Crow’s Nest: Prescribed fire 2021
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.
We held our first prescribed fire of the year—or rather in two years—at Crow’s Nest yesterday. The meadows scheduled for last year were pushed to this year and there was plenty of fuel in these small management units. Above, taking weather and calculating relative humidity.
Above and below, the two crews working their way around the meadow below the Chief’s Grove. This will encourage the native warm-season grasses and discourage some of the woody plants and invasive multiflora rose from taking over the field.
We also burned a small half-acre meadow, one of what we call our “Northern Meadows.” This opening has a population of bushy beardgrass, Andropogon glomeratus, a plant that is listed as rare and vulnerable in Pennsylvania, in part because management such as prescribed fire is necessary to maintain the early stage of succession which it requires (Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program). It is also unique among species of little bluestem in its preference for moist or wet meadows—most of these, also known as poverty grass—grow on drier and not nutrient rich soils. (The latter is also why we’re managing these native warm-season grasses with fire around the Chief’s Grove—mowing alone doesn’t maintain these soil conditions since it returns organic matter to the ground, gradually enriching the soil. What might be desirable in a garden doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of certain native plants and habitats; too-rich soils in some cases encourage weed species that outcompete the natural plant communities.)
Finally, we also burned a portion of the meadows around the parking lot (the parts not being burned this year were mowed a couple weeks ago—we never burn all of a large area at one time so that a variety of habitat conditions can be maintained).
Here’s a view of these meadow patches at the end of the day (neatness counts!). The overflow parking area on turf grass is still available and the trail curves off to the upper right in this photo.
The meadow below the Chief’s Grove (a little more than three acres) is shown below. You can see where a spring emerges and flows through that field, and also on the left, where I left circles of standing grass when mowing that half of the field earlier in winter. Keep in mind too, that in this view you don’t see the elevation changes; the Chief’s Grove is perched on a hill with great views. Be sure to come by to see how fast these meadows green up this spring.