Photo: Connecticut Audubon Bafflin Sanctuary at Pomfret Farms
Photo credit: victoriafee
Wildlife populations already face threats from toxins, pollution, and environmental decline. Despite being quintessential to the life cycle of numerous species of all types, grassland habitats are some of the most endangered and least protected ecosystems. So many species depend on the ever-shrinking grasslands of North America to survive, including Bobwhites, kestrels, New England cottontails, Eastern box turtles, wood turtles, Pygmy shrews, several varieties of butterflies and the iconic harbinger of summer nights – fireflies – just to name a few. Birds especially are bearing the brunt of these adverse effects. Not only is it becoming harder and harder for them to find food due to declining insect populations, the areas in which they are able to build their nests are becoming increasingly scarce.
Bobolinks in particular migrate thousands of miles in a harrowing journey to nest in grasslands solely to ensure the survival of their species. Bobolinks arrive in Connecticut in early May and nest in large groups until about August 1. Far too often, these critical nesting grounds are in fields that are mowed for hay production. Early summer mowing is a disaster for the birds; nests, eggs and hatchlings are crushed, and adults are often decimated. There is not enough time for the survivors to re-nest and to hatch a new generation before trying to fly south for winter.
There is simply no other available habitat which is suitable for them to breed so without grasslands, they will soon literally cease to be. And with them go the rest of the grassland denizens, including the beloved firefly.
The solution is amazingly simple: do not allow grasslands to be mowed before July 15.
If you live near or know of a large grassland area that is mowed before Aug 1, please reach out to our wildlife committee at email@example.com.
Tanya Bourgoin is a Sierra Club member and part of our chapter’s Wildlife Committee.
Learn about other ways we are protecting birds in Connecticut in Birds Steal the Show at Signing of the Hartford Urban Bird Treaty.