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Catharine Creek BCA Management Guidance Summary

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Site Name: Catharine Creek

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation

Location: Town of Montour, Schuyler County

Size of Area: 890 acres

DEC Region: Region 8

General Site Information: Catharine Creek BCA, comprised of the Catharine Creek WMA, is approximately 890 acres in size, located at the south end of Seneca Lake. The site, one of the last remaining headwater marshes in the Finger Lakes, is a large emergent wetland at the southern end of Seneca Lake, between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls. Once navigable to Montour Falls, the waters of Catharine Creek still feed a remnant section of the Chemung Barge Canal, which runs through the center of the marsh. Queen Catharine Marsh is designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon New York.

Vision Statement: To maintain a diversity of waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds and landbirds, and the habitats they require, with an emphasis on aquatic habitats and the birds that depend on these unique ecosystems.

Key BCA Criteria: S11-2001 3f, g, h, i. Diverse species concentration site, individual species concentration site, species at risk site, bird research site. This area supports American black duck, common loon, pied-billed grebe, American bittern, least bittern, osprey, bald eagle, American woodcock, willow flycatcher, sedge wren, wood thrush, blue-winged warbler, prothonotary warbler and rusty blackbird. Other wetland dependent species which breed here include Virginia rail, sora, marsh wren and swamp sparrow. Marsh bird surveys conducted by Department staff in 2004 resulted in one least bittern, four sora, seventeen Virginia rail and two American bittern detections.

Critical Habitat Types: Two significant communities are present, including the floodplain forest and silver maple-ash swamp. Three rare plants, marsh horsetail, Leiberg's panic grass and spreading globeflower, have been documented, and one watch list species, swamp agrimony. Two rare avian species have been documented, least bittern and pied-billed grebe. Fourteen ecological communities (marsh headwater stream, canal, summer-stratified monomictic lake, farm pond/artificial pond, deep emergent marsh, shallow emergent marsh, floodplain forest, silver maple-ash swamp, successional old field, successional shrubland, shale talus slope woodland, successional northern hardwoods, mowed lawn with trees, unpaved road/path) have been documented at the Catharine Creek WMA.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain the site as a BCA.
    The Catharine Creek WMA was the focus of a wildlife habitat enhancement project funded with Migratory Bird Account and MARSH funds. Approximately 25,000 feet of level ditching and ten potholes were created to improve interspersion of vegetation and open water and provide increased cover, feeding and resting areas for migratory birds. Impoundment management should be continued to maintain high quality emergent marsh habitat.

    Invasive species management should be implemented when feasible. Three stands of Japanese knotweed have been identified and management actions to remove it initiated. Biological control of purple loosestrife, an invasive exotic plant, should be utilized in areas of loosestrife concentration. Giant hogweed is also known to be present.

    Shrubland habitats should be maintained adjacent to forests and grasslands, when feasible.

    The Catharine Valley Complex is listed in the 2002 NYS Open Space Plan. As lands adjacent to Catharine Creek WMA become available, such parcels should be considered for acquisition.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Impoundment management activities should be conducted outside of the breeding season, April through July, when ever possible. Mowing of grasslands should be conducted after July 15 to minimize impacts to actively 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.
    A number of parking areas, administrative roads, trails and an observation tower are maintained by agency staff. Routine maintenance should be conducted utilizing available Best Management Practices to minimize impacts to sensitive habitats. Natural water levels should be maintained within the silver maple-ash swamp.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    A petroleum pipeline crosses the wetland from east to west, and rights to maintain this line remain with the owner. Maintenance activities should be timed to minimize impacts to sensitive habitats and wildlife species.

    Potential development along Route 14/414 and Rock Cabin Road could impact water quality and important wetland habitats. Efforts should be taken to minimize and mitigate, through existing environmental laws and regulations, any negative impacts as a result of land use changes in the immediate vicinity of Catharine Creek WMA.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Recreational opportunities on the Catharine Creek WMA include hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, boating, bird watching and nature study. A spur of the Finger Lakes Hiking Trail traverses the marsh, taking the hiker past many of the scenic natural attractions found in the area. A nature trail provides public education via printed information along trails and a printed brochure. The barge canal provided access via boat for boaters and fisherman.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    Designation as a BCA provides opportunities for the development and installation of an education kiosk outlining important avian habitats present and the species found within these habitats at the Catharine Creek site.

    Friends of Queen Catharine Marsh, a stewardship and educational non-profit group formed in 1983, have sponsored a number of educational programs since inception. The group reorganized in 2000 in a renewed effort to preserve the marsh. New outreach initiatives would likely benefit from a collaborative approach involving this local grass roots organization.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Members of the Schuyler County Bird Club have recorded 64 species of birds on site. During the 1980-1985 NYS Breeding Bird Atlas, 96 (17 Possible, 40 Probable, 39 Confirmed) species were recorded in block 3469C, 118 (8 Possible, 38 Probable, 72 Confirmed) species were documented during the 2000-2005 effort.

    Marsh bird monitoring should be continued to document suitability of emergent marsh habitat for nesting marsh birds. Standard avian point counts should be conducted in the upland habitats to document bird use. Surveys for invasive species should be conducted to document existing and new occurrences.

Other Issues:
None identified.

NYS DEC Region 8 Office, Avon, NY.

NYS DEC Region 8 Office, Bath, NY


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

Fodge, J. and G. Fuerst. 1984. Catharine Creek Wildlife Management Area Management Plan. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Gregoire, J. and S. Gregoire. 2001. Unique Natural Assets of Schuyler County, New York: An Annotated Inventory.

McGowan, K. and K. Corwin, eds. 2008. The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 1998. Catharine Creek Wildlife Management Area Biodiversity Inventory Final Report.

Date BCA Designated: 10/3/2008

Date MGS Prepared: 5/1/2008

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