|Male bobolink 2015 (RE Berg-Andersson)|
He would hope this demilitarization would mean less war, less fighting. But no, the downsizing of military bases has more to do with cost and the increasing technology of war than peace
|Shawangunk Grasslands, 2009, runway|
Grasshopper sparrows and bobolinks depend on grasslands, and because of the decline they are considered "threatened" birds by New Jersey.
There are a number of farms in New Jersey - active and preserved - that leave their meadows to the birds. Griggstown Grasslands and Negri-Nepote, both in Franklin Township, Somerset County, NJ, are among them.
|2012, snow and some changes (RE Berg-Andersson)|
At that time, you parked in the lot off the road, then walked down a driveway to the old concrete runways, which provided an easy way to get across the field and close to the area where the hawks were congregating.
|A trail takes shape 2013 (RE Berg-Andersson)|
When we came back for the the roughlegged hawks, we also saw a fair number of harriers and, to my delight, short-eared owls hunting in the afternoon. There was still snow on the fields but now the runways were gone in some areas and we had to make our way through the unexpectedly heavy snow.
|2015 - no runways, only fields. (RE Berg-Andersson)|
By the time we came back on our most recent visit, June 2015, there was no trace of the runways in the field and just one small bit left as a parking lot. (You could drive all the way down now, although the old lot is still off the road.)
|Eastern meadowlark (RE Berg-Andersson)|
There were song sparrows and redwinged blackbirds, as usual, but this time there were bobolinks. A lot of bobolinks. In one back field alone, still wet from recent rains, I counted more than 30 males and a few females.
|Congregation of bobolinks (RE Berg-Andersson)|
There were also more meadowlarks, some of them singing. There was at least one Savannah sparrow plus Eastern kingbirds. All were feasting on seed heads and insects. A harrier and barn swallows hunted the fields. I expected kestrel - another bird in decline - but instead found a hunting merlin!
All of these birds have found a breeding sanctuary at this place, as they are finding in other farms and air bases converted into grasslands.
And it's not just birds. We also heard a bull frog and a tree frog in our travels, and who knows how many different kinds of insects were there around us. (Luckily, we weren't bothered by mosquitos the cool day we visited.) It gives one hope that people are recognizing we need biodiversity in this world.
But when you consider global warming and the continued militarization of this world, a grassland such as Shawangunk is but a small and fragile part of this planet.
As is mankind.