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Bear Swamp Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: Bear Swamp BCA in Cayuga County is composed of Bear Swamp State Forest, and is primarily a mixed hardwood and coniferous forest, with Bear Swamp Creek running alongside and through it. This site is part of Audubon's Southern Skaneateles Forest Important Bird Area. Forest management over much of the 3,316 acre property has created a diverse forest structure with sapling and shrub growth, as well as other ground cover. Portions of the area have also been allowed to grow into mature forest. These early successional and mature forest habitats support a tremendous diversity and abundance of breeding forest bird species.

Bear Swamp Creek and the surrounding forests support several pairs of red-shouldered hawks (special concern). The site is located at the head of a valley, making the site more prone to visits by migratory songbirds. On May 25, 2005 a local birding group observed a spring fallout and recorded the following counts of species: 20+ veerys, 12 hermit thrushes, 50+ red-eyed vireos, 21 scarlet tanagers, 58 rose-breasted grosbeaks, 9 blackpoll warblers, 6 hooded warblers, and 8 black-throated blue warblers. White-winged crossbill, pine siskin, purple finch and house finch can be found wintering in the conifers on the state forest. Many songbird species of conservation concern also use the Bear Swamp BCA for breeding or migration.

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Bear Swamp BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Bear Swamp

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Bear Swamp State Forest. Cayuga County, Town of Sempronius

Size of Area: 3,316 acres

DEC Region: 7

Vision Statement: Continue to maintain the diverse forest structure present using a mixture of silvicultural techniques that will continue to provide excellent habitat for forest nesting birds, and in particular those species that nest on the ground or at low levels in shrubs and saplings. Increase the amount of early successional habitat throughout the forest, and particularly in the northern portion. This can be accomplished through patch cuts or small even-aged cuts. Manage for cerulean warbler on steep slopes with mature forests because of their current unique concentration in the area.

Key BCA Criteria: (ECL §11-2001, 3. e, f, g, and h). Bear Swamp State Forest meets four criteria: a Diverse Species Concentration Site for forest-nesting warblers, wintering finches and breeding hawks; an Individual Species Concentration Site for red-shouldered hawk and cerulean warbler; a Migratory Species Concentration Site for the tremendous diversity and abundance of migratory songbirds; and a Species at Risk Site for: cerulean warbler (special concern), red-shouldered hawk (special concern), northern goshawk (special concern), Cooper's hawk (special concern), and sharp-shinned hawk (special concern). During migration bald eagle (threatened), pied-billed grebe (threatened), American bittern (special concern), osprey (special concern), and northern harrier (threatened) are known to use the BCA. Many songbird species of conservation concern use the BCA to breed or for migration.

Critical Habitat Types: Large contiguous areas of coniferous and hardwood forest, including mature hardwood, forested swampland, and rich shrub fen. Active forest management has created diverse forest structure throughout much of the area that is attractive to nesting forest birds. The mature forests along the steeper slopes provide important habitat for cerulean warbler.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain the site as a BCA.
    Present management activities have produced a good mosaic of forest structures, including good vertical diversity in hardwood stands using selection system cutting methods, such as selective harvest and small patch cuts. Single tree and group selection methods should be continued so that the diverse forest structure will be perpetuated.

    Mimicking blowdowns by removal of 0.5-5 acre (or larger) sections of forest would further enhance habitat diversity, thereby attracting a variety of birds that prefer young forest habitats. This would be concentrated on the northern portion of the BCA.

    Continued rotational even-aged management of coniferous forest stands will ensure that the needs of birds using that forest type for breeding, foraging, and wintering will continue to be met, while still fulfilling timber-harvesting strategies already in place.

    Cerulean warblers are found on the steeper slopes of the forest where little or no logging has taken place for many years and there is now mature forest. Forest management in these areas should consider the needs of cerulean warblers, which prefer some very large trees and typically avoid larger openings. If trees are harvested, care should be given to leave many of the largest trees, and to prevent large openings in the canopy that are not likely to close quickly.

    Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Those planning harvesting activities should take into consideration breeding and nesting seasons, particularly in hardwood stands. When evidence of nesting by a raptor is observed, it is recommended to establish buffers and/or restriction of harvesting starting in early March. Typically, logging operations should be performed outside the breeding season for songbirds and raptors (May 1 to July 31) when practical.

  • 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.
    Portions of the mature forest currently support breeding populations of cerulean warbler. Cerulean warblers prefer to utilize very large canopy trees in a forest. Maintenance of the large canopy trees would be needed to maintain the populations of cerulean warbler. Forest management in these areas should also focus on keeping opening size small.

    The diverse deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forest habitats; as well as swamp, early successional forest, and shrub land are used by a variety of birds throughout the breeding season. Lack of active management to keep this variety of habitats would result in a decline in overall bird diversity.

    Vertical structure in deciduous forest tracts provides nesting habitat for many species. Activities that reduce this structure would be detrimental to bird species diversity and abundance in the forest.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    None identified.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Access appears adequate at this time.

    Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Education on the benefits of forest management to wildlife of all kinds would be beneficial. This should include discussion of even-aged management and uneven-aged management.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies
    Surveys of cerulean warbler use, and habitat characterization would be beneficial.

Other Issues: None identified.

Contacts: DEC Region 7 Forester, phone 607-753-3095

Sources: NYS DEC. Hewitt-Cauga Highlands Unit Management Plan. 1994. Division of Lands and Forests.

Date Designated: 9/25/06

Date Prepared: 6/12/06