Habitat / Invasive Species Management
In 2008 we initiated an Adaptive Resource Management shrub restoration project that focuses on providing high quality habitat for migratory landbirds and New England Cottontail (currently a candidate species). This project involves four refuges (Rachel Carson, Great Meadows, Parker River, and Ninigret). Extensive planning was involved in developing the monitoring protocols for the vegetative community as well as the wildlife of interest. Long term vegetative plots will be established to monitor the composition and structure of the plant community.
Volunteers continue to monitor invasive plants encroaching on the old runways. This is primarily focused on Autumn Olive, and is an important aspect of the restoration as native plants are colonizing and gaining the advantage.
Monitoring and Surveys – Resources of Concern
New England Cottontail
During the winter we will be collecting pellets for DNA testing at UNH as well as to support development of another potential technique being investigated at Patuxent. We hope to have a better idea of the distribution and abundance of this species on Ninigret where they were documented in 2006. Using pellets for DNA analysis (as developed in the northern part of the range) has proved difficult in recent years when snowfall has been minimal, so if we continue to have difficulty collecting samples we will be looking to develop additional techniques for detecting and monitoring this species.
On September 1, 2008 we initiated a fall banding station at the Salt Ponds unit of Ninigret NWR to document the diversity and abundance of fall migrating landbirds. A total of 17 net lanes were constructed within a 20 acre portion of the refuge. Approximately 14 acres is dominated by mature shrub and 6 acres is regenerating runway comprised almost exclusively of northern Bayberry. We opened between 5 to13 nets 4-5 days per week through October 31, 2008. The number of open nets depended on the weather and capture rate. We banded a total of 1079 birds of 51 species.
2008 Management Prescription
The seasonal crew hand pulled several patches of J. Stiltgrass in the woods adjacent to the Kettle Pond parcel of Ninigret. Approximately 10 full bags were discarded and we successfully removed all fruit bearing plants. This was the second year of this effort and we noted significantly smaller patches this year. It may take several years to exhaust the seed bank.
Landbird breeding surveys were conducted this year for the second consecutive year on the Headquarter and Lewis Trail tracts. A total of 23 (9 and 14, respectively) points were surveyed twice between May 30 and June 10. We detected 32 species in 2008 with eastern towhee, tufted titmouse, ovenbird, eastern wood-pewee and black-capped chickadee being the most common.