Monday, February 2, 2015

Cedar Maintenance - Another Field Completed

Weather conditions caused me to temporarily suspend cedar maintenance work on the Middle Field, but conditions have taken a favorable turn and my work has resumed.  Marking flags were left in place during the poor weather and except for a couple of flags that suffered at the hands, or I should say mouths, of the deer, everything was as I had left it.  I began my work at the wide end of the field, so each move forward is a little narrower than the one behind.  It didn’t take long to finish off the two acre field.

Many of the removed cedars were quite short, making my after photos look not much different than the before.  I probably see more in the after photo than most people, because I can still remember the look of each bit of ground as I zigzagged my way across the field looking for tiny cedars.

Small oaks are growing well next to the ant mounds in the field.  The oaks have gotten large enough to host a batch of Edwards’ Hairstreak larvae.  The butterfly has already established a colony in the next field over.  I’m hopeful that in the next year or two I’ll also find the butterflies in this field.

Virginia Pine seedlings are almost as numerous as cedars in this field.  Despite the fact that deer give these trees a good yearly thrashing, some have managed to survive and are threatening to grow to seed bearing size.  I decided to go ahead and cut all pines not growing in the designated Pine Grove area.

I’ve been trying to remember to take more before and after shots of my work efforts.  I think they have value in illustrating how different types of management techniques change a particular area; even if it’s just the removal of a single tree.  In this case I failed to notice that I hadn’t moved the cut tree completely out of the frame.  That’s it on the left side just beyond the small ant mound.  I had taken the before shot earlier in the afternoon, but didn’t cut the tree until evening.  After hurrying to cut the tree so I could take my after shot before it got too dark, I drug it down and left it beside the brush pile that is to the left just outside the photo.  I was so busy lining up features to make the after shot match the before that I never even thought of the tree laying there in front of me.

Several orange ribbons mark plants that either need to be cut and sprayed this coming spring or need to be protected from the mower.  Most are roses.  About half are natives and the other half are multiflora.

I found two Chinese Mantis egg cases in this field.  The female mantis lays two or three masses of eggs, usually in close proximity to each other and covers each mass with a foamy mixture that hardens into a protective case.  When an egg case is found, a quick search of the immediate area should turn up one or two more.  The Chinese Mantis is an introduced species and is a predator famous for its ability to capture and consume large quantities of insects.  I don’t appreciate exotic predators threatening the native insects, so I do what I can to reduce the size of the Chinese Mantis population.

This is the egg breaker treatment I give to each egg case.  The elongated eggs are situated inside the case in such a way that a cut with my hand pruners from top to bottom through the case destroys the entire batch.  Several years ago, I could easily find many dozens of egg cases in these fields.  This year, I have found only six egg cases over an area of 25 acres.  My efforts must be having an effect.

I took my search for small cedars right though the old fence row and to the edge of the next field.  Since the removal of the last of the non-native shrubs, the fence row is looking quite open.  I’m anxious to see what plants may appear here now that sunlight can reach the ground.

Snow load and wind put this Virginia Pine into a permanent lean.  If left in this position, it would kill the grass beneath its dense branches.  I chose to remove it.

This time I managed to get the tree out of the way for the after photo.  In its upright position, the tree did not cast a dense enough shadow to adversely influence the growth of surrounding grass.  I certainly didn’t want to lose this nice patch of prairie grass to a reclining pine.

If the weather cooperates, I’ll bring JR out in a couple of days and mow this field.  The primary targets for the mowing are some clumps of blackberries and sumacs.  Mowing will also allow me to more easily evaluate the early spring growth and identify any potential future problems.

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