Saturday, June 19, 2010

Burn in South Fork

Today while participating in the annual census of Elegant Trogons in the Chiricahua Mountains, I had the opportunity to go into South Fork with a firefighter, Dario Villarreal, as high as the burn. What I saw couldn't have looked better!

South Fork burn (Photos by Narca)

Richard Webster, who also surveyed for trogons with a firefighter, had the territory above mine and the highest in the drainage. He reported that 80% of the south slope of his area was burned, and in a few places the intensity was high enough to take out trees. But in most of his territory, the fire had only taken out the understory, achieving a great low-intensity burn.

Dario at the South Fork burn

Although we had guessed from the fire map that Maple Camp had been burned, it actually has not been touched. The big maples are intact, and it's necessary to go another quarter-mile above the Camp to reach the area where the fire burned into the creek bottom.  These photos show the charred understory, with an intact canopy. Maples within the burn were scorched, but most are still green. Even some areas of moss on the rocky ground survived!

Scorched maple above, and surviving moss below

We couldn't have wished for a better low-intensity burn, which reduced accumulated fuels and conferred future protection from catastrophic fire.

Of course, the Horseshoe Fire still burns high on the ridge to the south of South Fork, and continues to back into the upper reaches of the canyon above the trailhead. We won't know the final results until the monsoon rains extinguish it, but folks in the Forest Service must be very pleased with results so far.

South Fork burn above Maple Camp

When Rick Taylor and Glenn Klingler finish tabulating the census results, they will tell us the tally of trogons. In my area, we heard a trogon several times in the vicinity of Log Canyon, at the lowest edge of our territory, but didn't see him. (Protocol required us to stay at the center of the territory for the first three hours.) So Dario didn't see a trogon yet, but was treated to Painted Redstart, Red-faced Warbler, and Zone-tailed Hawk, among others. When Dario left South Fork at noon, he was headed for the fire in the Huachucas. Perhaps a trogon will find him there!

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