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Vischer Ferry BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Vischer Ferry Bird Conservation Area

State Ownership and Managing Agencies: NYS Canal Corporation owns the property. The site also goes under the name of Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve. The site is maintained in partnership with the Town of Clifton Park. The Clifton Park Water Authority leases a portion of the area for subsurface water development rights.

Location: The Vischer Ferry Bird Conservation Area is situated at the southerly boundary of the Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga County, along the Mohawk River.

Size of Area: 740 acres (including underwater lands)

DEC Region: 5

General Site Information: The Vischer Ferry Bird Conservation Area is composed of freshwater wetland complex and open water associated with the Mohawk River, providing important marsh bird and waterfowl habitat. In addition, the site has forested and shrub habitat that provide important migratory stopover habitat for a variety of upland birds. There are many trails throughout the area for public use. Waterfowl hunting is allowed during specified periods.

Vision Statement: Protect, maintain and manage the diverse habitats and extant bird variability that presently exists. Maintain the site to benefit migratory birds, both upland and aquatic, and enhance the use of the site by marsh birds and waterfowl. Encourage public appreciation, use, and enjoyment of the site as an important bird area. Continue the site's existing uses including recreational activities, well-water supply, and waterfowl hunting.

Key BCA Criteria: This is a wading bird concentration site, migratory stopover site, and species at risk site. There are considerable numbers of breeding marsh and wading bird species occurring, including sora, Virginia rail, green heron, American bittern, and least bittern (possible). The site supports fall concentrations of migratory wading birds such as herons and egrets. This site also supports considerable numbers of migratory songbirds and other migrants, including: many species of warbler and flycatcher, common nighthawks, swallows, and rusty blackbirds (April). Species at Risk include state listed species such as: American bittern, least bittern (possible breeder); as well as high priority species (North American Bird Conservation Initiative) during migration: common nighthawks, rusty blackbirds.

Critical Habitat Types: The site consists of freshwater emergent marsh, open water and shoreline of the Mohawk River, as well as forested and shrub habitat for migratory stopover habitat.

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    The marsh habitats would benefit from improving water level control and providing habitat improvements. There is some suggestion that water levels in the marshes have dropped over the years, and that summer dry periods may result in insufficient water levels to provide for optimal use of some portions of the site by water birds. A plan to assess the current water inflows, summer water levels, and potential water level and habitat improvements would be beneficial.

    Maintain and conserve the forested and shrub habitat for migrating birds. Shrub habitats should be maintained as shrubs.

    Invasive non-native vegetation can have detrimental impacts on habitats and bird use. A plan to control these non-native species (Phragmites and purple loosestrife) could help to minimize any negative impacts.

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Trail maintenance will continue. Any mowing (outside of trail maintenance) should be completed after August 1 to prevent impacts to ground nesting birds. Width of existing trails is adequate and widening them further should be avoided.

  • 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.
    Existing navigation and dredging of navigation channels shall be continued. The well lease and water withdrawals shall continue.

    The effect of the water withdrawal wells (and potential for increasing withdrawals) on water levels in adjacent wetlands has not yet been evaluated. Water withdrawals have the potential for negative impacts on the water levels and habitat in the marshes. Depending on the level of withdrawal, it is possible that the water levels in the adjacent marshes could be drawn down, although this has not yet been demonstrated. The potential for negative impacts on wetland habitats should be assessed. This information may provide important information in preparing a plan for enhancing water level control and habitat improvements.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    A small field is being maintained as a lawn. It would be beneficial to allow this to return to a natural state. This could be as simple as not mowing until after August 1, or mowing only periodically (once every 2-3 years).

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    Current access is sufficient.

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    It would be beneficial to install a kiosk that explains the importance of the marshes to waterbirds and importance of the site to migrating birds of all kinds.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Assess ability to install water control devices, or implement other management to benefit and enhance the marsh habitat.

    Assess if water withdrawal wells are negatively affecting wetland water levels.

    Inventory and monitor listed and at risk marsh bird populations as needed.

Other Issues:
NYS Canal Corporation owns the property. The Town of Clifton Park maintains the Nature Preserve's trail and recreation system under permit. The Town of Clifton Park Water Authority leases most of the property for subsurface water development rights. There are historic sites within this area, some pertaining to canals. Cooperation and communication between the interested parties will be required.

Contacts:
Steven Sweeney, Canal Corporation, 518-471-5033

Sources:
Burger, M. and J. Liner. 2005. Important Bird Areas of New York: Habitats Worth Protecting. Audubon New York, Albany, New York. Pp. 236-237.

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

Yunick, R. Banding data for 1967 to 1995.

DEC Marshbird surveys. 2005. Albany, NY.

Drennan, SR, 1981. Where to Find Birds in NYS. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.

Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve Report.

1988 Breeding Bird Atlas and 2000-2005 preliminary data.

Date Designated: 11/27/06

Date Prepared: 12/13/05; revised 5/25/06


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