Catharine Creek is now conservation area
WATKINS GLEN/MONTOUR FALLS—The 890-acre Catharine Creek wildlife management area at the southern end of Seneca Lake has been named a New York State Bird Conservation Area by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
According to the DEC, the designation will help protect the habitat and the diverse population of different bird species that use the area.
The new status doesn’t impact current recreational activities in the area such as hunting.
The wildlife management area is overseen by DEC and stretches from the southern end of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen to Montour Falls. It contains an unusual natural area of cattail marshes that supports a number of bird species as well as other types of wildlife including turtles, muskrats, ducks, beaver and deer.
It also contains two critical habitat types: a floodplain forest and a silver maple-ash swamp. Three rare plants including marsh horsetail, Leiberg’s panic grass and spreading globeflower have been documented in the area, as well as one watch-list species—swamp agrimony.
Many bird species live in or migrate to the area, which is why DEC chose to designate it as a bird conservation area. This includes ospreys, willow flycatchers, blue-winged warblers and rusty blackbirds, among others. Some species that are seen in the area are classified as at-risk.
Jack Brubaker, a local birdwatcher who has been leading weekend bird walks in Catharine Creek for over 40 years, says the wildlife area is great place to spot birds.
Last year he saw three bald eagles in one sighting, and he says American bitterns and least bitterns nest there. Right now, there are many ducks in residence, but Brubaker explains they’ll move on when it freezes.
Although DEC is continually evaluating its management areas, according to agency spokesperson Maureen Wren, citizens and organizations can nominate locations for bird conservation status. Locally, the Schuyler County Environmental Management Council (EMC) and the Audubon Society supported the designation.
State Audubon Executive Director Albert E. Caccese commended the DEC for its decision stating, “this designation will advance conservation efforts to protect this vital marsh complex.”
Wren says DEC received a very strong letter of support from EMC for bird conservation area status for Catharine Creek.
EMC president Kate Bartholomew explains that the organization has been working on the issue for several years, focusing on preserving open space.
“This gives recognition to the importance of the area as a bird sanctuary,” Bartholomew says. “There are a variety of habitats for a great number of birds.”