Friday, June 17, 2011

Extra light for long field days


The summer tanagers were so chattery this morning that I had to search long and hard for a location away from them to listen for any birds other than summer tanagers and Eastern wood pewees. I finally found an area with Northern parulas, yellow throated vireos, a prairie warbler, but the tanagers showed up again, perching on a branch right above me. I stood there watching him sing for quite a while, in awe that such a remarkably beautiful animal would be so comfortable in these burned woods. Summer tanagers are the signature bird for this site, as common as swollen deer ticks on a country dog, but I love them--brilliantly colored and beautiful animals. Deep in the throes of field season, I spend my morning hours visiting my bird transects and afternoons sampling vegetation in recently burned woodlands and glades. Grateful for the extra daylight, I can comfortably sit on a glade from noon until 7 pm if there's a gnarled chinquapin oak for shade every once in a while. The tanagers call all day.


Among my sampling events this field season is a great project that involves vegetation monitoring transects at (what we call) Stumptown, a 10-15 acre glade unit that one year ago was not a glade, but an impenetrable thicket of even-aged 80 year old Eastern red cedars (relicts of grazing). With a winter full of snow events and inclement weather, my colleague and his staff managed to clear the area of its cedars and burn them on site, leaving behind a glade with no red needle cedar slash, no cedar skeletons, but a thick herbaceous layer recently freed from cedar cover and duff. Bird response to the restoration has followed suit: field sparrows, prairie warblers, Eastern wood pewees, and yellow breasted chats are the most commonly encountered, with chipping sparrows coming in at 5th place.


Monitoring fire effects in high quality sites like the ones I work in is just as much fun as setting fire to the very same woodlands and glades each fire season. With the extra long day lengths, I can accomplish so very much more than in winter months when the sun sets at 4 pm. Hooray for field season, hooray for high quality fire-mediated sites in the Ozarks!





2 comments:

James C. Trager said...

It sounds like fascinating and encouraging work. But, I sure wish your team was doing some "bug" monitoring in the system. It would be great to know more about the recovery of that part of the living community. Since you have competent plant and vertebrate people, it seems to me DNR ought to be offering small grants to entomology grad students to conduct such surveys. Maybe it could couched in terms of food for the birds and herps...

Allison Vaughn said...

Well, it's not that we don't want insect surveys, but we never receive proposals for them. I had one lined up, esp. in light of the recent debate, but my entomologist retired. If you can send qualified entomologists who can identify to species (rather than to family like the previous surveys...), i'd be happy to try to find funding. And it would stand alone as a research contract, not have to be justified for higher life forms. We understand the value...