On the Move: Wildlife Corridors, the B2BE, and Migratory Birds!

Wildlife Corridors

We inhabit a world of many species, spaces, and needs for survival. To get from here to there, one must have a space of transition, connectivity, and available resources for safe passage and vitality. Wildlife corridors are home to many species of wildlife and act as a passageway for them to move about freely and safely. Housing developments and urban sprawl act as barriers to the natural roam of the wild. An important resolution is to plan for and create wildlife corridors where animals can move from place to place. Wildlife corridors are also referred to as “green corridors”, “nature highways and “wildlife bridges”. These transitional spaces can assist whole ecosystems in expansion with thriving wildlife populations even though humans and our structures are close by. Migratory animals use this in their travels, especially migratory birds. One of our local corridors, The Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor (B2BE), was placed into conservation by ClearWater Conservancy and numerous partners in 2010. This landscape in central Pennsylvania acts as an important pathway for species to move across different habitats throughout the year.

Uses of wildlife corridors are categorized by the dwellers and the passage users. The dwellers of a wildlife corridor may permanently or indefinitely live in the corridor. Trees, plant life, amphibians and reptiles, some mammals and insects are common dwellers. The passage users are the “hotel guests” in transit to their destination. These temporary passersby are small and large herbivores (deer, elk), birds, and medium to large sized carnivores (bears, coyotes, wolves) as well as migratory bird species.

Pennsylvania has a complex landscape with its topography and geographic position in the mid-Atlantic region. There are strong thermal currents and updrafts that make it possible for songbirds, raptors, and other bird species to travel along the Atlantic Flyway. Every fall and spring, millions of birds use this east coast flyway. Corridors throughout Pennsylvania are so important for this phenomenon! Bird migration is a special event for birders and outdoor enthusiasts alike to experience in awe.

Wildlife corridors have so many great benefits and are of the utmost importance, especially since they preserve wildlife habitat around human society. Animals must somehow mate, disperse, find resources, adjust to climate change, and avoid man-made dangers. The positive effects are that wildlife corridors provide a safe passage, promote genetic diversity, prevent habitat fragmentation, help plants thrive, minimize human-animal interaction and prevent wildlife encroachment amid natural calamities.

There are 2 types of wildlife corridors: natural and human made. Human made corridors focus on helping animals have a safe passage across the road. Organizations have been creating tunnels and bridges that act as a special road to go to across roads without meeting the traffic. Some corridor areas are developed from the ground up with major plantings. Natural corridors are conserved and restored to a healthy state for the wildlife inhabitants. Monitoring of threatened and endangered species is performed in effort to restore habitats specifically to conserve these at-risk species.

Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor

Thirty-nine acres of the 100+ acre Barrens to Bald Eagle Wildlife Corridor were purchased by ClearWater Conservancy and numerous partners in 2010 and is protected with a conservation easement held by Halfmoon Township. An additional 64 acres is owned by Barbara Spencer and Dan Dreibelbis, who enrolled their property in the Halfmoon Township Open Space Protection Program. The corridor connects the 6500-acre Scotia Barrens (State Gamelands #176) to the Bald Eagle Ridge. Scotia Barrens is a rare habitat, one of the largest examples of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens remaining in the Commonwealth. It has extraordinary value as a home for a wide variety of wildlife, a primary source of our groundwater supply, and a place to teach our children about the natural world.

There were several plantings of shrubs and trees including tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), gray dogwood (Cornus racemose), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), oak (Quercus), hickory (Carya spp.), and viburnum (Viburnum spp.). These trees and shrubs provide nectar and pollen for pollinators, fruit and seeds for birds and animals, nesting and roosting areas, and winter thermal cover. They also provide plenty of other benefits and homes for insects, amphibians, reptiles and the whole ecosystem.

Part of the B2BE was a hay field in the past and was allowed to grow “free” into a grassland. Grass species present are timothy (Phleum pratense), orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata), and smooth bromegrass (Bromus spp.). These hay grasses are not native, but they are common throughout Pennsylvania landscapes. These provide consistent nesting cover for birds: Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Savanna Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), and Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna). If you stop harvesting a hay field long enough, native wildflowers will eventually naturally f