows. The thorny shrub in the above photo is Multiflora Rose. Mixed among its branches are an Asiatic Bittersweet vine with ripening fruit (surrounded by the yellow covering).

Probably the nastiest shrub invading our forest, fields, and meadows is the Japanese Barberry. Its needle-thin thorns, tough stems, and vigorous growth make it the most difficult to control and remove from the landscape. The specimen above was loaded with the red berries containing seeds poised to wreak more havoc in the field.
Thankfully, many of the unwanted shrubs were mowed down, a few young Red Cedar and Holly saplings were spared, and the field is cleared and prepared for next spring's growth of grasses, forbs, and wildflowers.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

No comments: