A week ago Saturday, my husband called from our mountain in New Mexico to tell me he had to evacuate. I was still in Houston.
“The mountain is on fire,” he said.
Dog Head Fire was ablaze and had consumed nearly 18,000 acres. There were 1,000 firefighters working around the clock to contain it. It was only 10 miles from our little slice of heaven in New Mexico, and my husband had packed a few items and headed down the mountain to safety.
“I don’t know what will happen to our place or our things,” he said.
“It’s okay. It’s just stuff. You’re all that matters,” I said back.
Later that evening I thought about the devastation. Most of the land that had been consumed was forest and I wondered… what about the birds?
Some experts predict it will take 100 years or more before the forest will return to normal conditions. And yes, there will be casualties – both human and wild life. But there will also be some who benefit from the fire.
If treetops burn to a crisp completely, the canopy dwellers like mountain chickadees (which we have plenty of on our mountain) will be forced to seek out new habitat. It’s the woodpeckers that win big as they head toward the large areas of scorched trees in search of bark and wood-boring beetles.
After the flames die down, scientists and forest managers expect birds will arrive in droves. That’s because some bird species depend on freshly burned forests, particularly in areas that are dry and riddled with lightning. (That’s our mountain top! Especially in the summer.)
As I write this, it’s been one week since my husband evacuated. The fire is now 90% contained and I have mixed emotions. My heart aches for the resulting loss: 12 single residences and 44 other minor structures, 300 people temporarily displaced, and 18,000 acres of beautiful forest and wildlife.
But I’m also grateful. Our property and belongings were spared. My husband and our friends have been able to return to their homes. And, we have the opportunity to provide food, water, and habitat to any displaced and stressed birds.
Geez, we need to load up on supplies!