Friday, July 12, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

Birds are the focus of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy’s upcoming program, including new project at McAllister Wildlife Refuge

The new bobolink monitoring program at McAllister Park is one citizen science endeavor the public is invited to learn about at the Great Barrington Land Conservancy’s (GBLC's) community program and annual meeting on Saturday, June 22.

Great Barrington — In the spring and summer, those who walk through Great Barrington’s McAllister Wildlife Refuge may notice a bubbly, long-winded song coming from down in the tall grass. Then, a black, white, and yellow bird might burst up and continue its gurgly, almost electronic vocalizations from the air. This showy blackbird is a bobolink, a grassland nester that struggles to find a foothold amid declining grassland habitats and working agricultural landscapes.

The new bobolink monitoring program at McAllister Park is one citizen science endeavor the public is invited to learn about at the Great Barrington Land Conservancy’s (GBLC’s) community program and annual meeting on Saturday, June 22. This year’s focus is “Birds of the Berkshires,” which will take place at 1 p.m. in St. James Place in Great Barrington and feature short talks by two local bird experts.

The bobolink is a grassland nester that struggles to find a foothold amid declining grassland habitats and working agricultural landscapes. Photo by John Felton.

Former Orion Magazine editor Chip Blake is currently president of the Hoffmann Bird Club. His book “The Birds of Berkshire County” will be published later this year by the Nuttall Ornithological Club. Ben Nickley is the founder and director of Berkshire Bird Observatory (BBO), which operates a bird-banding station at Jug End Reservation in Egremont. GBLC President Christine Ward is really looking forward to having them talk and share their different perspectives.

Blake has been leading Wednesday morning bird walks in South County, an effort to expand the offerings of the Hoffman Bird Club. Nickley has also been leading very well attended bird walks along the Riverfront Trail in Great Barrington. Ward applauds how they have fostered community, and connected a diverse set of people interested in birds to our conserved areas, by showing them “how to look and see what’s happening in the space as they’re moving through—and also to understand the importance of conserved spaces in terms of supporting our native and migrating birds.”

A quick annual meeting will precede the talks, in which people can learn about upcoming GBLC projects they can get involved in, particularly the bobolink monitoring program at McAllister Wildlife Refuge, which is a collaboration between the GBLC, the Hoffman Bird Club, and the Great Barrington Conservation Commission, who oversees the property.

In recent years, Ward says, the Conservation Commission has done “an amazing amount of work in terms of habitat restoration through the removal of invasive species.” Contracting Jess Toro of Native Habitat Restoration, they have enlarged fields and removed some hedgerows that consisted of invasive species.

They have also worked with the farmer who hays the fields to delay when the fields are cut, to protect bobolink nesting. Often, bobolinks begin nesting in hayfields in May, only to have their efforts dashed in June or July when the field is mowed. “McAllister has changed dramatically,” Ward says. Now, bobolink populations are doing much better.

The project started when John Felton, a member of the Hoffman Bird Club, approached Ward. Felton had been watching bobolinks on near-daily visits for several years to Edith Wharton Park by Laurel Lake. He wondered how many nested in the Berkshires. The only organized effort he knew of to track them was a monitoring program at Field Farm in Williamstown, so he proposed a similar effort at McAllister.

The grassland habitat like that at Field Farm in Williamstown, a Trustees property, is a conservation priority. Local birders have monitored nesting bobolinks here for years. Photo by Kateri Kosek.

The Conservation Commission, he says, “has been incredibly supportive and has agreed to install signs there informing people about the bobolinks and urging dog-walkers to keep their dogs out of the fields during the nesting season.” The Lenox Conservation Commission installed signs last year at Edith Wharton Park.

Soon, the Great Barrington Conservation Commission will install signs informing visitors to McAllister Park about the bobolinks that nest there. By staying on trail, this dog is demonstrating perfect bobolink etiquette. Photo by Kristen Hewitt.

At Saturday’s meeting, people can sign up to monitor the bobolinks during nesting season, from May to August, so that consistent data can be gathered and connected to data from other monitoring efforts in the county. A link to volunteer is also available at GBLC’s blog post. Attendees will also be able to sign up for a community program on site at McAllister to learn about the nesting bobolinks, to be given by Ben Nickley.

“Sometimes our unsung bird heroes,” Ward thinks, “are those that are nesting with success. Sometimes they’re underreported, I think, because they’re the regulars.” Summer, when birds are deep into the business of sending their young out into a dangerous world, is a great time to not just identify birds, but notice their behavior, she says.

Saturday’s program promises to be an eclectic offering for birders of all abilities. “We have a lot of eager, newer birders,” Ward says, “who are just learning how to use the tools that are available to them, gaining skills as independent birders as they go on these guided bird walks.” And that, she thinks, “makes it so much more likely that we’re going to be able to understand the range of the birds that we have here, those that are nesting, and those that are migrating through.”

“Often when we are moving through our conserved spaces,” says Ward, “we may not be attending to the amazing habitat that’s around us. Our minds that are full of what we have to do that day, or we’re chatting with someone. I think birds are a really great way to have you stop and look closely and listen, and really tune into that. So I think they’re a great vehicle for appreciation and understanding.”

spot_img

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

BITS & BYTES: Madou Sidiki Diabaté and Salif Bamakora at The Foundry; Ximena Bedoya The Clark; The Funky Fiber Artist at The Little Gallery;...

Experience the history, power, magic and guidance of the West African Kora with world renowned 71st-generation virtuoso Madou Sidiki Diabaté, accompanied by his longtime student Salif Bamakora.

BITS & BYTES: ‘The Comedy of Errors’ at Shakespeare & Company; Heard World Jazz at New Marlborough Meeting House; ‘Iodine’ at Adams Theater; James...

“The Comedy of Errors” is set in the seaside Vaudeville of New York City, 1912, a mystical and sometimes strange place filled with as much magic and mischief as sailors and sea captains.

BITS & BYTES: Gandini Juggling at PS21; Robbins-Zust Family Marionettes at Dottie’s; Berkshire Botanical Garden ‘Family Fridays’; Douglas Gilbert at LAPINcontemporary; CATA art show...

The nine performers share the stage with eighty oranges and seven watermelons, challenging our ideas about what contemporary juggling can be. 

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.