Thursday, June 6, 2013

Grassland Birds Responding to Change.

In mid-Ohio we have seen a whole suite of birds responding to the forces of change: grassland birds.   These birds have been scattered by the relentless forward march of progress.  Their numbers have been reduced by loss of habitat, change of farming practices, global pressures, and now even a changing climate is getting in on the act. 

What's a baby Bobolink to do?
 If a love-struck pair of Bobolinks survive long enough to make it out of Argentina and fly nearly 5,000 miles to mid-Ohio in the spring, what are the chances they will find an appropriate grassland?

Ohio has lost 99.9 percent of its native prairies.
Nearly all of Ohio's grasslands have been converted to farmland, or urbanized.  Of that farmland, what percentage is suitable for grassland birds?  They can't make it in a mono-culture like corn or beans.  A hay field would work, as long as it isn't  harvested or mowed before the fledglings leave the nest in July.

Ohio farmlands in early July.
And if all that wasn't enough, grassland birds are now getting a sucker punch from climate change.  Have you noticed extreme weather being reported in the news?  How are grassland birds responding to the massive droughts in the west?  We know someone who has been pondering all those questions...

Michael Godfrey, bird videographer and his best friend Benson.
 Michael Godfrey is a fellow who has been seriously engaged in watching birds (and farms) for a long time.  When you meet him, he might tell you he is a "cattleman," but that's just the short story.  He recently created a program for the Smithsonian Conservation  Biology Institute on the particular subject at hand: grassland birds. Now he has agreed to travel to Ohio to share that program with the friends of Greater Mohican Audubon Society.

This "old boy" from Virginia can turn a phrase until it squeals for "Uncle!" He is an entertaining story-teller and a darn good author as well, with several published books to his credit.   His blog is called Birding on the Farm. You'll want to see his most recent entry, which includes excellent footage of a Mourning Warbler in full song.

Godfrey* is a deep thinker and an inquisitive guy.  He's full of questions and just has to know "why".  What birds are doing and eating should be just as important to us as their color, shape or plumage.  Behavior is key to truly learning about birds and Michael likes to look at the big picture, so to speak.
*He has also been known to carve out a tune on a  Dobro; he claims to have several outstanding warrants for that particular musical offense.

Audubon VideoGuide filmed by Michael Godfrey
Many a birder honed their knowledge with Michael's video guides. Recently, I noticed they were for sale at Maumee Bay State Park gift shop, right next to the Kaufman Field Guides.  How fitting, as these two have known each other for many years and collaborated on several projects.

I'd love to introduce you to my friend Michael. He is going to give his program on grassland birds and climate change the night before the Bobolinks at Byers Woods event. If you would like to join us for the whole weekend, drop me a line at and I will send along the form for you to sign up.

Hope to see you there!

1 comment:

  1. Would that the grasslands, the forests, and the Good Globe hand more friends like our very dearest Weedpicker. You are a leader and a pusher-back of the frontiers of our ignorance and wee ones yet to come will know a richer life for your work. I so look forward to my visit to your grasslands on June 21st and to the jolt of inspiration I always get from your company. Blessings, thanks,