Fair Hill Na­ture Cen­ter signs pre­serve area for birds

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

FAIR HILL

“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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHO­TOS BY BRIANNA SHEA

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.

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