Borrego Springs, CA

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Prescribed burn today

Today was a day of small surprises...some good, some not so good.  On the not so good side, I woke to the furnace running and an outside temperature of 20* (I guess that wasn't really a surprise).  All the windows were frozen shut because of the high humidity along the coast.  The water in Emma's outside water dish was frozen, but I still had running water.  So, I fixed myself a scrambled egg sandwich for breakfast and headed out for the VIS.

I was wearing a turtleneck, fleece jacket, and my winter coat along with gloves.  As I opened the VIS door, I was confronted with warm air!  That was definitely a good surprise.  Kay, a local volunteer, had actually set up the VIS shack with three small electric heaters last night.  Thank you Kay!!  Instead of being 20* inside, it was actually warm enough for me to take off my winter coat.  Of course, two of the heaters had tripped the breaker, but I soon remedied that by moving one of them to an outlet on the north side.  How nice it was to set up for opening without clumsy gloves on. 

Shortly after noon, I noticed what I thought was a large cloud bank out the one window of the VIS.  I headed outside for a better look and discovered that it wasn't a cloud bank at all, but a prescribed burn going on to the south in the Roberts Mueller section of the refuge.  You can see the moist soil units in the foreground of the picture, and the marsh burning in the background.  Prescribed burns are very healthy for the marsh.  They renew growth and provide excellent feeding areas for wintering and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds.  In another month, the burned area will be a lush green.  This is definitely an example where fire is a good thing.  The fire crews set and manage the burns.  Because of all the recent rain, it was feared that burns wouldn't be possible until March, but the conditions must have been right for today's burn.

On an interesting side note, this is the area where waterfowl hunting is allowed on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday during the season.  All hunters must exit the check station from their blinds by noon on these days.  Today, two hunters chose to push the envelope and did not exit on time.  Too bad for them; the fire crew and law enforcement officer found them and they ended up with a $180 fine for not leaving on time.  When the refuge says the hunt is over for the day, they mean it!

So, the burn was a good surprise.  On the not so good side, I did not see the Vermilion Flycatcher today.  With such cold temperatures and brutal winds the last few days, I hope he just moved on to another location.  However, being realistic, with temps in the twenties and winds at 40 mph, how many insects do you think are flying around?  Flycatchers do, as their name implies, catch flies and other insects on the wing.  I will look for him again tomorrow as I do the bird survey.  I'd like to think he made it through....

We did have a bald eagle buzzing the moist soil units today.  As one of the visitors said, "any day is a good day if you see a bald eagle."  Bald Eagles are not very common on the refuge, and you should have seen how his swooping around made hundreds of snow geese take flight!  It was one of those moments that made me appreciate being where I am and doing what I'm doing.  Cool beans!!!

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later,  Judy 

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