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Sterling Forest Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The Sterling Forest® BCA is part of Sterling Forest® State Park. Sterling Forest® State Park is within a natural area of state and national importance due to its watershed, wildlife habitat, cultural resources, open space and outdoor recreation significance. A comprehensive inventory by the New York Natural Heritage Program indicates that most of the Park is covered by either ecological communities that have statewide significance or of such quality that they should be protected as significant examples within New York State. The Park has considerable biodiversity including a diversity of bird species. A part of the Hudson Highlands, the area has strong relief ranging from 800-1200' in elevation.

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Sterling Forest® BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Sterling Forest® Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Location: Orange County, Towns of Tuxedo, Warwick and Monroe.

Size of Area: approximately 16,833 acres

DEC Region: 3

OPRHP Region: Palisades Interstate Park Commission

Vision Statement: Recreational opportunities and access will continue in a manner consistent with conservation of the diverse assemblage of bird species using the area for breeding or during migration. This area will also serve as an important resource for research into the conservation of bird diversity and for environmental interpretation and education.

Key BCA Criteria: Migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; species at risk site; and a bird research site (ECL §11-2001, 3.e-h). Birds identified within the park include peregrine falcon (endangered), pied-billed grebe (threatened), least bittern (threatened), American bittern (special concern), osprey (special concern), sharp-shinned hawk (special concern), Cooper's hawk (special concern) northern goshawk (special concern), red-shouldered hawk (special concern), common nighthawk (special concern), whip-poor-will (special concern), red-headed woodpecker (special concern), horned lark (special concern), golden-winged warbler (special concern), cerulean warbler (special concern), and yellow-breasted chat (special concern). Numerous other species contribute to the diversity of birds within the BCA including broad-winged hawk, Acadian flycatcher, least flycatcher, yellow-throated vireo, brown creeper, winter wren, hermit thrush, worm-eating warbler, blue-winged warbler, black-throated blue warbler, pine warbler, ovenbird, Louisiana waterthrush, hooded warbler, Canada warbler, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, orchard oriole, and purple finch.

Critical Habitat Types: The BCA contains a variety of habitats including forest, wetland complexes (such as the Cedar Pond area), lakes, and patches of early successional habitat. Significant ecological communities types include Appalachian oak-hickory forest, hemlock-northern hardwood forest, inland Atlantic white cedar swamp, dwarf shrub bog and successional old field habitat.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Management of the BCA, which has also been designated as a Park Preservation Area, will safeguard and enhance populations of wild birds and the habitats that the birds depend upon for breeding, migration, shelter, and sustenance.

    Early successional habitat is important to the golden-winged warbler (species of special concern). Provisions will be made for maintaining early succession habitat in the Indian Hill and Laurel Pond areas. OPRHP will consult closely with scientists on the maintenance of early successional habitat within the BCA.

    OPRHP will consider specific management steps for species such as the golden-winged and blue-winged warblers when warranted by findings from scientific research. Such actions however must be considered not only with respect to the specific species studied but also to impacts on other species of plants and wildlife in the park as well as on recreation opportunities. There is also a need to evaluate habitat availability on a region wide basis.

    OPRHP remains flexible with respect to the need for specific steps to protect biodiversity such as the control of invasive species.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Maintenance by utilities of the Rights-of-Way (ROW) within the park result in early successional habitat. OPRHP will consult and coordinate with utility managers so as to assure that routine operation and maintenance activities of ROW managers and OPRHP staff do not adversely impact bird nesting.

  • Identify state activities or operations which may pose a threat to the critical habitat types identified above; recommend alternatives to existing and future operations which may pose threats to those habitats.
    OPRHP maintains a comprehensive trail system throughout the Park. Portions of this trail system pass through important habitat areas. Removal or significant disturbance of vegetation in such areas during the nesting season could disturb breeding birds. OPRHP will take steps to assure that the extent of mowing through such areas is the minimum necessary. Mowing to create more extensive trail widths through these important habitat areas will be deferred until after July 15.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    The final plan calls for a Comprehensive Trail Plan for the Park. Any new trails or trail segments will be located and designed so as to minimize impacts on birds and their habitats.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Trailhead access, visibility and parking will be improved for safety and accessibility, where necessary.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    The visitor center will be a primary facility for interpretation of natural resources. Key locations will be identified throughout the park that provide a variety of viewing opportunities. The sites will be located where they can easily be controlled and managed. Blinds and viewing platforms will be developed as appropriate.

    Interpretative materials about the diverse bird species, including bird checklists, will be developed. OPRHP will partner with Audubon and local bird clubs on interpretive programs and inventories.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Inventory of bird species is important to establishing a baseline. Periodic inventory will serve as a comparison with this baseline. Monitoring will have a focus on federally and/or state-listed species. The site is one of the few locations where golden-winged warblers and blue-winged warblers occur together in an apparently stable ratio. Research on how the two species are co-existing here could be critical to understanding, and perhaps preventing, the loss of golden-winged warblers in the state. Conduct additional inventories of cerulean warblers. Continuation of warbler research will be encouraged.

    Studies on nesting raptors, including red-shouldered hawks and Cooper's hawks will be encouraged and continued. Other target areas for bird conservation research include estimates on biodiversity of bird species; habitat changes relative to bird species nesting preferences; and identification of goals for bird conservation.

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409

James Gell, OPRHP, Sterling Forest®, phone: 845-351-5907

Ralph Odell, OPRHP Taconic Region, phone: 845-889-4100, ext. 304

Ted Kerpez, DEC Region 3 Wildlife Manager, phone: 845-256-3060

OPRHP and PIPC. 2001. Sterling Forest® State Park Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. Prepared with assistance from The RBA Group and Matthews Nielsen, LA.

Wells, J. V. 1998. Important Bird Areas in New York State. National Audubon Society, Albany, New York.

Date BCA Designated: 10/26/01

Date MGS Prepared: 8/31/01

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