Surveys of Breeding Birds Within Bear Swamp, Wicomico and Worcester Counties, Maryland

B. J. Paxton, The Center for Conservation Biology
F M. Smith, The Center for Conservation Biology


Birds are essential components of natural ecosystems, effective indicators of environmental health, and the focus of an emerging ecotourism industry that represents a growing portion of the world’s economy. An increased concern for the status of many North American bird populations has resulted in an escalation of monitoring and management efforts. Much of this concern has been focused upon the many species of forestdwelling Neotropical migrants (species that migrate between forested breeding grounds in the temperate latitudes of North America and wintering grounds in Central and South America and the Caribbean) that have exhibited substantial population declines in recent decades. The mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain plays a significant role in the life cycle of many of the most vulnerable bird species in North America. The diversity of habitats available to birds during the breeding and winter periods, along with the strategic geographic position of the region for migrants, combine to make this one of the most diverse regions in eastern North America. The Maryland/DC chapter of The Nature Conservancy has acquired 930 hectares (ha) of land from the E.S. Adkins Timber Company. This property is located within or near the Pocomoke Swamp, which is a disjunct fragment of the larger Great Dismal Swamp and represents the northern range limit for some Neotropical migrant bird species. Monitoring populations of these species should be a local conservation priority. A total of 73 survey points, consisting of a combination of fixed-radius and unlimitedradius point count techniques, were used to measure bird density and frequency of occurrence within Bear Swamp in 2004 and 2005. Habitats sampled during the two years of surveys include moist hardwoods, young pine, early successional, intermediate aged pine, and mixed coniferous/deciduous forest. A total of 4,534 detections of 84 bird species were made during the 2004 and 2005 breeding bird surveys. These were comprised of 43 Neotropical migrant species, 19 temperate migrant species, and 22 non-migratory (resident) species. Playback surveys were used to target Nightjars during the 2005 season, in which 17 Nightjars were detected. An early season (19 April 2005) survey was also conducted in an effort to document presence/absence of the Black-throated Green Warbler. The results of the two years of surveys provide an account of the abundance and distribution of bird species that occupy the varied habitat types of Bear Swamp. The majority of species observed during both years are typical of those normally found within deciduous forest, pine plantations, and early successional habitats of the mid-Atlantic region.