The Dunnings Creek Wetlands


Location

Nestled within the foothills of the Allegheny escarpment, close to the town of Pleasantville in Bedford County, PA.

Site Description

A privately owned sanctuary that was created in cooperation with Federal Fish and Wildlife's "Partner for Wildlife." The sanctuary contains about 100 acres of wetlands that is managed for waterfowl, shorebirds, reptiles, and amphibians. It also contains about 65 acres of uplands that has been planted with corn, millet, partridge pea, switch grass and sunflowers to encourage wildlife. A five-acre area contains alders for management of woodcocks. The remaining fields are managed for butterflies and songbirds. Additional plantings occur every spring by local Audubon members in celebration of Earth Day. An adjacent landowner also manages about 70 acres of wetlands and uplands for wildlife.  These neighbors have established a bed and breakfast, the "White-Tailed Wetlands" in the midst of their wetlands development.

Monitoring Activities, Research and Conservation

Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society members, students, and others regularly conduct counts of resident and migratory animals at the wetlands. Students at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's Biology Department conduct limnology, entomology, botany, and mammology research projects. Audubon members are currently collecting data for the PA Herpetological Atlas. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife, PA Game Commission, and the Ruffed Grouse Society are consulted and participate in wildlife improvement projects.

Site Access

Because the wetlands reserve is protected habitat and accessible only through private property, visits by individuals and groups must be arranged with at least one month's advanced notice.  We do not allow persons or groups to visit the facility without supervision of a wetlands' guide. Guides are private individuals, volunteering their time, so arrangements must be made with this in mind. You must make prior arrangements by contacting Tom Dick,814-754-5727 or Rosemary McGlynn, 814-255-5734.

Wetlands

The Dunnings Creek Wetlands Experience

This site is a former farm along Dunnings Creek that has been restored as a wetland habitat of about 100 acres.  It is home to a large and varied population of wildlife and plants.

Much has been realized about the functions of a wetlands area. These wetlands provide specialized habitats for many plants and animal species endangered by the loss of other wetland habitats. Bird, reptile, fish, insect and plant species found in wetlands create an interconnected web of life where individuals contribute to the health of the whole community. The Dunnings Creek Wetlands were developed to provide a healthy wetlands community. Specific plantings and watersheds have been set up to promote different types of life there and as the saying goes, "If you build it, they will come."       

Prior to wetlands restoration, the farm was fallow fields. Now these lands have abundant deer, pheasant and waterfowl populations. Pheasant reproduction is to the point that restocking is not necessary. Waterfowl includes nesting wood ducks, mallards, hooded mergansers, blue winged teal ducks and resident Canada geese. 28 species of migratory waterfowl has been counted with 25 species being seen regularly. A detailed list of bird species found at the wetlands is available for those interested. In addition to waterfowl, long legged waders, (egrets and herons) may be seen through out summer. At one time, there were 5000 ducks and geese at the wetlands.   

Many aquatic insect populations inhabit the wetlands including caddisflies, mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies and aquatic beetles. In the past 3 years, 36 species of dragonflies and 17 species of damselflies have been found. This insect population has attracted bats that are encouraged to nest in bat boxes. Other bird species such as swallows, flycatchers, purple martins and waxwings have used the wetlands for hunting insects.

Over 18 species of fish live in the Dunnings Creek Wetlands. These fish attract birds such as eagles, ospreys, and kingfishers during migration. Mammals such as muskrats, minks, beavers, coyotes and even otters have been seen using the impoundments for hunting and fishing. 

This healthy wetlands community is developing with the help of volunteers, many from the APAS, and government agencies like the DCNR and US Fish and Wildlife Council. Other important cooperators were Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever. The wetlands was the first, and one of the largest, privately owned wetland areas east of the Mississippi and has been used as a blueprint for many private/public wetlands projects since. State and national organizations have recognized the Dunnings Creek Wetlands, and the people that have developed and maintained them, with awards for the quality of the environment and the efforts individuals and groups have made to make them a success.

We do not allow persons or groups to visit the facility without supervision of a wetlands guide. Guides provided by the APAS will set up and conduct all the learning activities for a group that will be visiting. They will stage areas for activities and work. These activities include live trapping and netting of creatures, presentations on animal and plant life in the wetlands along with walks and discussions.

The guides and helpers we provide for these visits are private individuals that are volunteering their time. They need to make arrangements with work and have time to set up learning activities for your visit. These people like to help with these visits and would be willing to do what they can, so the more lead-time you can give us, the better. We will probably need at least a month's advance notice to arrange for your visit, and there has to be flexibility with the time and date of your visit.

Of course the wetlands are wet. Old clothes and especially sturdy shoes and boots are recommended. There are trails and areas that are safe for humans, but there are other areas that are at least muddy and at most dangerous. Poison ivy grows there and a step in one direction can land you in a mud bog.  Don't be afraid just be prepared and watchful. 

Because of the many and varied life that live in wetlands, it is a good idea to bring plant and animal guides. It would also be a good idea to bring binoculars, magnifying lenses and other viewing aids to see both the largest and tiniest of creatures that live there. 

As the seasons of the year pass, the function and life at the wetlands changes. Of course, plants bloom at different times, birds species change as their nesting and migration come and go. The nature of the wetlands changes throughout the year. This change means the wetlands of the spring season is different than that of the fall and provide different experiences throughout the year. It is our hope that we can share these experiences with others so that we can appreciate all that wetland areas can provide for us.

Dunnings Creek Wetlands Ornithology

Click here to download a PDF of the Dunnings Creek Wetlands Ornithology.

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