Tom's Blog

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brown thrasher flushed from nest while spraying buckthorn

One of the "joys" of spraying buckthorn resprouts is that it keeps your eyes firmly fixed on the ground. While spraying in the savanna I flushed a brown thrasher. Since it came from a rather dense leafy area, it seemed likely he (she) was on the nest.

Kathie and I returned a while later and flushed him again. It was a simple task to follow the flight path back to the ground, and there was the nest.

They had built their nest in among a large clump of zig-zag goldenrod. This plant species is characterisitic of open oak woodlands (savannas) and is widespread at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. It is an interesting plant since it is one of the earliest species to appear above ground in the spring, but does not flower and set seeds until October.

According to the Atlas of Wisconsin Breeding Birds, the future of the brown thrasher bears watching. Although this species is common across the state, breeding bird survey data show that it may be declining.

We've been spraying buckthorn resprouts all week, taking advantage of the small size of the clumps to selectively hit them without affecting "good" plants. However, this phase of our work is just about over, as not only are the resprouts getting fairly large, but good plants are now interfering. My surveys show that over the past year we may be finally starting to get on top of this difficult invader. It is taking a lot of work, and we are a long way from finished, but several of our savanna areas are now virtually "free" of buckthorn. Continuing monitoring will be necessary, at least for the next five years (if not longer).


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