Dirt From the Field – March 2011

March is here and even though there is still another week of winter according to the calendar, the signs that this year’s winter is over are very apparent.  One of the best places to see spring “happen” is down in Watson Woods.  I’ve been seeing robins, bluebirds and humming birds for a couple of weeks now.  Willows are starting to flower and there are leaf buds opening on lots of the cottonwoods.  The cuttings that were planted last year are starting to stir as well.  This is very gratifying because you just don’t know if a new planting is going to survive its first winter in the ground or not.  We had single digit temperatures and some fairly heavy snow falls this winter and I was anxious to see if the new willows and cottonwoods would bud out this spring.  I’ll wait until May to do a real survey but right now it’s safe to say that at least some survived.

Another sign of spring I’ve seen are raptors performing their aerial mating displays.  I think my favorite is the diving display of the American Kestrel.  We also have a breeding pair of Red-tailed Hawks in the woods and their courtship display is something that makes me stop whatever I’m doing to watch.

There is always more work to do in the preserve and over the last few weeks we’ve had some great volunteer groups to help out.  The regulars from YEI have been taking on a long term job of pruning back the plantings from last year.  We tried planting some very tall cuttings (8-10 feet above the ground) in the hope that we could have instant structural diversity (variation in height).  In most cases, the tops of those cuttings died and they only grew from right above the ground.  So, we’re cutting off those ugly, dead tops.

Prescott College sent two classes of ecology students out to the woods to learn about restoration techniques.  The best way to learn is always by doing so both classes worked really hard on completing tasks that were started back in December by the ACE crew (see December’s blog post).  They were great workers and good students.

Not to be outdone by Prescott College, Embry Riddle’s Sigma Chi fraternity came out to the woods and dug out, pried, pulled, shoved, lifted, rolled, drug and did whatever else it took to remove a HUGE collection of metallic debris including an entire car that was completely buried.  They also got a stove, two water heaters, a barrel filled with solid tar, a car’s bumper, and a bunch of 1” wire cable.  It was an amazing amount of ugly stuff that is no longer in the preserve.  Hopefully, we’ll see some of this stuff used in works of art in the “One Man’s Treasure” portion of this year’s Granite Creek Cleanup event.  If this doesn’t sound familiar, check out the event here on the website.

Well that’s enough for now.  I hope you come out to Watson Woods soon to watch the start of spring and also think about signing up to volunteer with us so we can meet!

Until April,


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