If landowners compromise, bobolinks will be restored

To the Editor:
In The Old Men of the Mountain column by John Williams [The Altamont Enterprise, May 27, 2021], I read with great interest that the farmers of past generations in our area would delay cutting their hay until all the young bobolinks had fledged from their nests. This was quite poignant for me because it demonstrated a respect for nature and wildlife in the past, that nowadays, farmers can’t afford to have (or think they can’t afford to have). Bobolinks have a beautiful warbling call that is very distinctive.

I have been cutting hay on 60 acres on Spore Road for the last 25 years or so, and witnessed initially the complete disappearance of a large colony of bobolinks, as well as smaller numbers of meadowlarks and field sparrows. Populations of these birds are down by as much as 90 percent all over the United States by frequent cutting of the fields (up to four times per year).

It is claimed that delaying cutting reduces the protein content of the hay. Interesting that farmers of previous generations were also aware of this possibility and did not consider it a factor.

In the last 10 years, I have allocated the same 25 acres to non-cutting until late July. I have witnessed the steady recovery of the bobolink population who seem to remember in which fields they nested in previous years.

This year, there are perhaps 10 potential nests. I wish I could allocate the whole 60 acres to this cause, but I have to strike some compromise with Mark Stanton who is kindly farming the land. The first cutting has already happened a week ago, but hopefully those birds who chose the wrong fields will be able to renest in the uncut fields.

Bobolinks are very territorial and will not nest too close together, so the more acres available, the better, but at least there is some hope if more landowners are willing to make some compromises for future birds and birdwatchers.

Peter Kelly


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