Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bobolink, Meadowlarks and Savanah Sparrows in Essex Co?

Are you kidding me? Wow! Four grassland species in the last two days. I was talking to a birder on Tuesday and he mentioned Bobolink were seen in a local field. I did not believe that these birds were around so when I got onsite, I almost dropped my binoculars when I saw the scene you see above. A blackbird with a white back and beige nape? .... Bobolink.  I've never seen a breeding plumaged male... ever. The sound these guys make is incredible!!!

Eastern Meadowlark was incredible to see as well. I was not expecting to see one. I've never seen an Eastern Meadowlark outside of the state of Florida. I'm blown away they were breeding just minutes from my home in Windsor!

And just as I was about to leave, I noticed a sparrow on a small fence and took a closer look... Savannah Sparrow. Lots of beautiful grassland species to behold. I can't believe it. It took me over two years to see a Bobolink in breeding plumage. I've never heard the call of a Bobolink until today... Just awesome.

Seeing the four grassland species this week (Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Dickcissel and Savannah Sparrow) has been incredible. My friend told me that this field has tall grass because it was raining too much to cut it earlier. *I would hate for machines to go through and cut the grass with all these birds nesting in it! Here is a great article about the burden of conservation in Ontario. Its a great, thought-provoking read...

Good Birding,

*I wrote this comment on Tuesday June 28th. I've added a second part of this posting below wrote on Wed June 29th, with a sad followup:

The posting above was from the 28th of June. Not even 24 hours after my initial visit to this site, I attempted to go back for some better photos only to realize the field had been cut. It was only 1/2 cut so I approached the man driving the tractor (he was taking a break) and mentioned that there were ground-nesting species that were endangered in Ontario. Of course, I was polite and we had a polite and civil converstation, but he stated he had to cut the field, but in the future, he would be willing to work with people to have a better outcome for these birds. He also mentioned if I can mark where the nests are, he would go around them. He then went on his way cutting the field.

Yesterday, I must have seen about 10 Eastern Meadowlarks flying around, hovering low over the grassy field as seen below:
 This hints that Eastern Meadowlarks were nesting, sadly, on the ground in waist-high grass.

Today, I returned to the site to take better photos, but I did not see one Meadowlark in over 1 hour. Some Bobolink were still around, as well as Savannah Sparrow. It was sad though, you would see Bobolink and Savannah Sparrows on the freshly cut hay mounds, and you couldn't help but wonder if that was where their nest was.

This was a birding-related example of how human interests conflict with our ecosystem's interests and the human interests typically win. This might be why this species is endangered  threatened (Crews) in Ontario. Grasslands need to be cut. They nest on the ground and the nests fail when a diesel tractor drives over them. Are there any compromises? Could this field have been cut after breeding season? Could the nests have been marked before the field was cut? I kind of gained a little more respect for vegetarians today (because this hay will be feed for cattle which eventually become steaks).

As I walked back to my car, I looked along the ground for broken egg shells or evidence of nests but did not see any. Hopefully, some breeding success will come of this. The farmer stated that the grass should have been cut weeks ago, but it was too wet.

Good birding,

CREWS BETTE JEAN, "Bobolink protection needs more than farmers", Barrie Examiner, Obtained June: 28th, 2011, Web, Oct 2010,


  1. Dwayne,
    Last year during the city workers' strike, a similar thing happened. I was anticipating that the city might try to resume mowing during nesting season, so I wrote a letter to the Windsor Star and copied every government wildlife department I could think of, as well as the mayor. I warned them that to mow through nesting areas would be in breach of the Migratory Bird Treaty and punishable by up to $5000 per egg. My letter was taken very seriously and a big article followed a couple of days later. The strike didn't end until after birds had fledged.

  2. Thanks Kelly. Awesome insight. I should get that information from you so I don't have to re-invent the wheel if I attempt to contact the property owners. I should try to reach out to them... they may not even know about this.

  3. Hey Dwayne,

    Just catching up on my blog reading. What a great series of posts. The peregrines are fantastic, and nice that you've seen them so close.

    The butterflies in the previous posts are fantastic. I'll be looking for those, it will be my newest venture too. 100 Butterflies in a Year? I will have to figure out some good spots to look for them around here.

    The photo of the bobolink on the cut grass is extremely disheartening. Earlier this week I was questioning my vegetarianism and I'm glad you reminded me of one more reason I go through all the hassle.

    Recently I was out with some friends and we nearly stepped on some baby rabbits in long grass. A few days later the city came by to mow and one of my coworkers happened to be there at the right time...he explained and they actually left it be...I was pleasantly surprised. However they did cut it about a week or so later...hopefully by then the bunnies had moved on or could at least get out of the way. I have always been pretty conscious of our impacts on other life forms but it has become even more apparent to me in my birding activities.



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