The Backyard

The Backyard

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Annual Visit from the Bobs

How often do you relate a bird to our environment? Do you ever think about the life of a certain species of you know the varied species of birds and the integral role they play in our ecosystems? Our fine feathered friends tell many, many stories of our environment -- one species in particular I've grown to know, love, and wait for their arrival every year on May 1 is the BOBOLINK. And yes, its within a day or two of May 1 every single year for the past 15 years. BOBOLINKS are declining and someday will not be around. Why? Mostly due to modern farming practies (no-til farming, use of chemicals, growing soybeans and corn) and the lack of hay and grass fields. They require at least a 20-acre patch of grassland for spring nesting, and its rare to find a patch of grassland that large that isn't tilled under before July 1 - the date most fledglings take flight. From May 1 to July 1, its a show of tuxedo-clad birds singing for the girls, then protecting their brood after they catch the girl and start raising the family. My father got his orders a long time ago to NOT cut the grass in the field until after July 1. And he and my mother have grown to love the Bob-o-links too, and my dad always asks come July 1, are the bob-links gone yet? He's so careful not to distrub that 20 acre plot until he knows the bobs on their merry way back home to Argentina. There's the other fascinating part of these creatures. The Bobolink is an extraordinary migrant, traveling to south of the equator each autumn and making a round-trip of approximately 20,000 kilometers (12,500 mi). One female, known to be at least 9 years old, presumably made this trip annually, a total distance equal to traveling 4.5 times around the earth at the equator! And each year, they come back to the same field to nest. Amazing - aboslutely amazing.

The PA Game Commission and Agricultural District recognize the decline in Grasslands, and even introduced government programs to help protect our grasslands and the species that live there. And even Terry Bicycles recognized the decline in grassland birds last year and introduced two shirts with very catchy logo's -- "The bobolink can log 1000 miles in one week. What's YOUR goal this week?" Very cool stuff. Always pay attention to the birds in your back yard.

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