In April 2017, approximately 55 volunteers from Chesapeake Utilities and Calpine planted 1,527 native trees and shrubs at The Nature Conservancy’s Milford Neck Preserve. Staff members from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) also assisted with planting the trees which were clustered into six areas, called habitat islands. Milford Neck is especially important for migrating neo-tropical songbirds which concentrate in the area’s forests during spring and fall.
A variety of native tree species were planted in the habitat islands, including Tulip Poplar, Pin Oak, Willow Oak, Chestnut Oak, White Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Black Cherry, Persimmon, and Red Maple. After the trees were planted, mulch was laid down to suppress the growth of weeds. Finally, seven-foot tall deer exclusion fencing was installed around the habitat islands to protect the trees from over browse by white-tailed deer.
The new habitat islands were centrally located in a field that was used for growing soybeans in recent years. As the trees in the habitat islands grow, the open fields between the existing hardwood forests will slowly become a restored, unified forest again.
“Thanks to the help of countless volunteers over the past 20 years, the Milford Neck Preserve is slowly but steadily being restored to its historic state,” said John Graham, land steward for The Nature Conservancy. “This project would have taken days or weeks to complete without the help of the volunteers from Chesapeake Utilities and Calpine. It was not easy work, and we’re grateful for their help with this large tree planting project.”
The Nature Conservancy has been working to restore native habitats at Milford Neck Preserve since it first acquired property in the area in 1992. The Milford Neck area provides a vital resting and foraging habitat for migratory shorebirds. The landscape also contains marshes and ponds critical for waterfowl migrating along the North Atlantic Flyway and harbors the only remaining forested area greater than 1,000 acres on the entire coast of Delaware. This relatively unspoiled area of the Delaware Bayshore is characterized by undeveloped beaches and dunes, shifting shorelines, vast tidal marshlands, island hummocks, swamp and upland forests, and a patchwork of farmland.
The Nature Conservancy’s Milford Neck Preserve is not open to visitors at this time. However, members of the public can see birds and wildlife in nearby areas of Milford Neck by exploring Big Stone Beach Road, Bennetts Pier Road, and Cedar Beach Road. Learn more about the TNC’s restoration efforts the Milford Neck Preserve at www.nature.org/milfordneck.