Wildlife and Habitat
Although first set aside as a haven for migrating and wintering waterfowl, Eastern Neck NWR is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. The refuge provides habitat for over 250 species of birds, including our national symbol, the bald eagle. In addition, many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects find a home on the refuge.
Refuge habitats support refuge wildlife. Listed below are the primary habitat types found on Eastern Neck NWR.
Of the 2,285 acres that make up Eastern Neck NWR, approximately 860 acres consist of tidal brackish marsh located adjacent to the refuge shoreline. These marshes are a winter home for large flocks of ducks, geese and swans that visit the Chesapeake Bay as they migrate along the Atlantic Flyway. Other wildlife, including muskrats, wading birds, fish and shellfish benefit from the food and cover provided in these marshes.
Green Tree Reservoirs
Green tree reservoirs (GTRs) are forested lowlands that are temporarily flooded during the fall and winter to attract waterfowl. Flooding occurs when trees are dormant, but when waterfowl are still present in high numbers and can forage on acorns, seeds and macroinvertebrates. The refuge currently has five green tree reservoirs totaling approximately 38 acres. Water control structures in these areas allow water levels to be manipulated.
Moist Soil Units
Moist soil units are seasonally-flooded freshwater wetlands. Levees and water control structures are created to allow these low-lying areas to be shallowly flooded through the fall and winter months to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl. These habitats slowly dry through spring and early summer, encouraging the establishment and growth of high quality wetland plants. These plants serve as valuable food resources the following fall when the habitat is again flooded. This annual cycle of drying and flooding mimics natural hydrology and provides outstanding habitat for wetland wildlife.
The refuge contains approximately 700 acres of forested habitat, comprised primarily of loblolly pine, hardwoods, and mature oak-sweetgum forest. Forested acres occur in relatively small woodlots scattered throughout the refuge and are interconnected by hedgerows consisting primarily of black cherry and locust.
Forest stands range from one to more than 100 years old, and function as buffer zones and corridors utilized by a variety of species. Forested habitat also provides nesting trees and roosting areas for the bald eagle.
The refuge currently contains approximately 550 acres of cropland in any given year. Managed croplands provide a valuable food source for wintering Atlantic Population Canada geese and other waterfowl. Crops currently grown on the refuge include corn, soybeans, and clover. In addition, winter wheat is often planted as a cover crop after harvesting corn or soybeans.
The refuge maintains approximately 30 acres of grassland. Refuge grasslands benefit butterflies, migratory birds, foraging raptors, and support a variety of wildflower species.
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