Rare Birds Found on Hudson Farm, No-Be-Bo-Sco Sites

2015 GWWAIn 2012, Gracie & Harrigan discussed the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service's Working Lands For Wildlife (WLFW) program with several of our clients. In our area, WLFW funds projects to improve habitat for either golden-winged warbler or bog turtle on private lands.  Three client properties (two of which are leased by the Hudson Farm Club) accepted proposals to conduct habitat work to benefit golden-winged warbler and "other species sensitive to canopy closure."  In 2013, the first modified seed tree harvest was conducted on the Hudson Farm Club properties, followed by harvests at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco (owned and operated by the Northern NJ Council, BSA) and elsewhere on the Hudson Farm Club properties in 2014.

This May and June, the sites were surveyed for bird species by the DEP Division of Fish & Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program.  The 2013 harvest area on the Hudson Farm contained 34 different bird species, of which 16 (yes, sixteen!) are species of special concern, regional concern, or uncommon.  The 2014 harvest area on Hudson Farm contained 34 different bird species, of which 15 are species of special concern, regional concern, or uncommon.  At Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, 31 different bird species were identified, of which 17 (not a typo!) are species of special concern, regional concern, or uncommon. 

Two items of note.  (1) These sites are remarkable because they were not supposed to be attractive to species that require young forest until about 5 years after harvest.  To see species -- especially forest ground-nesting birds such as black-and-white warbler -- using sites that are barely 2 years post-harvest hopefully means that we are doing something right.  (2) Given golden-winged warbler's preference for young forest within a larger forested matrix, there was some concern regarding these harvests and avoidance of the harvest areas by forest interior birds.  Interestingly enough, one of the few species that was observed at all three harvest areas was scarlet tanager, a forest interior bird. 

Gracie & Harrigan thanks the Hudson Farm Club and the Northern NJ Council, BSA for participating in this program.

Forestry can benefit cerulean warblers

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture released the Cerulean Warbler Management Guidelines for Appalachian Hardwood Forests last year. Cerulean warblers are commonly associated with large, contiguous forests with old-growth characteristics, and are species of special concern in NJ. They are difficult to see, nesting near the tops of large-diameter white oak, chestnut oak, sugar maple, cherry, locust, elm, and sycamore trees. The species has declined by about 70% since l966. The management guidelines stem from a large-scale study spanning four states.

The management guidelines recommend thinning overstocked stands—particularly in landscapes dominated by forest—to a residual basal area of between 40 and 90 square feet/acre. Thinning should retain preferred nesting tree species while reducing red maple. Individual tree selection systems did not significantly increase population levels, indicating the need for a heavier thinning, principally to increase light levels to the understory and encourage regeneration and other understory vegetation, and also to encourage crown growth in residual trees.

For more information, ask one of us during Farm Tax season.  The guidelines for cerulean warblers can be read by clicking here.

(This article was originally written for the Spring 2014 issue of The Cruiser.)

Weldon Brook WMA Stewardship Plan Released

Recently, Gracie & Harrigan was retained by DEP Division of Fish & WIldlife to accomplish a forest inventory and produce a Forest Stewardship Plan for the Weldon Brook Wildlife Management Area.  This 1,500+ acre property is located in Sparta Township, Sussex County.  We are proud to have been involved with a project that seeks to restore significant amounts of Golden-winged warbler habitat while also meeting other goals of the DEP's Wildlife Action Plan and other environmental laws, regulations, and policy.

Read more: Weldon Brook WMA Stewardship Plan Released

Foresters Work to Save Endangered Bird

The golden-winged warbler is currently listed as endangered by the State of New Jersey, being that only about 25 nesting pairs are left within the state. The federal government has been petitioned to list this species because its population has declined 2.3% per year for the last 40 years. Two reasons exist for this terrible decline: lack of habitat and hybridization with the blue-winged warbler.

How can a state with over 715,000 acres of State Forests, State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas, and Natural Lands Trust properties lack habitat? Golden-wings need early successional forests within forest-dominated landscapes at higher elevations (950’ and greater). This habitat is commonly created by practicing forestry under even-aged management, however the amount of cutting necessary has meant that this practice, and therefore this habitat type has been very unpopular for the past 40 years.

The state and federal governments have turned to Gracie & Harrigan for our expertise in creating the habitat necessary to bring these birds back from the brink. Working in cooperation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Working Lands For Wildlife Program, Gracie & Harrigan approached some of its clients in the warbler’s critical area (the Kittattinny Ridge in Sussex and Warren counties and the northern Highlands in Sussex, Morris, and Passaic counties) regarding creating habitat on their properties. Gracie & Harrigan helped those clients submit grant applications to NRCS and the Common Waters Fund administered by the Pinchot Institute of Conservation. If these grants are awarded, over 378 acres of habitat will be created and would potentially triple the warbler’s population on forests owned by private landowners.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has also retained Gracie & Harrigan to complete a Forest Stewardship Plan on the 1,550 acre Weldon Brook Wildlife Management Area. This state-owned property contains one of the largest populations of golden-wings left in New Jersey. Gracie & Harrigan has a history on this property, since it was mostly owned by two former clients who sold their properties in the 1990’s and 2000’s to Green Acres. We are proud to lend our expertise in forest planning to the Division for this worthy project.

For further information on the golden-winged warbler, you can read its habitat Best Management Practices for Pennsylvania and Maryland at www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/domestic/pdf/GWWA_bmp_FinalSmall.pdf


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Practicing sustainable forestry  works to:

  • Protect water quality
  • Increase water yield
  • Promote forest health
  • Restore damaged forest ecosystems
  • Promote wildlife through the creation of habitat
  • Yield renewable forest products