[Tweeters] Fill fire: orchid casualty

James West jameswest at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 30 17:14:02 PDT 2009

The worst damage from the Fill fire in the long run may be to the substantial population of Hooded Ladies Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) that is one of the many unusual features of the flora of Montlake Fill. It was in full flower at the time. The area completely burned by the fire contained the focus of this population, which last year was >300 flowering plants, this year at least 200. For quite a few years the orchid has been extending its range on The Fill by seed dispersal, and this year there are 75-100 plants in flower in the area west of the south end of the main pond, where the long grass is a little shorter and sparser (this is the area that is heavily 'grazed' by flocks of Canada Geese in Fall and Winter). A few specimens have also shown up NW of Wahkiakum Lane. Oviously all is not lost, but it will be interesting to watch the vegetation recovery in the burned area next Spring...

James West
University of Washington.

----- Original Message -----
From: Connie Sidles
To: Tweeters
Sent: Thursday, July 30, 2009 10:36 AM
Subject: [Tweeters] Fill fire

Hey tweets, well, it could have been a lot worse. The fire seems to
have begun just west of the juncture between Wahkiakum Lane and the
Loop Trail, on the east side of Shoveler's Pond. It fanned out
southwards toward East Point, burning pretty much everything until it
reached Boy Scout Pond (the vernal pond just north of Southeast Pond,
where we often have Solitary Sandpipers in the spring). Most of the
trees in the fields survived. The triple-trunk cottonwood in the
middle of the field got pretty scorched at the base, but it will
probably be okay. The little crab apple trees will probably also
survive. I'm not so sure about the Lone Pine Tree, however. Although
it is a ponderosa and should withstand fire well, it looks like it
burned all the way to the top. I hope that its insides are okay and
that it will regenerate next year.

Considering how dry everything is and how tall the prairie grasses are
now, I think the Fill dodged a big bullet. Having little or no wind
yesterday must have helped, as did the quick response of the Fire
Dept. and their skill. They had to connect a hose all the way from the
fire hydrant near the CUH building out to the fields. A fire truck
drove out there as well. It was also good that the baby birds nesting
in the fields were all pretty much out of the nests by now. The total
burned area was so restricted, all things considered, that I bet even
the snakes managed to get away.

Meanwhile this morning, the finches are having a bonanza. Because the
area has not been mowed yet, there must be a lot of seed on the
ground. One silver lining: we can probably look forward to a good
fall migration of sparrows, longspurs, and possibly larks.

The Main Pond escaped the fire completely. This morning, there were
two Long-billed Dowitchers at the north end, along with two Spotted
Sandpipers. A Belted Kingfisher kept diving off the dead willow snags,
catching little minnows, and then whaling the daylights out of each
fish before swallowing it. - Connie, Seattle

constancesidles at gmail.com
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