Do you like seeing birds and other wildlife on your property? Do you feed the birds in the winter? Why not consider planting some native trees and shrubs to enhance the natural wildlife food sources on your property? There are many things you can do to help our birds and other wildlife meet their needs throughout the year, by improving their habitat on your property.
The first thing to do is to look at what you already have for habitat features, thinking in terms of food, water, shelter and space. Nature provides food for wildlife throughout the seasons. As we develop and alter the landscape with roads, houses and lawns, this natural habitat is diminished. You can take an inventory of what your land is providing and enhance the components that are lacking.
Many birds rely on fruits and seed when insects are dormant. Ensuring that you have a variety of plants growing in and around your yard to provide these seeds and fruits throughout the year can help birds and other wildlife more easily meet their needs. Some plants such as shadbush (also called serviceberry), black raspberries, and red and silver maple produce seed and fruits in the spring and early summer when birds are expending energy looking for mates and building nests. Other plants, such as dogwoods, black cherry, beech, viburnums, and white and red oak, produce fruits, seeds, and nuts in the fall when birds are fattening up in preparation for winter. Still others such as winterberry, staghorn sumac, and many crab apple varieties provide fruits that persist on the branches throughout the winter and provide food for wildlife during their most difficult time of year. Trees such as white pine and hemlock provide both food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
The NH State Forest Nursery offers a variety of tree and shrub seedling packages you can plant to enhance your property’s habitat values for wildlife. In operation since 1910, the NH State Forest Nursery currently offers over 50 different types of tree and shrub seedlings and packages.
Seedlings are available in quantities of 10, 25, and 100. The Nursery also produces specialty packages of seedlings including their winter survival, songbird/wildlife, wetlands, and Christmas tree sampler packages. Specialty packages consist of 25 assorted seedlings (5 each of 5 different species) and cost $25. The seedlings average 6 to 12" tall and are suitable for planting statewide.
The songbird/wildlife package contains plants that provide seeds and berries that attract birds and other wildlife. As these plants grow, they will provide a great natural source of food while also providing cover and nesting habitat. This package contains elderberry, beach plum, ninebark, European mountain ash, and crabapple. The winter survival package contains plants which will produce fruit that will remain on the plant into the winter months. This provides wildlife with a valuable survival food source above deep snow cover, through freezing temperatures and strong winds. The package contains European cranberry, crabapple, European mountain ash, hawthorn, and rugosa rose.
To learn more about the individual species and packages available, visit the NH State Forest Nursey website at nhnursery.com.
There is joy in being able to watch wildlife, birds, (and – yes – the squirrels too) and feel that you are helping them. Most of all, you will enjoy the opportunity to see and appreciate the creatures with whom you share your land. So order your tree and shrub seedlings now for spring planting!
By Wendy Scribner, UNH Cooperative Extension
Winter 2015 Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter