Monday, July 23, 2012

Avian Action

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)  (Image from USDA-NRCS website) 
 On Sunday afternoon (July 22), a couple came up to me and told me excitedly that they had just come back from a walk on our native grassland where they had seen a bird that they had never seen before.  They described the bird to me, and it sounded like they were describing a Bobolink, one of the meadow-nesting birds we have been trying to attract to our grasslands for the last 10 years.  We consulted a field guide, and the hikers confirmed that they had seen at least two - and maybe more - pairs of Bobolinks in the fields.

Boy, did I get excited, too!  Bobolinks stop in the grassland for a week or so on their migration northward in May, and we often see them in September and October as they head back south, but we've never been able to manage to "convince" them to breed in our grasslands.  Surely, birds in the fields in mid-July have been here, breeding but unobserved, all summer.

Just by chance, one of our premier birders happened by a few minutes later and I shared the news with him.  He was excited, too, and said that he was going to go out to search the fields for the birds, but he also had some discouraging news.  He said that other birders in our area had been seeing migrants beginning to "mosey" back south already, and that some of those early migrants were Bobolinks.  Alas, I'm afraid that we just have a few members of the avant garde in our fields, too.  Maybe next year...
Wild Turkey hens and chicks (Meleagris gallopavo)

Yesterday morning, as I was washing up the breakfast dishes, three hen turkeys ambled up outside the kitchen window accompanied by some skittish chicks.  The turkeys have had a hard time this year with a surfeit of foxes, coyotes, and Cooper's Hawks in the preserve.  But, somehow, these three hens, which have now gathered themselves and their offspring into a small flock, have managed to protect and raise 11 chicks to the point where they are much less vulnerable to predators.  We've seen lots of hens with no chicks this year, probably because their nests were raided and destroyed, so it was really good to see this group.

Naturally, I offered them some food: black oil sunflower for the hens, and millet for the chicks.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

That's nature conservation! Some you win, some you lose. It seems to be very difficult to convince birds of what's in their best interest.

Scott said...

John: There may be many reasons why our "target" meadow-nesters aren't using the fields. There's a footpath fairly nearby. The staff is in the fields spraying herbicide periodically (though not frequently enough to disturb birds, in my opinion, and not during the breeding season). The mix of grasses (a lot) and forbs (a few) may not be to their liking. Who knows? I've visited other meadows where agricultural production is pretty intrusive, yet there are birds in those fields.

packrat said...

I love animal success stories. The only success story that worries me, though, is that of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Scott said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Packrat!