This USFS maintained food plot provides an open field habitat along the trail that creates another viewing opportunity for nature enthusiasts. The field used to look much like the surrounding forest. Once trees are cut from an area, herbs and grasses take over as the first stage of succession—the transformation from herbs and grasses to shrubs and trees. From roots and seeds already in the ground, and from seeds carried by wind or wildlife, pioneer plants sprout up to occupy these untended fields.
Tall grasses and goldenrod are usually the first to appear. These plants produce a plentiful supply of seeds that germinate quickly and can survive hot temperatures and drying winds. Additionally, these plants also thrive in bright sunlight.
As the pioneer plants grow, they make conditions worse for themselves and better for other species to replace them. Soon shrubs and small trees begin to grow. Among the first shrubs to develop are blackberry bushes and dewberry vines. The first trees to pop-up are those that grow best in bright sunlight, such as pine trees. As these trees begin to mature, the fields begin changing into pine forests, and the dense undergrowth gradually disappears, being shaded out by the trees. Now, other tree species that can germinate and grow in the partially shaded parts of the forest may begin to grow, trees such as sweetgum, maple, and some oak trees. Eventually, as the oak trees and other deciduous trees begin to mature, the forest becomes a mixed pine-hardwood forest.
After many more years, the pines may begin to die and the oaks and other deciduous trees grow bigger, until the forest has gradually changed into a hardwood forest. Because the hardwood forest maintains itself, and is not replaced by other forest types, it is called the climax community.
Today, grasses and herbs such as sumac and asters invite insects to visit this field and provide “bugging” opportunities for birds. The trees that you see surrounding the field are next generation longleaf pines that are the result of the absence of fire. These trees are growing too close to one another to provide the ideal longleaf ecosystem that potentially exists with the use of prescribed fire.
Birds You May See in the Area:
Year-round: Blue Jays, Eastern Bluebirds, Brown Thrashers, Common Yellowthroats, Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and American Goldfinches.
Spring and Fall: Yellow Warblers.
Summer: White-eyed Vireos, Gray Catbirds, Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Orchard Orioles.
Winter: Orange-crowned, Palm, and Yellow-rumped warblers; Fox, Song, and Swamp sparrows; Dark-eyed Juncos; White-throated and White-crowned sparrows.