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Helderberg BCA Management Guidance Summary

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Site Name: Helderberg Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Albany County, Towns of Berne, Rensselaerville, and Knox.

Size of Area: 6,594 acres

DEC Region: 4

General Site Information: This BCA includes Partridge Run WMA and State Forest, Knox (Burke) WMA, and Cole Hill State Forest. It is an upland complex that includes hardwood and conifer (plantation) forests, young regenerating forests, old fields, shrublands, reverting farmland, wooded swamp, shrub wetlands, and numerous ponds and wetlands.

Vision Statement: Manage the area to conserve the diverse assemblage of bird species utilizing the area, in particular ensure that early successional habitats continue to be an important component of the area.

Key BCA Criteria: Migratory concentration site, diverse species concentration site, individual species concentration site, species at risk site (ECL § 11-2001, 3.e, f, g, and h). Some of the species of interest include American woodcock, ruffed grouse, brown thrasher, eastern towhee, prairie warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, Nashville warbler, blue-winged warbler, as well as a wide variety of forest warblers and songbirds, winter finches. Woodland raptors include northern goshawk (special concern).

Critical Habitat Types: Early successional habitats, including: young regenerating forests, shrublands, old fields. Also mixed hardwood forests and conifer plantations.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Without active timber management the early successional habitats will revert to mature forest. Use of even-aged forestry in 5-10 acre blocks or strips throughout the area is needed to maintain the early successional habitats. This is incorporated into the Unit Management Plan (UMP). Heavier selective cuts can also provide good habitat. The site provides nesting and migration habitat for American woodcock. This could be enhanced with a management plan that places more focus on this species, and incorporates some even-aged management to maintain and enhance early successional habitats. Management for woodcock would also benefit the tremendous diversity of early successional bird species found here.

    Winter finches utilize conifer plantations in winter. Conifer plantations will continue to be a part of the long term management of Partridge Run as provided for in the UMP.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Mowing of grasslands should be completed outside of the nesting season (April through July).

  • 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 biggest threat would be the lack of adequate amounts of even-aged forestry which provide the early successional habitats needed by early successional bird species. Heavier selective cuts would also be beneficial.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    Mowing of fields for dog training, trials, or other activities should occur after the end of grassland bird nesting season (July 31).

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

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

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    The UMP recommends providing opportunities for the public to view the results of various silvicultural methods. An education program that provides information about the diversity of early successional bird species using the area is needed. Early successional bird species as a whole are in more widespread and rapid decline than any other group of birds. Even-aged forestry is often viewed by the public as having negative impacts on birds and other wildlife, when in fact, it is beneficial and necessary for many species. This area has the potential to help redefine how the public looks at forest management.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    The current habitat and logging efforts are beneficial to early successional species, such as American woodcock. Benefits could be enhanced through more focused management efforts utilizing logging. Monitoring that focuses on how management for woodcock and other early successional species could be improved is needed.

DEC Region 4 Wildlife Manager: 607-652-7367

DEC Region 4 Forestry Manager: 607-652-3613

NYS DEC. 1998. Margaret Burke (Knox) WMA Biodiversity Inventory Report. New York Natural Heritage Program. Albany, NY.

NYS DEC. 1998. Partridge Run WMA Biodiversity Inventory Report. New York Natural Heritage Program. Albany, NY.

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

Date BCA Designated: 2/6/04

Date MGS Prepared: 10/29/03

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