Extensive cutting ruins vital habitats | Guest column

Submitted by Cynthia Brast

It sure seems early this year, but spring is upon us. Trees and shrubs that provide early pollen for our native bumblebees are budding. As the soil begins to warm, Bombus queens will emerge, searching for a place to nest. Each queen must build a honey pot and collect pollen to feed the brood she will initially care for.

Hummingbirds are also on the wing. They’ve already begun building their ever so tiny nest cups in which they’ll rear their young. Calorie requirements are high for the birds and bees in the cool and damp weather. Their lives and ability to rear offspring depend on early sources of food. It’s an intricate dance of evolutionary timing.

Here, hummingbirds take advantage of plants that grow in and along wetlands and road ditches still wet with spring rain. Salmonberry shrubs are a favorite. Bumblebees also love these pink blossoms. I walk down our road on a sunny day and the salmonberry thicket along the wetland habitat is alive with vibrations of buzzing bees and hummingbirds zooming through, scolding you loudly if you get too close.

We see frequent stories in the media about a serious decline in populations of birds and pollinators. Sometimes I wonder if we are “shifting baselines, ” becoming indifferent to research reports warning us of the need to do more to help them. The number one problem for these, and other wildlife, is loss of habitat from human encroachment. Helping them means we need to leave or “put back” habitat that can help them survive.

Please let this be a reminder that trimming back hedgerows and shrubs right before they bud in springtime can impact wildlife who depend on these plants for their survival. Birds (and bees) don’t just “move” to a new place that easily. Many of these animals, especially birds, have established territories and for them, losing their home can mean losing their life.

You can help by planting native vegetation, resisting the urge to cut or thin forest understory, writing the county to urge them to abstain from mowing the hedgerows along our rural roads, and supporting conservation efforts to preserve habitat for our wildlife.