December 4, 2020


Something Wild: Christmas Tree Farms Are The Gift That Keeps On Giving (EMILY QUIRK, DAVE ANDERSON & CHRIS MARTIN, 12/04/20, NHPR: Something Wild)

Tree farms provide ample food and shelter to a wide variety of disturbance-adapted insects, birds and mammals, all native to the Granite State.

Bigger farms will usually plant in rotational stages with the youngest areas dedicated to transplanted nursery seedlings two to three years old, barely knee high. And it can take anywhere from nine to twelve years for these trees to be ready for harvest.

Young sections of a Christmas tree farm most closely resemble a meadow, which during warmer months is home to an assortment of insects: dragonflies, butterflies, and crickets. Which in turn attract mammals: mice, moles, skunks...even porcupines and woodchucks that ALSO like to feed on the clover mixed into the tall grass.

In early June, deer give birth to fawns and tuck them beneath the shelter of conifers. They seem to enjoy the relatively thick cover of young fir trees, but also having the ability to see approaching predators down grassy open lanes. Row upon row of beautiful young trees!

By mid-late summer, it's common for Christmas tree growers to mow the grassy aisles between rows, giving opportunists like foxes, coyotes and other mammals a chance to prey on rodents that are suddenly exposed without cover. Mowing between trees also reveals ground hornet nests, a delectable treat only a bear could love.

This type of habitat is also perfect for open country birds of prey, including the American kestrel, a small falcon that nests in old woodpecker holes or rotting barn eaves. They'll perch like a Christmas star atop fir trees while hunting voles and grasshoppers.

And lest we forget nesting songbirds: song sparrows, cedar waxwings, robins and mourning doves all prefer to build nests close to the ground, making these farms ideal. 

And because they are perpetually kept in the early successional stage - where you've got sun, you've got grass, you've got insects - they're the gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by at December 4, 2020 7:29 AM