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Northern Harrier flying
Northern Harrier © Kyle Wilmarth

Important Bird Area: Hoosic Plateau

Map of the Hoosic Plateau IBA site

Nominated By

Mark Lynch

Size

N/A

Towns and Counties

Adams, Charlemont, Florida, Hawley, Savoy; Berkshire, Franklin

Ownership

MassWildlife, The Nature Conservancy

Major Habitats

northern hardwood forest, peatland, shrub/scrub wetland, lake/pond, river/stream

Land Use

nature & wildlife conservation/land trust, hunting/fishing, other recreation or tourism, suburban/residential

IBA Criteria

  • Category 1: Sites containing assemblages of species characteristic of a representative, rare, threatened, or unique habitat within the state or region.
  • Category 2: Land Birds: The site is an important migratory stopover or seasonal concentration site for migratory land birds (e.g., warblers). Sites may also qualify on the basis of supporting exceptionally high densities of breeding species as shown from point counts or other surveys or if they represent "migrant traps" relative to surrounding areas. Strong consideration will be given to areas with consistently high overall species diversity..
  • Category 4: Sites regularly holding significant numbers of species of high conservation priority in Massachusetts.

Site Description

These three adjacent and contiguous state forests are found in the northern Berkshires. Massachusetts' Route 2 runs along the northern border while Route 8A runs north-south through the eastern section of this IBA. A few small paved roads, numerous dirt roads of varying conditions, and many trails crisscross the area. The state forest boundaries are extremely irregular and so small areas that are not state forest land have been included in the IBA boundary. The terrain is very hilly with large contiguous tracts of mixed, deciduous, and coniferous forests. Several small marshy ponds are found within these areas as well as numerous tributaries of the Deerfield River Basin. The Deerfield River runs along the northeastern corner of the IBA parcel. An important bog, Hawley Bog run by TNC, is found on the eastern edge of the IBA territory. Although this bog is technically just outside the edge of Dubuque State Forest, the border of the IBA has been extended to include this significan area for plants and birds. The entire area holds important populations of breeding neotropical migrants, owls, hawks and woodpeckers, as well as large populations of mammals, the Spring Salamander, butterflies, and many important plant species.

Current Conservation Status

Overuse of all-terrain vehicles in Savoy Mountain State Forest occurs around and near former breeding areas for the Lincoln's Sparrow, Mourning Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatcher. In Dubuque State Forest all-terrain vehicles have damaged some of the few roads in the parcel and have affected some of the surrounding habitat. Snowmobiles are common throughout, but their impact on the environment is difficult to assess. Recreational use of Savoy Mountain State Forest is moderate; because of the paved roads through the parcel and the campground and facilities the area remains a popular destination. Recreational use of Dubuque State Forest is low in comparison (other than hunters, the ever-present all-terrain vehicles and in winter snowmobiles) because of its isolation. Areas around both parcels are being developed but at a moderate rate. Use of hilltops for microwave towers could become a problem.

Ornithological Significance

This IBA features very good breeding populations of a wide variety of neotropical migrants. Common breeding warbler species include: Blue-winged Warbler (locally around the periphery), Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern and Louisiana waterthrushes, and Common Yellowthroat. Mourning Warblers breed in very small numbers locally in Savoy Mountain State Forest and have been recently found in Dubuque State Forest. Other regular breeding birds include Wood Ducks, Black Ducks, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed hawks, Northern Goshawks, American Woodcocks, Barred Owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls (one of the best areas in the state to find this species during the breeding season), Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, Evening Grosbeak, and Scarlet Tanager. Common Ravens and Turkey Vultures are commonly seen in and flying over the IBA and may breed in the parcel. Rusty Blackbird was first documented as a breeding bird in the state at Tyler Swamp in the Savoy Mountain State Forest in 1977 and has been noted breeding in this parcel in 1978 on Borden Mountain. Likely, this species is a very local and rare but regular breeder in the parcel. Summering reports of a Sharp-shinned Hawk also suggest the site nominators; young have been documented in the area. Historically, Olive-sided Flycatchers bred in several locations throughout this IBA area (example: Busby Swamp, Hawley Bog, Hell Huddle Road) but have not been found breeding recently though the bird still occurs as a migrant, and future nesting might certainly occur. Lincoln's sparrows were documented breeding at Busby Swamp (summer of 1981) and summering/breeding birds are still found there some years. There were several summering records of Yellow-bellied flycatchers at Busby Swamp (e.g., summer 1981), and nesting was suspected at that time. Summer records of a Swainson's thrush may also suggest breeding. Ruby-Crowned kinglets were documented as breeding on Borden Mountain in this IBA area (3 July 1932, see Petersen & Veit, and singing male birds during the breeding season have been more recently reported at least up to 1976 (see Petersen & Veit) and into the 1990s.

Other Flora or Fauna of Significance

The entire parcel has good populations of large mammals including Bobcats, Black Bears, and Fishers. Moose have been spotted on several occasions. Spring Salamanders are found along the many streams. Butterflies of many species are also found here including good populations of the Atlantis Fritillary.

Plants are of special interest in this area. The Hawley Bog alone has good numbers of Calopogon, Rose Pogonia, White-fringed and Purple-fringed orchis, as well as Sundew, Northern Pitcher-plant and Horned Bladderwort. The entire parcel supports a wide variety of flowers and plants special to the northern Berkshires.

Data Sources

R.R. Veit, and W.R. Petersen. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA.
M. Lynch, and S. Carroll. Savoy: 1/1/75 to 10/22/02; Hawley: 1/1/80 to 10/22/02; Florida: 1/1/75to 10/22/02. Personal records.