Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Return to Gladstone Fen

On Sunday, Lorna Gladstone had another of her occasional workdays at Gladstone Fen up in McHenry County. I've blogged about this site a few times before, and in the late 1980s I was even the site steward there.

As you can see from the photos, winter still has a fairly good grip on northern Illinois, though there has been considerable snowmelt in the last couple of days. Lorna and her crew have been clearing a hillside seepage slope on the west side of the preserve. This is exciting to me, because back when I first started visiting, this is a portion of the fen that I never thought would receive active management.

Brush pile awaiting the torch

There were existing brush piles already created when we arrived. The days work consisted of burning a couple of them, and moving the remaining piles onto the burning ones. We wanted to minimize fire scars. We also had a couple of chainsaws cutting down some of the larger invasive trees. The rest of the work crew threw this freshly cut brush onto the fires as well.

Two bonfires, no waiting

This part of Gladstone fen was densely shade and filled with impenetrable brush when I first visited it. It's gratifying to see the first steps to converting it to healthy fen. Most of the trees and brush have been removed. The rest are slated to go.

Signs of spring- the first migrating sandhills of the year

Despite the wintry appearance, we got to see some signs of spring. The first flocks of sandhill cranes were migrating overhead.

The work crew

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At 11:36, Anonymous Mark H said...

Looked cold.....but after your long snowy winter, I guess it must really feel warmer than it's been. The SANDHILL cranes! I ALWAYS eagerly await seeing them, and really, even HEARING them is thrilling. They are glorious fantastic creatures.

At 12:12, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Good job out there. Nothing better than the sight of those bonfires, or those cranes!

At 21:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It amazes me just how long you have been working towards a goal!!

I saw spring in the back yard today! Bulbs!! Yeah! We could still get a big storm yet this year, we've been awful fortunate!

Good work Doug! Every little thing you do helps!

At 07:47, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Mark- Although it was snowy, it wasn't really cold. This has been such a cold winter that even realtively moderate temperatures seem downright warm.

Mark and Dave- I agrree, I love the sandhills. As Dave probably knows, Illinois is mostly a flyover state for them. Still, over time the number of reports of nesting sandhills here in northern Illinois continues to increase.

Butterfly girl- Yep, I've been at this a while. It means I'm getting OLD. No sign of bulbs yet in my neck of the woods.

At 08:30, Blogger BentonQuest said...

I would have never thought I would miss the prairies of n. IL when I lived there. But your blog always makes me nostalgic. Thanks for the pix.

At 16:32, Blogger Ur-spo said...


At 18:21, Blogger robin andrea said...

How lucky to even see those Sand Hill cranes flying over. I've never seen one, and I think they are such beautiful birds. They inspire great art. Does still look cold there. We're having days and days of cold gray.

At 09:52, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, too bad you couldn't make maple syrup over those burning fires! BTW, are those my sandhill cranes flying overhead? Is this Fen a public place I could visit if I ever get to Illinois? Nice post.

At 11:26, Blogger Chilmarkgirl said...

I have never seen a sandhill crane- I am quite jealous! I did have a red bellied woodpecker in my backyard last week- I thought that was pretty good- I have seen one before in Florida- but never here in Marblehead!

At 21:55, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ben- Funny you would say that. I would never have expected to stay here in Illinois and consider it part of home. The prairies are a big part of the reason behind that (well, that and Leon).

Spo- It looks colder than it was. As you saw yesterday, things have melted off considerably this week. Great to see you and Someone last night.

Robin- I am particularly fond of some of the Japanese artwork that has been inspired by cranes. Hope your weather is improving. Ours is.

Kathie- We dont have all that much sugar maple here in northern Illinois, though I have fond memopries of sugaring during my undergraduate days in central Maine. Gladstone Fen is a private site, but there are others that are open to the public. I'm co-steward at Bluff Spring Fen. Ive blogged about it a bunch of times.

CG- At first I was surprised when you said that you have never seen sandhills- but they're not a New England species. VBery cool on the red bellied woodpecker. They are reasonably common in this neck of the woods. I get them on suet regularly. But they were a species we never saw growing up.

At 23:55, Blogger Floridacracker said...

So, is this fen a natural feature?
It seems to take a lot of management and removal of invasive trees to maintain it.
Are the trees nonnative?

At 06:00, Blogger valown said...

I've read that Fens are usually wet. What normally keeps them clear of shrubs and trees? I would think fire. But you would have to have a cycle that would include a dry period. Is that true, and is fire suppression the culprit there for these areas being overgrown? If you've covered this already in another post point me in that direction.

At 16:36, Anonymous Mark H said...

Doug - - on a curious note, you never leave a woodpile as nature habitat for ground dwelling birds??

At 21:46, Blogger Doug Taron said...

FC and Valown- Your questions merited their own post. See above.

Mark- we do sometimes leave brush piles, however we are capable of generating quite a lot of thhem. Burning as we go minimizes this.


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