Gossamer Tapestry

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

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm Burning for You

(With apologies to the Blue Oyster Cult).

At long last, we have had a beautiful spring weekend in Chicago. It was sunny and in the sixties both Saturday and Sunday. What to do with such a meteorological bounty? Of course! Let the world dry out thoroughly on Saturday, and burn Bluff Spring Fen on Sunday. Readers who have been with me for a while will remember the series of posts from about a year ago where I described the whys and wherefores of prescribed burning.

Running the Drip Torch

This year's burn went beautifully. We got fire into all of the areas that we had planned to burn. Our oak savannas had dried out enough to carry fire briskly through them. One section of restored prairie had enough fuel to burn for the first time this year. I even got to run the drip torch for a while (my favorite burning task).

The oak woodlands burned remarkably well

The Forest Preserve District is very serious about personal protective equipment (and rightly so). In addition ot my very attractive mustard yellow Nomex jumpsuit, I wore a hard hat for the first time. For most of the burn, I felt like I was part of the Village People. How often will I be able to get both a Village People and a Blue Oyster Cult musical reference into the same post?


Completely unrelated aside: I saw my first butterfly of the season during the burn- a mourning cloak. Spring is really here.

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At 22:22, Blogger Gary Lee Phillips said...

And here I meant to e-mail to tell you that *I* saw the first butterfly of the season, a mourning cloak, yesterday afternoon in our woodlot.

At 22:50, Blogger Ur-spo said...

you butch thing you;
please bring that ensemble to palm springs.

At 09:07, Blogger Floridacracker said...

First butterfly? ... snicker.

Keep us posted as this burned area regenerates.

The turtle project in the previous post sounds great. Good luck with that.

At 10:28, Blogger Jim Lemire said...

I did my grad work at UIowa and always wanted to be part of a burn team on one of the restoration projects. Alas, it never happened. Maybe I can convince my neighbors to burn out all our lawns and replace them with native meadows...

At 11:35, Blogger Texas Travelers said...

Very interesting and a musical post also.


At 12:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, you deserve an award. You can pick it up in yesterday's post.....

At 13:00, Anonymous Mark H said...

Be sure and post a photo in about 6 weeks...........show the recovery. By then you'll hardly know this happened. I really DO remember as a kid in SE Oregon my Father renting a burn machine to clear off ditch banks, grass pastures, weeds, etc. That wasn't with the big picture in mind you have.

Yes, showing off your Village People outfit, eh?

At 13:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice work. So many people don't understand the need for this but it is really important.

Still I worry about things like the turtles and some birds but I guess it happens.

A worthy post and stout blog. Nice photos.

Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio

At 16:40, Blogger BentonQuest said...

The pyro in me is exceedingly jealous of you.

At 21:07, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Gary Lee- People were seeing both mourning cloaks and commas this weekend. This is very late for first sightings.

FC - You'd probably snicker in a normal year. This year, we're about three weeks late for the first opportunity to see butterflies.

Jim- here in Illinois, a lot of people are replacing at least part of their lawns with prairie. I have one, and I do burn my yard occasionally.

TT_ Thanks. Though I think that the musical part shows my bad taste in that department as much as anything.

BG- Thanks for the award. That was very sweet of you.

Mark- A burn machine? That's a new one on me.

oldmanlincoln- Welcome to the Tapestry. Thanks for the kind words. I don't worry too much about the birds. We burn before most ground nesters have started in. I've never seen a burnt turtle. Snakes, on the other hand...

Ben- most of the prairie folks that I know have a very active inner pyro.

At 21:08, Blogger rodger said...

You rock! Or...disco! Yeah, definitely disco in that suit. Of course the last photo is pretty butch which brings us back to RAWK!

Full circle.

At 21:14, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

You guys had a great weekend for a burn. Sounds like it went real well too! One of these days I'd like to run the torch, too. Scratch that old pyromania itch, lol...

At 22:40, Anonymous Wayne said...

Great! I really enjoy controlled burns this time of year when the air is cool. That looks like a good one - not too hot and getting rid of all those pesky baby trees that screw up the prairie look.

I agree with mark h - do let us see what it looks like in the months to come.

Our wildland clothing is kevlar (same as nomex) but while our shirts are yellow, the pants are dark green. I think I prefer your color combo. Nonetheless they are extremely comfortable in 100-deg temps in the summer.

How much control line work did you do? You can't have fun with the fire unless you've been digging control lines, you know. ;-)

At 06:04, Anonymous Anonymous said...


A butterfly at last.

At 07:42, Anonymous Jyoti said...

I really want to see Mourning Cloak ... It's been on my wish list since long ... But have never seen it.

Yeah finally spring is here! It's so nice to see leaf buds sprouting.

At 09:34, Blogger robin andrea said...

I haven't seen any mourning cloaks here yet. I remember photographing one last year in May. So, it must be a bit early. I am a bit jealous that you had a weekend of 60 degree temps. We're still wallowing in the chilly 40s.

You look great in that yellow gear, doug.

At 16:23, Blogger valown said...

Your song reference is much better than what I usually think we at a p-burn. I always think of Disco Inferno by the Trammps. You know, "burrrrn baby burn, Disco inferrrno"

At 21:21, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Rodger- What can I say?

Dave- I was starting to worry that we wouldn't get a burn in this season. I agree, it was a super weekend for it.

Wayne- I'll try to make a point of regular updates on the progress of greening up. I have yet to se bi-colored Nomex. the burn boss was wearing khaki. We do some control line work, though less than a lot os plces. This is a very easy site to burn. The downwind side of most burn units is generally something completely non-flammable. We do not dig contol lines, we burn in blacklines, This is pretty standard control practice for grassland burns.

Roy- Thanks for stopping by. You were one of the folks I was thinking of when I saw the butterfly. Unfortunately, no opportunity for a photograph. The butterfly was actively flying and I wasn't in a position to hang out to wait for it to stop.

Jyoti- Morning cloaks are very common around Chicago. It's easiest to see them out in the suburban forest preserves, but I have seen them a few times on the Museum grounds.

Robin- Thanks. This is the first nice weekend we have had this season. They are now saying that we might have wet snow on Saturday. Fortunately I will be in southern California.

Valown- Thanks for the earworm. I think. Your song is much more appropriate for my outfit.

At 10:51, Blogger T.R. said...

Wow, yellow seems to be your color, who new? Your on to something there. What a hot post!

At 11:01, Blogger Max said...

Thanks for visiting my site. In addition to birds, I have been studying insect responses to fire, so I would like to see results from your prescribed burns.

At 22:14, Blogger Doug Taron said...

tr- This is where I should make a snide comment about being an autumn or some such. But I don't know which season matches with yellow.

Max - Welcome to the Tapestry. Thanks for stopping by. Are you familiar with Ron Panzer's work? He's done a fair bit on the effects of fire on prairie insects. I have some references if you are interested.


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