Every year in July we have had a large fire come up from the south, and this year was no exception…the only difference being that this fire was much more intense and burned a greater proportion of the site than ever before! The fire was 15 km to the south the night before, but fueled by large amounts of gamba grass and strong winds, it came racing through the property and jumping fire breaks easily, including the creek on both sides of the airstrip. The gamba fire to the east of the house was burning higher than the tree canopy, and moving at incredible speeds. This has left a lot of the site completely scorched.
IRES students have been taking advantage of the fire to investigate its effects on both vegetation and fairy-wren behavior. We have a number of wrens with radio transmitters in areas that burned, and are excited to be tracking the aftermath of the bird. Many of the birds have moved to the only vegetation that escaped the burn, namely bamboo lining the creek, while some of the birds have moved to adjacent areas that were more patchily burnt, and the social interactions between groups have increased as a result of this reshuffling.
Students interested in vegetation and habitat use for their projects are also doing lots of vegetation plots to document the change in vegetation following the fire. Check out the height of the fire scar in the following picture: