Here's an update on the main research activities this spring. The cool spring with a late snow (~15 inches -38 cm- at the end of April) delayed burning weather somewhat and we think seedling recruitment may be later than in the past few years.
On May 9 I mowed burn breaks so the DNR burn crew could burn the plots. They burned the middle unit at Hegg Lake WMA on May 28. Two plots were in this unit. Here's a photo of one plot just after the burn. Nice work! There are 3 plots to be burned at Hegg Lake WMA, two at Kensington Duck Refuge, and one a Eng Lake WMA. At the duck refuge I saw 2 Sandhill cranes and a Red-necked grebe (among the regular, awesome array of water birds).
Dwight, Jean, and I burned the common garden on May 22, starting just after noon. The weather was within prescription, but the wind was a bit strong and the fire jumped the gravel road and started some corn stubble. The fire worked its way to some reed canary grass and we managed to put it out there. If it had gone a little longer it would have torched the cattails and burned the whole slough west of the common garden. Whew!
The running fire was great in the 99S garden, but there were quite a few unburned spots in the main garden. We burn the CG every other year and we mow paths annually, so we don't have quite enough fuel for really complete burns. Maybe in 2010 we should augment the fuel load with some prairie hay.
A big tree just east of the CG caught on fire. It was hollow, but quite strong. It finally broke and fell over around 7 pm. To put it out we scraped all the embers and coal from the trunk with an axe and shovel. We couldn't reach a spot of punky wood 8 - 9 feet (2.5 m) off the ground. So I climbed up the trunk and used a 5 lb. pick mattock to scrape out the embers and punky wood. Then Dwight lifted the smith Indian backpack sprayer over his head and I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. We put it out by around 10 pm. Exciting! We need to cut up the part of the tree that fell on the CG.
An adult bald eagle flew over the CG just as we started to burn and then again around 8 pm -- great!
On 24 May, Gretel and I broadcast seed over the CG. We seeded Galium boreale, Bouteloua curtipendula, and Schizacharium scoparium. Gretel, Per, and I seeded the ditch with many species of seed, including Stipa spartea and Spartina pectinata. We forgot to seed the 99S garden.
On 27 & 28 May Ruth, Amy, Julie, and I searched for Echinacea seedlings in five remnant prairies. We searched about 75 circles with 41 or 50 cm radius and found 17 seedlings. Several had only cotyledons and the tallest first leaf was 24 mm. We got rained out yesterday (29 May). It was also cold and windy.
Last weekend Pete, Dwight, Gretel, and Stuart cleaned out all the sheetrock and insulation (yuck) in the house. That was a job. We got the house all ready to have the floors sanded. We have a lot left to do to get the house ready for the main field season. The highest priorities are bathroom and computer network.