Birds in the Grass
We’ve entered into a partnership with Ag Allies (Sommerset County Soil and Water Conservation District) and Cornell Lab of Ornithology to improve nesting success of grassland birds through education, management and incentives. While linked to our agricultural landscape, the goal of this initiative is to find a balance between hay mowing and grassland nesting birds!
Ag Allies sought projects with the 12 Rivers Initiative partner organizations to support regional grasslands conservation. Why? Grassland bird species are in serious decline around the country and in Maine have been put on a watchlist of birds of highest conservation concern since 2014.
Life cycle: Each year Bobolinks arrive from their winter homes in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay flying 12,500 miles round trip! They orient their annual flight with the Earth’s magnetic field and travel during starry nights to guide their way. Some can travel an equivalent to the circumference of the earth 4-5 times during their life.
Grassland birds (Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, Sparrows) provide a great benefit to farmers by consuming large numbers of pest insects and weed seeds, feeding their nestlings insects exclusively. In fact, the reason we have these birds at all is because of our agricultural landscape! However, their habitat and nests can also be easily destroyed if the fields are mowed during nesting season (end of May through July) as they place their nests in well-concealed cups of grasses on or low to the ground in the fields. While historically not an issue, farming has intensified and farmers have been haying earlier and more frequently, in part for the high protein content that is associated with the first cut of hay.
Two phase project: On Riverview Hayfields Preserve we will be part of a pilot project to demonstrate field refurbishment – a multiyear effort to include fertilizing the soil based on soil test results and offering demonstration workshops for the public, resulting in increased habitat potential and forage value of the grasses.
In partnership with our easement owners, will provide technical support, outreach assistance (signage), and possible incentive payments to delay mowing. We have identified eight possible landowners who could benefit from this partnership! Grassland owners interested in learning more can register for a July 7 Managing Grasslands for Success workshop.