Bergen-Byron Swamp (Bergen, NY) – #19

American Redstart © Dominic Sherony

Several species of ‘transition zone warblers’ such as American Redstart and Ovenbird may be found in Bergen-Byron Swamp. American Redstart © Dominic Sherony

HABITAT

When walking into the swamp from the south side, several vegetative zones are encountered. It is this wide variety of habitat that attracts the great variety of nesting birds. The first vegetative zone is a hardwood forest typical of other hardwood forests in western New York. In wetter areas moisture tolerant trees such as Red Maple will be found, and in drier areas trees such as American Beech or Black Cherry are present. The next vegetative type is a Pine/Hemlock forest where White Pine and Northern Hemlock predominate. This is followed by a band of Northern White Cedar (Arborvitae). Within the White Cedar forest are several knolls of predominantly Northern Hemlock.

The trail, which enters the swamp from just west of Pocock Road, crosses one of these knolls. These vegetative zones are not as clear cut and continuous as they probably were at one time, due to lumbering before the swamp was protected as a preserve. This has permitted the introduction of numerous areas of second growth in all parts of the swamp. Near the center of the swamp is a more open region, known as the marl area.

The two trails described earlier cross all of these vegetative zones. Anyone interested in learning more about the flora of this remarkable preserve should contact the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society.

Bergen-Byron Swamp approach map

Approach Map. Click to view at larger size

DIRECTIONS

From Rochester, take I-490 west to the Bergen exit (Exit 2). Turn right on Rt.33 (West) about 1/2 mile to the traffic light. Turn right (north) on Rt.19 and proceed through the village of Bergen. Turn left about two blocks past the railroad tracks onto Hunter Road, which becomes Swamp Road.

To overlook the swamp from the east end, continue west on Swamp Road and turn right at the first crossroad, West Sweden Road, and proceed north 1.2 miles to Evans Road and turn left. Continue to the parking lot at the end of the road. At present there are no public trails into the swamp from this point but you will have a nice view of the swamp and a chance to see birds of open fields and brushy areas.

The former entrance near Pocock Road is no longer open to the public.

The only entrance now open to the public is the one on Hessenthaler Road. Proceed further west on Swamp Rd. and turn right onto Hessenthaler Rd. Park at the very end of the road except under snowy conditions (this is a snow plow turnaround), or park at any time in front of the big woods on the east side of the road just past the old railroad bed. Do not park on either side of the road in front of the caretaker’s house, which is the last one on the road. The trail begins at the kiosk near the end of the road. The Babette-Coleman-Brown Loop Trail branches from the main trail not far from the entrance and loops back to Hessenthaler Rd. a few yards south of the main trail. The dashed line on the approach map represents the approximate boundaries of the swamp, not a trail. A newly available trail map is shown below the access map.

Bergen-Byron Swamp trail map

Access Map. Click to view at larger size

BIRDING OPPORTUNITIES

Bergen-Byron Swamp is of most interest to the birder during the breeding season when nesting birds of the various vegetative zones may be found. In the hardwood forest, birds typical of forested regions of western New York are encountered: these include Ruffed Grouse, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Winter Wren, Veery, and Wood Thrush. Several species of ‘transition zone warblers’ such as American Redstart and Ovenbird may be found, and in the shrubby areas at the swamp margin.

Ovenberg at Bergen Swamp © Jay Greenberg

Ovenberg at Bergen Swamp © Jay Greenberg

Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Brown Thrasher, and Common Yellowthroat. Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak also nest in the hardwoods. In the Pine/Hemlock, White Cedar and marl areas, birds characteristic of the Canadian zone may be found: Blue-headed Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, and several warblers including Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Black-and-white, Canada, and Northern Waterthrush. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest in the swamp.

Of special interest in the open marl areas are nesting Nashville Warbler, a species not normally found nesting anywhere in the Lake Ontario plains. Much more needs to be learned about the nesting status of owls in the swamp. It is suspected that in addition to Eastern Screech and Great Homed Owl, Barred, Long-eared, and Northern Saw-whet Owl also nest there and may be found there all year round. Acadian Flycatcher is a Bergen Swamp specialty, although it is not found every year.

The interior of the swamp has not been a good place to find migrating birds. On a good migration day in the month of May migrants will be encountered around the edge of the swamp, but the species found in the interior of the swamp are pretty much those that nest there.

ACCESS AND RESTRICTIONS

Bergen-Byron Swamp, including the upland property at the end of Evans Road on Torpy Hill, is owned as a wildlife preserve by the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society. This is a very special place with unique associations of plants, animals, and birds. It is listed in the National Registry of Natural History Landmarks, and the entire preserve is protected. There must be no collecting or damaging of plants or harassing of birds or animals. No pets are allowed on the property, and there are no provisions for picnicking.

Visitors MUST stay on the trails to avoid getting lost and to protect the fragile habitats from damage, especially the open marl areas. Visitors are responsible for their own safety. Poisonous Mississauga rattlesnakes may be encountered in and around the swamp. Much of the swamp has very unstable soils, so visitors must watch their footing and wear appropriate footwear (i.e., waterproof boots).

The society recommends that visitors not walk the trails alone. The society welcomes new members and donations. A membership/contribution form can be obtained by writing to: P.O. Box 460, Bergen, NY 14416-0460, 585-548-7304, or visiting their web site, www.bergenswamp.org.

The rugged nature of the trails makes them relatively inaccessible to people who have difficulty walking. They are not wheelchair accessible. The corduroy trails can be treacherously slippery when wet.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE

The entire property is closed to the public during firearms hunting season from approximately mid-November through Christmas.

A permit is required from the Society for groups of six or more and it is suggested that there be an informed leader for every 12 people or fewer. A printable visit request form is available at www.bergenswamp.org.

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