Activities 7 :00AM - 9:00AM—Birding on the Brazos - Meet at the parking lot by river - Walk along park…Read more of this >>
Enter Your Favorite Prairie Photo In our first Annual Photography Contest Awards and prizes presented at our End of Year…Read more of this >>
Attracting Butterflies, Hummingbirds,and Song Birds to Your Yard When: February 22, 2014, 9:00 – 3:00 Where: Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Pkwy Workshop LeadersRead more of this >>
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipedula) is the official State Grass of Texas, found in every bioregion in the state.
Please join our partners, Texas Native Prairie Association, Katy Prairie Conservancy, Native Plant Society, Houston Audubon and all the other local conservation groups in our efforts to save the Deer Park Prairie. We have so few of these special areas left in this world, much less southeast Harris County. For more information, visit our News and Events page.
Ed Fair wrote:
“We have some very exciting news in connection with the Commons Ford Prairie Project.
A prescribed burn is now scheduled to take place on the Commons Ford tract on a date from August 6-9. As many of you may recall, a burn was included in our initial restoration plan, but the drought prevented us from conducting it when scheduled during the summer of 2011. This burn will now assist in removing the remaining invasives and reinvigorate growth of the natives forbs and grasses. We will also be coming with additional new seeding of natives in 2014. In short, this is an incredibly important step in insuring the long-term sustainability of the prairie, and the summer scheduling of a “hot” burn could not be more beneficial.
The burn will be conducted under the auspices of the Austin Fire Department in coordination with the Austin Parks Department and in compliance with all applicable regulations for such burns. Highly trained prescribed burn specialists will be supervising all activities. The burn can take place only if certain weather conditions (e.g., temperature, wind speed/direction and barometric pressure) are within the specified limits. The burn supervisors will assess the conditions constantly and will not make a final decision on any specific date until early in the morning of that particular day. If you live in the area close to the park, you may be able to smell or see smoke on the scheduled date. If you do, please recall that this is part of the prescribed burn. Of course, the park will be closed during the burn.
Let me know if you have any questions. While I may not be able to answer them, I will attempt to obtain information or get you in touch with someone who can.”
Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project Update - Prescribed Burn/Moving Forward
Ed Fair wrote:
“Prescribed Burn. The prescribed burn was conducted on the Commons Ford Prairie on Friday, August 9. The burn plan was implemented under the supervision of Fire Management Specialist Glen Gillman and Chief Josh Portie of the Austin Fire Departments. More than 20 firefighters participated in the burn from various Austin area units (Ce-Bar, Lake Travis, Westlake Hills), Texas Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Austin Wildlands Division/Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.
We were fortunate to be able to have representatives from Commons Ford PRO, Austin PARD, Travis Audubon Society and local neighborhood associations and property owners present to witness the burn. The process was nothing short of amazing to watch. The experienced crew worked professionally and diligently to insure a safe and effective burn. The burn, from first fire to smolder, took about two hours. Firefighters from the close-by Ce-Bar unit regularly checked the prairie to insure that there were no flare-ups.
While we wanted to make sure that we stayed out of the way of the operation, we found that the AFD team allowed us to safely observe the entire experience which included the opportunity to listen to the pre- and post-fire briefing. In fact, Liaison Officer Justice Jones was present with us throughout the day and made himself readily available to answer any questions.
Many of you know about prescribed burns but witnessing one first hand is an educational and exhilarating experience. It is the essence of the word “controlled” in that all variables are constantly checked to insure that the fire remains in the designated area. Further, you see the immediate evidence of the removal of fuel which can result in just the opposite - out-of-control wildfires.
From the perspective of the restoration project, this burn will help eradicate the remaining invasive plant species on the tract. Interestingly, birds were immediately returning to the prairie within 24 hours of the burn. Significant numbers of Morning Doves, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Lark Sparrows were picking through the issues and eating the seeds on the remaining stalks of common sunflower and standing cypress.
You can visit our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/commonsfordpro and click on the “Prescribed Burn - 2013” set to see photos from the burn. If you have never seen a prescribed fire, it is worth a ten minute viewing.
We sincerely thank the Austin Fire Department team and its partners as well as Joan Singh of Austin Parks and Recreation Department for making this important burn happen.
Next Steps. We will be monitoring the impact of the burn in the coming weeks and expect to see a quick response from the native grasses, particularly if we receive any rain. The burn itself should substantially re-invigorate the natives already on the prairie. We will spot treat with herbicide any invasives which re-emerge and will follow with a supplemental planting of native grasses and wildflowers in the first quarter of 2014. We are in the process of preparing a grant application which will match funds already available to make sure that we can proceed with these important additional steps. If we are able to do so, we should be well on our way to creating a long-term sustainable native prairie.
Thanks to all of you for your continuing support of this important project.”
The field trip began with David Talbot talking about the history of the Mary Talbot Prairie. Pat Merkord, Executive Director of NPAT, also began with a brief overview of the local ecosystem and plant communities.
Scenic view of the prairie.