Holly Path Trail Seasonal Closure Begins March 1 to Protect Roosting Herons

Holly Path Trail will be closed for the season beginning March 1. The path is closed to the public to minimize disturbance for sensitive bird species. The bird sanctuary restoration program is working to create suitable habitat to encourage the return of herons and egrets to the rookery. A key component of this effort is the elimination of disturbance to create welcoming and suitable habitat.

Docent-led tours will be conducted in the Sanctuary from Egret Espy Trail (144th St and 2nd Ave) beginning Memorial Day weekend and continuing through the summer. The area around Paul’s Pond can be viewed remotely via a live heron cam accessible from the Sanctuary website.

Last year was the first year that the trail was seasonally closed since the trail was constructed. We are pleased to report that large numbers of Black-crowned Night Heron moved into the area near Paul’s Pond and were seen roosting throughout the summer. Great Egrets, Green Herons and a host of songbirds were active in the area as well. This increased usage of the habitat by target restoration species is encouraging and disturbance management is seen as an important effort in bringing the birds back.

Another critical component of the restoration program is related to managing invasive and aggressive vines that are strangling the native trees and creating unsuitable habitat for herons and egrets. Vine growth can be seen smothering trees throughout the Sanctuary – especially along the sunlit property borders. Last fall and winter, several areas of unwanted vegetation was cleared from the sanctuary. The work is most clearly visible along 113th St between 2nd and 3rd Aves. The underbrush clearing removed non-native and or aggressive vines. Vines were also cut about 5 feet above the ground to allow for the trees to leaf out and grow this year for the first time in several years. Effective management of invasive and aggressive vegetation is a multi-year iterative process. We expect that much of the understory will regrow quickly and need successive clearing events to rob the vines of energy to grow. In the interim, the trees have been rescued and a focus of work will be to maintain a clear forest canopy while the understory recovers to desirable native vegetation that supports the sanctuary wildlife.

Work will continue this spring and summer with a focus on restoring and enhancing the gardens to support wildlife through the use of native plants. Several gardens around the pump house will be cleared of heavy weed infestation and replanted.

The vegetation management plan for the Sanctuary can be found on the website. We will post updates and progress reports periodically. Thank you for supporting the work to restore the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary. Questions or comments can be directed to info@stoneharborsanctuary.org.

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