Moose Mountains Regional Greenways invited birdwatchers to join a Birding for Bobolinks event on June 14th, at Leary Field and Forest in Farmington, NH. MMRG’s Land Agent, Veronica Bodge, led an enthusiastic group armed with binoculars on a short trek to the top of Leary Field to search for bobolinks, a popular yet increasingly uncommon songbird.
Bobolinks are a unique grassland bird whose habitat is, sadly, decreasing in the region due to a loss of farmland – these birds require large, open fields in which to nest and mate. Leary Field and Forest makes the perfect location to see bobolinks, with its 60 acres of farmland that remain in active production.
Despite an early morning start, Veronica led a cheerful group of twelve from the entrance of Leary Field up the hill to its largest grassy meadow. While studying at the University of New Hampshire, Veronica had completed extensive research on bobolinks and was able to showcase their unique features to the group. Bobolinks travel from Central and South America to northern fields, like in New Hampshire, for their breeding season, sometimes migrating over 12,000 miles roundtrip! They even remember where they have nested in previous years, meaning that the bobolinks found at Leary Field have likely visited before.
“As MMRG’s new Land Agent, I was very eager to have the opportunity to get out into the field and meet some of our members and allies, while also presenting on a topic of special interest to me,” Veronica said, “As I settle into this role, I look forward to more opportunities to get to know the many people who make MMRG’s work so exciting.”
With binoculars at the ready, the birdwatching group was able to spot about a dozen bobolinks, both male and female. The males are easiest to spot with their striking black feathers and yellow “hat”, while the females remain mottled brown to blend in with field grass. The group was also treated to the beautiful calls that bobolinks sing, which Veronica likened to the bubbly sounds of R2D2 from Star Wars.
After watching the birds for a while, Veronica led everyone on a guided nature walk through the Leary property forest – the property includes adjacent wetlands that are conserved by the NRCS. The short walk back was the perfect way to end a successful birdwatching trip, with many participants commenting on the scenic rural landscape of the field and forest.
Although bobolink populations are becoming more fragmented due to habitat loss, there are some positive initiatives underway! The Bobolink Project is a collaboration between Mass Audubon, Audubon Vermont, and New Hampshire Audubon, and uses community donations to support farmers who modify their mowing schedules, allowing grassland birds to breed. In 2021, the project protected over 1,000 acres with bird-friendly agriculture!
MMRG would like to thank Bob and Debbie Leary for their continued generosity in allowing us to use their conserved property for public events, and for their dedication to responsible land stewardship. The Learys have been closely involved with MMRG for years, and we look forward to future workshops and nature walks on their land.
MMRG will be hosting additional birding events this fall, including a migratory bird discussion with UNH Cooperative Extension on September 3rd in Ossipee, and a soon-to-be-announced workshop with acclaimed naturalist and ornithologist Scott Weidensaul. Want to join MMRG’s next summer event? Visit www.mmrgnh.org/events for a full calendar!