Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario
Newsletter No. 7, May 2017
View this email in your browser
Title image_BECO News
The Bobolink are back!

After a deluge of rain in early May, cattle pastures in the Ottawa Valley are finally drying up, and the air is filled with the unmistakable song of the Bobolink.
A male Bobolink back from South America for another breeding season. Bobolink show strong site fidelity. This bird will likely nest in a location close to where he nested last year.
Photo: Jennifer Horvat
Although the males have arrived, the females, which usually arrive about a week later than the males, are only just beginning to appear in the fields. BECO's Bobolink research team is hard at work tracking the birds' early season movements and starting to collect clues about where the birds will nest as they begin staking out their territories.

This is the second year of our research on rotationally-grazed beef cattle farms, where we are working with producers to test grazing strategies to support Bobolink. A collaboration with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, this work is funded by the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands program, an Environment and Climate Change Canada initiative.
Surveying the field
Members of the Bobolink research team survey a pasture for signs of Bobolink in early May.
Photo: Jennifer Horvat
Our main research question is whether or not small bird refuges are an effective way to support Bobolink in rotationally-grazed pastures. But after our first season working on this project and learning more about beef cattle farming, we've incorporated some additional research questions into our project this year.

In some of the pastures, we're planning to test if Bobolink can nest successfully in paddocks that are grazed early in the season, at relatively low stocking rates. The heavy rain in early May, however, was a stark reminder that our field research, similar to the cattle grazing season, is strongly shaped by the weather. Although many producers would like to move their cattle from wintering areas to the paddocks they graze in spring and summer as soon as possible, it all depends on the grass and how quickly the fields dry up. Whether we'll be able to study early light grazing this year will be determined by the weather and how fast the grass grows.
Cattle introductions
Nicolas Conroy, BECO Field Biologist, meets the cattle at one of his study sites.
Photo: Jennifer Horvat
New Bobolink projects starting in 2017

In addition to our work in rotationally-grazed pastures, we're expanding our research to continuously-grazed pastures this year, to compare how the birds do in these different grazing systems. BECO staff will collect the same territory and nesting data for Bobolink within continuously-grazed fields, with the added challenge of navigating around the cattle (and the bulls). This 2-year project is a collaboration with Trent University. New field data collected by BECO and a Trent University Master's student will be combined with existing data to model Bobolink nest survival. Results should identify conditions associated with high nest survival, which can help to guide future conservation efforts.

We're also beginning a new 2-year project to develop a monitoring scheme for grassland bird stewardship projects. Most stewardship programs that offer funding and incentives for landowners to implement grassland bird-friendly best management practices (BMPs) don't include a monitoring component, so there is little information available about the impact of these stewardship activities on the birds. With this new project, our goal is to find out more about the impact of grassland bird BMPs.

BECO's Bobolink research team has a busy and challenging field season ahead as they hustle to keep up with the rapid pace of the Bobolink nesting season!
Support for BECO's 2017 Bobolink research projects was provided by the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada through the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands initiative, Echo Foundation, Trent University, Vortex Canada, and individual donors.
Donate to support BECO
Copyright © 2017 Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe   update preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp