Habitat Improvement begins at Fairbrook Marsh


A new habitat restoration project is underway at Fairbrook Marsh, at the corner of Tadpole Road and West Whitehall Road, southwest of the State College Borough. The property contains several acres of marsh habitat well-known by local birders because of its role as critical stopover habitat for a variety of migrating birds.


ClearWater Conservancy has worked with the owners of the property, Bob and Maddi Radzwich, for several years. In 2017, not long after they purchased the property, they worked with ClearWater and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to install a new livestock feeder and water trough, streambank fencing, and livestock crossings to remove the cattle from the stream. The WHM Group, Bud Snyder Excavating and Native Creations Landscape Services also helped to restore the stream channel and plant a stream buffer full of native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Now, four years later, the buffer area is teeming with birds and pollinator species and the pastures are actively grazed.


In 2021, phase two of the conservation work on the Radzwich farm began on the opposite side of the driveway where the stream flows between a hay field and the area known as Fairbrook Marsh. The stream that's being restored is a tributary to the Beaver Branch of Spruce Creek, a well-known, high quality trout stream that attracts anglers to the area each year. Conservation work on small “headwater streams” such as these significantly improves conditions downstream in Spruce Creek and the waterways it flows into.


The stream corridor and marsh are, unfortunately, dominated by reed canary grass, a particularly aggressive invasive grass species which chokes out all the native wetland and streamside vegetation needed for high quality feeding and nesting cover for birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Preparation of the site began in Spring 2021 with treatments to control the reed canary grass so that it can be replaced with a diverse native plant community. In Fall 2021, a variety of water-loving, native shrubs were planted within 35 feet of the stream channel. The roots stabilize the soil on the stream banks, reducing soil erosion, while the branches and leaves provide shade and cool the water temperatures for fish. Species include winterberry, buttonbush, alder, red osier dogwood, silky dogwood, and American cranberry bush.


Just prior to planting in November, the Centre Region’s birding community was chirping with excitement at the site of a Cattle Egret in Fairbrook Marsh. Cattle Egrets are tropical herons that are rarely observed in Pennsylvania, with no documented sightings in Centre County in several years. The egret rested in the marsh for nearly two days before continuing its journey. In January, Trumpeter Swans (rarely seen in Pennsylvania) and Wilson’s Snipe were also spotted using the marsh habitat by local birders.


ClearWater Conservancy would like to thank Bob and Maddi Radzwich for their leadership, our partners Native Creations Landscape Services for technical assistance, planting and funding, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Chesapeake Conservancy, and North Central Pennsylvania Conservancy for funding for the restoration work, and you, our supporters, for making our riparian conservation work possible.


To learn more about this project and our streamside forest work, contact Seth Young, stream restoration project manager, ClearWater Conservancy: seth@clearwaterconservancy.org .

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