Open dawn to dusk.
For more information, contact Pieter van Loon, VLT forester.
The blue-winged warbler breeds in scrubby grasslands where it can conceal its nest in a low bush or on the ground.
The warbler is just one of many shrubland birds whose populations are declining.
Vermont shrublands were lost when forests grew back after intensive farming in earlier centuries. Development and invasive plants aren’t helping either.
But all is not lost for the warbler. We are exploring what’s possible when you remove invasive plants and give native shrubs a fighting chance to establish themselves.
At Whetstone Woods, we’ve removed 2.5 acres of invasive glossy buckthorn and recruited volunteers to plant 300 native shrubs.
We are working with the Southeastern Vermont Audubon Society to create a birding trail through the shrubland habitat and into the woods beyond. If you visit, consider logging any bird sightings on the eBird app so that we can see if our habitat improvements are working.
For now, birders are most likely to find catbirds and song sparrows in Whetstone’s shrubland area, or maybe an indigo bunting.
Visitors can also look for Louisiana water thrushes as they follow the stream toward the woods, and tufted titmice and six species of woodpeckers around the hill that leads to the pine forest.
Birders might even catch a pine warbler or blackburnian warbler, or, in the openings between trees, an eastern wood peewee.
What starts with “b” and ends with habitat destruction? Barberry, buckthorn, bittersweet, and burning bush.
Unfortunately, these and other invasives can be found at Whetstone Woods, and across Vermont. Other invasive plants found at Whetstone include border privet, bush honeysuckle, and autumn olive.
Invasive species out-compete native plants, without offering the same ecological benefits. The spread of just one invasive plant can reduce biodiversity and harm wildlife habitat.
At Whetstone Woods we are trying new approaches to controlling these plants and holding educational events to share what we learn.
Photo: Sam Schneski, County Forester for Windham shows excellent form pulling up burning bush at Whetstone Woods.
Take glossy buckthorn’s effect on shrubland bird habitat. Although buckthorn is technically a shrub, it grew so tall and dense at Whetstone Woods that shrubland birds could not nest in it.
It also kills off other native shrubs that provide much better habitat, which is one of the factors contributing to the decline of these shrubland birds.
Japanese knotweed overtakes riverbanks at lightning speed. This plant grows up to four inches a day and its horizontal roots spread out 65 feet or more. It can quickly overtake a riverbank for miles, smothering everything in its path and exacerbating erosion and pollution runoff into watersheds.
We are using the site to test management approaches and share what we learn through the volunteer-run Southeast Vermont Cooperative Invasive Species Management Association.
To throttle the knotweed, for example, in early spring we laid metal mesh (hardware cloth) on the ground where knotweed was spouting. As the plant continues to grow up through the mesh, it will girdle itself and eventually run out of energy stored in its roots.
We regularly host events where showcase what we are doing and show how people can implement these approaches elsewhere.
Ash trees make up more than five percent of Vermont’s woods. Turkeys eat their seeds, rabbits their bark, and tadpoles their fallen leaves. Porcupines and bats are quite happy to den up in their trunk hollows.
Any threat to the trees also threatens the lives that depend on them. Nearly 80 species of invertebrates rely on ash trees and are at risk of becoming endangered should ash trees go the way of the American chestnut.
Five moths, including the Canadian sphinx, which feeds exclusively on black ash, are at high risk of extinction.
The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive insect that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across the country. Females lay eggs in the tree’s bark. Their larvae feed on the inner bark for more than a year, blocking water and nutrients the trees need.
We are monitoring emerald ash borer populations at Whetstone Woods by placing sticky pheromone traps near ash trees. So far, Vermont’s Emerald Ash Borer population is small, but it is expected to grow quickly and reach peak devastation in the 2030s.
There is no known solution.
However, we are treating select ash trees on Whetstone Woods with an insecticide that kills the insect. The trees must be retreated every three to four years. The hope is that this approach will keep the trees alive until scientists develop an answer.
The hemlock wooly adelgid is hard to spot. But if you look closely at the underside of the branch where it lives out its entire life, you can find the evidence: a wooly, white egg mass about the quarter of the size of a Q-tip.
It’s hard to believe that such a small aphid-like creature could take down magnificent, large hemlock trees. But, if left unchecked, these adelgids will kill a mature tree in 4-10 years.
Hemlock is a keystone species, which means that its absence alters the entire ecosystem around it.
They shade and cool streams to the benefit of fish and other aquatic species. Their dense stands also provide some of the best winter habitat for deer.
Here in Vermont, the eastern hemlock has been somewhat sheltered from the threat because our cold winters knock back hemlock wooly adelgid populations. But as climate warns, their numbers are growing, and heading north.
We are tracking the adelgid populations at Whetstone Woods and researching solutions. Some of which may eventually lead to educational opportunities and, we hope, maintenance of hemlock in Vermont’s woods.
Deer have been native to America for millions of years and are a common sight.
They have long been an important food for indigenous communities. With the arrival of European colonists, most of deer’s natural predators –in particular, wolves and catamounts– were eliminated from the state.
Today, there are more than 70,000 registered hunters in Vermont. Still, the tradition of deer hunting in Vermont is waning.
The result is that many regions have too many.
When there are too many deer, young trees, wildflowers, and shrubs are eaten right down to the ground. Invasive plants fill the gaps, establishing faster than native species.
At Whetstone Woods, we are demonstrating the effect of deer overpopulation by building a deer fence to protect small section of woods. We will compare the number of trees and shrubs in and outside of the fence over many years. This way, we can better understand deer’s impact on the woods.
Whetstone Woods is open to the public from dawn to dusk, year-round. There is one trail through the land, though plans to build more are in the works. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed or otherwise under control. Hunting is not allowed on the property, due to city laws. There is limited parking.