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Schodack Island Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The Schodack Island BCA is a peninsula in the tidal portion of the Hudson River. To the west is the Hudson River and to the east is the Schodack Creek/Muitzes Kill. Forested communities dominate the site. There are also large areas of wetlands that include tidal wetlands. Ecological communities include successional old field, successional shrubland, dredge spoil forest, freshwater intertidal mudflat, freshwater tidal marsh, freshwater tidal swamp, and floodplain forest. Cerulean warbler and bald eagle are key species here, and a great blue heron rookery on the island contains about 50 nests. The western side of the Island, along the Hudson River shoreline, is predominately floodplain forest, and is of particular importance in regard to its use by eagles. The habitats along the Schodack Creek and Muitzes Kill are particularly diverse. The BCA is within a Department of State (DOS) Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat and a DOS Significant Scenic Area. The BCA boundaries are coincident with the designated Hudson River Estuarine Sanctuary boundaries.

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Schodack Island BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Schodack Island Bird Conservation Area

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

Location: Rensselaer County, Town of Schodack; Columbia County, Town of Stuyvesant; Greene County, Town of New Baltimore.

Size of Area: approximately 864 acres

DEC Region: 3, 4

OPRHP Region: Saratoga-Capital District

Vision Statement: A BCA that provides a range of appropriate recreation opportunities and access in a manner consistent with the conservation and interpretation of the diverse bird species using the area. The BCA will serve as an important research area and environmental education resource.

Key BCA Criteria: Wading bird concentration site, species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.d, h). The site supports a breeding population of cerulean warbler (special concern) with 13 singing males counted in 1997. The area has been used by the species since at least 1965. Bald eagles (threatened) regularly use the area for roosting and foraging, especially in winter. Ospreys (special concern) also roost and forage in the area. There is a great blue heron breeding colony that supports about 50 nests each year.

Critical Habitat Types: Freshwater intertidal mudflat and freshwater tidal marsh are rare ecological communities (Rank S-2, 6-12 occurrences, Natural Heritage Program) found only along the Hudson River from Newburgh to Troy, in the Hudson River ecozone. Extensive mudflats are found on the east side of the peninsula, adjacent to Schodack Creek. There are also areas of freshwater intertidal mudflats on the extreme southern portion of the park and within the hiking and interpretive area. The Hudson River tidal marshes support dense populations of breeding birds. The breeding species that typify the freshwater tidal marsh are marsh wren, swamp sparrow, red-winged blackbird and willow flycatcher. The marsh wren is found exclusively in this ecological community on Schodack Island.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    The park has an adopted master plan that calls for the development of more intensive types of recreation use but outside of the BCA. The master plan also outlines steps for the protection of environmental resources. Intensive use areas include a boat launch site, picnicking area and a campground. More passive type of uses (such as hiking) can be found throughout the park. The anticipated impacts of passive type use on the BCA will be minimal. Nonetheless, such uses will be monitored for capacity and location. Steps will be taken to reduce potential impacts to habitat, for example, by trail location.

    Primary habitat areas of particular sensitivity include the tidal wetlands along the Schodack Creek and Muitzes Kill, the Hudson River shoreline (eagles), and the heron rookery. Potential exists for restoration and enhancement of wetland areas in the Park through programs administered by the Corps of Engineers (COE), DOS and DEC. Proposals for such restoration work will be subject to interagency review and comment in order to assure compatibility with BCA goals.

    All habitat areas will be monitored for changes and steps taken to maintain those types that contribute to diversity through management such as occasional brush hogging of old field shrub areas.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Removal of vegetation during nesting season (May through July) could disturb breeding birds and destroy nests. During the breeding season, the heron rookery is extremely sensitive to disturbance. During migration and wintering the western shoreline is used by bald eagles. Disturbance within the area of the heron rookery during nesting season, and eagle roosting areas during migration and wintering, will be avoided through patron education, monitoring and enforcement. Similar to other public and private land along the Hudson River, Schodack Island State Park offers the potential for eagle nesting. If nesting does occur within the State Park consultation with the Endangered Species Unit in the Department of Environmental Conservation will be necessary. Such consultation will address steps required to maximize the potential for successful 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.
    Within the BCA an important concern is the type and extent of trails. Trails will be carefully planned to minimize fragmentation of habitat. Unnecessary trails will be removed. New trails will be placed carefully to avoid destroying or disturbing cerulean warbler nesting sites, to avoid disturbance to heron rookery, and to limit disturbance to bald eagle roosting sites. Use of motorized vehicles within the BCA will be kept to the minimum required to meet operational and safety needs for the park.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.

    Without proper planning trail users could cause inadvertent disturbance to heron rookery and bald eagle sites. Trails will be placed to avoid the heron rookery. Trail design, signage and education will minimize disturbance to bald eagles. Boaters could also inadvertently disturb wildlife, in particular the bald eagle, through flushing associated with unexpected noise levels. To provide protection of wildlife resources, beaching of boats along the shoreline will not be allowed. Signage and other education materials will be placed to inform boaters to stay back from the immediate shoreline areas. The master plan identifies a potential canoe launch on the east side of the park. Recent observations, however, indicate significant environmental limitations (e.g. expansive mudflat areas during low tide) associated with siting such a facility in that location. Canoe and kayak access to the tidal area can also lead to disturbance of important species using this and adjacent areas. If a canoe launch is considered along Schodack Creek in the future a thorough engineering and environmental study will be required.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Any new trails or trail segments will be located and designed so as to minimize impacts on birds and their habitats. Trail widths will be kept relatively narrow. Trail routes have been designed to minimize disturbance to the heron rookery and to bald eagle roosting sites.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Develop interpretive materials including informational displays/kiosks and brochures about the diverse bird species present. Partner with Audubon and local bird clubs to carry out interpretive programs and develop a slide show about the area and needs of bird species, especially state listed species. Brochures distributed at contact station will contain a section on ecology of Schodack Island. Bald eagle viewing education will be targeted to both users of parkland (such as hikers) and those accessing the river through the park. An education program will be implemented to minimize boater disturbance to roosting bald eagle along the shoreline. A BCA kiosk will be installed at an appropriate location.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Inventory and monitor bird species, especially state-listed species. In particular, surveys of cerulean warblers are needed. Parks will work with DEC in preparing a proposal for monitoring of park use and impacts on eagles.

Other Issues:
Coordinate resource protection at the Park with the dredge spoil area operated by the Corps of Engineers (COE) on federal land at the south end of the Park.

There will be an occasional need to work with the COE regarding access by land to their property. Parks will serve as the coordinator of the effort via the permit process administered by the Saratoga Capital District region of OPRHP. Studies have been conducted on resources within the Park in connection with the Corps operation and also with the proposed wetland restoration program for the park. For example, a study on cerulean warblers has been conducted (Hudsonia, 2001).

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Director Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), 518-474-0409

Ray Perry, OPRHP, EMB -Bird Conservation Area Program, 518-474-0409

Robert Taylor, OPRHP, Schodack Island Park Manager 518-237-8643, ext 3295

DEC Region 4 Wildlife Manager, 607-652-7367

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. 1998. Final Master Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement for Schodack Island State Park. Saratoga - Capital District State Park Region, Saratoga, NY.

C&S Engineers, Inc. and Terrestrial Environmental Specialists, Inc. February 1998.Environmental Assessment Report (Phase I & II) for Schodack Island State Park. NYSOPRHP.

Hudsonia. 2001. Research on the Cerulean warbler population in the vicinity of proposed wetland restoration projects at Schodack Island State Park. Bard College. Hyde Park, NY.

Reschke, Carol 1990. Ecological Communities of New York State, New York Natural Heritage Program.

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

Date BCA Designated: 06/19/02

Date MGS Prepared: 05/21/02

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