In the age of COVID-19, we all face tremendous uncertainty. Thankfully, the arrival of spring brings many predictable and welcome phenomena, from the blooming of ephemeral wildflowers to the return of migratory songbirds. At VCE, our Grassland Bird Outreach team is particularly excited for the arrival of Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows, and Meadowlarks, and the resumption of our work with grassland landowners to steward habitat for these species.
The charismatic Bobolink is one of the Western Hemisphere’s longest-distance migrant songbirds. Following their early May return to Vermont, Bobolinks nest in grasslands that exist almost exclusively a result of human agricultural activities. Unfortunately, development and economic pressures currently threaten Vermont’s agricultural landscapes. Further, intensified haying schedules limit successful nesting by grassland birds, even where appropriate habitat is available. Delaying mowing or making fewer cuts can be challenging, if not impossible, for many farmers and landowners who require high-nutrient hay for their livestock, and/or the additional income those cuts provide. Fortunately, there are programs that offer funding assistance to landowners to delay mowing. However, not all landowners qualify for these programs, and in the absence of funding assistance, some landowners are confronted with the dilemma of balancing their bottom line with a desire to support grassland nesting birds on their property.
Enter VCE’s Grassland Bird Outreach team! We work to help landowners who face this dilemma find creative solutions and become “Grassland Ambassadors” in their communities. Through our ongoing public health crisis, the Grassland Bird Outreach team remains committed to helping landowners meet their grassland management goals. This spring we are excited to roll out our first-ever recognition sign to acknowledge the efforts of landowners who manage their properties for grassland birds. If you are interested in learning more about grassland bird habitat management or would like to schedule a socially-distanced site visit, please visit vtecostudies.org/projects/grasslands/new-england-grassland-bird-initiative, or contact us at . Thank you!