Creating Brush Thickets for Birds

Allegheny National Forest Visitors BureauBRADFORD, PA – May 13, 2019 – We pulled into the old oil and gas site, and I’ve never seen the water so high in the old oil and gas “pond”, an acre of water in the old field habitat.  We walked over to view the water level right from the shoreline and marveled at the submerged alder that were sprouting leaves anyhow on the tips of the branches above the water line.  Alder are amazing survivors.

We, the RGS Allegheny Chapter volunteers, have been expanding the “thicket” of shrubs around this wetland annually for almost a decade now.  We are making a difference.  The wetland is now almost totally surrounded by wet-loving shrubs.  The next step is to integrate soft mast producers such as viburnums and winterberry into the ring of alders. 

Deer are at a high population level on this piece of Collins Pine Company land, therefore, we need to establish a strong circle of alders around the wetland first because deer won’t eat alder.  The hope is that if we plant good soft mast (berry) shrubs in the future, they might have a chance against the always hungry deer.  It doesn’t do much good to plant good shrubs for wildlife habitat if you can’t protect those shrubs long enough for them to reach maturity.  You can try cribs, fences, and tubes, but that requires extra maintenance effort, or…. you can try and hide the “good stuff” in and amongst the alders.  

A shrub thicket is a dense cover (a limb every foot or so) of shrubs that like to live in wet soils and grow about 8-10 feet tall and spread their branches about 6-8 feet.  Thicket is a good name for these types of habitats, and they are not common in northern Pennsylvania.  Shrub thickets are valuable habitat for robins, cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, orioles, yellow warblers, and chestnut-sided warblers.  I keep looking for an alder flycatcher, but have not yet seen one here.  This pond is also full of amphibians.  And the best part of the entire scenario is that we were on lands managed by Collins Pine Co. out of Kane, and open for walk-in public use.  This old oil and gas site is attractive to wildlife because of the sustainable forest management practiced by the Collins Pine Co., the ten-year old aspen harvests created by the Ruffed Grouse Society, the goldenrod field, and the wetland.  Wildlife loves diversity. 

Upon closer inspection of the pond site, I noticed the arrowwood viburnums we planted two years ago were still hanging on; viburnums seem to “sit still” for about three years after you plant them, and then they just take off and grow.  As volunteers, the three of us planting for wildlife, felt good.  The viburnums were making it and would take off in a year or two.  You, too, can help create a home for wildlife.  The Ruffed Grouse Society is looking for volunteers to complete habitat work.  Contact Mary Hosmer at 814-512-2101 or wlhab@windstream.net to find out when the next habitat work takes place.

Give back to wildlife the easy way! 

The Ruffed Grouse Society was founded in 1961 to promote and increase awareness of young forest management and to maintain suitable habitat that supports healthy populations of ruffed grouse, woodcock, deer and many songbird species that depend on forest diversity to survive and prosper.