Situated on the south shore of Long Island, this site includes the
Carman?s River, a New York State designated Wild and Scenic River,
and its estuary, as well as uplands composed of oak and pine barren
vegetation (part of the Long Island Pine Barrens). The core protected
portion of the area is the 2,550-acre Wertheim National Wildlife
Refuge (NWR). According to the NY GAP land cover data, this site
includes approximately 675 acres of salt marsh habitat. The estuary
provides an important spawning and nursery area for an abundance of
fish and other aquatic life and is one of only four known breeding sites
in the state for the eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum). The
site is primarily owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) and Suffolk County Parks, and the rest is privately owned.

Ornithological Summary

This site is important for breeding and wintering waterfowl (3,000-
4,000 on average), including large numbers of American Black Ducks
(60% of all waterfowl at the site) and Greater Scaup at the mouth of the
river. Hooded and Common Mergansers winter further upriver, where
the site provides open water in the winter when the bay freezes. The
area also supports the largest breeding population of Wood Ducks on
Long Island. Carman?s River?s marshes support breeding at-risk birds,
including the American Black Duck (probably exceeds IBA threshold, but further data are needed), American Bittern, Least Bittern (probably
exceeds IBA threshold, but further data are needed), Osprey, Bald
Eagle (winters), Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (probably exceeds IBA
threshold, but further data are needed), and Seaside Sparrow (probably
exceeds IBA threshold, but further data are needed). Clapper Rails and
Willets are also found here. During fall migration, the marshes support
5-10 shorebirds per acre, including the Semipalmated Plover, Greater
and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and
Pectoral Sandpiper. Also, wading birds can be seen along the river and
refuge marshes, including the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy
Egret, Little Blue Heron, and Glossy Ibis. Migrating Tree Swallows
come to the marshes along the Carman?s River in the last weeks of
September to roost. The estimated flock size is many thousands,
numbering in the tens of thousands on some nights. These marshes also
provide important habitat for thousands of Red-winged Blackbirds.
The banks are bordered mostly with common reed (Phragmites australis),
with some common cattail (Typha latifolia) and other brackish tolerant
species. The swallows primarily congregate in the marshes that are part
of the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge.

Conservation Issues

This site is listed in the 2002 Open Space Conservation Plan as a priority
site under the project name Long Island South Shore Estuary Preserve.
Although a large portion of the area is protected, there is great pressure
for residential development on some parcels. The refuge has identified
several inland holdings that warrant protection. These currently
unprotected lands should be acquired, or easements negotiated. In some
wetland areas the encroachment of common reed (Phragmites australis)
and other invasive plants threaten the habitat and should be controlled.
Common reed is actively managed within refuge impoundments to
increase habitat for migratory birds and other fauna. An Osprey nest
camera has been installed to allow online viewing. An open marsh water
management restoration project is being implemented at Wertheim
NWR?s East Marsh. This project will study marsh dynamics, restore salt
marsh hydrology, control invasive plants, create reservoirs for baitfish,
and reduce mosquito breeding areas. Refuge personnel are currently
working on restoring up to 50 acres of grassland by controlling invasive
woody and broadleaf vegetation, maintaining current grasslands, and
removing unused buildings. Also, a comprehensive conservation plan
for the refuge has been completed, and staff are working on a habitat
management plan that addresses deer management. These plans will set
goals and objectives for managing the refuge for the benefit of wildlife
for the next 15 to 20 years. Inventory and monitoring, particularly of atrisk
species, should continue.

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