Date: 5/14/17 2:58 pm
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: WHO ARE THE REAL COWBIRDS?
Worked on the Washington County version of International Migratory Bird Day today. My assignment: Woolsey Wet Prairie Wildlife Sanctuary, mitigation wetlands associated with Fayettevilleís West Side Wastewater Treatment Facility.

It is very much a wet prairie right now because of recent heavy rain. Clay-rich soils at Woolsey, and elsewhere on former prairies around Fayetteville, have relatively long water retention times. Wet ground like this was never effectively plowed, and as a direct result, retained diversity of native plants and animals.

I suspect the migration peak here occurred a week ago, with big storms. As a result, most of what I observed today were local nesters. Eastern Meadowlarks, Dickcissels, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, American Robins, Common Yellowthroats, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Blue Grosbeaks, Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, etc. Of for-sure through-migrants, only Solitary Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, Lincolnís Sparrow, and one suspected Willow Flycatcher. Also found a few lingering Savannah Sparrows.

One bird that surprised me was a Louisiana Waterthrush, singing in forested bottomlands flooded by the clean discharge from the treatment plant. City mothers and fathers should be glad to hear that.

There were also a few Brown-headed Cowbirds. We birders get our self-righteous feathers in a huff when it comes to cowbirds, and ecologically-speaking, for good reason. But when I saw them today it was with the backdrop of a whole neighborhood being constructed atop a seasonal wetland directly across from Woolsey.

It was not that long ago this former prairie, separated from Woolsey only by Broyles Avenue, was clothed in Indian grass and Big Bluestem grass, was winter roost for Short-eared Owls. Migration stop for Upland Sandpipers. Nesting ground for Eastern Meadowlarks and Grasshopper Sparrows.

City of Fayetteville bills itself as an environmental leader. I donít want to take anything away from civic leaders who really care about this stuff. But consider that several years ago, U of A graduate students tried to work with City of Fayetteville to save part of this property in order to protect relatively rare frogs, snakes, and salamanders well-documented to occur there. Unfortunately, a lot of $$$ is involved. As Bob Dylan once observed, money donít talk, it swears.

So I ask myself, who are the metaphorical cowbirds here? Real Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of others. Metaphorical cowbirds preside over wholesale destruction of habitat for many creatures, despoiling Earth itself.


 
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