This temporary habitat survives only a few decades. It occurs where old fields, pastures and hayfields have been recently abandoned and grasses, goldenrods and wildflowers have given way to young trees (saplings) including red cedar, flowering dogwood, gray birch, black locust, aspen, hawthorns, crabapples and ash and maples. This natural process is called ‘succession’. Shrub in this habitat include high bush blueberry, gray dogwood, arrowwood, viburnum, winterberry, bayberry and meadowsweet.
Shrubland habitat has always existed. Before farming, fires- either naturally occurring or intentionally set by the Native Indians- along with storms and other natural disasters created openings in the forest, allowing fast-growing, sunlight-demanding pioneer species to take hold.
Did you know?
Shrubland was common in Lewisboro after World War II. Farms that had been abandoned during the Great Depression were beginning to grow into shrubland. Due to a combination of development and the natural process of succession (when the saplings grow taller and become a forest), this habitat has become rare. The wildlife that can only live in this habitat have also become extirpated (locally extinct) from Lewisboro. The last ruffed grouse to be observed in Westchester County was at the Old Field Preserve in the 1990’s.
What is Being Done to Help
Now that the shrubland is disappearing, not just in our region but throughout New England, the wildlife that depends on it is also declining. State and federal agencies are leading the effort to create and maintain shrubland by cutting areas that are about to succeed into closed canopy forests.
The good news is that shrubland species can successfully breed in shrub openings as small as one to two acres. This habitat can be easily recreated and managed for wildlife even on small parcels and backyards. Shrubland at the Leon Levy Preserve, Old Field and the Rose Preserve are maintained by cutting one of several fields each year so that the fields are in various stages of re-growth (succession).
Which Lewisboro Preserves Have this Habitat?
Wildlife at Risk
Wildlife that depends in this habitat and is in decline include: woodcock, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler , brown thrasher, indigo bunting, chestnut-sided warbler, towhee, rose-breasted grossbeak, ruffed grouse, box turtles and the New England cottontail (the rabbits we see regularly are eastern cottontail rabbits which were introduced from the mid-west by hunting organizations).