Welcome to Bird Town!
By Steven Saffier, Audubon Pennsylvania
West Vincent Township joins the growing list of Pennsylvania municipalities to become an Audubon Bird Town! In the coming months the West Vincent Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) will work closely with Audubon Pennsylvania to provide information to residents on ways to create healthier, more sustainable and cost-effective landscapes.
Your property has the potential to provide for birds and also have positive impacts on stormwater, greenhouse gases, maintenance time, and aesthetics. Bird Town is not just about birds…it’s about rediscovering your ecological address…the nature of your yard and beyond. With nature in mind, the entire community benefits from a renewed environment that functions naturally and offers the wonders of nature just beyond your front door.
Native plants are key in this equation and you’ll be hearing more about where to get them, how to plant them, and what they can do for your green lifestyle. You may already have native plants on your property or perhaps existing woodland. You may provide bird feeders and a bird bath. Let us know! Contribute to the township’s efforts by registering your property with Audubon today! It’s quick, easy, and free of charge (yard signs are available through donation). Simply go to http://pa.audubon.org/audubon-home-14. and select the property type on the right; residential, school, or business. There is a lot of useful information on the website to help you improve your ecological footprint.
Audubon has also created a fantastic web tool that is especially useful to Bird Town residents. You can now determine what your landscape provides to birds by going to http://pabirdplants.org and browsing the bird and plant lists. There are more tools and workshops coming designed specifically for Bird Town.
We are proud to be working with West Vincent Township and look forward to many years of improved landscapes, nature experiences, and lots of birds! And since today’s children are tomorrow’s land stewards, we encourage the sharing the experience of creating a garden or bird habitat with them.
For more information on Bird Town, please visit the website: http://pa.audubon.org/bird-town
Rooted in Good Intentions
A Bird Town Feature – by Steven Saffier
Planting native trees and increasing canopy coverage is one of the best things you can do for birds as a Bird Town resident. I applauded the recent addition by my neighbor of three young trees to their front yard. The trees are Pennsylvania natives so they will provide for wildlife, reduce storm water runoff, sequester carbon, and add esthetic and monetary value.
The trees were planted at the proper depth; the root crown (also known as “root flare”) - that part of the trunk that widens near the base - was just above the surface of soil. They did not stake the trees instead allowing the tree to compensate for stirring winds with rapid cell growth that will strengthen the tree.
But a week after planting something showed up that is indicative of an epidemic in our area. A large, cone-shaped pile of black mulch was placed at the base of each tree. Known as “tree volcanoes” these mulch piles (or leaf piles) are intended, I suppose, to help retain moisture in the ground for the tree. But it’s actually bad news for the tree.
The root crown is a critical part of a tree where an exchange of gases exists, including oxygen necessary for healthy growth of both roots and the above-ground parts. Since trees and shrubs send their roots outward to seek moisture and nutrients (away from the main trunk), putting a pile of mulch up against the tree does nothing to retain moisture where it is needed most.
In fact, facilitating moisture against the trunk is an invitation for rot, a portal for insect damage and a guarantee your tree will struggle to survive. The alternative is to put a ring of mulch at the drip line of the tree – near the outer boundaries of the longest branches.
If you have a tree that has been mulched year after year near the trunk, pull the mulch away from the base. Don’t be surprised to see a tangle of small roots sprouted by the tree in a desperate attempt to get oxygen. These small roots, sap energy from the tree and weaken large roots that anchor the tree to the ground.
We’ve grown accustomed to tree volcanoes to the point of wide acceptance. But the damage they do in spite of the perceived esthetic and botanical value gives tree volcanoes “looks that kill.” Consider the more eco-friendly alternative - rake everything away from the root crown and let it breathe!!
Bird Town is a working partnership of Audubon and municipalities in Pennsylvania to promote conservation and community-based actions to create a healthy, more sustainable environment for birds and people. For more information, go to http://pa.audubon.org
Steven Saffier is the Director of the Audubon At Home Program for Audubon Pennsylvania and manages the Bird Town program.