After the Fire, Earth Day

April Earth Day

About two dozen volunteers were set to descend on Wyalusing State Park lending their talents in tidying up the park after
a long, long Winter. However, nature had a different idea. A long needed rain arrived the night before which continued throughout the weekend. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources canceled Work Play Earth Day due to concerns for the volunteers' safety. All volunteers arriving at Wylausing State Park were to receive a Work Play Earth Day aluminum water bottle. (Editor's Note: Just a question....will the water bottles be recycled?) (Reply from "... I just wanted to let you know that we are saving the waterbottles for next year when we hope to hold a similar round of volunteer days. ...

Thanks for all of your support and hard work!)

Volunteers are welcome to help out any time. An easy way to volunteer is to bring a Biodegradable Trash Bag and pick up litter along your favorite trail.

Prescribed Burn at Wyalusing State Park

Unofficial map showing approximate Wyalusing
State Park prescribed burn of 128 acres on April 23, 2009
Map updated by Driftless Land Stewardship LLC

On April 23, 2009, working with Driftless Land Stewardship, LLC, Wyalusing State Park implemented a prescribed burn of a 128 acre parcel of forest and prairie. The prescribed burn started around 11:30 AM. Prescribed burns usually occur in mid day. This writer learned, from a reliable source, that ashes from the burn landed as far west as Effigy Mounds.

The WDNR was burning in the Wyalusing Hardwoods State Natural Area

Watch this blog for series of photos featuring the recovery progress of the prescribed burn. Here are the latest photos!

Much of Wisconsin's pasture and farmland was once a sea of grassland. Before European settlement, r
egular fires set by lightning or Native Americans burned through oak woodlands at least every three to five years. The original 2.1 million acres of tall grass prairie have declined to less than 10,000 acres today, most of it degraded and fragmented.

Together with controlled grazing and mowing, prescribed burns mimic the original environment of prairies. Regular burning has been shown to control invasive species. Fire incinerates dead vegetation, which promotes plant growth by returning nutrients to the soil and giving sunlight an opportunity to warm the ground earlier in spring. Fire removes invading woody plants that store most of their energy above ground. Deep-rooted prairie plants can regenerate and thrive using their below ground energy reserves.

Wisconsin is the northern edge of the historic range of tall grass prairie. Prairies could be found in flat areas or, in more hilly regions, often on south and west facing slopes.

The prescribed burn is a result of long range planning for natural prairie restoration, preserving natural ecological balance, and controlling evasive species.

Effective planning for an effective prescribed burn always includes a management plan. The plan has the following components:
  • Site Background Information
  • Fire Management Justification
  • Fire Management Goal
  • Fire Regime Proposal
  • Site Specific Fire Operations
  • Smoke Management Plan
  • Neighbor and Community Factors
  • Maps

Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii)
One important result of the prescribed burn at Wyalusing State Park is to maintain habitat for the endangered Bell ’s Vireo. The Bell's Vireo is undergoing a range-wide decline and needs sufficient shrub-grass habitat to maintain the population. If not, the Bell’s Vireo may become extirpated from the edges of its range, including Wisconsin. Bell ’s Vireos nest in shrub or sapling clumps or shrubby edges/hedgerows adjacent to grasslands or in the area between grasslands and river habitat. If adequate shrub content is present (5-30%) Bell’s Vireos may also be found in pastures, idle grasslands, old fields, native prairies, oak savannah, sedge meadows (Sample and Mossman 1997) hedgerows and power line right of ways (Knutson et al. 2001). Bell’s Vireos are absent from intensively cultivated areas, forests, and pure grasslands (Brown 1993). They prefer dense thickets with high stem density and other cover, such as climbing grape vines and tall grass against the thicket margins, which provides good nest concealment in the zone 2-6 foot from the ground. Prickly ash, American wild plum, and American hazelnut appear to be favored species, but many species of shrubs and small trees are used. Nests are usually 2-5 feet high in the shrubs (Robbins 1991).

Maintenance of the Grassland-shrub habitat type has not historically been
a priority and is often overlooked in bird conservation planning. Many
hedgerows have succeeded to mature trees or removed to create larger fields.
Power line right-of-ways are currently the most stable habitat, but difficult
to maintain in a suitable condition for Bell’s Vireos with their
long narrow shape (Knutson et al. 2001).

Belle'sVireos arrive in southern Wisconsin between April-May and leave in July-August. Summer sightings have occurred in Buffalo, Jackson, Monroe, Vernon, Crawford, Sauk, Iowa, Lafayette, Green, Rock, Columbia, Green Lake, Grant, Marquette, Dodge, La Crosse (and east in the forest preserve), Dane (Madison, Mazomanie, and down to Thomson Prairie area), and southwestern Trempealeau counties. Migrants may be seen in surrounding counties.

The nest of a Bell's Vireo is a small basket-like cup made of leaves, grasses, bark, and spider webs that are lined with fine grasses, coarse hairs, feathers, and wool. Suspended from small, lateral, or terminal forks of low, pendant branches in dense bushes, small trees, and occasionally herbaceous vegetation about 2-5 feet above the ground, rarely higher. (Click here for Belle's Vireos call. Special Note: Don't do this in the office!)

Call Out to Birders!

The author of this blog would love to see a Bell ’s Vireos. Given the past brding history of this writer, the chances are slim to none! So, here's a call out for all birders and other lucky observers. Please send an email (friendsofwyalusing (at)gmail(dot)com) to the author of this blog with this year's photo of a sighting of a Bell’s Vireo at Wyalusing State Park!