At-risk bobolinks tak­ing to grass at for­mer dump

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - RICHARD LEIT­NER

The city built it and they came.

The for­mer Up­per Ottawa Street mu­nic­i­pal dump is find­ing new life as a nest­ing spot for bobolinks af­ter be­ing seeded with prairie grasses the threat­ened song­birds need to breed.

Cyn­thia Gra­ham, man­ager of the city’s ar­chi­tec­tural land­scape ser­vices, said an ecol­o­gist hired to mon­i­tor the im­pact of the new veg­e­ta­tion this sum­mer ob­served sev­eral bobolinks, in­clud­ing at least one breed­ing pair.

“That was pretty ex­cit­ing for us,” Gra­ham said. “It’s hard to know ex­actly how many pairs are there be­cause they’re pretty elu­sive birds, but the fact that we saw a breed­ing pair was a good sign.

“Some­times, it’s just a mat­ter of whether you are there at the right time to be able to see it.”

The city has spent about $200,000 on the ini­tia­tive, part of an agree­ment with the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry to com­pen­sate for the even­tual loss of bobolink habi­tat to trees at the new John­son Tew Park and Ar­bore­tum in Greensville.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry’s web­site, bobolinks were added to the Species At Risk Act in On­tario List in 2010 be­cause they could be­come en­dan­gered if no ac­tion is taken to pro­tect their dwin­dling habi­tat.

Males are black with a white back and yel­low col­lar dur­ing the sum­mer breed­ing sea­son but lose that plumage in the fall, when they more re­sem­ble fe­males, which are tan with back stripes.

Work be­gan in the fall of 2015 to re­move in­va­sive plants like the Man­i­toba maple, Rus­sian olive and buck­thorn from the 16-hectare dump’s top and south­ern slopes to make way for the na­tive grasses the ground-nest­ing birds favour.

Gra­ham said the city is re­quired to mon­i­tor progress yearly for the next three years and then at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals for the fol­low­ing 15 to en­sure the habi­tat re­mains suit­able.

This in­cludes en­sur­ing in­va­sive plants, and es­pe­cially trees, don’t once again take root in the 11.35-hectare grass­land area.

“Trees can start to grow and es­tab­lish, and those are con­sid­ered bar­ri­ers for bobolinks be­cause rap­tors, birds of prey on other birds, sit on top of them,” she said.

“Even ero­sion or any­thing like that can hap­pen to a site if you just walk away from it.”


The city is try­ing to help bobolinks.

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