It is widely held belief amongst organic farmers that providing habitat for beneficial insects and diverse bird populations on our farms is a net gain for the wildlife and the farmers. Given the complexity of the ecosystem this can be a difficult hypothesis to test, but the Avian Biodiversity Team is up to the challenge. For the last several years this team of veterinarians, ornithologists and entomologists from WSU, Cornell & OSU has partnered with organic farmers to better understand the complex and ever-changing ecosystems that we call farms and the preliminary research results are exciting.
This week Olivia Smith, a PhD candidate at WSU surveyed all the birds at our Grand Island Farm and at Luscher Farm and reported back…
“I think you have a few Brewer’s Blackbird nests in the SW corner of the Grand Island Road farm in the old allium patch. They were mobbing me while I was walking back there. I also saw a really adorable Killdeer family at Luscher today.”
At the Grand Island location, she also observed American Robin, Barn Swallow, Brewer’s Blackbird, European Starling, and Killdeer foraging in/above our row crops. She observed quite a few species in the cover crop/pasture areas: American Goldfinch, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, European Starling, Killdeer, White-crowned Sparrow, and Cliff Swallow. And she saw two Cedar Waxwings pulling wool off the wire of the pasture fence to build a nest. At Luscher, there wasn’t as much activity but she saw European Starling, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, and Violet-green Swallow foraging in/above our crop fields.
The Avian Biodiversity Team just got an eOrganic article accepted about Identifying Bird Nests on Farm Structures. And last year they also published a series about beneficial insectivores. The articles are hyperlinked, so you can navigate to 2 others from the first article: https://articles.extension.org/pages/74435/identification-diet-and-management-of-swallows-and-swifts-common-on-organic-farms. In addition, they hosted a webinar in February that may be of interest: http://articles.extension.org/pages/74608/tools-for-farm-biodiversity-webinar.
We really appreciate the great work they are doing to help us better understand the complex web of critters that we share the farm with!