Learning to burn

The guy who has been leading the stewardship effort for the patch of prairie right next to Winfield Village is looking to transition some of the effort to someone who lives here, and I have expressed a willingness to take on some of the stewardship tasks.

This would primarily consist of working to remove non-prairie species, together with using the prairie for education, and advocating for the prairie when other people imagine some other use for the land. But one essential step with maintaining prairie land is occasional burning. I could probably manage the rest of it, but I’m certainly not qualified to do a prairie burn.

To start to remedy that, yesterday I participated in a burn at a small patch of prairie land near Urbana, managed by a guy from Pheasants Forever. I had told him of my interest in learning to manage a burn, so he talked me through what he did as he did it, explaining the thought-process behind where he started and what he burned, and also introduced me to the equipment involved.

The patch of prairie we burned was 1.5 acres, and took a little over an hour to burn.

I neglected to get a picture of myself taken while I was dressed in my Nomex coveralls, but above see a nice picture from the burn itself, and below for an older picture of our own little patch of prairie.

After the burn

The picture at the top is from yesterday, just one day after the burn. It actually looked like it was still smokey in places, although I’m pretty sure all the fires were out. Probably it was just ash blowing around.

It rained yesterday evening, a nice soaking rain that should have settled the ash—and did, at least visually—but it still smelled freshly burned when I walked through this morning.

The robins seemed very pleased to have the charred prairie to pick through, and I also saw a cowbird.

It will be very interesting to walk through the prairie this spring (although a little more fun once the smell dissipates a bit further). I know from experience that the plants recover very quickly, and that soon there will be no sign of the burn—except that the prairie plants will come to dominate the invasive species that had begun to encroach. I’m not so sure about the animal life. How many snakes and turtles were lost in the fire? Will there be as many fireflies this year as last?

I’ll keep you posted.

Prairie burn

They burned the prairie behind Winfield Village this afternoon. While I was out for a run, I got some pictures: