‘There are areas where there are no more meadow birds’

ZEGVELD • According to Cees de Groot, grassland management is a matter of patience. “Doing nothing is not an option”.

It is the end of May and it is an important time for meadow birds in the polders around Zegveld. Chickens of species such as black-tailed godwit, vibe and redshank crawl out of the egg and go out into the wide world in search of food. “That’s when they are most vulnerable,” says Cees de Groot of the Woerden Meadow Bird Working Group. “For crows, herons, buzzards and wild domestic cats, such a chicken is a delicious snack. A bitter ball that you eat at once. ”

Behavior
He is on the move this morning with Krijnie van Oostrum and Rinus van der Does, two other members of the working group. Together they go out into the countryside to look for nests and track down young. To avoid disturbance, they run along the edge of the grounds. “We pay special attention to the behavior of birds,” explains Krijnie. “If a great crested grebe makes a lot of noise, you know it probably has its nest somewhere nearby.”

Found nests are entered via an app and shared with the farmer. ‘Then they know exactly where the nests are while mowing. Then he can take it into account. ” Meanwhile, Van der Does looks through his binoculars and points to a black tail sitting on a water pump. The pump, which runs on solar energy, keeps a piece of land wet and swampy. Such wetlands are especially popular among meadow birds. “Birds can find undisturbed food, such as worms, because the bottom is soft.”

The land belongs to Zeger Kastelein, according to De Groot a ‘real meadow bird farmer’. He has made agreements with the collective Rijn Vecht en Venen to beat a number of plots later – for a fee. “By mowing and grazing grass areas in phases (mosaic care, ed.) You create a pattern of plots with short and long grass. This creates a varied English landscape, where kids find more food and can always roam around safely. ”


• A pair of black-tailed godwit. – Delivered

Color
The grass also has a lot of color due to the presence of many types of herbs and flowers. They attract insects, which in turn serve as food for meadow birds. The only downside is that it produces ‘thick cow-shit’ for the farmer. “A farmer does not like it much.” De Groot goes on and points in the distance towards Grecht. Trees along this peat river have been removed. “These were perfect vantage points for birds of prey. Now that they’re gone, chickens are less likely to be caught.”

Despite the efforts of farmers and meadow bird keepers, in recent years it has become much quieter in the grasslands in and around Woerden. “There are really fewer meadow birds,” sighs De Groot. “Things are going well in a number of areas, but there are also areas where there are no more meadow birds. The problem is that they are quite homely. A blacktail that breeds here will not suddenly build a nest in Krimpenerwaard next year. So you have to keep doing your best to make them happy here. It is still necessary to protect them. Doing nothing is not an option. “


Several breeding pairs counted

WOERDEN • Measures for the conservation and protection of meadow birds appear to be working well in north-western Utrecht (Woerden, Kockengen and De Rode Venen). It says José van Miltenburg from Meadow Bird Working Group Woerden.

For example, the number of breeding viper pairs increased from 413 in 2020 to 500 in 2022. The black tail went from 543 to 587, redlegs from 272 to 323 and beach damage from 241 to 261. Van Miltenburg points to a number is perhaps even more important .: Gross territorial success. In other words, how many of the breeding pairs actually deliver infants? That number is 70 percent for the black-tailed godwit this year. “It is sufficient to absorb the annual mortality rate and to sustain the population.”
Farmers are closely involved in meadow bird management in northwestern Utrecht. They are increasingly creating wet areas, wet spots where sufficient food (read: worms) can be found for meadow birds in the spring. They leave the plots where the birds breed in peace. These fields will be mowed later. As soon as they hatch from the egg, the chicks go in search of insects. They find them on plots with many herbs. According to van Miltenburg, this ‘mosaic’ of different leadership contributes to the survival of the chickens. “Near Woerden, Zegveld and Kamerik, the meadow birds are doing well thanks to the different mosaic.” The meadow bird management in north-western Utrecht is financed by the province of Utrecht and coordinated by the Rijn, Vecht and Venen collectives. Volunteers play an important role in finding and protecting shipowners.

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