| 10/10/2012 8:42:44 AM

Aldo Leopold writes in “The Farmer as a Conservationist,” It is the individual farmer who must weave the greater part of the rug on which America stands. Shall he weave into it only the sober yarns which warm the feet, or also some of the colors which warm the eye and the heart?

I must confess as a life-long farmer, this is an issue I grapple with constantly. Sometimes I lose, but many times we all win. Such is the case with the bobolink.

Photo of a pair of bobolinks by Flickr user ramendanI grew up with bobolinks. All my life they have nested on our farm and all my farming life I have listened to the males’ delightful flight-song from the end of April through early summer.

Why the bobolinks nested on our farm and on very few neighboring farms, I have never fully determined. One reason may be that, although always a dairy farm, we never switched totally from growing red clover to alfalfa, which was the conventional way of moving in the Midwest.

We stayed with clover because it was more forgiving than the high pH-loving alfalfa and red clover fit a four-year rotation better. And for its beauty. Few things are more attractive than a field of blooming red clover being visited by thousands of butterflies and honeybees. Because clover is slower maturing than alfalfa, the bobolinks benefited from the later-cut hay.

For years I wondered why the bobolinks arriving our farm usually around April 28 (the males show up about a week before their mates) and then delayed nesting until almost June. At the same time the red-winged blackbirds, savannah sparrows, and the eastern meadowlark often had fledged young by the time the bobolinks settled down to nesting, after weeks of chasing each other.

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