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Keeping The PA Highlands a Key Stopover for Migrating Swans

February 21, 2011

AUDUBON, Pa. - Some Pennsylvania farm fields are a much-needed stopover site for thousands of birds flying thousands of miles as they get from Virginia and North Carolina to northern Alaska and Canada. The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania's Highlands Mega-Greenway, on the border of Lebanon and Lancaster counties.

Brian Byrnes with Audubon Pennsylvania says the Tundra Swan sees it, and the farms around it, as ideal places to rest and regroup.

"There are these shallow ponds that they can roost on at night, then nearby have agricultural lands to provide the kinds of food that they need to refuel and move on to the next stop."

Byrnes says there are pieces in place to make the concept more attractive to landowners.

"Many counties have agricultural preservation programs that compensate farmers for development rights that they're giving up through signing agricultural easements."

Byrnes says that without the rich, natural resources of the the Middle Creek area and the two-million-acre Pennsylvania Highlands, the Tundra Swan may be hard-pressed to find another suitable resting point in the constantly-developing Mid-Atlantic region. He says that's a point to drive home with landowners.

"They may not realize just how unique it is, that there really are just a handful of sites in the eastern U.S. that have that number of birds come through."

Byrnes says there's a blueprint in place, the Middle Creek Initiative, aimed at getting landowners to agree to let the birds make pit stops on their property. He hopes that will be made possible by farmers granting permission, and through county and possibly federal land programs.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA