With a clear blue Texas sky keeping watch overhead, a grass-planting machine drops seed after seed – a trail that Luminant and Texas Parks and Wildlife hope will help lead a struggling species back home.
"Quail and grassland birds are some of the most rapidly declining bird groups in the United States today,” explains Jason Hardin with Texas Parks & Wildlife's Upland Game Bird Program.
With their native habitat disappearing as land is converted for other uses, Kosse Mine, with its thousands of contiguous acres in Limestone and Robertson counties, is working to fill that void.
"The redevelopment of wildlife habitat is an important part of our mine reclamation program at all of our Luminant mines, but especially here at Kosse because it's the primary focus,” said Carl Ivy with Luminant's environmental mining department.
In support of that, the company has spent the last three months planting 40,000 pounds of live seed across 1,200 acres. And thanks to an unusually wet spring with some 20 inches of rain, the effort has really taken off.
"You can see the partridge pea growing here and the Illinois bundleflower, maximilian sunflower, the plains bristle grass, sunflower,” Hardin says, pointing out the different species now thriving at Kosse. "This is a really good example of what's going on at the mine and how rapidly it's being established.”
As the landscape matures, it will provide an ideal habitat with taller grasses to provide cover for the birds, as well as attract insects for food.
"The grassland birds that have rapidly declined are our grasshopper sparrows, our meadowlarks, dickcissels will find this area and will take advantage of it quickly,” said Hardin. "As soon as the structure is here and as you can see the structure is already taking form, they will find it pretty quickly.”
A waiting habitat that Luminant and Texas Parks & Wildlife hope will provide these birds a well-laid trail back to their natural home.
"This is the first mine to take full advantage of the quail and grassland bird land use practice, so we're real excited, we're looking forward to what it becomes and the potential that's there,” added Hardin.