Tom's Blog

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kestrels and prairie willows

Despite the unsettled weather, this is a great time of year, as there is always something new happening at Pleasant Valley Conservancy.

Our kestrels are back and using the nest box that we put up. This is the third year they have raised young in this box. We got ready for them by cleaning the box out in mid February (see photos in my February 2008 blog archives). Yesterday the female was at the box, and the male was in a tree nearby.

Prairie willow (Salix humilis) is an interesting upland willow that is found occasionally associated with prairies. We have been keeping an eye on the small amounts of this species growing at the south edge of Toby's Prairie. Although it is fire sensitive, it resprouts readily from the base so that it is not eradicated by fire. However, since we have such a small amount, when we burn Toby's, we wet down the prairie willow (as well as nearby hazelnut) to keep it from being top-killed.

Today, while planting seeds in a former aspen zone on the north side of Toby's Prairie, I found another small patch of this willow. Since we did not plant it, it obviously has moved in on its own. The buds were already starting to fuzz up, like pussy willow.

Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie, which Kathie and I also manage, has a large amount of prairie willow growing on the top of the knoll in the North Unit. Since we burn that unit every other year, it flourishes on alternative years, and is then knocked back by the fire. Under these conditions it will never take over, even though it is well established.


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