by Pat Goodfriend, Volunteer & Membership Coordinator
April 20, 2021
Acorn Hall’s native hardwood forest once seemed to fill the sky. The trees grew side by side, tall and straight with green leaves so thick in the summer there were no gaps. Entering the cool, dark woodlot under this nearly seamless canopy, the bright sun turned off almost in an instant. The dappled light that entered left spotlights making it possible to follow Acorn Hall’s section of the Patriots’ Path trail, further into a mature forest. The dirt walkway was all that separated its familiar, wide tree trunks rising on either side. Then, Superstorm Sandy came.
Almost instantly it seemed, everything changed. High winds broke or uprooted more than 200 trees in a swath of Acorn Hall’s woodlot, creating unfamiliar open space. MCHS is restoring its historic cultural landscape’s damaged woodlot by a heavily assisted and guided succession to a native mixed hardwood forest. The replanting of trees, and therefore encouraging of native animals and insects, is key. The woodlot area now includes a small meadow where old trees once stood that had holes drilled out by woodpeckers, which became natural nesting cavities ready for the annual arrival of small, seasonal native birds to NJ.
To encourage tree-cavity nesters to return, last spring, four Bluebird nesting boxes were installed. House Wrens, which fly north from Mexico to breed, came for an extended stay. These diminutive, brown birds are usually heard before seen, singing their cheerful songs in disturbed woodlands, often located by neighborhoods. The avian visitors found Acorn Hall’s recovering natural resources and nest boxes to their liking, producing 23 fledglings within three months! Once common, House Wrens are now in decline in the Northeast. However, Acorn Hall’s woodlot awaits the wrens’ next arrival, any day now, to hopefully spark another seasonal success story.
Join us this summer for a walk through the woodlot to check the boxes. Keep an eye on our calendar for dates!