The Bristol Press – Volunteers remove invasive plants to improve habitat for endangered birds at Roberts property
BRISTOL – In an effort to encourage better nesting sites for Connecticut’s endangered grasshopper sparrow, several volunteers from various environmentally conscious organizations have come together to clean the Roberts Property Park area of invasive plant life .
About 20 individuals spent the morning pulling up vines, multiflora roses and more, targeting approximately two acres to be cleared.
“Grasshopper sparrows are on the state endangered species list,” said volunteer Jack Swatt. “There are only a few places in the state where they nest and they’ve been nesting here for a few years, but they like sparse, grassy habitats. Invasive plants grow and destroy their habitat.
Swatt said it was therefore important to remove invasive plants to help local bird populations. He noted that the land management effort could be a multi-year project.
Connecticut Environmental Learning Centers Land Stewardship Coordinator John Correia conducted a study of Roberts Property land in relation to the grasshopper sparrow population.
“The number (of sparrows) slowly declined as (the area) was left to grow back like a forest,” he said. “We did a survey of the number of birds on the property and where they are. I walked around and followed the size of their territory. We discovered that they were using less bittersweet areas, an invasive vine that we are pulling out. »
Correia created a vegetation map to note what plants grew in the area and also studied the birds in the area to see where potential crossover areas might be for good grasshopper sparrow habitat. Volunteers extracted invasive plants from spaces already adapted to become sparse, grassy habitats.
“We do a lot of this work on our bank‘s property,” said Jennifer Frank of the East Granby Land Trust as she ripped Asian Bittersweet from a tree.
Among the volunteers from area land banks and environmentally conscious groups was Bristol’s Deputy Superintendent of Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services, Sarah Larson.
“One of our core values for the department is conservation and stewardship, so we are thrilled to partner with (Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut) and their network of volunteers and expertise to be able to complete this restoration of habitat and hopefully create space where we ‘see more breeding populations of grasshopper sparrows,’ she said.
The Roberts property was acquired by the city council in 2004. She said that according to surveys of area residents, the overwhelming majority wanted the park to become an “enhanced passive recreation area”. Passive recreation areas do not require prepared structures and facilities like sports fields. The area was once a quarry and has now seen the return of more plant life.
“It’s an area of Bristol that doesn’t have a lot of parks,” Larson said. “So it’s a property where a lot of people come to walk around and recreate.”
Connecticut Environmental Learning Centers executive director Scott Heth called the effort a culmination of bringing together several groups for environmental work improvement.
“We’re far enough away that we don’t think we’re bothering where (the sparrows) are now,” Heth said. “They like singing perches, so we’ll leave a shrub. We are thinking of putting a few small stakes in different places to see if they like to perch on them.