Monday, May 25, 2009

Meadows Gone to Hay

Male bobolink.

Lucky for our grassland-nesting birds, it's been a wet spring. So I suspect (or hope) that the meadowlarks and field sparrows, and grasshopper and Henslow's sparrows, and bobolinks have gotten their first broods off successfully.

Hay fields are a unique habitat type. When the hay is cut in early May, the grassland birds have no chance. Many nest are destroyed and some brooding females killed when the fields are cut. But without regular cutting (which probably accomplishes the same thing the grazing bison herds did until they were wiped out about 250 years ago) the fields turn to brush, then woods, over time. So the same grassland-nesting birds that may perish from the cutting also benefit from it.
Raking the hay into rows.

Four days of dry weather in the forecast means it's time to cut hay here in southeastern Ohio. So knee-high lush grass is reduced to cuttings and left over night. The next afternoon, if the air is dry, the hay gets raked into rows. Another day or so and the rows get baled. Around here lots of farmers use the large round bales. Some hay-makers leave the rolls wherever they drop off the baler. Others move the giant round rolls around and into neat straight-line groupings.

Raked hay waiting to be baled.

I love the smell of new-mown hay and I like seeing the bales lying around the cut fields. But I'm always glad when the spring is wet and cold and the hay cutting has to wait until the end of May to give the nesting birds a fair chance.

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At 9:02 AM, Blogger Wren said...

Having just seen my first boblink at New River, they are very important birds to me right now. I hate the thought of them being hurt during mowing, even as I recognize, as you do, that it's necessary both for farmer and for field.

Life is seldom simple and uncomplicated.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Rosalind Renfrew said...

Actually, the birds need haying to be delayed until at least the 4th of July. Or, they may be able to tolerate an early cut (before Memorial Day), as long as there's a 65-day wait before the next cut so the birds have time to fledge young. This is especially important for Bobolinks.

At 1:02 AM, Blogger Cindy Lenker said...

Cool Bobolink picture! I love it.


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