Conditions were perfect of a controlled burn of approximately 20 hectares on the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve in Hamilton Township on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
Mark Stabb who is the Program Director for Central Ontario – East with the Nature Conservancy Canada said the land was purchased approximately a decade ago with the intent of restoring tall grass prairie, Oak savanna and Oak woodland which are globally rare habitats.
A controlled burn of the area was one of the last steps to return the land to the way it was years ago.
Stabb said the conditions were “perfect” for the burn.
“We needed a bit of wind – wind that blew away from peoples homes.”
The fire was set in blocks of the field to control the fire.
People reported seeing the smoke from Highway 401 at times during the burn.
“The dryness of the sight was ideal to have a slow, and careful prescribed burn.”
“The intent was to expand remnants population of these tall grass species of mostly plants that was here,” said Stabb.
“So years ago this was a sea of Scotch Pine which is a non-native plant/tree that was planted to actually blowing away. But since it has become more like a dandelion – taking over habitats like this.”
Nature Conservancy Canada has removed the Scotch Pine mechanically, then the area was plowed and seeded over a number of years.
“Now it was the perfect condition to finally burn it – because these tall grass species really thrive with a fire cycle.”
The intent with the fire is it burns hot enough to also burn the non-native species.
“So we’ll get the native species back and hopefully get rid of the more non-native ones. Over time we’ve been able to restore this tall grass community that Hazel Bird, the person who the area was named after and used to come and visit and set up her Blue bird boxes.”
“Blue birds love large, open habitats, open fields like this and then years ago so much Scotch Pine came in that Blue birds were almost considered endangered species at the time.”
“To build on Hazel’s legacy, we’ve restored the fields and the Blue birds have come back.”
Stabb said while the activities were taking place on Thursday, he noticed a number of Blue birds in the fields.