BBS – Second Impression

When I started birding I often heard from people who have birded much longer than me about the impact modern farming has had on birds. But I didn’t really understand until I ran my two rural BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) routes.

The loss of both suitable habitat for grassland/pasture birds and hedgerows has had to be great. Running my routes I would often end up in the middle of fields and barely hear or see a bird in my 3 minute stops.

But what would it have been like in 1966 when the BBS started?

Hedgerow, BBS
Though not this quaint, I remember many farms in the 1960’s with lanes like the one in this photo. Hedge and trees on both sides. Not many left now. Attribution: Row17 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I can try to tell you. In 1966 I lived in a small semi-rural town outside Peoria, IL. Many weekends I would go to my grandfather’s farm 50 miles north of Peoria miles from any city.  There was a long lane up to his house with hedgerows on either side. My uncles still had cattle so there was pasture land.  The farm was broken into 40 or 80 acre plots surrounded by hedgerows. I wasn’t into birds but I remember numerous birds and animals around the farm. And every farm was similar to his.

I took my daughter by the farm 10 years ago. (The family sold to larger farmers in the 1980’s) All the hedgerows were gone. No one in the area was raising cattle, thus no pastures. It looked like my rural BBS routes. No birds or animals. Just row to row corn and beans. Deserted.

Lifeless to what I remember 50 years ago.

In my next post I’ll share some results to show the decline and also some gains in birds on my two BBS routes.

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