This past fall, a brontosaurus made its way through the forests of Epping and Kingston, New Hampshire. But don’t be alarmed! While this beast ate whole trees and shrubs, leaving large forest openings in its path, it was no dinosaur. This “brontosaurus” is actually a large flailing-head mower attached to an excavator, used to grind up shrubs and young trees. The machine, more commonly seen clearing power line corridors, does an excellent job creating shrubland and young forest habitats.
Mark and Juliana Phillips’ home in Webster is part of 700 acres that has been in Mark’s family for generations. It’s where Mark was “surrounded by nature” as a boy. The land has seen changes since then - pastures grew in and habitats changed. “It was a classic, New England abandoned farm,” Mark says. The result was “less wildlife” than when the land was a mix of farm and forest cover. Juliana’s experience in nature early in life led to her attitudes about land today. “I grew up in a very rural part of New Jersey, where we spent most of the time outdoors.
The LeClair Tree Farm: For the past 30 years, Art and Gale LeClair have been putting their dreams into action as they manage their 120 acre woodlot in Farmington, New Hampshire. Much of the LeClair’s home is constructed with wood harvested from their land, and the poorer quality trees that Art removes in thinning operations provide fuel for the wood-fired furnace that heats their home.
In the early hours of a Saturday morning in spring, a group of Fremont citizens armed with binoculars and field guides were alert and quiet, listening intently to the chorus of birds and scribbling on their notepads. “Hermit thrush. Scarlet Tanager. Chickadee. Wait! Was that a pileated woodpecker?”. A short distance away another group huddled over a small flower, riffling through a field guide to identify it. A third group was on the hunt for reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects.
Fred Ernst owns 670 acres of forestland in Acworth, NH. His interest in managing land for wildlife began during his career in a forest-based industry. As Fred describes it, “We practiced sustainability of forests and encouraging wildlife was a natural part of the process. When I bought the land in Acworth in 2001, the land had been “high graded” [most commercial quality trees removed], which had a lot to do with my ideas for improvement”.
As we walk through the woods we see a 10-15” diameter aspen here and there plus an occasional clump amidst what would otherwise be characterized as a pine-oak-maple stand with some beech, paper birch, and white ash. We see stone walls and tote roads dividing up these woods into clear sections or blocks. And as we approach a small old field, we see a couple of scattered apple trees along the edge that are way past their prime.
With the amount of snow we’ve had on the ground this winter, it’s hard to believe that spring is here, but it is! The days are getting longer, birds are singing, and tree buds are starting to swell. Before we know it this snow will melt away – I promise, it really will – more migrating birds will return, filling our early mornings with their eager songs.
I sat at my desk, eyes glued to my computer screen, flipping slowly through photos. I’m giddy with excitement, enjoying the scenes unfolding, snapshot by snapshot, in front of me. A beaver makes its way out of the pond and passes next to the camera, then in the next shot, I see it is pulling a shockingly large log behind it. I’ve seen the evidence of beaver’s work so many times, it barely catches my attention anymore, but there is something magical about seeing pictures of the animal at work.
Planning outreach in your community? Take a page from Campton's book and consider hosting an outdoor field event exploring local habitats. In 2012, Conservation Commissioners in Campton, NH decided to focus some attention on a special natural feature in their town, Bog Pond, that was identified as important habitat on the Wildlife Action Plan Highest Ranked Habitats map. They started by reviewing the Wildlife Action Plan maps for Campton to identify habitat types and highest ranked habitats.