SKOWHEGAN – It is almost time for grassland birds to return to Somerset County, and a collaborative project at Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District is gearing up for a third season of fledgling success stories.
The District’s Ag Allies project works with landowners across the state to include grassland bird nesting opportunities in the management of open lands. And thanks to a recent collaboration with Jim Miller of Miller Signs & Graphics of Newport, the project has a new logo.
Featuring a bobolink, an iconic sight in hayfields each spring, the logo was the winning entry in the District’s recent logo design contest. The logo will be used on all project materials, including a new sign recognizing participating landowners.
“The new Ag Allies logo helps to provide recognition and unity to farmers and landowners who are working with the program to integrate nesting habitat with forage and recreational needs of their grasslands,” says Laura Suomi-Lecker, Somerset County SWCD technical coordinator.
Bobolinks, meadowlarks, and sparrow species - which are suffering rapid population declines - require undisturbed hayfields for nesting. Hay harvesting occurs earlier and more frequently in recent decades, often coinciding with the nesting period. Fields not used for forage production are often cut during nesting timeframe, too. Thus, the human impact on grassland bird breeding success is significant and results in widespread nesting failure across much of Maine’s habitat each year.
Through Ag Allies, Suomi-Lecker provides field managers and landowners across the state the technical support needed to make best-fit management changes that give grassland birds the opportunity for nesting success. In 2018, more than 450 acres were enrolled in the program, including lands managed by dairy, beef, horse and sheep farmers, land trusts, and non-agricultural landowners. The project received several national grants for this year’s work, including The Cornell Lab - Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative, Blake-Nuttall Fund of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, and the William P. Wharton Trust.