Since the last time I visited the site, much has changed in regard to the composition and vegetation. Two trees have fallen perpendicular to one another across the brook, causing the water to flow much closer to the ridge of the bank. The White Oak leaves of one tree have turned yellow-green, and the other boasts a more red-orange hue. The brook itself is blanketed with fallen leaves of deciduous trees, and the grasses across the brook have begun to wither and turn brown. The air is much cooler and crisp, and the sun sets much earlier in the day, with the soft light illuminating the golden leaves and reflecting off of spider webs. The layer of pine needles on the ground has been covered by piles of leaves from the deciduous trees.
Most of the evidence of wildlife in this location comes in the form of sounds. I hear the short, rhythmic chirp of a bird and the rustling of the leaves from chipmunks and squirrels, which I have seen several of. Only sometimes do I catch a glimpse of the wing of a bird as it takes off from the forest floor and into a nearby tree. The squirrels and chipmunks are busy gathering food or chasing one another around the trees. I see small fish dark across the sections of the brook lit up with sunlight. Aside from that I have yet to find any discernible animal tracks or crevices in logs formed by birds.
(Photos and map by Bre Ellis)
Since the last visit to my site, the tones of the forest have shifted from orange, yellow, and red to varying shades of taupe and brown. The Norway maple still has its green leaves with black tar spots, but the White Oaks have dropped all of their leaves, which now coat the forest floor or drift down the brook. The brook itself occupies more space on the bed and is much stronger-flowing than during my last visit. Underneath the fallen tree laying across the brook perpendicular to where I sit has formed a dam-like build-up of fallen leaves and sticks, which has created a small funnel creating a more concentrated flow of water and frothy bubbles that float downstream. The chipmunks are much less active than my pervious visits, and the sounds of my place is occupied with the bubbling of the brook rather than the chirping of chipmunks.
(Photos and map by Bre Ellis)
The shift from November to December was much more subtle at my site in comparison to the transitions between the previous months. The brook remains along the same path of flow, and the same fallen trees remain. The leaves, however, are now mostly fallen, and those that do hang on are brown and crisp, curled and ready to be blown from their branch. The only remaining green is that of the needles of the hemlocks and the pines, and the occasional fern along the ground.
(Photos by Bre Ellis)
Winter is now in full-swing at my phenology site. Snow covers the ground and the trees in a blanket of white; the only green exists in the ferns that peak out from the layers of snow and ice, and the pine and hemlock needles that hang from the trees. As a result of the snow, the ground of my site is no longer defined by layers of fallen pine needles and leaves. Although most of the trees at my site are conifers, I was able to use the twig of the Norway Maple to identify it as such (and there is a White Oak, although the branches were too high to be able to use a twig to check identification). The wildlife tracks I found and are pictured below prove that, despite the lack of life that is associated with winter, my site is very much alive with the movement of small mammals. At the base of trees is where I found the greatest concentration of these prints, along with various trails of tracks that dispersed from that point. At my site, Centennial Brook has a layer of ice forming over it, with the water flowing underneath, its bubbling visible in breaks in the ice.
(Photos and drawings by Bre Ellis)
There have been a few changes to my site since the last time I visited in February. I’m sure more is changing than meets the eye as plants and wildlife prepare for spring. There’s a fresh dusting of snow over the ground, which came as a bit of a surprise after the few days of 50-degree weather we had. The light snow made a nice fluffy layer allowing for me to identify some fresh tracks of squirrels and a fisher or mink. There is a lot less snow than in February, and the leaves that cover the ground peak out between the patches of white. The area around the brook is muddy and thick from the layers of snow that had previously melted over those warmer days. Moreover, the brook itself has defrosted and is free-flowing, uninhibited by any layers of ice. It fills in more of the bank and flows with more force than it had in February. The trees still remain bare; the hemlock trees even seem to have fewer needles than they have during my past visits.
(Photos by Bre Ellis)
Unfortunately, there are not many signs of spring present at my place just yet. Although the snow has melted away, the cold weather has yet to break, and today especially there was heavy sleeting that has created a layer of ice over the leaf litter of the forest. Because of these low temperatures and frosts, I couldn’t find any signs of amphibians along Centennial Brook, and there were no signs of wildflowers peaking up, or trees flowering. There still just remains the layers of ferns and moss, and the buds of the trees preparing to unfold. Nevertheless, when the weather does begin to finally turn toward a warmer spring and summer, I predict that there will be some amphibian species present in my place.
From a landscape ecology perspective, there are several areas to consider edges at my place. My place itself contains Centennial Brook, which divides the stream bank into two distinct halves, and could impede the interaction between two populations of certain species. Additionally, on one side of the stream is the majority of my place with its forest of white oak, eastern hemlock, and white pine. On the other side of the brook the landscape is made up of more of an open grassland. Therefore, my place can act as a unique cross-section for species that occupy niches in these distinct habitats, interacting in unique ways not found at other places.
(Photos and drawing by Bre Ellis)