An ecotone is a transition between two adjacent ecosystems. Areas where these different habitats meet and overlay support plant and animal species from both constraints. Because of this, they're often the busiest and best places for observing an amazing diversity of wildlife.
This special area of habit exists at Mason Neck State Park and nearby Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, where almost 3,000 acres of open space has been protected. Here, the gradual transition occurs, from hardwood forests and fresh water streams to marshes, salt water and sandy beaches.
Forest trees among wetland grasses or tidal systems provide more food, better cover and safer nesting areas for wildlife. Raptors and wading birds hunt in creeks, marshes and bays, using mature forest trees for shelter and habitation. Migrating birds winter in the protected marshlands and nearby open waters. Other birds arrive over the warmer months to breed and raise young within the park's deep streamside forests.
Help protect critical wildlife habitat by staying on marked trails. Keep clear of nests, dens, and rookeries that provide the conditions necessary for their survival.
Vision and Perseverance
Elizabeth Hartwell is remembered fondly as the Eagle Lady for her tireless leadership in efforts to preserve the natural
environment of the Mason Neck when development threatened in the 1960s. In the face of opposition and derision she stood tall and expressed a preservation vision, winning support from the public and policy makers alike.