Several of our board members assisted with grassland bird surveys in June with Laura at the Albert J. Sousa Preserve in Burnham, and the Prairie Road Easement, Moulton’s Mill Preserve, and the Richardson Preserve in Unity. Savannah Sparrow and Bobolinks were found to be abundant at Prairie Road and were also documented in the hayfields at Richardson.
At the Sousa Preserve, where Bobolinks were found during the Spring nesting season and prior to Fall migration, nesting will probably occur if we can restore and improve the pastures. We are currently looking for a farmer to take on an agricultural lease on the 30 open acres of the preserve. We are willing to offer this lease for free to a willing dairy farmer.
NRCS encourages haying after July 15 to ensure that the young birds successfully fledge from their nests. They offer programs that provide financial and technical assistance and support to landowners for carrying out these practices because they are aware that dairy farmers are under great pressure to maximize their hay yields.
SRLT approached the farmer that leases our Richardson Preserve, as well as the owner of the Prairie Rd easement to delay haying. We are currently developing a policy that would delay haying on our leased grassland preserves into the future.
Laura Suomi-Lecker is the Technical Director at Somerset County Soil and
Water Conservation District (NRCS), where she is the manager of the Ag
Allies Grassland Bird Program, now in its third year of working with farmers
and landowners on this issue. She is also the education and outreach
coordinator and long-time volunteer with Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.
Grassland Bird Conservation Project - 2018
SRLT is very much concerned with the need for grassland nesting bird conservation. This summer we partnered with Laura Lecker from the Somerset County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to take steps to promote successful nesting of Bobolinks and other species on properties under our purview. Focal properties included the leased fields on our preserves as well as easements that contain appropriate grasslands. Species most in need of conservation are often those that require sizable acreage in open space. A species like Bobolinks cannot successfully nest in tiny hayfields.
Grassland birds are among the fastest declining groups of birds in the Northeast. Over the last 50 years most grassland bird species have seen major losses across New England. The familiar and once abundant Bobolink has declined by as much as 75%, and more than 95% of Meadowlarks have disappeared from our meadows! Most North American grassland birds are of conservation concern and often listed as threatened or endangered.