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Lake Shore Marshes Bird Conservation Area

General Site Information: This 6,270-acre BCA consists of Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area, and contains streams, lakes, ponds, open and forested wetlands, and peatlands, as well as early successional and forested uplands. Shrub and forest habitat along the lake shore provide critical stopover habitat for a tremendous abundance and diversity of migratory upland birds. This site is located in the towns of Huron and Wolcott in Wayne County.

Marsh and open water habitats dispersed with emergent vegetation are critical for many marsh birds, including black tern (endangered), least bittern (threatened), and pied-billed grebe (threatened). Other species of interest include northern harrier (threatened), upland sandpiper (threatened), American bittern (special concern), osprey (special concern), common loon (special concern), sandhill crane, sharp-shinned hawk (special concern), bobolink, eastern meadowlark, marsh wren, Virginia rail, sora, Wilson's snipe, magnolia warbler, golden-winged warbler (special concern), brown thrasher, ring-necked duck, and wood duck.

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Lake Shore Marshes BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Lake Shore Marshes BCA

State Ownership and Managing Agency: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Wayne County, Towns of Huron and Wolcott.

Size of Area: 6,270 acres

DEC Region: 8

Vision Statement: Manage the area to conserve the diverse bird species, and the habitats upon which they depend.

Key BCA Criteria: Waterfowl concentration site, wading bird concentration site, migratory concentration site, diverse species concentration site, species at risk site, bird research site (ECL §11-2002, 3.a, d, e, f, h and i).

Species of interest include: black tern (Endangered), pied-billed grebe (Threatened), least bittern (Threatened), northern harrier (Threatened), upland sandpiper (Threatened), American bittern (Special Concern), osprey (Special Concern), common loon (Special Concern), sandhill crane, sharp-shinned hawk, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, marsh wren, Virginia rail, sora, Wilson's snipe, magnolia warbler, golden-winged warbler, brown thrasher, ring-necked duck, wood duck.

Critical Habitat Types: Emergent marsh, shrub swamp, bog, forested wetland, old field, shrubland, and forested uplands.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Invasive species management is a priority. A biological control program for purple loosestrife has been implemented, and will continue. Phragmites control should be considered when feasible. Management of other non-native species should be considered as needed.

    Water level regulation of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario since the 1960s has altered watershed hydrology significantly. Re-establishment of more natural hydrological regimes should be encouraged. Impoundment management via mechanical manipulation and water level control will help restore and improve habitat for the wetland-dependent birds in suitable units. Maintenance of hemi-marsh, open water dispersed with emergent vegetation, is critical for many marsh birds, including black terns, least bitterns, and pied-billed grebes.

    Shrub and forest habitat along the lake shore provide critical migration and stopover habitat for migratory birds. These areas should be maintained in a mixture of shrub, early successional forest, and older forest. Grassland areas should be mowed periodically to prevent succession. Shrubland areas will need to be managed to maintain these areas as early successional habitat. Portions of the forested areas should be periodically disturbed to provide early successional forest habitat.
  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Mechanical manipulation and water level control are necessary for vegetation management in marsh impoundments. Level ditching, blasting potholes, and impoundment draw downs promote wetland vegetation and help maintain hemi-marsh, a habitat needed by many waterbird species and waterfowl. Draw downs should be initiated in late winter or early spring to minimize impacts to fauna during the nesting season.

    Mowing of grasslands should not occur until after the nesting season for most grassland birds (ends July 31). Mowing on a three year rotation is beneficial.
  • 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.
    See above under seasonal sensitivities. Inability to initiate and maintain the required management activities, as noted above, would be detrimental to species using deep emergent marsh, shallow emergent marsh, grassland, shrubland, and early successional forest habitats.
  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    Human disturbance to active nesting areas should be minimized during the breeding season.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Access is adequate, though improvements and maintenance of overlooks, boat launches, parking areas, and foot trails should be considered.
  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Efforts to educate the public regarding coastal wetland systems and the avian species that inhabit them should be implemented. A kiosk that portrays the critical habitats and avian species suites present at the BCA should be developed and placed at a high-use access point.
  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Pre- and post-monitoring of avian populations and wildlife habitats should be encouraged in managed units. Baseline inventories for all avian species utilizing the Lake Shore Marshes BCA complex should be implemented, including secretive marsh birds, colonial waterbirds, and species using grassland, shrubland and forested habitats.

Other Issues:
Recent salvage cuts in the forested uplands have created a diverse mix of early successional forest and mature forest. These cuts created diverse forest structure and should increase avian diversity and abundance. In the future, portions of the forested areas should continue to be periodically disturbed to continue to provide a diverse mix forest habitat.

A number of sources suggest that lake level stabilization since the 1960s has lead to less drastic water level changes on Lake Ontario. Historically, periodic high water levels flushed sediments from shoreline wetlands and prevented large dense vegetative communities from developing. In the absence of such natural processes inland coastal marsh habitat may be prone to sedimentation and vegetational succession, resulting in the loss of hemi-marsh and suitable marsh bird habitat. A number of initiatives have been undertaken to improve our understanding of these watershed management issues and their impacts on the natural resources. Field investigations and water level management options should be actively encouraged. Informed input by managers, academics, and research personnel to the Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Study Board and International Joint Commission should be encouraged.

Contacts: DEC Region 8 Office, Avon: 585-226-5380

Sources: Maynard, L. and D. Wilcox. 1996. Great lakes Coastal Wetlands: Working Paper. State of the Lake Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) 1996.

Myers, Lawrence. 1971. Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

National Science Foundation Lake Ontario Biocomplexity Project. 2006.

NYSDEC. 1996. Lake Shore Marshes Biodiversity Inventory Final Report. NYS Natural Heritage Program. Albany, NY.

Options for Managing Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River Water Levels and Flows. 2006. Final report by the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board to the International Joint Commission.

Rehm, Evan M. 2006. Factors Affecting Marsh Bird Abundance and Species Richness of Wetland Birds In New York. Thesis, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210.

Rehm, Evan M. 2006. Lake Shore Marshes and Other Wildlife Management Areas In New York: Recommendations for Wetland Habitat Management and Secretive Marsh Bird Monitoring Protocols. SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210.

Date Designated: 9/25/06

Date Prepared: D. Adams 9/19/06

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