More than 77 acres of vital acreage for migratory birds in northern Berks County is now permanently protected from development, thanks to a partnership between Berks Nature, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, The Conservation Fund, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Berks Nature helped to secure the grant funds from The Conservation Fund, which allowed Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to purchase the tract of land in the shadow of the Blue Mountain in Albany Township. The grant from The Conservation Fund was provided through funding from Williams in connection with the construction and operation of the company’s Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project. Working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Berks Nature and the team at Hawk Mountain developed a stewardship plan to convert the former fields into native grasslands and meadows. This work will support migratory birds and other wildlife and expand recreational opportunities.

“Berks Nature is committed to creatively working with landowners and conservation partners to protect the natural resources of Berks County, and this project builds upon the legacy of our work in the Maiden Creek watershed.” Berks Nature Land Protection Specialist Sarah Chudnovsky said. “This new addition to the game lands now permanently protects a stretch of the High Quality–designated Pine Creek, an important tributary of Maiden Creek.” Downstream, the Maiden Creek serves as the source of drinking water for residents of Reading and multiple downstream public water supplies, including Philadelphia. “Land protection is a key component of our work along the Kittatinny Ridge conservation landscape and international migration corridor,” Chudnovsky added.

People watch soaring raptors at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

The property in question has long been identified by state and local planning organizations as a top priority for protection due to its location at the base of the ridge, as well as its adjacency to the Appalachian Trail and state game lands. To ensure public access, the property was transferred at signing to the Game Commission, as an addition to the adjacent State Game Lands 106. Future plans include planting of native grasses and other native species and the addition of a parking area along Hawk Mountain Road. During spring and fall, more than 150 species of raptors and songbirds follow the Kittatinny Ridge (also known as Blue Mountain), using habitats along its slope and base to rest and feed. The 2,500 acres at Hawk Mountain and the 9,000 acres of adjoining state game lands offer healthy habitats for forest wildlife, but field, forest, and wetland species have declined.

Conservation of this property addresses a critical need for bird habitat locally and along the entire ridge, as grassland and wetland birds are some of the fastest declining groups in Pennsylvania due to habitat loss. Insectivorous birds such as warblers, vireos, and flycatchers that depend upon the riparian areas or field edges will also benefit, and new foraging habitat will become available for bats, mammals, and migrating birds along with breeding areas for many amphibians.

“Berks Nature is committed to continuing to partner with our neighbors at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to advance wildlife conservation in northern Berks County, while protecting our clean water and increasing our outdoor recreation opportunities along the way,” Chudnovsky said.