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Friday, July 07, 2006

Grassland birds

We've all seen it. A grassy field with a muddy track through it, surveyors tape, and nearby construction equipment. For most people, a grassy field probably looks like a perfect light industrial or residential development site. But many of these apparently empty spaces are actually great bird habitat.

I visited one of these this morning. Three Grasshopper Sparrows were singing their high pitched trills in the grass (listen here), and at least half a dozen Savannah Sparrows were flitting about. Both of these birds are increasingly hard to find here in SE Pennsylvania, as their grassy habitat gets bulldozed to make way for sprawling development. A couple of Killdeer were running along the muddy construction road, with their fluffy babies, and an Eastern Meadowlark (another declining grassland bird) flew over as I was getting ready to leave. (Grasshopper Sparrow photo credit: BLM)

As I walked back to my car, I couldn't help but dream of light industrial development that protected grassland habitat--maybe huge low-slung buildings with grassy habitat actually growing on the roof. For a fleeting moment I envisioned myself as a commercial real estate developer struggling to create awesome bird habitat on the rooftops of my buildings. It sure was a better vision than the impending habitat destruction that was actually in front of me.

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