By: Greg Tonian, Lorelei Stierlin and Dick Zartler
In 2020 the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center (BPRC) achieved major milestones in its Blackland Prairie restoration efforts. Thanks to increased participation by members of the BPTMN and community volunteers we:
-Conducted our first prescribed burn of almost 17.5 acres, changing fallowing rangeland to vigorous emerging prairies, discovering species such as prairie larkspur and ruellia which had not had an obvious presence for many years;
– In partnership with Connemara’s northern bobwhite restoration efforts, over 100 northern bobwhites were reintroduced to the BPRC. To aid the survival of these quail, a dozen brush piles were made to provide cover for nests and protection from predators;
-With the help of REI, Scouts, and community volunteers, we cut a new trail introducing new sections of our BPRC prairies to our visitors;
-Led by Rick Travis of the BPTMN, established a base line survey of the number, variety, and location of trees within the BPRC. This survey will guide our efforts to remove non-native trees and shrubs, such as privet and chinaberry, as well as help form a restoration plan for our riparian forests;
-Removed invasive plants from our four native prairie demonstration plots which took hold during the first months of their existence;
-Harvested native grass and plant seeds both within the BPRC as well as in other areas of Collin County. We are also exchanging our collected seeds with The Nature Conservancy of Texas. These seeds will be replanted in the BPRC to improve the biodiversity of our prairie.
-Our prairie education efforts were greatly reduced by Covid-19 restrictions, but early in 2020 we did conduct our regular “First Saturday” guided trail walks and, this fall, socially-distanced training for new trail guides.
In early 2021 we are planning to conduct a prescribed burn in 5-6 acres of unburned areas of the park. We have already begun cutting to the ground 5 to 10 foot fire breaks along fence lines, tree lines, trails and structures and more will be required before the burn.
As our riparian forest plans develop, we will begin thinning trees, and removing invasive trees to provide for better growth of those remaining, and to improve visitor access to our wooded areas.
We also expect to have another bobwhite release this spring and will be constructing brushy shelters for nesting and predator protection.
As the COVID-19 restrictions are reduced, we will again provide guided trail walks through our plots and prairies and will conduct trail guide training in anticipation of increasing community interests in the BPRC’s restoration and conservation efforts.
Article Submitted By Greg Tonian