FT 7 - CANCELLED  Endangered Landscapes: Fire, Restoration, and Avian Ecology of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, August 6, 2011: 8:30 AM-6:00 PM
Trinity Street Lobby Field Trip Pick Up, Austin Convention Center
Organizer: Joseph D. White
The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is a patchwork of 7,000 hectares of Texas' Edwards Plateau woodlands that is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. Established in 1992, the refuge is challenged with providing essential habitat for these two species, while interacting in a landscape matrix of encroaching urban development from communities near Austin. Participants will visit a variety of habitats that are essential for these species, some with active fire management. These habitats include a wooded oak belt of the "balcony" cliffs which is supported by the seep zones of the Walnut Formation, a little blue-stem prairie, restored through repeated prescribed burns, riparian habitats with various species of ferns and lower vascular plants, and an upland shin oak shrubland affected by fire, ice damage, and juniper removal. Anyone interested in application of ecology to active management of a landscape will appreciate this excursion. The refuge's web site is: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/balcones/index.htm

Registration Fee: $75

Equipment and Attire: Persons should bring a one liter or more water bottle. Sunscreen, insect repellant, hat, and sun glasses are optional but highly suggested. Some moderate hiking (<0.5 km) expected over moderate terrain with hot temperatures.

Itinerary: The trip will begin at the north edge of the refuge near the shinoak observation deck. Description of habitat requirements for the black-capped vireo, past fire management, and adaptation of shin oak will be presented. Next stop will be the Doeskin Ranch for a small hike in a fire-restored little blue stem lowland prairie. This will include a small hike to a creek and beyond. Lunch at the Flying X Ranch will follow (air conditioned). Small informal presentations of current research regarding fire history, bird genetics, and plant ecology will occur. In the early afternoon, participants will be taken to Warbler Vista for a small hike in the oak belt. Discussion of geological factors important for plant ecology will be discussed. The trip will end with another small hike to a riparian canyon where ferns, lower-vascular plants, and an endemic croton occurs. The trip will conclude with a brief discussion regarding wildland urban interface issues at the southern edge of the refuge.

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