Uta Messerhuber and Harry Posner have lived on their rural property in Caledon for the past 20 years. The approach they take on their 25-acre property is simple. “We try to steer the property in the right direction so that wildlife habitat gets better over time,” said Uta.
Over the years, the couple has taken steps to improve the quality of wildlife habitat on their property. They’ve planted trees and shrubs to create windbreaks and to naturalize the banks of their pond. In the spring, they see turtles moving from the pond to nest along their gravel driveway. “Wildlife motivates us to be good stewards of our land. We enjoy seeing turkeys, deer and foxes and learning what we can do to make a difference,” said Harry.
Last year they wanted to do more. They noticed their old farm field had more wildflowers and less grass. “Wildflowers are great and we encourage them to grow in our hedgerows, but we know that grassland birds need grass,” says Uta. They decided to enroll 15 acres of fallow farmland into Credit Valley Conservation’s Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program. Hay fields provide an alternative habitat to natural grasslands. The annual cutting will help bring back the grass and improve the nesting habitat for grassland birds.
Harry and Uta found a tenant farmer that shares their interest in protecting wildlife habitat through the program’s online marketplace www.birdfriendlyhay.ca. Participating farmers agree to delay hay-cutting until mid-July. This gives time for ground nesting Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark to fledge their young from the nest in the fields.
By participating in the Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program, rural landowners like Uta and Harry are preserving agricultural lands. They can also reduce their property taxes through the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program and importantly, they provide a safe space for birds that need our help.
“This program provides benefits to all participants and helps the birds. It really is a win-win situation, and it’s so easy to participate!” said Uta.
The next time you travel the backroads, take note of the beauty that lies in the sight of a rolling hay field and the unobvious contributions they make to improving wildlife habitat. We depend on farmed land and in some cases, so do wildlife.