Foresters for the Birds: Starting work at Elm Hill

Habitat management work at Elm Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is underway! Elm Hill is our demonstration site for our Forestry for the Birds program, which we’re using to exhibit techniques for improving bird habitat with sustainable forestry.

Invasive plant removal has begun, and forestry operations will commence in a few short months. Following years of fundraising, planning, site preparation, data collection, and a minor setback, it’s all finally coming together.

Eastern Towhees like young forests and dense scrubby habitat. Photo by: Marco Jona

Bird-Friendly Forestry

Foresters for the Birds works with private landowners and consulting foresters to create and enhance bird habitat using sustainable forestry practices. In order to lead by example, Mass Audubon decided to showcase such practices at Elm Hill. Besides creating great habitat for birds, the site will be used to educate and engage with landowners, conservation organizations, state agencies, forestry professionals, and the general public.  In fact, we’ve already hosted a handful of events at Elm Hill, attracting about 100 people so far.

Young Forests and Tree Diversity Are Key

Following a Foresters for the Birds management plan, this round of management will create about 30 acres of young forest, a habitat type crucial to a group of birds categorically in decline, such as Eastern Towhees and Chestnut-sided Warblers. We will also improve tree species diversity in about 100 acres of older forests, and encourage layers of shrubs and saplings to benefit species such as Wood Thrushes and Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Creating Climate-Resilient Forests

Climate change has already started to affect Massachusetts forests, which complicates management strategies for bird habitat. The ranges of plant and insect species that certain birds depend on are shifting, and some are inevitably less resilient to an unstable climate. Bearing this in mind, we worked with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) to ensure that our management actions at Elm Hill were climate-smart. With their help, we’re identifying opportunities to adapt the forest– and the birds it supports– to future climate conditions.

Please stay tuned for opportunities to visit Elm Hill, where detailed discussions of our bird habitat and climate adaption actions can take place. There’s much more to it beyond what can be communicated in a short blog post!

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