David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve BCA Management Guidance Summary
Site Name: David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve Bird Conservation Area
State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation
Location: Suffolk County, Town of Southampton.
Size of Area: 2,324 acres
General Site Information: This BCA comprises one of the largest undisturbed pine barrens plant communities on Long Island. The habitat includes ten different cover types of oak and pitch pine forests and shrublands with the associated complex of common nighthawk, whip-poor-will, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler and pine warbler. Grasshopper sparrows used to occur, but their habitat is disappearing and they may have been lost from the area. Eastern towhees are by far the most common bird species encountered. There is very little open grassland habitat left on the property; most of the open areas have returned to forests or are more of a savannah-type habitat now.
Vision Statement: Continue management activities to conserve the bird species and habitats in the area. Expand management to enhance bird populations where possible.
Key BCA Criteria: Diverse species concentration site; species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.f and g.). Birds of interest include common nighthawk (special concern), whip-poor-will (special concern) and possibly grasshopper sparrow (special concern, unlikely to still occur on the property).
Critical Habitat Types: Pitch pine-oak-heath woodland and pitch pine-oak forest (these are considered significant ecological communities by the New York Natural Heritage Program), successional old field.
- Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
Maintenance of these plant communities requires prevention of vegetative succession, preferably through the use of controlled fires. Natural fires were a dominant ecological force historically, that shaped the ecology of the pine barrens habitat. Without an effective controlled burning program, this unique pine barren habitat and the species that rely on it will be lost on the property.
- Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
Removal of vegetation and prescribed burns need to be timed so as not to interfere with nesting periods. Caution should be used to leave some areas of nesting habitat intact each year, when management (e.g., prescribed burns) occurs prior to nesting season.
Use of part of the area for dog training during the nesting season could cause negative impacts to ground nesting birds. This will need to be monitored and steps taken to avoid these impacts when needed. Potential impacts of mowing and cutting can be minimized by not allowing mowing until after the nesting season, and by leaving some clumps of brush, as well as leaving the lowest branches of the remaining trees to provide some nesting cover.
The pine barrens requires fire to maintain the habitat and this feature has been lacking at the property. Some prescribed burning (controlled fires) needs to be performed to restore the habitat to savannah rather than forest and also to reduce the fuel load that is building up in the brush layers and can lead to catastrophic wildfire. Catastrophic wildfire may convert the pine-oak forest and savannah to predominantly oak forest. This occurs in a very hot fire that kills the trees and seeds, but allows the oaks to regenerate from the stump. Controlled fires remove the litter and control succession, without changing the vegetative community from pine-oak.
- 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.
See discussion under management and seasonal sensitivities.
- Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
See discussion on dog training under seasonal sensitivities.
- Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
Access appears adequate at this time. Regular trail maintenance is needed, and should be accomplished outside the nesting season.
- Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
Coordinate education and protection efforts with efforts to protect other animal taxa (tiger salamander, rare Lepidoptera) and rare plants/communities. Develop a checklist of bird and animal species that are likely to be encountered at the property and have it available to users.
- Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
Need to inventory the avian use of the site by: breeding birds, wintering birds, and during migration; to determine the birds present, and identify proper management.
Site has potential to be a recipient of a turkey trap and transfer project.
DEC Region 1 Wildlife Manager, 631-444-0305
Andrle, R.F. and J.R. Carroll, eds. 1988. The Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 1997. David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve Biodiversity Inventory Final Report. Prepared for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Latham, NY.
Wells, J.V. 1998. Important Bird Areas in New York State. National Audubon Society, Albany, NY.
Date BCA Designated: 8/20/98
Date MGS Prepared: 10/10/01