[Tweeters] Savannah Sparrows under attack again!

Helen Gilbert helen.gilbert at juno.com
Fri Apr 10 09:34:20 PDT 2015

Hi Tweeters –

Some folks have asked for clarification on the issue of timing of meadow mowing by the Parks Department, the effects of mowing on ground nesters, and how widespread the problem is.

We know for sure it is a problem at Discovery Park and the mowing is happening there right now at the Parade Grounds meadow while Savannah Sparrows are nesting. I am also concerned that since the city doesn’t have a policy, parks that are less closely monitored than Discovery Park, such as Magnusson which has no on-site naturalists, are probably having the same problem with no one noticing. In addition to Savannah Sparrows, ground nesters include juncos, Pacific Wrens, Common Yellowthroats and Song Sparrow. See this article about the topic (ironically reposting from Seattle Parks Dept.) from a few years back. http://www.sustainablewestseattle.org/2011/03/ground-bird-nesting-season-is-here-keep-dogs-leashed/

It’s my understanding that activities such as mowing meadows and large scale disturbances of nesting areas (including brushy areas that may have many invasive plants but are also prime nesting spaces) should be curtailed between mid-March and July.

Below is the letter that Henry Noble and I sent to the city. We also used the Mayor’s message web page to contact him.


To: patti.petesch at seattle.gov ; Christopher.Williams at seattle.gov ; susan.golub at seattle.gov ; sally.bagshaw at seattle.gov ; jean.godden at seattle.gov ; kshama.sawant at seattle.gov ; bruce.harrell at seattle.gov ; tom.rasmussen at seattle.gov
Cc: Henry Noble ; beecher at u.washington.edu
Subject: Stop the mowing of nesting bird habitat in Discovery Park!

Dear City and Parks Department officials,

For the second consecutive year, we are writing to demand that Seattle Parks
Department cease destroying Savannah Sparrows by mowing over their nests on the
Parade Ground meadow at Discovery Park. The area is not a golf course,
playground, or off-leash dog run. Park facilities managers must be required
to consult naturalists on staff to determine appropriate maintenance and
problem-solving measures. Otherwise the purpose and goals of the park are
undermined – with potentially devastating consequences for years.

The Savannah Sparrow is a small grassland bird that travels from as far as
southern Mexico to nest here. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Savannah_Sparrow/lifehistory
Of those that survive the trip, large numbers of parent birds and their nestlings
will die if the mowing in Discovery Park and other park meadows continues.
Indiscriminate mowing will also deprive late breeders of nest sites and
habitat for months.

We are longtime volunteers at Discovery Park. In fact, we credit the park’s
nature programs and the encouragement of its talented naturalists for having
turned us into avid birders. We now give back as best we can by
participating in the monthly bird census at Discovery Park and helping to
lead some of the migratory bird walks each spring and fall.

Discovery Park is a jewel that needs to be managed with educated and
informed care to encourage the wildlife and natural habitat. Please
intervene immediately to suspend mowing of Discovery Park meadows and to
establish a pro-habitat maintenance policy for all city properties.

Helen Gilbert
Henry Noble
Seattle, WA 98115


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