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Black Creek Marsh Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: This BCA includes the Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, and consists primarily of wetland communities, such as emergent marsh and silver maple-ash swamp, as well as small streams. Adjacent uplands include forest and successional old field habitats. As a result, this 450 acre site in Albany County supports a wide diversity of wetland and upland bird species. Several hundred acres which adjoin Black Creek Marsh to the south have been put into conservation easement and will remain a working farm. This site is part of Audubon's Black Creek Marsh Important Bird Area. The Canadian Pacific Railway runs west and east through the property.

Waterfowl regularly breeding on Black Creek Wildlife Management Area include Canada goose, mallard, and wood duck. Several hundred waterfowl are seen during migration, including pied-billed grebe (threatened). Black Creek WMA was surveyed in 2004 as part of NYSDEC's Marsh Bird Monitoring Project. A total of 5 American bitterns, 1 least bittern, 13 Virginia rails, and 3 soras were tallied over several morning and evening visits. American black duck and blue-winged teal are possible breeders as well.

Grassland birds including savannah sparrow, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, and American kestrel utilize the surrounding agricultural areas, although limited grassland habitat occurs on state property. Short-eared owls (endangered) have been observed during the winter. Black Creek Marsh offers foraging grounds for northern harrier (threatened) during migration. Rusty blackbird (40-50 individuals) and common nighthawk (special concern) are also regularly seen during spring and fall migration. Early successional species found on the WMA include American woodcock, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided warbler, eastern towhee, alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, black-billed cuckoo, and brown thrasher.

Agricultural fields surrounding the WMA are the major source for populations of these birds, yet the WMA offers foraging grounds (especially for northern harrier during migration). Several hundred acres which adjoin Black Creek Marsh to the south (Indian Ladder Farm) have been put into conservation easement and will remain a working farm.

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Black Creek Marsh BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Black Creek Marsh

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, Albany County, Towns of Guilderland and New Scotland and Village of Voorheesville

Size of Area: 450 acres

DEC Region: 4

Vision Statement: Maintain the wetland habitat present to ensure continued use by marsh birds, wading birds, and waterfowl. Maintain wooded swamp and early successional habitats to ensure ongoing use by a wide variety of birds. Maintain a variety of traditional uses of the WMA including hunting, trapping and hiking.

Key BCA Criteria: (ECL §11-2001, 3. f, g, and h) Diverse Species Concentration Site, Individual Species Concentration Site, and Species at Risk Site. As a Diverse Species Concentration Site, the area supports wading birds, waterfowl, early successional and grassland birds, and others. Individual species found in unusual numbers include: breeding American bittern, Virginia rail, and sora; common nighthawk and rusty blackbird during migration. Species at Risk include pied-billed grebe (threatened), American bittern (special concern), least bittern (threatened), northern harrier (threatened), and common nighthawk (special concern). The WMA supports a variety of other marsh birds, wading birds, waterfowl, shrubland, and woodland species.

Critical Habitat Types: Dominant habitat types include emergent cattail marsh, silver maple-ash swamp, shrub swamp, shrubland, and successional northern hardwoods. There are a few ponds, headwater stream, and other streams present. Upland habitats include 75 acres of grassland, and some shrubland and forest.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain the site as a BCA.
    Purple loosestrife is present here. Careful monitoring and management is needed to keep the population under control. Galerucella beetles have been released over the past 10 years by regional staff and continued releases are planned.

    Where practical, early successional habitats should be created or maintained to prevent loss of this important habitat type and subsequent loss of the suite of shrubland birds currently utilizing the area in the breeding season. An existing powerline that crosses the BCA should help to provide some of this habitat.

    Grassland areas should be maintained as grasslands through periodic mowing (outside the May 1 to July 31 breeding season).

    Continued management of deer and beaver populations through regulated hunting and trapping are essential to maintain desired habitats which are used by bird populations.

    Water chestnut has recently been identified in one section of the Black Creek. Spread of this exotic species could greatly impact quality of wetland and aquatic habitats at the WMA and throughout the marsh. Efforts should be undertaken to control the spread of this invasive species.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    See 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.
    None identified.

  • 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 along the private railroad tracks has historically occurred. The tracks are periodically active and present a potential safety hazard for people using them for access. State acquisition of the railroad right-of-way would greatly enhance access and better tie the various parcels of the WMA together.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    There is a need for an educational effort directed at marsh bird and shrubland bird management. Many marsh birds and shrubland and early successional forest birds are declining. Educational efforts should focus on the need to maintain quality marsh habitats and shrublands, and the diversity of associated bird species.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Black Creek WMA is of significant importance to wading birds such as American bittern, least bittern, Virginia rail, sora, green heron, and great blue heron, and continued monitoring of their populations and management of the wetland habitat is needed.

    The greatest threat to this wetland complex is development of surrounding lands and human disturbance. Potential ways to protect adjacent lands should be explored, including initiation of a partnership between local groups and state agencies.

Other Issues:
None identified.

DEC Region 4 Wildlife Manager, 607-652-2373

Burger, M. and J. Liner. 2005. Important Bird Areas of New York, Second Edition: Habitats Worth Protecting. Audubon New York.

NYS DEC. 1993. Black Creek Wildlife Management Area Biodiversity Inventory Report. NY Natural Heritage Program. Albany, NY.

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

Date Designated: 9/25/06

Date Prepared: 5/9/06