Grassland Habitat

Prairie Warbler

As Ingrid and I chase birds around the state of Maine trying to get to 318 . . . we are constantly shifting habitats. A bird that is very common on the beach . . . say a Piping Plover . . . is never found in woods, just a mile away. Next month I’ll be climbing Saddleback Mountain to get a Thrush that only nests above 3,000 feet. Some birds only live in Pine Trees, others only in Spruce Trees. And we have Loons in the salt water river in front of our house all winter . . . but rarely see any during the summer as they move to the inland lakes (think Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda).

Last week I visited California Fields, a preserve owned by Poland Spring Bottling. California Fields represents a grassland habitat . . . one of three such habitats (that I know of) in Maine. Before humans began to dominate the continent, natural fires would burn a forest to the ground. In the ashes, grasses and small pine trees would quickly arise and a number of birds evolved to depend on this habit.

Over the last few centuries, people has stepped in to extinguish these fires before the grasslands can materialize thus putting the birds that need them in peril.

By doing, periodic controlled burns . . . these “artificial” grassland habitats are a great place to see birds that are rarely seen anywhere else.

Anyway, my trip to California Fields yielded great looks at Prairie Warblers, Grasshopper, Field and Vesper Sparrows and Eastern Towhees!!

Eastern Towhee

Today the Maine Big Year total went to 259!!!

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