Fair Hill Nature Center signs preserve area for birds
— Local bird enthusiasts are doing their part in the battle to save the bobolinks.
Bobolinks, who used to nest in prairies, have adapted to nesting in hayfields and pasture lands. However, the farming practice of hay mowing has contributed to the decline in the species.
On Saturday morning, officials with Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area and Cecil Bird Club unveiled a sign dedicating approximately 100 acres as preserved habitat for bobolinks and other ground-nesting birds.
“I feel great,” said Sean McCandless, president of the Cecil Bird Club. “It’s a very good thing to have.”
The program will benefit bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, grasshopper sparrows and northern bobwhite, all bird species whose numbers are in decline. The sign, located near the North Appleton parking lot, is an educational tool to explain to visitors the importance of the preserved land, as well as share information and photographs of these ground-nesting birds.
Funding for the sign came from the Maryland Ornithological Society, which gave grant money to the county’s bird club, a chapter of the MOS, and money from the club, said McCandless. A second sign at the Fair Hill Nature Center office on Tawes Drive also lets people know about the preserved grasslands.
“This will serve to education tens of thousands of visitors every year,” Rachel Temby, manager of the Fair Hill NRMA, said.
In January 2015, Fair Hill NRMA’s new contract with Wilkinson Farms stated the contractor could not cut the designated area prior to July 15, Temby said. Delayed mowing will the allow birds to nest, grow and fledge. This is the second year of the new terms in the contract, and Wilkinson Farms has been cooperative and receptive, she said.
Delaying the mowing is important, McCandless said, because the bobolinks arrive around the last week of April, begin nesting and leave in September. He said the fledglings leave the nest around the first week of July.
It is a “100 percent mortality” rate for the young in the nest and fledglings when mowing is conducted, he said. The delayed mowing will allow the fledglings to develop, giving them a better chance of survival.
McCandless said mowing is not the only entity that the birds must face; feral cats, foxes and humans are also a threat.
MariAnne Konka traveled from Middle River to see the sign unveiling. She said although people may see only a sign, a lot of work went on behind the scenes that will ultimately be a big help to the birds.
“They can nest and raise their young because somebody cared,” Konka said.
After the sign unveiling, a bird watch ensued.
The new sign serves to educate visitors about the protected grassland nesting area.
Rachel Temby, manager of the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area, and Sean McCandless, president of the Cecil Bird Club, unveil the new educational sign near the North Appleton parking lot on Saturday morning.