Notes From The Field

Voice Of America Metropark

Late last week I made my way to Voice Of America Park, which is a part of Butler County Metroparks System, to take a closer look at the grassy meadowland that the park board has set aside as a “Important Birding Area”. I try to get over here a couple times a year, especially during the Spring for one of my favorite grassland species. Bobolinks

Opened in 1944, and encompassing 640 acres, Voice of America Bethany Relay station was a massive complex of radio towers and wires transmitting radio programs all over the world. The Bethany Relay Stations final broadcast was in 1994. Afterwards the property came under the umbrella of the Butler County Metroparks System. Now the largest park in the system, it now covers 435 acres with lakes, sports fields, and best of all, grasslands for us birders.

It was like it was only yesterday when you’d walk the mowed paths during a Spring evening as Henslow’s Sparrows were calling, and Red-winged Black Birds would scold you for being too close to their nesting area. And Bobolinks abounded. I remember the first time I went birding at VOA was for Bobolinks. A lifer for me at the time and one I wanted to tick off the old list. Not sure where the entrance was I drove around the perimeter of the park when I noticed a dead Bobolink in the road. Not the way I wanted to start my first visit, however when I finally made it within the confines of the grasslands section, BobolinKs were everywhere. It was truly a great sight.

IMG_2779This is the waist deep vegetation I’m talking about. A small oasis of grass within the confines of urban sprawl.

Now the park is expanding into some of their undeveloped sections for the purpose of building new sports fields. And with it go some of precious grasslands that support these birds. Gone are the days of the Henslow’s Sparrows which I’ve not heard for a couple of years. However the Bobolinks still return even though their numbers are smaller than years past.

IMG_2776

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Now according to the birding grapevine the remaining grassland meadow will stay the same except for a mowed path weaves through it. These birds so habitat specific that their rapid decline is of grave concern. There has been a 75% drop of Bobolinks in Vermont between 1966 and 2007. What is the rate of decline in Ohio? I’m not sure of the stat but I’m am going to enjoy them as often as I can. And if there’s a chance for you to go see them. DO IT.

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One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Hey Les,

    Great post. I worked with the Fish & Wildlife Service in Rhode Island, and one of our refuges had a section of grassland set aside specifically for bobolinks. I’ve heard and been told that one of the causes of their rapid decline is a change in harvesting techniques by the agricultural industry. By harvesting earlier in the season (due to global warming; now there can be two harvests a year), the crops and fields are harvested just as the birds are nesting, so that the nests/eggs/fledglings are destroyed. Afterwards there is no habitat left over for the birds to re-nest, so an entire breeding season is lost.

    If this is true, imagine what that does to a species over the entire continent. Within just a decade or less, you can imagine the entire population would be reduced to a fraction of its size. Imagine for just one year not a single human child was born. Our population would take a noticeable drop. Now imagine 10 years…

    Thanks for posting about this problem, and I’m glad you had (and continue to have, for now) the opportunity to see and enjoy these unique birds.

    Pat

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