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Keeney Swamp Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: Keeney Swamp BCA in Alleghany County consists of Keeney Swamp Wildlife Management Area and State Forest. It contains a mixture of marsh, shrubland, wetland, impoundment, early successional forest, and grassland habitats that support a wide diversity of bird species. Overall, most of the site is upland forest. It is part of Audubon's Keeney Swamp Forest Important Bird Area. Large numbers of shorebirds and wading birds have been documented during migration. Waterfowl that commonly use the wetland habitats during breeding or migration include Canada goose, wood duck, American black duck, mallard, blue-winged teal, hooded merganser, bufflehead, tundra swan, common moorhen, northern pintail, common loon (special concern), and pied-billed grebe (threatened).

A tremendous diversity and abundance of songbirds utilize the shrub and early successional forest habitats on the BCA during breeding and migration. Winter concentrations of white-winged and red crossbills are notable in the conifer stands. There are some grasslands on the state forest that still support grassland species, including northern harrier (threatened), upland sandpiper (threatened), vesper sparrow (special concern), bobolink, and eastern meadowlark.

Keeney Swamp BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Keeney Swamp

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Keeney Swamp Wildlife Management Area and State Forest, Town of Birdsall, Allegany County.

Size of Area: 3,116 acres

DEC Region: 9

Vision Statement: Maintain and enhance the marsh, grassland, wetland, shrubland, early successional forest and forest habitats for breeding and migrating species.

Key BCA Criteria: Waterfowl concentration site; diverse species concentration site; migratory species concentration site; individual species concentration site; and species at risk site, and it appears that it is a shorebird concentration site; (ECL §11-2001, 3.a, e, f, g, and h). Shorebird numbers in the hundreds have been documented in a seasonal migration, although further documentation is needed to confirm actual numbers during one year. Likewise, wading birds are present in some numbers that may meet the criteria, but further documentation is needed. Numerous species of waterfowl breed or migrate through the wetlands, including: Canada goose, wood duck, American black duck, mallard, blue-winged teal, hooded merganser, bufflehead, tundra swan, common moorhen, northern pintail, common loon, and pied-billed grebe. Winter concentrations of white-winged and red crossbills are notable in the conifer stands. A tremendous diversity and abundance of songbirds breed and migrate through the shrub and forest habitat on the BCA. There are some grasslands on the state forest that still support grassland species including: northern harrier, upland sandpiper, vesper sparrow, bobolink, and eastern meadowlark. Species at Risk include: pied-billed grebe, common loon, American bittern, northern harrier, upland sandpiper, vesper sparrow, red-shouldered hawk, and red-headed woodpecker.

Critical Habitat Types: Early successional forest and shrub, grassland, marsh and wetland, and forest habitats.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain the site as a BCA.
    Encroachment of shrubs and weeds (for example goldenrod) into grassland habitat has begun to limit grassland bird species' use of these grasslands. To enhance grassland habitat, the larger areas (greater than 10 contiguous acres) need to be managed more intensively. These larger fields should be mowed annually in late July, and the entire field should be mowed each year until the shrubs and aggressive weeds are suppressed. Smaller fields (less than 10 acres) could be allowed to succeed into old field habitat, and shrub encroachment should be allowed.

    In the larger fields, once the shrubs and aggressive weeds have been suppressed, a rotational mowing cycle could be reinstituted. Mowing could then occur just frequently enough to keep the shrubs and weeds under control. Rotational mowing, where portions of the area are mowed every year, and other portions are left as standing grass, will maintain a good mixture of grassland habitats over time.

    Shrubland habitats support brown thrasher, American woodcock, and a host of other shrubland birds. Portions of the shrubland should be brush-hogged periodically to prevent succession to forest. Strips or patches could be brush-hogged periodically to maintain a mix of shrub ages, and prevent trees from taking over the shrublands. Trees should be periodically removed to prevent the shrublands from beginning to revert into forest.

    More aggressive forest management would be beneficial in portions of the forested areas, including drier swamp areas. In forested areas, even-aged management in 5-20 acre patches is needed to increase the amount of early successional habitat present. Smaller patch cuts (1-5 acres where roughly 50% of overstory trees are removed) in forested areas would also benefit many forest nesting birds that require a diverse shrub layer for nesting. In shrub/alder habitats, periodic patch cuts or strip cuts would provide structural diversity and enhance use of the area by early successional species.

    Some older conifer forests should be regenerated to provide young conifer stands, and ensure that the conifer component of the forest is perpetuated.

    The impoundment and beaver activity should continue to provide marsh and shrub wetland habitat.
  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    The timing of mowing is critical. Grassland bird species can begin nesting as early as February or March (horned lark) and may nest into September (sedge wren). The best period for mowing is late July through early October when dry conditions normally persist. Mowing during this period should result in minimal interference with nesting birds.
  • 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 greatest threat to these critical habitat types would be the lack of active management. Periodic mowing is required to maintain the larger contiguous grasslands. Otherwise, vegetative succession will result in the reversion of these areas to shrublands and then forest. Smaller fields (less than 10 acres) not surrounded by open grasslands could be allowed to revert to shrublands or maintained as old fields.

    Portions of forest and shrub habitats will need periodic disturbance to maintain and enhance shrubland and early successional forest habitat. Small patch or strip cuts would be one way of accomplishing this. Patch sizes of 5-20 acres would be large enough to support area sensitive species.
  • 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.
    Public access is considered adequate.
  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    There is a need for an educational effort directed at grassland, shrubland, and early successional forest bird management. Grassland birds, as a whole, are declining throughout the Northeast as their habitats decline. Many shrubland and early successional forest birds are also declining. Kiosks and other educational materials should be developed and focus on the need to maintain grasslands and shrublands, and the diversity of associated bird species.
  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Better data on the grassland and shrubland bird use of the area would be helpful. Surveys on the species present and relative abundance would increase our knowledge of avian use of the area.

Other Issues:
The survey and design have been completed for an additional water control structure that would convert a 100 acre beaver pond into a man-made impoundment. Funding to complete this project is needed.

Mark Kandel, Region 9 Wildlife Manager, 716-851-7010

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

Jones, Andrea L. and Vickery, Peter D. Conserving Grassland Birds. Three volume set. USFWS and Massachusetts Audubon.

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

NYSDEC. 1997. Three Rivers WMA Biodiversity Report. NYSDEC, Albany, NY.

Sample, David W. and MJ Mossman. 1997. Managing Habitat For Grassland Birds. Dept of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

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

Date Designated: 10/2/06

Date Prepared: 4/18/07