As Presque Isle formed over the millennia, the enclosed ponds began to form and then slowly filled in with marshy vegetation. There's close to 3,500 acres in the park and approximately 2000 acres of that is wetlands.
These emergent marshes are a fairly rare type of habitat in Pennsylvania, which is a heavily forested state. So these marshes are places that have very specialized birds that use only those habitats for breeding. Presque Isle now has the biggest population of least bitterns in Pennsylvania.
When the park first started doing a lot of invasive plant control, they were targeting the phragmites, a common reed. In 2012, they began trying to control it because it had taken over the marshes, and they’ve been very successful.
We conducted marsh bird monitoring in 2011 prior to the beginning of the park's phragmites control effort. And in 2017 we started up a yearly monitoring of the marshes, to be conducted each summer. A quick comparison between what we're currently seeing versus what was present in 2010 shows that there are a lot more marsh birds now, which is exciting to know that the restoration efforts are working. In particular, the least bittern, a very rare species throughout Pennsylvania, is about three times as many now as there were back in 2011.