National Humane Education Society protects grassland birds
Breeding Bird Surveys, a program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have shown a decrease in grassland birds by more than 5 percent per year since 1966. Some birds such as the Northern Bobwhite, Bobolink, Loggerhead Shrike, Grasshopper, Vesper and Henslow’s Sparrows were once common locally, but are now rarely seen or heard.
About three-quarters of the world’s flowering plant species rely on pollinators – birds, butterflies, bats, insects and other animals-to carry pollen from the male to the female parts of flowers for reproduction. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are declining in North America.
The National Humane Education Society (NHES) which operates The Briggs Animal Adoption Center, located 5 miles south of Charles Town, recently designated 11 acres, which is most of its property not occupied by structures, as a Grassland Bird Preserve under the Potomac Valley Audubon Society Grassland Birds Initiative. This acreage was previously maintained as a lawn. Three acres of what is to become new grassland habitat, was converted to native pollinator fields, which provide plant nectar that supports butterflies, bees and other insects that pollinate the food supply.
“The new pollinator fields at The Briggs Animal Adoption Shelter are going to attract people as well as pollinators,” said Joette Borzik, Bird and Pollinator Ambassador for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society. “Native flower fields are breathtaking when in bloom, and the amazing butterflies the flowers attract are wonders of nature.”
There are numerous benefits of delaying or reducing unnecessary mowing, all of which save money. Benefits include reduced labor costs, minimized fuel consumption, reduced wear and tear on equipment and increased fertility of the land. “We were spending a lot of time and money maintaining an expansive lawn that provided no tangible benefits,” said Jim Taylor, executive director and president of NHES. “Helping to save grassland nesting birds and provide a food source for monarch butterflies is much more in keeping with our mission,” said Cynthia Taylor, Animal Care administrator and vice president of NHES.
The easiest way to help grassland birds is to practice reduced mowing, rotational mowing, late season mowing, or only mowing every few years to maintain a grassland ecosystem on lands that are not in production. This practice also keeps woody species from encroaching. For fields in production, mowing after July 15 gives grassland birds a chance to breed and produce one clutch of young. To learn more about helping grassland birds and pollinators, visit ww.potomacaudubon.org/GBI or email GrasslandBirdsInitiative@potomacaudubon.org.
To learn more about the animals available for adoption at The Briggs Animal Adoption Center, visit www.nhes.org/the-briggs-animal-adoption-center or call 304-725-0506.