2013/04/26

Alderville Black Oark Savanna - Control burning

Fire is a critical ecosystem process that has the ability to create new habitats for species and lead to the regeneration of forests and grasslands.  This process occurs both naturally and anthropogenically, and how it triggers the sprouting of dormant seeds is not very well understood (Edit: until just this Tuesday when another piece of knowledge is added to the puzzle.  Read this article and follow the link below for more information.).  Today, I volunteered to help out with managed burn of some sites at the Alderville Black Oak Savanna.  This area supports unique and important habitats (i.e., long-grass prairie and black oak savanna) here in Ontario, and you can find out more about this location at the official website

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Before the actual burn took place, we went for a short walk around the site.

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Oak savanna.

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One reason why this habitat is so important is because of the fauna and flora that it supports.  Here is a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) singing away.
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We came across these interesting gall-like structures on the trees.  After some Googling, I think they are oak marble galls caused by the larva of a species of Oak Gall Wasp.

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The coordinator showing us where the wasp emerges from.

Oak Marble Gall
Close-up on the gall.  Almost a perfect sphere with perfectly rounded hole.  Nature is spectacular!

Willow (Salix sp.)

Willow (Salix sp.)
Beautiful willow flowers.

After the walk, we prepared for the burn.  Our main duty was to keep the fire burning within the desired area and prevent the fire from going where we don't want it to go (using water sprays, rakes, or wet brooms).

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It was a relatively windy day so the burn was quite slow.  Nonetheless, it is probably much safer this way.

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What the ground looks like after the burn.

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Control Burning
Making sure the fire does't get into the long-grass prairie habitats.

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We found a long-dead cat skull on the ground.

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The blackened ground reveals some interesting animal paths that we typically have a hard time seeing.

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We did a pretty good job today, and most importantly, everyone was safe and enjoyed the experience.

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Posters informing us about the importance of this area and some of the projects taking place, such as the wild lupine and (endangered) Karner Blue Butterfly Program.  After treating us to delicious pizza, I spent some time outside and photographed the birds flying around the site.

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Tree Swallows.

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Leaving the nest box.

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Swallow with nesting material.

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Eastern Bluebird!  Haven't seen them since my Carden days and last year in Missouri.

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Another Savannah Sparrow.

What a great day.  Next Sunday, there will be an event here celebrating International Migratory Bird Day that I hope I will get a chance to attend (see poster here).

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