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Did you know that Bobolinks travel 12,000 miles to and from their wintering grounds in Argentina every year? These boisterous songsters return to Connecticut in search of open field habitat in early to mid-May and, once paired with a mate, begin to build their nests right on the ground, usually concealed in clumps of grass. About 65 days later, they will have raised and fully fledged a brood of their next generation and will begin to fatten up for the long flight back to South America.
(C) S. Morytko

Bobolinks perched on a wire fence.
Photo by Steve Morytko

Sadly, grassland-nesting birds, including Bobolinks, are experiencing the fastest population declines of any other group of birds in New England. They thrive in large open landscapes that have few trees or shrubs, but in recent decades they have been quickly disappearing as farming declines, hayfields are converted to other uses, or fields are left to revert back to forest. Also, with the introduction of modern machinery, farmers and landowners now mow their fields earlier and more frequently in the summer, which eliminates the possibility of breeding success for these birds. Mower blades cause direct mortality to nestlings, and once no longer under cover of tall grass, young birds that do survive become vulnerable to predators.

With its legacy of agriculture and remaining open lands, Joshua’s Trust recognizes that Northeastern Connecticut can play a role in providing havens for grassland birds. The Trust has partnered with a local farmer to manage the hayfield at its Hubbard Sanctuary for nesting Bobolinks and Savannah Sparrows. The farmer has agreed to harvest the field in mid-July, after most fledged young birds are old enough to escape a passing mower.

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Hayfield at Hubbard Sanctuary.
Photo by Jamie Sydoriak

If you visit the preserve between May and July, you’ll see new signage around the hayfield requesting visitors to avoid any and all disturbance to the nesting birds within the field. The public is welcome to walk the loop trail at the edge of the field at any time of year, and may enter the field if they so desire only after the farmer has harvested the field for hay. We’ve also provided informational brochures and a flyer about this project at the trailhead kiosk.

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New signage about grassland birds at Hubbard Sanctuary.
Photos by Jamie Sydoriak

Joshua’s Trust gives thanks to all of those involved with this project, first and foremost to our local farmer, Paul Zlotnick, for his cooperation. Thank you also to Stephanie Clark and Maura Robie for helping to reach this partnership. Last but not least, many thanks to our volunteer stewards Carl Lindquist, Catherine Lynch, Bob Dubos, as well as avid birders Steve Morytko and Jamie Sydoriak, for creating and installing the new signs and flyers.

Learn more about the Hubbard Sanctuary at joshuastrust.org/Hubbard-Sanctuary, where you can also find a PDF version of the informational flyer.

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