This area is the result of a prescribed fire that burned hotter than the prescription. Still, the resulting landscape mimics the effect of a natural fire that would have caused certain pine trees to die but would not burn into the wetter, hardwood bottoms.
The resulting field and snag creation is an important habitat for many types of wildlife that are uncommon in forested areas. Some of the trees took over a year to die, but once they did, herbs and grasses took over as the first stage of succession—the transformation from herbs and grasses to shrubs and trees. From roots and seeds already in the ground, and from seeds carried by wind or wildlife, pioneer plants sprouted and soon occupied this area.
Many animals look for food in open fields then return to the shelter of the forest to rest. The dewberries and blackberries that are prevalent as a result of succession attract many species of birds and other animals when they ripen in the spring. The animals that normally live in an old field forage and nest on the ground or in the low, tangled vegetation. Field mice and sparrows are usually abundant. They feed upon the numerous seeds provided by the plants, or on the insects such as grasshoppers and crickets found in field vegetation. Cottontail rabbits and bobwhite quail may be especially common. Other insect and seed-eating birds characteristic of open habitats are meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds.
Predatory birds, such as hawks and shrikes will perch on nearby trees or circle overhead, watching for an unsuspecting mouse or other small animal to provide a meal. Other predators, such as foxes, may hunt their prey in these areas. Many of the residents of these open areas are partially protected from their predatory enemies by their fur or plumage, which contains patterns and colors that provide camouflage. White-tailed deer may frequently graze in open fields in late evening or at night, and then dart back into the shelter of the forest when threatened. These fields provide a greater variety of good forage than the forest does.
Birds You May See in the Area:
Year-round: Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, and Red-tailed hawks; American Kestrels; Great Horned Owls; Hairy and Red-headed woodpeckers; Northern Flickers; Eastern Bluebirds; and Eastern Towhees.
Summer: Great Crested Flycatchers and Yellow-throated Warblers.
Winter: Merlins, Palm and Yellow-rumped warblers, Song Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos.