This large contiguous forest is part of the Hudson Highlands and has
a strong relief ranging from around 300 to over 1,300 feet in elevation.
Due to its geographic location, climax forest communities are oak/
maple/beech forests with hemlocks present in higher elevation ravines.
According to the NY GAP land cover data, approximately 90% of
the site is forested, and includes Appalachian oak-pine, deciduous
wetland, evergreen northern hardwood, oak, and sugar maple mesic
forests. NYS OPRHP administers Harriman State Park (over 46,000
acres) and Sterling Forest State Park (over 17,000 acres), but this IBA
also includes privately owned lands.
This site supports a healthy representative community of forest
breeders, including the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper?s Hawk,
Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk,
Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Least
Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren,
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Blackthroated
Blue Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler,
Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded
Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Purple Finch.
Additional at-risk species supported at this site include the Osprey (possible breeder), Bald Eagle (winters, eight individuals in 2003 and
three in 2002), American Woodcock (probable breeder), Whip-poorwill
(breeder), Olive-sided Flycatcher (possible breeder), Blue-winged
Warbler (confirmed breeder), Golden-winged Warbler (confirmed
breeder), and Prairie Warbler (confirmed breeder).
A portion of this site is listed in the 2002 Open Space Conservation Plan
as a priority site under the project name Sterling Forest. Portions of
Sterling Forest have been designated a state Bird Conservation Area.
Residential development on privately owned lands is a concern due to
potential habitat fragmentation and loss of habitat for species at risk.
Permanent protection and stewardship of private portions of the site are
needed to prevent fragmentation resulting from development. Options
include public or land trust acquisition, purchase of conservation
easements, and sustainable forestry agreements. Regular inventory and
monitoring, particularly of at-risk species, should continue. The site
is one of the few where Blue-winged Warblers and Golden-winged
Warblers occur together in an apparently stable ratio. In other portions
of their range, Golden-winged Warblers are undergoing rapid declines
with replacement by Blue-winged Warblers. In most areas where
these two species occur, the habitat becomes a sink for Golden-winged
Warblers. Research into how the two species are coexisting at Sterling
Forest is ongoing and could be critical to preventing the loss of Goldenwinged
Warblers as a breeding species in the state and the region.
Habitat restoration for Golden-winged Warblers in the Indian Hill area
of Sterling Forest State Park is planned for 2005. Over-browsing by deer
and invasion by non-native vegetation have significantly altered the
forest in much of this area.