protecting nesting habitat

The fields between this sign and McCullough Road are now managed to conserve endangered grassland bird nesting habitat. Cutting of hay is not be allowed prior to August 1 each year, and brushy hiding places for predators have been reduced.

You may have heard recently of the alarming decline in North American birds* (1 in 4 gone since 1970s – that’s 3 billion birds), with grassland bird species being some of the worst off.  These worrisome data sparked a collaborative conservation project.  

As do we, bobolinks apparently appreciate North Bennington! A beautiful and increasingly rare grassland species, the bobolinks nest in fields northwest of The Mile-Around Woods.  This is one of the few places where the birds raise their young in Vermont.  However, traditional agricultural harvests have in the past destroyed their nests before the young can fledge.

In partnership with two neighboring landowners, and with the cooperation of Landview Farms, LLC, selected hay fields are now being managed to protect critical habitat for ground-nesting birds. The goal of our project is to support successful grassland bird (bobolink, Savannah sparrow, Eastern meadowlark) conservation using through proven approaches: 

No disturbances are allowed in the fields during nesting season (mid-May through July). Farm equipment will not enter until August 1, and hiding places for predators (feral cats, raccoons, etc.) will be minimized. Dogs must not be allowed in the protected fields during this time.

By continuing these conservation measures over a course of years, the landowners hope to create a sanctuary for returning birds and to provide an education laboratory for local school children.

This nest of bobolink eggs was created in the protected field in 2024. Photo by Kai Bjork for The Fund for North Bennington.

North Bennington’s conserved nesting area is one of the few places where endangered grassland birds successfully raise their young in Vermont.  By staying on the trail and not walking through this nesting area mid-April through July, you have helped fledge healthy birds capable of migrating all the way back to South America.  In the nesting project’s first year (2020), just a few bobolink were seen in the spring, but at the end of July a flock of 35 headed south to their winter homes.  With your help in 2021 even more will take wing to return next spring.   

Grassland project fields south of McCullough Road.

In choosing the fields and designing the conservation project, The Fund consulted with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, the organization that wrote the international conservation plan.

The Fund has planted native plants in the Monarch Meadow, southwest of The Mile-Around Woods, to support pollinators and bird species that thrive along the forest edge. More on this project here.

Curious to know what grassland birds have been seen here recently?  Join eBird and look for the “Mile Around Woods” hotspot (free password required).

For more information about ground-nesting birds see these outside links:

Bobolink photo courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology