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Long Pond Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: The BCA consists of the portion of Long Pond State Forest that has been maintained as grassland. Species of interest include Henslow's sparrow (threatened), grasshopper sparrow (threatened), savannah sparrow, eastern meadowlark, and bobolink.

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Long Pond BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Long Pond Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation.

Location: Long Pond State Forest, Chenango County, Town of Smithville.

Size of Area: 394 acres

DEC Region: 7

Vision Statement: Maintain and enhance the grassland habitat present to ensure continued use by a diversity of grassland birds.

Key BCA Criteria: Diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.f, g, and h). Henslow's sparrow (threatened), grasshopper sparrow (threatened), savannah sparrow, eastern meadowlark, bobolink.

Critical Habitat Types: Large contiguous area of grassland.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    The grasslands need to be maintained through mowing or burning. Grassland bird species vary widely in their preferred habitat. Some species of grassland birds avoid areas where heavy thatch has built up (vesper sparrow, upland sandpiper), but others appear to prefer older fields with thicker litter buildup (Henslow's sparrow). This can make management a true challenge. Prescribed burning can be effective at reducing thatch. When mowing, it may be preferable to bale the grass and remove the grass for hay or mulch. The timing of the mowing or burning is critical. The best period for management may be late August through November (mowing) or March through Mid-April (burning). In order to maintain habitat for the species using the area at all times, and to provide for a diversity of habitats for different species, rotational mowing or burning may be the best alternative. Rotational management would allow various stages and ages of fields to be maintained. Approximately 20-30% of the area should be left in old field habitat at all times, and 20-30% mowed or burned every few years, depending on shrub encroachment.

    Henslow's sparrow is a key management species. Henslow's sparrows prefer older fields with a mixture of dense and moderately tall (> 30 cm) grassy vegetation. Shrubs should be kept to a minimum, as Henslow's seldom use areas with more than sparse, low shrubs. Rotational mowing, where portions of the area are mowed or burned every few years, will maintain a mixture of older and newer grassland habitat over time. This may be the best alternative to maintain habitat for Henslow's sparrows. Mowing of all grasslands every 2 or 3 years may not be the best approach, but a longer rotational time frame (10-12 years) will probably be most effective. The time frame will need to be adjusted in areas where shrub encroachment is rapid, to a more frequent rotation to prevent shrubs from infiltrating.

    Encroachment by trees or shrubs into grassland areas should be prevented, through mowing, cutting, or brush hogging. Many species of grassland birds are area sensitive, preferring large contiguous blocks of grassland. The area of grassland could be expanded and enhanced through removal of trees that are encroaching on the grassland areas.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    The most critical seasonal sensitivity is the timing of mowing and burning to ensure that these activities do not interfere with nesting activities. This was discussed above.

  • 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.
    The most critical threat to the grasslands would be the lack of active management to maintain these areas as grasslands. The timing of mowing of burning needs to be scheduled to ensure that these activities do not interfere with nesting activities. This was discussed above.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    No known problems.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Current access is adequate.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    There is a definite need for educational efforts directed at grassland birds. Grassland birds as a whole are declining throughout the northeast as their habitats decline. Kiosks and other educational materials should focus on the need to maintain grasslands, and the diversity of grassland bird species present.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Monitoring of the populations of grassland species present is needed. There are studies that suggest prescribed burning is not an effective tool for management for Henslow's sparrows. Research that compares the effectiveness of prescribed burning with mowing would be useful. Henslow's sparrows are rapidly declining throughout New York, and studies that attempt to find specific habitat conditions that are preferred by Henslow's are needed, so that management can be refined to benefit this species.

DEC Region 7 Wildlife Manager, 607-753-3095

DEC Region 7 Forestry Manager, 607-753-3095

Bull, John L. 1998. Bull's Birds of New York State. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, NY.

Jones, Andrea L. and Peter D. Vickery. Conserving Grassland Birds. Three volume set. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Massachusetts Audubon.

Mitchell, Laura R., et al. 2000. Ecology of Grassland Breeding Birds in the Northeastern US. Cornell University.

Sample, David W. and M.J. Mossman. 1997. Managing Habitat for Grassland Birds. Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Vickery, Peter D. and Peter W. Dunwiddie. 1997. Grasslands of Northeastern North America. Massachusetts Audubon.

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

Date BCA Designated: 5/6/03

Date MGS Prepared: 1/7/03

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