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Catskill High Peaks Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: Catskill peaks over 3,500 feet in elevation comprise this BCA, in particular those with dense subalpine coniferous forests. Bicknell's thrush prefers dense thickets of stunted or young growth of balsam fir. This species of special concern is found less frequently in young or stunted spruce and heavy second growth of fir, cherry, or birch. Another bird species of interest at this site is blackpoll warbler.

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Catskill High Peaks BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Catskill High Peaks Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Greene and Ulster counties; Catskill peaks over 3,500 feet in elevation, located in the Blackhead Range Wild Forest, the Hunter Mountain Wild Forest, the Indian Head/Plateau Mountain Wilderness, the Slide Mountain Wilderness, and the West Kill Wilderness.

Size of Area: approximately 3,700 acres

DEC Region: 3, 4

Vision Statement: Continue to maintain the wild character of the area, while facilitating recreational opportunities in a manner consistent with conservation of the distinctive assemblage of bird species nesting in the Catskill High Peaks. Promote further research at the site, particularly on Bicknell's thrush.

Key BCA Criteria: Diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; species at risk site (ECL §11-2001, 3.f, g and h.). Bird species of interest include Bicknell's thrush (special concern) and blackpoll warbler.

Critical Habitat Types: Montane red spruce-balsam fir forest.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    None currently identified.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Trail maintenance and removal of vegetation during breeding season (May - July) could disturb nesting birds. High levels of use and disturbance could affect breeding success, and public access to some areas may need to be closed during critical breeding periods.

  • 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.
    Access to the Catskill High Peaks BCA is limited to foot trails and non-motorized access trails, and use in most areas is currently minimal. There has been little research on what effect normal use of hiking trails have on nesting activities of sub-alpine birds (in particular, Bicknell's thrush). Further study or research would help to assess impacts of recreational activities on nesting sub-alpine species. The need for protective measures will be discussed and incorporated into the appropriate individual Unit Management Plans for the Forest Preserve Areas that contain the Catskill High Peaks.

    Maintenance and construction of trails is done on foot, by hand-held equipment, without the use of motorized equipment (motorized equipment may be used in exceptional circumstances with the Commissioners' approval) during the nesting season. Maintenance and construction activities should be accomplished outside of the breeding season, when possible. Construction of new trails, their location, timing, and potential effects on sub-alpine bird species will be addressed in the appropriate individual Unit Management Plans for the Forest Preserve Areas that contain the Catskill High Peaks.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    More research is needed to determine effects of current levels of recreational use on nesting success of subalpine bird species.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    The Catskill High Peaks are remote locations and access is currently limited to foot trails. Public use of motorized vehicles is not allowed. The Unit Management planning process will assess the effects of current levels of recreational use, and the need for new trails (including placement, timing, and construction method), on sub-alpine bird species within the Catskill High Peaks.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Continue partnerships with Audubon, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and other groups involved in education and conservation of birds of the Catskill High Peaks.

    A detailed inventory and standardized monitoring of state-listed species is needed for the area; all peaks above 3,500 feet with appropriate habitat (particularly dense spruce/fir forests) should be surveyed for Bicknell's thrush. More research is needed on the effects of acid precipitation on nesting success. More study of the effect of current levels of recreational use on breeding success is needed.

Other Issues:
Slide Mountain is of historical interest as the type locality for Bicknell's thrush.

DEC Region 3 Regional Forester, 845-256-3084

DEC Region 3 Wildlife Manager, 845-256-3060

DEC Region 4 Regional Forester, 607-357-2066

DEC Region 4 Wildlife Manager, 607-652-2373

Atwood, Jonathan L., Christopher C. Rimmer, Kent P. McFarland, Sophia H. Tsai and Laura R. Nagy. 1996. Distribution of Bicknell's Thrush in New England and New York. Wilson Bulletin 108(4):650-661.

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

Rimmer, Christopher C. and Kent P. McFarland. 1997. Population Density, Demographics and Distribution of Bicknell's Thrush and other Subalpine Birds on Hunter and Plateau Mountains, New York. Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Woodstock, VT.

Rimmer, C.C., Atwood, J. and L.R. Nagy. 1993. Bicknell's Thrush - a Northeastern Songbird in Trouble? Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Woodstock, VT.

State of New York Endangered Species Working Group. 1996. Species Dossier for Bicknell's Thrush. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

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

Date BCA Designated: 9/29/00

Date MGS Prepared: 9/27/00

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