Over 67 acres of the 75 acres, 89%, that make up Drayton Grant Park is maintained as grassland habitat, which is essential breeding and foraging habitat for grassland nesting birds. Habitat loss and degradation of these habitats has resulted in 80-99% decline of these species since 1966. Among the grassland birds that currently call Burger Hill their summer home are bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks. Also listen for the accelerated whistle calls of field sparrows as you walk the trails.
Winnakee Land Trust, and its dedicated volunteers of the Burger Hill Committee, strive to optimize this essential habitat with appropriate management practices while maintaining the aesthetics of historical pastureland. Best management practices for optimal grassland bird habitat include late mowing and minimal disturbance to the fields during the breeding season.
Bobolinks sightings are rare, but many of these birds call Burger Hill home during the summer months. Burger Hill is fortunate to be one of the few places with a large Bobolink population, found nesting each year in the park’s meadows. Bobolinks arrive in April and May from their winter homes in South America to raise their young in the Northeast United States.
Since 1966, Bobolink populations have reduced by two percent across North America due to a decrease in large open unmown grasslands where they settle to breed. The meadows at Burger Hill Park are an ideal nesting spot for Bobolinks who build their nests on the ground, making their nestlings especially susceptible to disturbance and predators—a habit which further jeopardizes their survival. In accordance with easement regulations, Winnakee waits to mow the open meadows at Burger Hill until late July to give the Bobolink nestlings the best chance to fledge and survive.
Look in the spring for the brightly colored Bobolink males that often perch on the grasses and listen for the male’s bubbly, chattering, ascending warble as they fly across the fields.
As a visitor to Burger Hill, you can do your part by staying on the mown trails and leashing your pets to protect nests and young Bobolinks, and ensure a brighter future for these unique birds!
Flourishing milkweed at Burger Hill provides nectar and shelter for a variety of pollinators, including Monarch butterflies, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, bees and many other pollinator species. In the fall, Winnakee partners with the Pollinator Patrol and Morton Library to host a milkweed pod release day to encourage further growth of this essential food to Monarchs.
Dedicated volunteer Frank Margiotta of the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club has been monitoring Eastern Bluebird boxes at Burger Hill for over a decade. Each spring, he tracks eggs and hatchlings.