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April 19, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Burning the Prairie

Habitat Restoration

During the past few weeks the Forest Preserve District has conducted several burns at the prairie where I volunteer as a bird monitor. I happened to be walking on the woodland path circling the prairie the morning of a burn. I was surprised that they were going to burn along the paths too. I watched them set up and pestered them with a few questions before moving back out to the prairie to avoid the smoke.

Burning The Woodland Path


The burn crew explained that the fire was slow-burning and would clear out the brush, leaf litter and invasive species that are not adapted to fire. The native trees have thick bark and the plants have deep roots. Prairie plants can have roots up to 18 inches deep.

The Prairie


A portion of the prairie had been burned a week or so earlier. Different sections of the prairie are burned each year. After the burn, nutrients are recycled back in into the soil. With the brush removed it is easier for seeds to germinate.


New growth was already sprouting. I’m hoping to see some native wildflowers popping up soon.

Moving away from the fire

The birds were getting noisy and calling to each other to move away from the smoke. A family of deer appeared on the path. The youngsters paused briefly to look at me, then turned and followed mom to the other side of the woods.


A Turkey Vulture soared overhead.


Birdwatching was done for the day.


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Leeswammes / Apr 19 2014 2:29 am

    Wow, that is really interesting. Vultures, prairie, burning parts off, it’s not something I think I’d come across on my walks in the woods! Really interesting to read about. And amazing how quickly new seeds sprout in the burned soil!


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:25 pm

      We have a very committed forest preserve district and many volunteers so they are able to accomplish a lot to keep the natural areas as ‘natural’ as possible.


  2. Louise / Apr 19 2014 3:17 am

    What an interesting thing to see. The Australian bush is adapted to fire, and we have controlled burns in many areas too, often to try and reduce bushfire risk. Those deer are wonderful.


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:27 pm

      It’s only in the recent past that land managers realized that our native plants were dependent on fire and thrive only when the plant litter and invasive species are burned out. I imagine the Australian bush is similar.


  3. brokencookiesdontcount / Apr 19 2014 5:17 am

    Interesting. I never think of the controlled burns going on. Love that first photo of the trees with all the smoke. Looks mysterious. Have a great weekend!


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:29 pm

      Very controlled. They only do burns when the temperature and wind conditions are perfect. And there were lots of folks around to put out the fire if it got out of control.


  4. readerbuzz / Apr 19 2014 6:58 am

    The first time I really understood burning was during the big fire in Yellowstone Park in 1988. I’d worked in the park in the mid-seventies and the fire felt like a tragedy. At first. Gradually the world saw the benefits of a big fire.

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot.


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:30 pm

      I think Yellowstone was when I realized it too. I remember all the Smokey the Bear commercials in the 60s and thought all fire was bad.


  5. jmcguin7 / Apr 19 2014 7:55 am

    WE noticed the controlled burn areas as we drove through the Carolinas this year.


  6. BermudaOnion / Apr 19 2014 8:22 am

    I’ve seen people burn their yards like that. I’m glad the deer got out of the way!


  7. Beth Hoffman / Apr 19 2014 8:59 am

    I love you how you created this as a short story with pics!


  8. laurelrainsnow / Apr 19 2014 10:24 am

    They used to do controlled burns in the foothills where I lived for thirteen years…it always made me a little nervous. Thanks for sharing!



    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:32 pm

      As long as the fire department is involved I’m ok with the burns. My neighbors and their fire pits are more scary!


  9. Sandra Nachlinger / Apr 19 2014 10:47 am

    I enjoyed your photos and narrative about the controlled burns. We lived in South Florida for quite a while, and there were often fires in the Everglades caused by lightning strikes. It was amazing how quickly the vegetation grew back.
    My Saturday Snapshot is HERE.


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:33 pm

      I was surprised about the plants too. They did a huge burn in one of the parks last year and I thought it would never grow back, and it came back beautifully that same year.


  10. Sheila (Book Journey) / Apr 19 2014 11:22 am

    We do some burning like that around here in overgrown brushy areas “a controlled burn” it is amazing how that works!


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:35 pm

      I’m glad to see this goes on in a lot of other areas too. The invasive plants can take over in no time so the fires make sense. Otherwise we’d be overrun with Buckthorn, Honeysuckle and Canary Grass!


  11. Anne / Apr 19 2014 12:34 pm

    It is weird to think how beneficial fires can be


  12. joyweesemoll / Apr 19 2014 1:56 pm

    Controlled burns happen around here for re-establishing prairies and savannahs. I like the deer taking appropriate precautions.


    • Leslie / Apr 19 2014 2:37 pm

      The deer wasted no time in getting away from the smoke!


  13. Suko / Apr 19 2014 2:18 pm

    Leslie, thank you for this educational and lovely post. The deer photo is my favorite. Have a wonderful Easter.


  14. susanmillerlindquist / Apr 19 2014 2:52 pm

    Sounds like good stewardship to me … fires are a natural way to control growth and renew soils … great post!


  15. Bev@My Reader's Block / Apr 19 2014 5:29 pm

    Very interesting, Leslie. It is amazing how quickly areas regrow after fires–whether controlled burn-offs or accidental fires. Your pictures remind me of our scout trip to the Boundary Waters. We went up two years after a major fire and it was amazing to see the new growth amongst the remains of the fire.

    I’ve been away from Saturday Snapshot for a while. I’d love for you to stop by my post.


  16. Sean @ His and Her Hobbies / Apr 19 2014 8:45 pm

    Its great that they do controlled burns. It often helps clear out the dead wood and start the forest over. Plus it stops a bigger fire from occurring later. Its interesting to see how quickly the plants start to re sprout. Thanks for sharing.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies.


  17. irene / Apr 19 2014 8:45 pm

    I’ve never heard of this, how interesting. I have heard though that a fire does spur the natural plants to rejuvenate. I remember my brother deciding to have a brush fire in my mom’s yard, and then he got distracted and it just went. She had the loveliest lawn after that, not a weed in site.


  18. Sue / Apr 19 2014 11:30 pm

    That blackened soil really helps heat it up for quick spring growth. It’s amazing how fast the prairie plants grow after the release of all those nutrients.


  19. Diane / Apr 20 2014 6:31 pm

    This was so interesting Leslie- love you nature photos too of course


  20. stacybuckeye / Apr 20 2014 7:53 pm

    That’s si onteresting, Leslie. And great that they found a way to keep only what’s supposed to be there.


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