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Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario
Newsletter No. 18, December 2019
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Highlights from 2019_Grasshopper sparrow singing
A male grasshopper sparrow singing from a fence post near his nest on a grass-fed beef farm.
Photo: Zoé Lebrun-Southcott
2019 was another busy year for our birds at risk in agricultural landscapes program. Here are just a few highlights of what we accomplished: 
  • We surveyed over 900 acres of agricultural grassland for bobolink, eastern meadowlark, and grasshopper sparrow—all listed as species at risk in Ontario.
  • We worked with 5 farmers to implement stewardship practices in pastures and hay fields leading to habitat protection for dozens of grassland bird nests and new information about the efficacy of different stewardship actions.
  • Our grazing and bobolink research conducted in the Ottawa Valley was published in Avian Conservation and Ecology.
  • We organized a full-day symposium for researchers and conservation practitioners from across Canada to discuss grassland bird conservation at the 2019 conference of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. During the symposium, Monica Fromberger presented the results from two years of bobolink research conducted in collaboration with BECO for her Trent University Master's thesis.
  • We received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to begin a collaboration with agricultural organizations to advance grassland bird conservation in hay fields and pastures through education and research.
  • Andrew Campomizzi, BECO's Research Scientist, received an Adjunct Graduate Faculty Member appointment in the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program at Trent University.
As always, we have many people to thank for another inspiring and eventful year. Our work would not be possible without the passion and dedication of our field staff; our community of supporters, partners, and collaborators; and the farmers who participate in our projects, welcoming us onto their land to study these amazing creatures.
9-day-old bobolink nestlings
Nine-day-old bobolink young in a nest located in a grassland bird refuge on one of our 2019 study farms.
Photo: Zoé Lebrun-Southcott
Considering grasslands and conservation 
After researching birds on farms for four years, we’ve come to value agricultural grasslands—hay fields and pastures—for their ecological attributes, in particular, the habitat these fields provide for wildlife. We’ve also realized that many people seem to overlook the ecological value of grasslands compared to other ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands. These are all important components of our landscape.

A recent article in Anthropocene, Not everything needs to be a forest, provides an interesting examination of some challenges of large-scale conservation planning. Although this article discusses conflicting views about reforestation plans for savannas in Africa and Asia, it may help us think about similar issues in the context of grasslands in Ontario. What is the short- and long-term history of grasslands in Ontario? What is the ecological value of agricultural grasslands compared to other agricultural lands, forests, and wetlands? And how do conservation biologists work with landowners, governments, and the public to advance the conservation of grassland-obligate birds in agricultural grasslands? We will continue asking ourselves these kinds of questions as we look forward to our research plans for 2020.
With the end of 2019 approaching, we also wanted to remind you that BECO is a charitable organization and you can help fund our work by making a tax-deductible donation. Thank you for supporting BECO and birds at risk!
Happy Holidays from BECO
Photo: Kaila Ritchie
Funding in 2019 provided by: Ontario Trillium Foundation, CICan Natural Resources Internship program, The McLean Foundation, Echo Foundation, Ontario Wildlife Foundation, and our generous donors.
www.beco-birds.org www.beco-birds.org
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