Trail Wood Will be Closed for Winter to Allow Forestry Work that Will Increase Safety and Improve Habitat
Pomfret, November 14, 2017 — The Connecticut Audubon Society will close its Trail Wood Sanctuary in Hampton for the winter to allow loggers to safely remove trees that have died or were weakened by damage in recent years by gypsy moths.
The work will make the 168-acre sanctuary safer for hikers while also serving to improve the forest for birds and other wildlife. The project is scheduled to start in mid- December and be completed by March 2018.
Gypsy moth damage to trees in northeastern Connecticut was extensive in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Repeated defoliation killed and weakened many oaks in particular; a number of trees have fallen in recent storms, and more are likely to fall in the coming months.
Connecticut Audubon and its forestry consultants, Ferrucci & Walicki of Middlefield, and foresters from Hull Forest Products in Pomfret, will be working collaboratively to give careful consideration to every tree to be removed. The vast majority of the trees to be removed will be dead oaks, but some live trees may be cut as well. This will help to facilitate safe felling and removal of dead trees. In addition, removing a few live trees will improve the vigor of the remaining trees by reducing competition and allowing for more growing space. In places, ash mortality has begun to occur so some ash may be removed as well.
The tree removal will be conducted in winter to reduce the potential impact to birds and their spring breeding season.
“Our primary concerns are the safety of our visitors and the ecological integrity of the property,” said Sarah Heminway, Connecticut Audubon’s Northeast Corner director. “We’ll limit the work to parts of the preserve with suitable ground conditions. We’ll follow best management practices for protecting water quality and we’ll maintain reasonable buffers surrounding sensitive sites.
“In short, we will be carrying out the project with an eye toward how it can improve Trail Wood for visitors and benefit birds and other wildlife.”
Trail Wood is the former home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalist Edwin Way Teale, who, with his wife Nellie, lived on the property starting in 1959. Edwin died in 1980; Nellie donated Trail Wood to Connecticut Audubon and died in 1993.
During the upcoming project, the only live trees to be removed will be those that have some defect or would be competing with more desirable trees.
To maintain and maximize the quality of the preserve’s wildlife habitat, Connecticut Audubon will leave an average of four to six snags – dead trees – per acre. Active denning or cavity trees will be retained if safety is not an issue.
Birds that use snags and cavity trees – as perches for singing and hunting, and also for nesting — include Chestnut-sided Warbler, Tree Swallow, Northern Flicker, Eastern Bluebird, various raptors, Black-capped Chickadee, and White-breasted Nuthatch.
Trunks and branches greater than four inches in diameter will be left on the ground for nutrient recycling, water retention, as substrate for new seedlings, cover, forage, and potential nesting areas.
Smaller branches will be left on the ground or made into brush piles to improve bird and wildlife habitat. An average of two to three brush piles per acre will be created and volunteers will be needed in March to help build them.
Sanctuary manager Andy Rzeznikiewicz will continue to monitor and control invasive plants.
“There is no doubt that Trail Wood will have a different look and feel this coming spring,” Rzeznikiewicz said, “but the deliberate approach we’re taking is meant to minimize those changes as much as possible and incorporate management practices which will ultimately rejuvenate the sanctuary.”