Arb Sightings 10/8/10

Posted on October 8th, 2010 by

Don’t you just love mid-October? Over the past few years it has been the middle of this month that has varied the most. Two years ago, the weather was temperate in the high 50’s and low 60’s; people were wearing light jackets in the morning and shedding them by the afternoon. Last year, a light snow fell around this time, and temperatures struggled to reach the 40’s; everyone was bundled up throughout the entire day. Today, the outside temperature is just under 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and most have opted for t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. Last weekend, low temperatures dropped down into the mid-30’s but did not reach freezing, and thus in St. Peter we still have not had our first frost of the year. Regardless, this appears to be our Indian Summer (a warm period following the first cool-down of the fall), and it looks to be a record-breaker. This hot period is predicted to last into early next week, when high temperatures will drop back down into the 50’s and 60’s, which of course is still wonderfully warm for this time of year. And, as if the temperatures aren’t nice enough to get you outside, there is only a very small chance of rain on one day next week.

On Sunday 10/3 a controlled burn of the Uhler Prairie was conducted by the St. Peter Fire Department. It has been eight years since this prairie was last burned, and thus it was well overdue for a scorching. Fires are essential to a prairie for three reasons: (1) they remove dead and decaying material, (2) they release stored nutrients into the ground and encourage new growth, and (3) they keep trees and other woody plants from spreading into grasslands. Without fires, prairies have a difficult time thriving in the long run. The original native prairies (pre-settlement) were usually started by lightning strikes, but restored prairies are now burned periodically by the various agencies, organizations, and municipalities that manage them. What remains after Sunday’s burn looks and smells like a charred, ashen field, but don’t be discouraged; next spring the prairie will bounce back and appear greener than it has in years.

St. Peter Fire Department conducting controlled burn of Uhler Prairie, 10/3/10. (Photo by Herb Chilstrom)

Controlled burn of Uhler Prairie conducted by St. Peter Fire Department, 10/3/10. (Photo by Herb Chilstrom)

Uhler Prairie one day after controlled burn, 10/4/10.

Here are some other highlights from this week in the Arb:

– Gray Treefrog still present above outside office doorway on north side of Interpretive Center 10/8

– Maple trees south of Borgeson Cabin showing peak fall color 10/4-8

– First of fall White-crowned Sparrow foraging in Bird and Butterfly Garden behind Interpretive Center 10/7

– Northern Short-tailed Shrew foraging in gardens behind Interpretive Center 10/7

– Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting near Uhler Prairie 10/6

– Several late Monarch butterflies nectaring on New England Asters in gardens surrounding Interpretive Center 10/5



  1. Julia Schultz says:

    Funny story Bob–last Sunday as I was driving through campus I was thinking about how I was going to teach the sophomore biology students here in town about succession and climax communities…then I saw the smoke, firefighters, and burning prairie grass…

    Good timing. Very cool!

    • Bob Dunlap says:

      Good timing indeed. We weren’t even sure that we were going to do it that afternoon, but the conditions happened to be just right for it that day. Hope the teaching is going well!