Important Bird Areas

Rensselaer Forest Tract

New York

A large, relatively unfragmented forest stretching approximately 12
miles from Grafton Lakes State Park in the north to Cherry Plain State
Park and Capital District Wildlife Management Area in the south. The
site includes two state parks administered by NYS OPRHP, the Capital
District Wildlife Management Area administered by NYS DEC, and
private lands. The site is situated on the elevated Rensselaer Plateau,
which is cooler and more thickly wooded than the adjacent lowlands.
Conifers are abundant. The climate, plus the shallow, poorly drained
soils, favors an Adirondack-like forest. Wetlands abound, especially
bogs and fens, and both natural and artificial ponds are common. Old
foundations and other archeological evidence indicate past efforts at
farming and charcoal production. According to the NY GAP land
cover data, approximately 95% of the site is forested, and includes
Appalachian oak-pine, deciduous wetland, evergreen northern
hardwood, evergreen plantation, oak, successional hardwood, and
sugar maple mesic forests.

Ornithological Summary

The site supports a great abundance and diversity of forest breeders,
including many at-risk species. At-risk species breeding at the site
include the American Black Duck (at least six pairs), Pied-billed
Grebe, American Bittern (use cattail wetlands in spring and might nest
here), Sharp-shinned Hawk (at least five pairs), Broad-winged Hawk,
Olive-sided Flycatcher (possible breeder), Willow Flycatcher (probable
breeder), Common Raven, Winter Wren (at least 50), Golden-crowned
Kinglet, Swainson?s Thrush, Wood Thrush (15-30 pairs), Blue-winged
Warbler (probable breeder), Prairie Warbler (possible breeder), and
Cerulean Warbler (possible breeder). Characteristic forest breeders
include the Ruffed Grouse, Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested
Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Veery, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackthroated
Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian
Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American
Redstart, Ovenbird, Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, and Purple Finch. The Red Crossbill,
White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak are also
found here. At least 18 species of warblers breed here, including the
Nashville, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Blackthroated
Green, Blackburnian, Mourning, and Chestnut-sided.
Bicknell?s Thrushes use the area during migration.

Conservation Issues

This site is listed in the 2002 Open Space Conservation Plan as a priority
site under the project name Rensselaer Plateau. This site is under
development pressure as the Albany capital district expands, and forest
fragmentation is a threat. Permanent protection of this site should be
pursued via public acquisition and conservation easements. Working
forest easements that promote sustainable forestry may provide habitat
for species that require successional and disturbed forests. Additional
negative impacts of development on wetlands could include sewage
and storm water runoff. Timber managers should avoid logging in
the vicinity of hawk nests. Some ponds have been drained or lowered
resulting in less wetland habitat. Inventory and monitoring of breeding
birds, especially at-risk species, should continue.