The Bristol Press – State-endangered bird returns to Bristol

BRISTOL – With the clearing of invasive plant species in parts of the Roberts Property Park, an environmentalist is saying he is noting the return of state-endangered birds to the property and is keeping a hopeful eye on the return of others.

According to Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut Land Stewardship Coordinator John Correia, the Grasshopper Sparrow, while plentiful in the US Midwest, has struggled with habitat in Connecticut.

“In Connecticut, settlers coming in cleared farmland and the whole state was farmland,” he said. “That’s basically what drew Grasshopper Sparrows in the first place. They were doing well in the 1800s. Now, that (the state) is turning into suburbs and back into forests, the numbers are going down and it’s endangered in Connecticut specifically and we’re losing birds in the park.”

Grasshopper Sparrows like to make their homes in grasslands, prairies and open pastures.

In April, a coalition of volunteers from area land trusts, Bristol Parks, Recreation and Community Services as well as the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut set out to clear invasive plant species like Asian Bittersweet and various other shrubby plants from the Roberts Park Property in the interest of improving habitat for the Grasshopper Sparrow.

As part of a survey in 2021, Correia sought to find the locations of Grasshopper Sparrows in the park and noted the songs of two males. He recently conducted another survey and confirmed the return of those sparrows and heard a third male in the area cleared of invasive plant species. He checked the other two bird sites to make certain they were there so he knew he had found a new bird song.

The land stewardship coordinator said hearing a new Grasshopper Sparrow in June was a bit unusual as it was after the May migratory season. After another survey Sunday, Correia said he did not hear the third male, but he is optimistic of it and others returning to the area. He noted the bird is well known for its secretive nature and is often hard to spot.

Led to their general area first by sound, Correia will next try to confirm the specific location of a bird through his binoculars and then mark it on his map. He said the birds will often sing from the edge of their territory and the two confirmed to be nesting in Roberts Property Park have around an acre of territory each. The park is around 17 acres large, he noted.

“Specifically, this park being a known isolated population, they’re not going to interbreed with the bigger subset population that’s doing fine in the west,” said Correia of the birds. “We know they’re here and we should protect them. The habitat is also attracting a lot of other rare birds, most notably the Brown Thrasher. Helping one species is going to help innumerable others.”

The land stewardship coordinator said it was important to remember the role of various animals in an ecosystem.

It is likely Roberts Property Park will continue to see land management and invasive plant removal in the future, he continued, and more surveys will be done to make note of the various birds living in the area.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Grasshopper Sparrow is stubby-tailed and bull-necked. If it’s not singing a song while sitting on a weedy perch, it’s usually running along the ground in the tall grasses instead of flying. It is a buffy tan in color with unstreaked under areas and gray, brown and orange colors above. It has a large bill and flat head. Grasshoppers are its primary prey and the sparrow often has a domed nest hidden in a grass clump on the ground.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Friday, 24 June 2022 09:51. Updated: Friday, 24 June 2022 09:54.


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