Laurel & Ash Farm in Holmes, a 50 acre-working family farm and forest which produces limited batches of 100% pure, wood-fired, Grade A maple syrup, has become an official Bird-Friendly Maple producer.
Through the Bird-Friendly Maple project (a collaborative effort between Audubon, Cornell and the New York State Maple Producers Association), they manage their sugarbush—the forest area where maple syrup is produced—in ways that provide more resilient bird habitat.
“Sugarbushes don’t just make for great maple syrup: As the production season winds down, they become nesting and foraging habitat for declining songbirds like the Scarlet Tanager and Wood Thrush. On a wider scale, healthy forested landscapes provide benefits like carbon sequestration and storage and watershed protection. By creating a more structurally and biologically diverse sugarbush, maple producers can play a vital role in conservation that benefits birds and people,” said Suzanne Treyger, Senior Forest Program Manager for Audubon Connecticut and New York.
As the tenth producer to join the program in New York, Laurel & Ash is managing their sugarbush in ways that help these birds raise the next generation of their species.
What makes a bird-friendly sugarbush?
Young trees and shrubs provide cover, food, and nesting sites for Black-throated Blue Warbler and Wood Thrush.
Snags (dead trees) are left standing to provide nesting sites for woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatch, and insects for Scarlet Tanager.
Downed trees and other woody material are left on the forest floor for birds like the Ovenbird and Ruffed Grouse to take cover, nest, and forage.
“We have amended our forest management and wildlife habitat plan to include the practices and recommendations of the Audubon New York bird habitat assessment. We have observed an increase in the diversity of bird species that visit or nest in our forest,” said Ashley Ruprecht, who co-owns Laurel & Ash Farm with her partner, Jeffrey Schad.
“Our focus is not only on creating the most delicious and delightful maple syrup, but doing so responsibly - using low impact harvesting techniques and holistic forest management that promotes sustainable sap production, diversity in our landscape, and a hospitable habitat for birds and other wildlife. The stewardship of our sugarbush not only affects us, but neighboring forests, wetlands, and bird conservation in the region. Maple syrup and responsible production can be a model for sustainably produced food that also provides healthy habitats for wildlife.”