After the Wildfire
240 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
69 color photographs
Release Date:28 Feb 2017

After the Wildfire

Ten Years of Recovery from the Willow Fire

The University of Arizona Press

Swallowtail butterflies frolic on the wind. Vireos and rock wrens sing their hearts out by the recovering creek. Spiders and other predators chase their next meal. Through it all, John Alcock observes, records, and delights in what he sees. In a once-burnt area, life resurges. Plants whose seeds and roots withstood an intense fire become habitat for the returning creatures of the wild. After the Wildfire describes the remarkable recovery of wildlife in the Mazatzal Mountains in central Arizona.

It is the rare observer who has the dedication to revisit the site of a wildfire, especially over many years and seasons. But naturalist John Alcock returned again and again to the Mazatzals, where the disastrous Willow fire of 2004 burned 187 square miles. Documenting the fire’s aftermath over a decade, Alcock thrills at the renewal of the once-blackened region. Walking the South Fork of Deer Creek in all seasons as the years passed, he was rewarded by the sight of exuberant plant life that in turn fostered an equally satisfying return of animals ranging from small insects to large mammals.

Alcock clearly explains the response of chaparral plants to fire and the creatures that reinhabit these plants as they come back from a ferocious blaze: the great spreadwing damselfly, the western meadowlark, the elk, and birds and bugs of rich and colorful varieties. This book is at once a journey of biological discovery and a celebration of the ability of living things to reoccupy a devastated location. Alcock encourages others to engage the natural world—even one that has burnt to the ground.

Alcock takes advantage of an increasingly common phenomenon—a severe wildfire—to present an engaging exploration of the natural history of a desert mountain range. The wildfire serves as a long-term site for Alcock´s hikes and observations of nature, in which he shares the biological basis of ecosystem changes, as well as his deep appreciation of the beauty and mystery of the desert mountains. Readers will be inspired to observe the natural environments around their own homes.’—Peter Fulé, Northern Arizona University School of Forestry
‘Like taking a walk with Thoreau or Leopold, this is a unique and fascinating book. Accounting recovery after the Willow fire, naturalist John Alcock relates seasonal walks among the chaparral plants along Deer Creek during the previous decade. The hidden lives of wildflowers, birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects come alive, along with his evolutionary explanations for their myriad adaptations to the desert environment and recent fire.’Stephen Buchmann, author of The Reason for Flowers
In thirty-six short chapters, with a cross-reference of common and scientific names, this is a high-quality production with sixty photos of landscapes and insect, avian, and terrestrial inhabitants. This work is destined to become a classic example of long-term research.’—Choice
John Alcock is an Emeritus Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, where he taught from 1973 until 2008. He is the author of several books, including Sonoran Desert Spring and Sonoran Desert Summer. Alcock is a hiker and photographer.
Deer Creek Long Ago
The South Fork of Deer Creek: January 2004
The Willow Fire and Its Aftermath: June 2004 and April 2005
Returning to Deer Creek: December 2008
Spring Revival: May 2009
After the Monsoon: September 2009
The Lupine Season: March 2010
Spring on Deer Creek: Early April 2010
Dodder and Hedgehogs: Late April 2010
Golden Eagles: Early June 2010
Great Spreadwings: October 2010
The Puzzle of Dioecy: January 2011
Deer Brush and Recovery After Fire: April 2011
Mites, Glochids, and Thunderstorms: July 2011
A Day Full of Predators: September 2011
Daddy Water Bugs: November 2011
Mountaintop Snow: December 2011
“Spring” Is Here: January 2012
The Creek Is Running: February 2012
So Much for Spring: April 2012
An Illegal Hike?: July 2012
Another Illegal Hike?: August 2012
Sprangletop Heaven: September 2012
Fall in Deer Creek: October 2012
The Cold Carpenter Bee: December 2012
The Leafhopper Walk: January 2013
The Coyote Chorus: February 2013
Another Spring: March 2013
Back to Deer Creek: October 2013
Winter, Arizona Style: December 2013
Robins in Winter: February 2014
Yet Another Spring: March 2014
Plant Colors and Plant Visitors: April 2014
Back to Deer Creek Again: October 2014
Crab Spiders: March 2015
Neon Skimmers: October 2015
Conclusion: The Ecology of Western Wildfires

Scientific Names of Plants and Insects
Selected Bibliography
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