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Burn Baby Burn

June 17, 2008

A huge fire in eastern Carolina is burning up one of my favorite birding spots, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The fire, started by a lightning strike two weeks ago, has burned through nearly 40,000 acres thus far, but luckily for the folks who live in that sparsely populated part of the state, the damage is limited entirely to the refuge land.

Fortunately it appears that the wildlife in the area is relatively safe. The fire is not a blazing one, and species like Black Bear and the endangered Red Wolf have long since weaned young and are no longer denning. As good as the Pocosin Lakes region is for birds in the winter, during the summer its slower and likely won’t have a great effect on their populations. In fact, it may end up helping, two of our rarest bird species, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow are famously fire dependent.

The difficulty in battling the flames is exacerbated by the nature of the soil in the area, it’s very peat heavy and extremely dry following over a year of drought in the area. It just keeps smoldering, sending heavy smoke as far west as the triangle. Just last week, smoke permeated the region and the smell of it was everywhere, reducing air quality to the point that the state Air Quality Division posted their highest level alert ever.

It seems the only thing that will stop it at this point is sustained soaking rain. But if this year is anything like last year, that could be a long time coming.


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