One day while searching for sediment breakthroughs on a recently logged woodlot in the NYC Watershed, my research partner and I were hunting for a stream crossing to inspect. We were in a stand of white pine that had been thinned to allow the best trees to receive the maximum amount of nutrients the site could offer. We heard a bird from above and looked up to spot a male common yellowthroat on a hemlock branch.
The common yellowthroat is a wood warbler that lives in dense vegetation most commonly in wetlands, but they can also be found in a variety of habitats ranging from pine forests to prairies. As the name and range of habitats makes clear, they are abundant, with breeding grounds across the continental United States and Canada. They eat mainly insects but also feast upon spiders and ingest grit for digestion or minerals.
While standing in the openings made by the thinning, we considered that the yellowthroat was benefitting from the increase in vegetation beneath the thinned canopy which had grown in a dense tangle.
Thinned white pine
Male common yellowthroat
The Watershed Agricultural Council has recently partnered with Audubon New York and the New York Tree Farm Program on another project to improve forest habitat. The Harvests for Habitat Project seeks to improve forest habitat for at-risk bird species that would benefit from shelterwood, group, or patch cuts to increase understory and midstory layers. Plants need sunlight to thrive and larger openings, several acres in size, create more diverse layers within a forest.
Just FYI, MyWoodlot.com has a starter kit for bird lovers. Go check it out!