Mittersill Bicknell’s Thrush Surveys

The NH Audubon Conservation Department is working with the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, and the White Mountain National Forest to protect the Bicknell’s Thrush breeding population on the Mittersill Tract at Cannon Mountain in Franconia. This tract was the site of the Mittersill Ski Area from 1946 until 1984. In 1989, the State of New Hampshire acquired most of the property, and the U.S. Forest Service acquired the upper slopes.

Bicknell's Thrush survey at the Mittersill Tract at Canon Mt. in Franconia, NH. Photo by Laura Deming.

Bicknell’s Thrush survey at the Mittersill Tract at Cannon Mt. in Franconia, NH. Photo by Laura Deming.

Mittersill’s challenging terrain continued to attract backcountry skiers, who risked getting injured or lost in the remote, unpatrolled areas. In order to resolve this problem, the State of New Hampshire and U.S. Forest Service agreed to an exchange of land that would enable the State to manage the old Mittersill Ski Area for backcountry skiing. A Memorandum of Understanding among the State of New Hampshire, the USDA Forest Service, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and NH Audubon specifies the footprint of ski trails and lift lines, restricts maintenance activities within Bicknell’s Thrush habitat during the breeding season, and commits funding for Audubon staff to conduct annual surveys of Bicknell’s Thrush distribution and abundance on the tract.

The surveys involve early morning visits during June to 10 points, located approximately 820 feet (250 meters) apart in the spruce-fir forest above 2500 ft elevation. Observers document any Bicknell’s Thrushes seen or heard during a 10-minute period at each point, as well as any thrushes detected between the survey points. These surveys will enable detection of any future changes in Bicknell’s Thrush use of the tract that may result from recreational or maintenance activities. Careful management of this area will allow the Mittersill Tract to remain an integral part of the surrounding high elevation ecosystem.

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Project Leader: Laura Deming