Successfully protecting birds in rural areas
The Rhine Plain, near the German city of Mannheim, end of May, 8:30 a.m. For more than two hours, Julia Staggenborg has been painstakingly following an inconspicuous corn bunting with her ZEISS binoculars. She didn’t dare look away, even for a second, since a brief moment of inattention could undo an entire morning’s worth of hard work. Julia was tracking a female corn bunting. She had spotted the bird, bearing a load of dry grass in her beak, just after setting out that morning. This particular specimen was obviously busy building a nest, and Julia wanted to identify its location.
Julia has been working at the University of Tübingen on a project to protect the corn bunting since 2017. The seemingly unremarkable species of bird is considered a characteristic species for extensive, wide-open agrarian landscapes. Particularly in areas like these, it’s especially difficult to effectively combat large-scale biodiversity loss.
The verdict is still out on which environmental protection measures ensure suitable habitats. Frequently, very specific requirements must be met if the land is to sustain a particular plant or animal species. In many cases, little detailed information is available. ZEISS has been supporting the species conservation project since 2016.
Based in the different regions and funded by the Stiftung Naturschutzfonds Baden-Württemberg, a foundation devoted to the protection of wildlife in the area, the project has been able to come up with appropriate conservation measures on the basis of the Corn Bunting’s activities. Working together with farmers as well as environmental protection and agriculture agencies, suitable funding measures have been developed and are being refined in an ongoing process in line with the corn bunting’s needs.
The project team members have been paying particular attention to successful breeding. The corn bunting breeds late in the year, which is especially problematic in agricultural regions because the fledging period frequently conflicts with farming activities. Precisely for this reason, Julia wanted to find out for sure if the bird’s nest in the Rhine Plain was actually located in the farmer’s field. The first hay harvest of the season was scheduled to start the following week, which would invariably destroy the nest.
Or was the nest actually located within the winter barley growing on the adjacent field? If so, then there was no immediate risk because the young corn buntings would have long since left the nest before the start of the harvest.