Important Bird Areas

Pocomoke-Nassawango

Maryland

Audubon Maryland-DC's project to incorporate IBAs into the land use planning process met with success recently when Wicomico County's Planning and Zoning Appeals Board denied an appeal by developers proposing a 147-dwelling residential cluster in forestland 10 miles from the nearest town. The site of the proposed "Woodlands at Whiton" development lies in the heart of the 180,000-acre Pocomoke-Nassawango IBA, the largest forest block, and premier site for forest-interior birds, on the Delmarva peninsula.

The Appeals Board's deliberations included discussion of the area's IBA status and Audubon's assertion that fragmentation resulting from the proposed development would erode one of the area's prime ecological qualities - habitat contiguity. Partnerships with Wicomico Environmental Trust, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other local groups have been key to this success.

Pocomoke-Nassawango IBA on Maryland?s lower Eastern Shore includes the valleys of the Pocomoke River and Nassawango Creek from Highway 50 downstream to the Virginia border, and extensive areas of adjacent upland forests, which together make up the largest block of contiguous forest on the Delmarva Peninsula. It occupies parts of Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties. The forested swamps in the floodplains are predominantly mixed deciduous characterized by bald cypress and red maple with pockets of Atlantic white cedar. The upland forests are predominantly loblolly pine, much of which is managed as timber. Different successional stages of pine provide habitat for different bird species at risk. Numerous areas of forested swamp are embedded within the upland forest. The site, though mostly private land, includes extensive areas protected by Maryland DNR (Pocomoke State Forest, Pocomoke River State Park, Wicomico Demonstra

Ornithological Summary

Pocomoke-Nassawango IBA is the premier site for Forest-Interior Dwelling Species (FIDS) on the Delmarva peninsula, and it hosts significant populations of 12 at-risk bird species because of its large size and varied habitats. Of the 24 species of FIDS found on Maryland?s coastal plain, 21 breed regularly at this site and another two species may do so. The extensive forested wetlands provide prime habitat for four at-risk birds ? Prothonotary Warbler is probably more abundant here than anywhere else in Maryland, Louisiana Waterthrush and Kentucky Warbler occur at moderate densities, and the rare Swainson?s Warbler has its only population in the state here (although one or two pairs may breed regularly in Great Cypress Swamp IBA). The pine forests, many of which are managed plantations, also provide habitat for several at-risk species ? Red-headed Woodpeckers nest in large pines remaining after timber cuts, Brown-headed Nuthatches inhabit mature pines, Prairie Warblers require immature pines, and Northern Bobwhite prefer the grass/shrub habitat of recent clearcuts. Chuck-will?s Widow, another species at-risk, has increased in recent decades with the spread of pine plantations, but the Whip-poor-will has seen a corresponding decline. The Worm-eating warbler is abundant in several types of upland forest and this IBA may well support the largest population of this species in Maryland. This site is also important for migrant landbirds. Analyses of weather radar data show large concentrations of birds in the sky over this area during fall.