In The Home Place, Drew Lanham describes the almost-forgotten history of the South Carolina rice fields 200 years ago. His ancestors cultivated these fields as slaves. At the same time, the bountiful rice they grew profoundly supported a bobolink population that counted in the millions, serving as a stopover spot on their migration from South America each spring. Read more about this dynamic at the link here, and pick up a copy of Dr. Lanham’s book to get an insightful view of human and bird history. Just yesterday he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Listen to him in his own voice here. The bobolink is now in steep decline—by 56% since 1966—along with other grassland birds like the short-eared owl, upland sandpiper, grasshopper sparrow, and eastern meadowlark. The Grasslands Bird Trust is doing great work to help preserve these wild birds and mitigate threats to their survival. Check out their website, volunteer, and by all means drop by the grasslands this winter to get a glimpse of a still-healthy grassland environment and the birds it supports.
I’m fortunate to live near enlightened farms in West Pawlet, Vermont. Every spring I hear the bobolink’s crazy bubbling call in the fields on both sides of the rail trail, thanks to the way these farmers manage their hay-cutting schedule. This bobolink was perched in a small tree on a breezy morning between display fights. Breezy bobolink is a 10" x 10" acrylic painted on a wood panel. It sold shortly after I posted it.