American Woodcock Restoration Project
The American Woodcock, Scolopax minor, is a small bird related to Sandpipers but lives in the Eastern forests of the United States. This bird is not only known for its unusual appearance, but also for its incredible arial acrobatics during mating season. The American Woodcock’s population has been in decline since the 1970s. This decrease in population has been attributed to habitat loss.
The Sourland Conservancy, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, and Mercer County Parks thank their members and volunteers from Hopewell Boy Scout Troop 71, Montgomery High School Environmental Club, and Hillsborough High School who worked to remove invasive shrubs and trees from Hopewell Borough Park on Saturday, October 1, in conjunction with the American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project.
Twenty-two volunteers of all ages spent three hours cutting, dragging and piling invasive autumn olive, callery pear and Toringo crabapple trees that have been taking over the park and crowding out native plants that support the local ecosystem.
Volunteers at a work project in Hopewell, N.J., improved habitat for American woodcock and other wildlife by removing non-native invasive plants that had been crowding out native vegetation.
Volunteers and staff from several Sourland regional organizations, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Center for FaithJustice, have been working throughout the summer to remove invasive species that also include garlic mustard, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose.
The American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project (AWHRP) is an innovative program developed by the Sourland Conservancy, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, and Mercer County Parks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has provided technical expertise in shrubland restoration and will supply the project with 300 native shrubs and trees. Funding for tools, supplies and additional plants was provided by a Franklin Parker Conservation Excellence Grant from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation awarded to Sourland Conservancy for its Sourland Stewards program in June of this year.
Deer fencing is usually the most expensive piece of any restoration, so the partners brainstormed inexpensive ways to protect the native plantings. They will implement the innovative approach of using the remains of cut-down invasive plants as a visual and physical barrier to thwart deer. This approach will allow the partners to focus funds on plants, tools and other essential supplies, and free them from finding funding and methods to remove the dead plants from the project area.
The project will continue in phases spread out over a few years. In several growing seasons, the park should host some of the Eastern seaboard’s more rare breeding birds as well as neotropical migratory species. In addition to the American Woodcock, many other birds will benefit from the restored habitat including chestnut-sided warbler, black and white warbler, American redstart, common yellowthroat, white-throated sparrow (in winter), dark-eyed junco (also in winter), eastern kingbird, eastern towhee, fox sparrow, yellow warbler, yellow-bellied flycatcher, prairie warbler, indigo bunting, chestnut-sided warbler, blue-winged warbler, field sparrow, yellow-breasted chat and more.
In total, conservationists have identified 65 mammals, birds and reptiles as Species of Greatest Conservation Need that rely on shrubland and young forest for their survival. By creating and stewarding shrubland and young forest at Hopewell Borough Park, the AWHRP will help to conserve this special community of wildlife.
For the next phase of the project, volunteers will plant over 500 native plants, shrubs and trees on November 5 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Individuals, groups, and organizations who want to help with the planting can register at http://tinyurl.com/plant11-5
For more information about the American Woodcock Habitat Restoration Project and upcoming events, visit Sourland.org and subscribe to Sourland Conservancy’s e-newsletter, follow Sourland Conservancy on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations to purchase additional plants may be sent to the Sourland Conservancy, 83 Princeton Avenue, Suite 1A, Hopewell NJ 08525 (please note AWHRP on the memo line).