Larry (and others),
We have a 5-acre grassy field. When we moved here 10 yrs ago, I asked someone
at the lab what the minimum size might be to attract nesting grassland species.
The answer was about 50 acres. I don't know if there is more recent
information on the size, but perhaps this is a starting point for the
I will say that we have never observed any grassland species in our field. We
mow it once a year to keep down woody species, usually early in July. Perhaps
grassland species prefer an unmown field with some of last year's brush still
Bill McAneny, T'Burg
- Original Message -
From: W. Larry Hymes
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:50 PM
Subject: [cayugabirds-l] Grassland birds - East Hill Rec. Way/Pine Tree Rd.
While birding Hawthorn this morning, I decided to walk over to the grass
field just south of the playing fields and between the pig barns on Pine Tree
Rd. and the East Hill Rec. Way. I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear 2
BOBOLINK, a MEADOWLARK carrying food to a nest, and a possible? GRASSHOPPER
SPARROW. I'm not at all confident as to the latter, but my very inexpert ears
thought they were hearing a buzz-like sound. Also, I flushed a small
unidentified sparrow while walking through the field. You better birders might
want to check it out. The Bobolinks were in the eastern third of this tract,
and the Meadowlark nest is on the western side close to the farm road. The
sparrow flew up from near the center of the field.
THERE IS URGENCY TO THESE SIGHTINGS!!! I talked with Bill Huisinga, the
manager of Farm Services, who told me they will be cutting the field perhaps by
as early as this weekend (pray for rain!). They sell the hay to other
departments at Cornell, and the monies raised go toward the Farm Services'
budget. They are required by the university to be totally self-supporting.
They usually get two cuttings each year at a value of $3000-4000. He did say
that if he were paid that amount, he could delay the cutting until the end of
The field is approx. 10 acres and has a variety of grass, etc. species in it.
My first question is, considering the size, location, and plant makeup, would
this be a good field to maintain for grassland species? If there is a
consensus that it would be, is it possible that the bird club could (should?)
make an emergency allocation to save the field for nesting for this year?
Longer-term, seeing as how the Plantations agreed to protect Hawthorn Woods
from development, just maybe they might be willing to take responsibility for
preserving this adjacent field for nesting grassland species. This sounds real
nice, but I fully realize there are a variety of issues that would have to be
resolved, not the least of which is the money required to maintain the field.
Also, how would the issue of Farm Services losing this (albeit small) source
of revenue be addressed. Perhaps even more importantly, Cornell would have to
forgo using this area for other purposes (a real biggie?!?!?). This is no
doubt only a smattering of the issues that probably would have to be dealt with.
Assuming this field would indeed be a good place to preserve for grassland
species, are there other sources of funding for this purpose??
In past years it was not uncommon to find Bobolinks and Meadowlarks in this
field. I always helplessly stood by and lamented when the field was cut before
the birds had a chance to successfully nest. Considering the plight of
grassland species, isn't it perhaps time we should be doing something to help?
What do the rest of you think?
W. Larry Hymes
120 Vine Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
(H) 607-277-0759, w...@cornell.edu
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