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Stop! Look! And Listen!

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

no herbivore to chomp it back, grasshopper sparrow numbers dropped to near zero by 1981. Only occasionally does one show up on the survey.

An interesting story is that of the Henslow's sparrow, a prairie bird. Henslow's sparrows prefer tall, thick grass and nest in dense, dead stems in the hearts of grass clumps. There were no Henslow's sparrows on Whetstone the first year of the survey. By 1978, the grass on the area was tall and had a thick thatch of residual stems from the prior growing season. A few Henslow's sparrows showed up that year. The population peaked in 1979 and then trailed off. A few have shown up in the intervening years, but some years there are none. Today, I may detect one or two on the survey.

Bobwhite quail and mourning doves live in both grassland- and cropland dominated landscapes. Both of these game birds have been common breeding birds on Whetstone throughout the period of the surveys, but their trends have moved in opposite directions. Mourning dove numbers have declined, but the bobwhite is more abundant.

Although usually regarded as a marsh or wetland bird, the redwinged blackbird has consistently been the most common bird in the Whetstone Area breeding bird survey. Redwings are found at the area's many ponds and lakes, but they are highly adaptable and will nest in a wide variety of habitats, including dense grasses, roadsides, and field edges. Red-winged blackbirds have been recorded every year, and in most years it has been the most plentiful species detected.

As former pastureland and cropland was broken up into smaller units in the late 1970s and 1980s, fencerows and field borders were planted or allowed to grow into woody, shrubby hedgerows. Gray catbirds, common yellowthroats, yellow-breasted chats, cardinals, indigo buntings, rufous-sided towhees, and field sparrows all live in this habitat. All of these species were present on Whetstone when the surveys began, but their numbers rose in the 1980s, and they are still common on the area today.

The Bell's vireo is a shrub nesting species. Managers are interested in it because its population has been declining in parts of its range. In 1980, the first Bell's vireo was detected on the Whetstone survey. The species has been present in low numbers every year since 1983.

The song sparrow, another shrub nester, did not show up on the survey until 1997, but is

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