Natural History of the Bushkill Creek Watershed
The Bushkill Stream Conservancy and its partner the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center are interested in protecting biodiversity and sensitive habitats of the watershed and educating citizens of the watershed about the value of these special places. In many cases these sensitive habitats also protect water quantity and quality, so there are tangible economic benefits to humans as well as nature. The wooded headwaters of the Sobers Run are a good example, as they are critical to water quality of the stream and also provide excellent wildlife habitat.
This connection between biota and environmental quality is exploited in the use of macroinvertebrate studies in stream assessment programs as indicators of water quality, rather than using expensive chemical testing. The presence of sensitive species as well as a large diversity of species indicate high water quality and minimal disturbance of land adjacent to the stream. In the Bushkill, macroinvertebrate studies by Muhlenberg College and Lafayette College show that the tributary steams in the upper watershed are of much higher quality than those in the lower watershed. This is reflective of the differences in land uses in the upper and lower watershed.
Giant stoneflies can be found in the upper Bushkill watershed streams
Similarly to macroinvertebrate studies, the presence/absence of sensitive flora and fauna can be used as a gauge of terrestrial (land-based) environmental health. Habitats with a full complement of native flora and fauna are self-sustaining and more protective of stream quality than those that are physically and biologically degraded.
The walking fern is a rare plant found on some limestone outcrops in the watershed
Birding and Natural History Trail Map
Working with the Northampton County Conservation District, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, and Lafayette College, as well as other local experts, Bushkill Stream Conservancy has developed a Birding and Natural History Trail Map for the Two Rivers Greenway area. The map (previewed below) highlights 15 locations, giving directions and describing important habitats and species that can be seen at each. Funding for development of the map came from the DCNR Wild Resources Conservation Fund. The Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society provided funds for printing.
The Bushkill Creek Watershed's diverse habitats attract a large variety of bird species throughout the year. Click here to download a list of 246 species of birds that have been recorded in the Bushkill Creek Watershed. Many of these species are migratory and are just passing through, however at least 100 species of birds nest or are presumed nesting within the watershed, an indication of the great ecological integrity of this area - nesting species are marked on the list with an asterisk*. The occurrence of hawks and eagles in the watershed is based mainly on their abundance along the Blue Mountain, the northern border of the watershed and a critical migratory route for these raptors. Most of the waterfowl and other water birds are based on observations at the Albert Road Ponds north of Belfast. Many of the breeding birds occur along the Blue Mountain, in the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, and in the vegetative greenways that connect Jacobsburg and the Blue Mountain. In winter, American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Yellow-rumped Warblers survive the winter in sheltered areas of Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center where there is an ample supply of food in the form of cedars, wild grape, sumac, Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Conservation of habitat and good land stewardship practices are vital in protecting the watershed's bird life.
- contributed by Rick Wiltraut, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center
Rick Wiltraut leading a field trip to find owls in Jacobsburg State Park. The hooded warbler is a rare breeder in the understory of the forested slopes of Blue Mountain
Yards landscaped with native plants can be very attractive and provide important habitat for migratory and resident birds and butterflies (see the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program).
Hummingbirds love cardinal flower, which blooms from mid to late summer. The aptly named Spicebush Swallowtail feeds on spicebush, an attractive native shrub whose fruits are a favorite of the wood thrush.
The Bushkill Creek Watershed contains woodlands, wetlands, and fields which are rich in native plants. Click here to download a comprehensive list of wildflowers of the Bushkill Creek Watershed (contributed by Bill Sweeney, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center). Invasive plants such as garlic mustard, japanese knotweed, japanese honeysuckle, japanese stilt grass, and purple loosestrife have seriously impacted the lower watershed in many areas. These invasive plants are a major problem throughout Pennsylvania.
Two good websites regarding invasive plants:
Please do not pick or disturb native wildflowers so that they can be enjoyed by all. Disturbing, collecting, or transplanting plants classified as endangered or threatened is illegal.
Look for columbine on rocky outcrops. Trout lily bloom along Bushkill Creek in early April.
Photos by K & D Brandes
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