Frank Woolner wrote a book called “Grouse and Grouse Hunting” back in 1970. This classic has one sentence in the book beginning with the line, Flowers tell all. Those three words tell it all to a seasoned grouse hunter, those words are the key to grouse habitat.
Flowers tell all!
Grouse habitat varies, but prime habitat is early successional, fringe woodlot country where the sunlight hits the ground and life has a chance to live! Swamp edges, cutover woodlots, clear cuts, abandoned farmsteads, brushy fields and hedgerows are all home to sun loving plants. The majority of food, including fruit, grows in the sun, not the shade. Pioneer species need sun.
Pioneer species inhabit an area first, once the shade loving trees are removed and some soil disturbance allows seeds to get a grip in the soil. These include aspen, cherry, barberry, winter berries, wild grape, wild apple, crab apple trees, raspberries and hawthorns, all of which supply feed for wildlife, especially Ruffed Grouse, Bonassa umbellus.
Those flowering plants all grow food for wildlife, they are the habitat story! Where the flowers are growing in spring, is where the food will be in the late summer and fall. The flowers tell all!
Preservationists want the woods left alone, no tree cutting, and no management. They say it provides more diversity! Diversity means where things differ, or variety. Old timber stands do have some diversity, no doubt, and add to the richness of our area. There are shade loving plants that grow in dark woods. However, real diversity comes when there is a disturbance in the forest by fire, hurricanes, tornados and timber harvesting. These natural or man- made disturbances all create openings that allow sunlight to reach the earth. Seeds germinate and early successional plants thrive. Flowers tell all!
Habitat diversity is a mix of young growing plants that are only a few feet in height and spaced tightly to old age trees that are shading the ground and widely spaced. We need all of this. Vegetation management is vital to have a real diversity of habitats and species.