2013-04-18 / News

Bobolinks given 10-acre hayfield

Thanks to a coordinated effort between committed farmers and generous citizens, the community of Jamestown will be able to protect nesting families of bobolinks in a 10-acre hayfield on Conanicut Island.

Once one of the most common birds in Rhode Island, bobolink populations across the Northeast have plummeted by 40 percent. The bobolink, a cheerful bird found in hayfields and meadows across North America, is easily identified by its song that resemble R2-D2 from “Star Wars.”

However, the bobolink is standing in the crosshairs of modern economic pressures on local farmers and landowners.

As costs continue to rise, farmers are forced to harvest their hay multiple times a year. In Rhode Island, birds like the bobolink depend heavily on those managed hayfields, but unfortunately hay harvests during the nesting season expose fledgling bobolinks to predation, with mortality near 100 percent. Jamestown pledges will help Watson Farm to fit a field of high-quality bobolink habitat into its 2013 business plan.

This year, the Bobolink Project raised funds through a binding pledge system. People who pledged to support a hayfield will be billed for their share of the cost over the coming weeks.

Jamestown’s commitment to conservation has had an impact well beyond Conanicut Island – individual pledges ranged from $5 to more than $1,000.

“You have demonstrated that citizens value all of what our farms contribute to the richness of our lives,” said Stephen Swallow, director of the Bobolink Project. “Farms go well beyond our food and the landscape your local land trusts help preserve. You have demonstrated your values for environmental stewardship, to help sustain the historic role of farms for wildlife and a healthy ecosystem where you live.”

Federal grant funding for the Rhode Island portion of the Bobolink Project is expiring this year. The project does not anticipate having the support for a large scale mailing again. To contribute to future grassland bird conservation efforts, email Swallow at stephen. swallow@uconn.edu.

The Watson Farm will host a bobolink walk to see the birds on June 22. The event is open to everyone.

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