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Restoring Grasslands on Maryland's Eastern Shore - Interview with Dr. Harry Sears

Given a little help, nature can be resilient.
© Mike Martin View Large

For more than a decade, Dr. Harry Sears has been restoring native habitat on his farm near Chesapeake Bay. Why? Dr. Sears wanted to find out if, after 250 years of alteration, native grasslands could be brought back for the benefit of birds, plants, and other animals. Within a month of the initial restoration, hundreds of Grasshopper Sparrows moved in. Dickcissels like this one, an extremely rare bird in Maryland, appeared the following year. Now more than a decade into the project, Dr. Sears advises that, although rewarding, habitat restoration is a complex and long-term undertaking.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Restoring Habitat for Birds on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Interview with Harry Sears

Written by Todd Peterson

    This is BirdNote.

    [Calls of Northern Bobwhite Quail]

     For more than a decade, Dr. Harry Sears has been restoring native habitat on his farm near Chesapeake Bay. Why has he dedicated himself to this work?
“Because I’ve lived long enough to understand the tragic consequences of the last 65 years of changes to the rural and agricultural lands of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I’ve seen the results in the environment caused by changes in farming practices and development…My generation has been witness to the destruction of habitat leading to the loss of many of Maryland’s iconic species starting with the Canvasback duck, the Terrapin, oysters and now the Northern Bobwhite Quail.”

[Calls of Northern Bobwhite]

    Dr. Sears wanted to find out if, after 250 years of alteration, native grasslands could be brought back for the benefit of birds, plants, and other animals. Within a month of the initial restoration, hundreds of Grasshopper Sparrows moved in. Bobwhite Quail numbers rose dramatically. Dickcissels, an extremely rare bird in Maryland, appeared the following year. [Dickcissel song]
Now 13 years into the project, Dr. Sears reminds us that, although rewarding, habitat restoration is a complex and long-term undertaking.
“These things are much more complicated than is usually perceived… For what we’re doing, it may be very successful, but it’s going to require a tremendous amount of ongoing work. It’s not start it and let it go, nature doesn’t work that way.”

To see pictures of the restoration in process, come to our website, Birdnote.org.

[Calls of Northern Bobwhite]
                                                                               ###
                                                                             
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Northern Bobwhite 2604 recorded by P.P. Kellogg; Grasshopper Sparrow recording 107330 W.L. Hershberger used to provide the ambient track; song of Dickcissel 50228 recorded by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to Nature.org          June 2012     Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#             searsh-01-2012-06-07   

comment 1 Show

I just saw the interview with Dr Sears. I live in Middletown
Delaware, and for the past four years have been monitoring some of the open
space in my town (most of it is old farmland that has been slated for
development but is empty due to the recession) I wanted to let Dr Sears know
that my town may be a benefactor of his work, since we have had Dickcissels,
Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, Horned Larks,
etc., as well as many birds that now stop here on migration, such as 22
Upland Sandpipers that stayed for over 2 weeks last fall. If possible, could
you please pass this info on to him, and he can also have my contact
information if he wants to contact me about it. What a wonderful story--you
just made my day with that!!

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