A Trip to Amherst State Park

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2019 by aswiatow

This spot is a hardwood forest with no conifers to be seen. In the spring and summer the deciduous trees provide shade and habitat for the plants and mammals that live in the area. In the winter, the trees are barren. During my visit, the snow was melted so much that it was impossible to distinguish tracks through the crunchy, textured sheets of ice. In the mud around the entrance to the forest I saw some deer tracks. There were no signs of birds in the area, I didn’t even see any nests in the trees. However, this provided an incredible opportunity to see into the subnivean zone. In many spots I was able to observe holes in the ground which must be dens, connected through the subnivean zone like a neighborhood.

I think what might happen in this forest is that the creek which runs through it(separating it into two distinct sides) actually overflows and freezes along the lowest areas in the forest. I have seen this overflow happen when I have visited this location in the fall. There are really no distinct changes in elevation(unlike my hilly spot in Vermont). I was able to identify three of the focal tree species we have learned in class, Red Maple, Red Oak and White Oak. I saw a variety of trees that I tried to identify using online databases and my own inferences based off of the focal species. I think I saw both Black Walnut and Walnut Oaks. I also believe I saw Hybrid Poplar and Black Birch. I spotted some small plants which I used Seek to identify as White Avens and Garlic Mustard. These plants are responsible for some of the small wildflowers I see in the summer. Functionally, this forest may appear comparable to my site in Burlington, but the ecosystems are clearly very different.

March 8th Update

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2019 by aswiatow

Burlington is located within the Champlain Valley Region which is differentiated from other regions by clay soils and limestone sands which were deposited out of the remnants of glaciers and Lake Vermont. This is responsible for the natural communities which prosper from the calciferous soils deposited from ancient fossils of shellfish and other creatures which resided in the lake. My particular patch of the woods is a small patch. This is an upland community, located on the top of a slope which leans into a ravine. This means that the soil is well drained and will not become heavily saturated with water unless there is a lot of precipitation.

I noticed a lot of new tracks while I visited the woods. There was a weasel track which is one I have never seen before. I also saw a large nest and a very bent tree which I thought were interesting. I tried to take note of the dominant tree species in the area but this was difficult to do because there is such a variety. Some species were red and sugar maple, oaks, american beech, paper and yellow birches, white pine, and possibly hickory. This leads me to believe the best community designation would be a Northern Hardwood Forest. There is a clear domination of hardwoods, with significantly few pines. Since my last visit, there is a bit more snow. I selected a new spot this semester, so there has not been much change I can notice. I wonder if the ravine fills with water at all during the spring due to change in elevation. The uphill area I walked through presumably stays drier, for the reason I mentioned in the prior paragraph.

February 4th Update

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2019 by aswiatow


I have selected a new site for this semester. To get to my site, after getting off the on-campus bus you follow the path behind mercy and before Richardson, and you must make a right when you see a trail which opens up to the woods. I noted a variety of tracks. This picture shows tracks which I identified to be a gray squirrel from the paw size and galloping pattern. 

I also identified a bounder which seemed to be a weasel based on the size and shape of prints.

I identified this sugar maple branch, and saw many others like it.

This seems to be a black oak or red maple.

I believe this is a beech branch.



11/26 Update by Ellicott Creek

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2018 by aswiatow


Dropped Pinnear Williamsville, NY 14221


The smells of fall waft through the crisp air. There is a presence of life kept alive through the flow of the stream, Ellicott Creek. The once vivid expanses of marshland wildflowers which usually surround the outer embankments of the stream have put on a dark, almost ominous hue, as if to warn us of the change in seasons. This is a path I have travelled throughout my youth, and to return for this assignment awoke me to the sense of place I have developed towards it. As I traverse the waterline, I am reminded of my place as a stranger amongst the ongoings of nature happening all around me. The processes taking place simultaneously pause and promote both life and death. The spruces, pines, and other conifers which maintain their green aura are a testament to nature’s resiliency. They seem to show off their bright colors boastfully amongst the muddled backdrop of the late-autumn brush.

If you visit Ellicott Creek in the warmer season you will be greeted by species both domestic and wild, from dogs to foxes. Although people crowd the basin for opportunities to fish and play in the stream, year after year the native species seem to return, as if unfazed by the seasonal visitors. It seems like every time I remember, I can hear birds singing. They nestle in the trees, and the maples and oaks which look up to the sky support a plethora of creatures. If you really look, in every corner there are whole ‘worlds,’ colonies of organisms living within the cracks. At times I have ventured through the woodland path, located beyond the creekside woods and even deeper into the natural area. Significantly fewer people can be seen in these parts of the woods, and there are fewer signs of human life than in the surrounding area. There is a calm here, insofar to be away from the sounds of the street, and fully encompassed by the calls of birds and insects, or the rustle of the wind in the trees. I have found that at Centennial Brooke, you need to travel quite far as well to minimize the polluting noises of traffic and bustle, and surround yourself with life. The presence of watersheds brings another tone to the aural sensation, and reminds me that there is an alternate ecosystem located amongst my present one.

Update 11/5

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2018 by aswiatow

Since my last visit to Centennial Brooke, the trees have lost many more leaves than I anticipated. The ground is covered in leaf litter from the variety of deciduous trees surrounding the area, making the ground a whole shade lighter. The ferns are still very vibrantly green, so I find myself wondering about their tolerance to cold and what will happen come frost. There were many birds chirping above me, in a variety of tones and patterns. The Brooke’s water has extended much further into the ravine than when I was here last. I expect that it will extend even closer to the tree-line as the rainy season takes full effect. The wildflowers around the inner bank wetland have all begun to die out. I expect that next time I return the changes will be even more drastic.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2018 by aswiatow

The weather has lead to a plethora of leaf litter throughout the main embankment of the stream where my exact spot is located. Across Centennial Brook, the Red Osier Dogwood leaves have turned brown, but many still have yet to fall.The Interrupted Ferns along the slope of the embankment are still green. The wildflowers are still alive, and I suspect they will begin to die by my next visit.

Next to Centennial Brook

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2018 by aswiatow

My location can be found in Centennial Woods next to Centennial Brook. To get here, you enter the woods from the main entrance. You continue down the marked paths and bridges until you reach the first hill which leads up towards the tree with barbed wire growing out of it. Instead of going up this hill, you take the trail which leads around it and veers off to the left. You stop when you reach the area closest to where the path meets the Centennial Brook. I like how this area feels tucked away yet still has open space and water.
There are a variety of species living within this area. Some common trees were Sugar Maples, Eastern Hemlocks, and Red Osier Dogwoods. Ferns grew in large clumps, I catalogued the Intermediate Wood Fern and the Interrupted Fern. Along the waterline featured in my picture there are a variety of low-lying plants. The most frequent was Common Jewelweed, which sprawled across much of the open space on the ground. Some others were Oriental Bittersweet and Common Buckthorn.

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