While monitoring and managing wildlife is the priority of the Fish and Wildlife Service, plant management is an often overlooked facet of the process. Common Terns nest on and just above the narrow gravel beach of Ship Island, eschewing the dense, shrubby vegetation found higher up. In recent years, the colony has been periodically inundated by extreme tides and storms, so there has been a push to get the terns to nest further above the tideline. In addition to the construction of the restoration plots mentioned in last week’s Ship Island post, the refuge staff have conducted prescribed burns to deter dense vegetation growing near the beach. The terns seem to be happily building nests in the area that was burned earlier this spring, even with the patchy plants popping up around them.
Another plant project on the island is the ongoing battle against invasive plants. Maine Natural History Observatory, along with the refuge staff, has been experimenting with different treatments to remove garlic mustard and garden valerian. Hand-pulling, followed by the application of salt water and concentrated vinegar has been our method for garlic mustard control earlier in the summer. While we managed to eliminate most of the large patches, there is likely some garlic mustard still lurking beneath the waist-high cow parsnip.
A final plant management project is mostly for our benefit. Our trails around the island require plenty of maintenance to prevent them from getting overgrown. As the weather has warmed, the plants have grown ever higher, faster and faster. Regular weekly mowing has allowed us to keep our trails clear, even as the surrounding vegetation has grown up. The trails aren’t just for us; mallards, sparrows, and sandpipers also use the cleared trails.
Until next time!