Important Bird Areas

Mount Zion (Piney Tract)

Pennsylvania

An area of reclaimed strip mines in central Clarion County, south of the Clarion River. The high, rolling hills, stripmined in the 1970s, have been revegetated with grasses and trees (locust and pine). Grassland habitat occupies the hilltops, transected by brushy or forested stream bottoms. Surface ponds provide some wetland habitat. At various places, small surface streams are diverted to acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment with chemicals and/or ponds and artificial wetlands. Some of the lower ponds are pollution-free and full of wildlife, including insects and amphibians.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/usibac/2009_P8/PA1168m_MtZion08.pdf}

{link:For conservation plan, click here|http://pa.audubon.org/IBA_Consplans/IBA21.pdf}

{link:For fact sheet, click here|http://pa.audubon.org/Sites/Site21.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

The large size of this area, particularly the contiguous fields, is a significant component to its importance to grassland birds. Bird surveys have documented notable diversity and remarkable numbers of grassland birds. At present, this is the only regular and reliable breeding site in Pennsylvania for Short-eared Owl (B- 2+ pairs). Piney Tract supports the largest Henslow's Sparrow breeding colony in Pennsylvania (approx. 100 pairs) and exceptionally high numbers of Grasshopper Sparrow (1000 pairs) and Savannah Sparrows (1,000 pairs).

Conservation Issues

Fragmentation of the area in the future is likely if no effort is made to keep the entire tract. Natural succession will eventually increase shrub and brush components making the area unsuitable for grassland birds. Periodic burning of patches of habitat will be necessary to maintain grassland state. Acid mine drainage is still a problem in some areas. The PSO has joined an effort by Clarion County Federation of Sportsmen, Seneca Rocks Audubon Society and several other groups to help conserve this area for birds.

Ownership

In 2005, 2254.4 acres were acquired by the PA Game Commission after nearly 20 years of efforts by local conservation organizations. Surrounding this area are private lands which are also included within the IBA boundary. There is one privately owned 50 acre inholding in the prime grassland bird habitat.

Habitat

A mix of fescue dominated grasslands and mixed woodlands. The site consists of reclaimed surface mineland that was last mined in the late 1970s. It was reclaimed in the early 1980s with an inexpensive "strip mine seed mix" which included fescues and some legumes such as birds-foot trefoil. Also planted were patches of non-native shrubs such as bush honeysuckles and multiflora rose, and trees such as black locust and red pines. Because of the heavily disturbed and highly acidic soils, normal plant succession did not occur. The woody palnds have grown slowly and the fescues have persisted for decades. More normal woodland occurs in the valleys and lower slopes. Since acquisition in 2005, the Game Commission has planted some food plots for game species.

Land Use

Approximately 700 acres of the State Gameland has been designated to be managed for grassland bird species, especially Henslow's Sparrows. The remainder is to be managed for game species.

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