Supporting Grassland Owners Across the State
Making Room for Grassland Birds, Supporting Local Farms
New fact sheets available thanks to the support of the Blake-Nuttall Fund
grassland birds need our support
Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) are an iconic sight each spring in the fields and meadows of Maine. In addition to being a delight to see and hear, bobolinks and other grassland birds are true agricultural allies to central Maine farmers as these birds consume large quantities of both insect and weed pests each growing season. Unfortunately, the population of these and other grassland birds is in a continuing steady and sharp decline, according to the State of the Birds 2014 report. Habitat loss is the main reason for these declines. In addition, early and mid-season cutting of agricultural grasslands has catastrophic impacts on nesting success of birds using these habitats. Here in Maine, hayfields, particularly those used for high protein dairy cow forage, are cut once and sometimes twice during the grassland bird nesting timeframe. This cutting during the nesting period results in total nestling failure.
The Ag Allies project at Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District works with landowners and farmers across the state to better manage open lands for grassland bird nesting success. In its third season, Ag Allies worked with more than 20 landowners and farm operators and 6 land trusts on more than 750 acres. We are proud to report fledgling success on the enrolled acreage, producing an estimated 1500 bobolinks and 200 Savannah sparrows and the confirmed fledging of five meadowlarks (watch our 2019 season slideshow). Ag Allies entails:
Technical Assistance: We work with landowners and field managers across the state to make best-fit management changes that balance the needs of both birds and farmers.
Outreach Assistance: We provide field signage to raise awareness and celebrate your support of grassland birds. We are available for presentations about grassland bird conservation in your community.
Incentive Payments: Farmer incentive payments may be available to help offset the cost of bird-friendly management changes thanks to the support of the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative, William P. Wharton Trust and Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.
We are hopeful that as some farms make shifts in their hayland management practices, the public will support these changes in part by buying their “bird friendly” hay (as appropriate) and continuing to support programs that help make grassland bird consideration economically feasible for farmers, which will allow these considerations to become a permanent part of their farm management plans.