Thursday, April 14, 2011

Photo Post: Burning Bluestem, 2011

Four of us (Sylvie, Rob, Karen and I) headed up onto the prairie at Cherry Lake this past Sunday to do another spring burn.

We like to do it in spring when there is still enough snow on the ground to protect the woods and give us options for control. In most of these shots you can see that our grassland is never far from woodland, which is typical for prairie in the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion.

This year we bought a fancy drip-torch to light fires. Fire boss Rob let me hold it long enough so I could look important in a photo.

But this is what the unskilled labour was doing most of the time--sweeping out the fire edges once we had burned as far as we wanted to. (In a better photo you'd be able to see how keen Karen was at this job because I don't let her do it at home very often.)

I just like this shot Karen took.

This is what it looked like when we were done. We were burning mostly Little Bluestem grass and brome at the base of our biggest, south-facing slopes, stopping the fire when it rose up to the more xeric grasses at mid-slope.

The whole time we were working, there was a kettle of red-tailed hawks circling just south of the column of smoke rising from our valley. The image above shows how they appeared to the naked eye--there were fourteen in all.

Here is a closer look with the telephoto lens. In the bottom left corner you can see that one of them is a Turkey Vulture.

They stayed for hours in roughly the same piece of sky, leading us to wonder if they had some instinctive attraction to burning grassland or whether there were warm updrafts from the fire that were fun to ride.

One, a typical Borealis Red-tailed Hawk, wheeled close enough for this shot.

Not Dick van Dyke, but this sweep loves the soot and the smoke of a prairie fire and the thought of crocuses rising just below the ashes.

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