With boardwalk now complete, Knox learns that wetlands is important birding site

— Photo by Nelson Kent

An aerial view from Knox Conservation Advisory Council member Nelson Kent shows the newly restored boardwalk at the Knox wetlands, where 125 species of birds have been identified so far. 

KNOX — Knox residents willing to brave the cold are now able to enjoy the recently-completed boardwalk at the town’s wetlands — courtesy of the Conservation Advisory Council, which recently learned that the area is a significant birding site. 

In December, Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club President Tristan Lowery gave a presentation to the board outlining the area’s value to birders. 

“We were surprised to learn that Knox wetlands are considered a birding hotspot and has a place in the Cornell [ornithology] database,” council President Eric Marczak told The Enterprise that month. 

Lowery told The Enterprise this week that the Knox wetlands are “quickly becoming a favorite destination for birders in the Capital Region,” with 125 species recorded there so far, and more expected.

He said that interest in the wetlands spiked after Norfolk-Southern began track work on their right-of-way through Black Creek Marsh in Voorheesville.

“Previously, this was a little-used line where birding and other recreational uses were apparently ‘grandfathered’ in and tolerated by the railroad,” he said. “Birders could actually walk the tracks through the marsh for over a mile to see and hear the same variety of birds found at Knox.

“Trains came very infrequently and, when they did, they were going at such slow speeds that you could easily and safely get out of the way. But once work began upgrading the line to make it a busier facility, birders lost access to the tracks — and with them — the ability to get to the deepest parts of Black Creek Marsh. 

“With the loss of Black Creek Marsh, Knox Wetland represents the most accessible cattail marsh habitat available to birders in Albany County, particularly now that the town has completed construction of a boardwalk there.

“And with great woodland birding at the nearby Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy’s Winn Preserve and the Nature Conservancy’s Limestone Rise Preserve, along with lots of great habitat for open-country grassland birds in the farm fields around Knox, the town is becoming a very attractive place to visit for local birders.”

Lowery said that birders are usually especially on the lookout for rails and herons during the summer mating season.

“These include Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Gallinule, American Bittern, and Least Bittern, all of which are generally furtive and reclusive birds that only seldom venture out from their hiding places deep in the marsh to be glimpsed by hopeful birders — more often than not, these birds are heard more than seen, and more so at dawn, dusk, and even late into the night. Other marsh specialties like Swamp Sparrow and Marsh Wren can also be found at Knox Wetland.” 

With a new boardwalk, walking through the wetlands is significantly easier. The conservation advisory council had been working on restoring the boardwalk since 2022, shortly after the council had been formed following a hiatus.

Marczak said the board’s main priority was making the area “safe and accessible again.” The original boardwalk was built over 20 years ago with funds received from the Tennessee Pipeline.

For the restoration, the group used a $40,000 grant from the Albany County Soil and Water Conservation District. 

Council member Dave Nelson told The Enterprise earlier this month that the  group is now trying to bring more public attention to the site, and may — when the weather is warmer — organize a “boardwalk birdwalk” led by Lowery or another knowledgeable birder. 

Nelson said the walk will “help people identify birds there and just celebrate what it is we have accomplished there at the site.” 

More Hilltowns News

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  • The results still need to be certified by the New York State Board of Elections later this month, but official county-level results show that Janet Tweed, a member of the Delhi Village Board, has eked out a roughly 80-vote win over retired teacher and activist Mary Finneran.

  • The former Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville has reorganized itself as Hilltown Commons, with new leadership that aims to ditch the “heady” and “highfalutin’” ideals of the globally-oriented not-for-profit, as the de facto executive Virginia Thomson put it, in favor of a grassroots approach to social betterment. 

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