A cool morning was a good time to re-visit the huge field area at upper
Northwest Branch Park (off Bonifant Rd.) Montgomery Co., Kensington NE Block, which I did in the 1980s and am repeating again this cycle.
The field is in superb condition again after some disturbance in the first few
years due to rehabilitation of an old dump area. Over a 100 acres --
unfortunately, many field birds which were here in the 1980s are no longer
present and have not been this whole cycle -- bobwhite, pheasant, meadowlark,
grasshopper sparrow specifically. A few species have been added (blue grosbeak,
Cooper's and Redtailed hawks-- the latter two nesting in adjacent woods) and a
number persist (willow flycatcher, field sparrow, chat). Unfortunately no
dickcissels have discovered this great no-mowed habitat yet!
The good condition of the field is in stark contrast to the extreme
deterioration of the stream valley woodland in the last 20 years. Not only
loss of undergrowth due to deer browsing (thus no Kentucky or worm-eating
warblers recorded so far this cycle, nor veery), but the loss of vegetative
diversity due to invasive plants. Much of the moist stream valley forest is now
a uniform "lawn" of stiltgrass covering everything, even the garlic mustard,
with scattered heavily browsed (native) spicebush and non-native (and
essentially unbrowsed) barberry, multiflora rose, and bush honeysuckle, and
clumps (where there is sunlight) of wait-a-minute and porcelain berry vines. Many of the large trees sport curtains of English ivy, bittersweet, and Japanese
honeysuckle. The situation is a bit better on the dryer slopes. Some bird
species persist but in much reduced numbers compared to the '80s (e.g. wood thrush). If this continues our Montgomery Co. stream valley parks will cease to be useful habitats for much native wildlife. Of course very little is being done about it due to funding limitations -- (and in truth, it is probably past recovery).
Nevertheless, this heavily developed block now has about 85 species and more than 50% confirmed, which is pretty good and better than in the previous Atlas.