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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION FIRE MANAGEMENT: Celebrating the Arrival of Fall

Region 8, September 26, 2011
Geese grazing on new plant growth after a prescribed burn at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Geese grazing on new plant growth after a prescribed burn at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Mixed flock of waterfowl at the Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area.
Mixed flock of waterfowl at the Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Miriam Morrill

We’re rolling in to the fall season which is great news for the fire program. Great news because we get to see the bounty and benefits from this year’s prescribed burns. Prescribed fire is used to improve wildlife habitat on many National Wildlife Refuges and is very effective in managing wetland areas for the hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl traveling through the Pacific Flyway.

Prescribed fire can help remove thick tules and cattails without draining wetlands and open up places for the many dabbling and diving ducks. A well timed prescribed fire can burn away invasive plants and allow natives to grow and provide high quality food for our hungry travelers. Prescribed fire is also beneficial for grazing geese, clearing away dead grasses for nutritious new plants.

If you’re visiting a National Wildlife Refuge in the fall, you may see hundreds of geese, pheasants and other birds hanging out in recently burned areas where green grasses are bright in contrast to the darkened soil and white geese.

Did I mention the fall colors? We don’t see the major foliage changes they do back east, but wait until you see flocks of colors as birds coming from their northern nesting areas stop along the Central Valley and Bay Area refuges. Right now, in September, you’ll see pintails, shovelers and white-fronted geese. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see widgeons and maybe cacklers and by November the fall colors will change to a snowy white sky with thousands of Ross’s and snow geese.

It’s amazing! If you love fall colors, come and visit your local wildlife refuge and see, no experience, the stunning show of waterfowl that are taking refuge in the habitat areas managed so carefully by our biologists and fire program.

 

Contact Info: Miriam Morrill, 530-934-2801, Miriam_Morrill@fws.gov