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Three tiny, blue-green chipping sparrow eggs, with black splotches on the wide ends, rest in a grass nest woven into the whorl of a large dandelion plant.
Photo Credit:
Kathy Wiederholt
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Leave a Little for Wildlife

Authored on
Jun 17, 2022
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If you haven’t started mowing your unkempt areas yet….it may be too late to start for a while. Birds and animals are using the tall grass to raise their babies. Wait several weeks and if you have to mow, keep the blades high.

At the orchard this year, everything was delayed by the weekly blizzards in April. By the time I finished pruning the apples, field planting was in full swing and all the tractors were busy in some kind of planting mode. I couldn’t mow. Now that it’s warmed up and the grass is quite tall, I’m reluctant to mow because birds are nesting in this tall grass. 

During the first week of June, I used my push mower to hack at the grass right around the berry plants so that I could walk amongst them. I set the mower at 4” high and held the mower above that for most of the job. The next day, I found a little nest of eggs from a lark (ed: originally mid-identified as a Lincoln’s) sparrow peeking out from under the edge of a large dandelion plant. I had mowed right next to it, exposing the side of the nest but didn’t damage it. The eggs hatched last week and the babies are growing! If they continue to be lucky, they will fly away before you read this.

Four pink, newly-hatched Lincoln’s sparrows lay in a nest made of dead grass on the ground. They have light gray down but are mostly bare. Their eyes are not open yet.
Photo Credit:
Kathy Wiederholt
Day-old Lincoln’s Sparrow hatchlings.

 On Monday, June 13th, I was searching for thistles to kill in the grape trellis area. I don’t mow the rows that don’t have grapes anymore and I found another sparrow nest that was built into the whorl of a very large dandelion. I found it after the parents flew onto the trellis and were chipping at me – they are Chipping sparrows, after all. ‘Chippies’ are my favorite birds in the orchard: kind of friendly, they hang out in cute pairs and catch a lot of insects.

Three tiny, blue-green chipping sparrow eggs, with black splotches on the wide ends, rest in a grass nest woven into the whorl of a large dandelion plant.
Photo Credit:
Kathy Wiederholt
A chipping sparrow nest with 3 eggs in a dandelion whorl.

In my latest bird nest encounter this season, a few days ago, a DUCK flew up next to my truck as I drove past tall grass and alfalfa. This is a first! There are almost a dozen eggs and mama mallard is back on duty. I wonder how she is going to find water for them? The sloughs aren’t close.

The picture is a bit fuzzy, but about a dozen tan mallard duck eggs are shown in a nest under the green leaves of an alfalfa plant.
Photo Credit:
Kathy Wiederholt
A secret mallard duck nest under an alfalfa plant.

Try to save room for nature wherever you can. Plant clover into your lawns, let a few dandelions grow for early spring bee food and let some areas grow a bit wild if you can. Every little bit helps.

Kathy Wiederholt
Kathy.Wiederholt@ndsu.edu
Northern Hardy Fruit Project Manager