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All for the Bobolinks

“When my husband and I purchased the land that would become Charter Sanctuary more than 13 years ago, I hoped more than anything else to host nesting Bobolinks – one of my favorite birds. They are marathon migrants, traveling from Leelanau to the Argentine grasslands and back every year. They are beautiful, and their song is an exquisite, tinkling melody. Because the meadow portion of our property had been planted in rye seed the year before we took ownership, there were no Bobolinks that first summer. When they showed up the second year, I was ecstatic. We were delighted when their numbers grew over the following years.

Then came spotted knapweed, an invasive alien, which sends a chemical from its roots that kills off competing plants – in this case the grasses and forbs needed by nesting upland birds. The consequence was a decline in our nesting Bobolinks.

This year we have entered into Michigan DNR’s Landowner Incentive Program (info right). We qualified for this program, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, because we also host Grasshopper Sparrows on our Sanctuary. The LIP program is underwriting the cost of chemically destroying all knapweed as well as paying for the planting of native grasses and forbs in its place. It is being done for the benefit of the sparrows, which are on the Threatened Species List. Although we’re pleased to support these handsome little birds, we are even happier to see our upland meadow improved for our nesting Bobolinks. We are deeply grateful for this program, without which we would have had to watch in sadness as our Bobolink population gradually vanished.

-Kay Charter, Charter Sanctuary and Saving Birds Through Habitat