Winter Wonderscape

22 Jan

Overlook of my spot looking towards Centennial Field. The snow has blanketed the area causing phragmites to fall over, sumacs to lose their bobs (fruit), and the eastern white pines to lift the immense weight of snow.

Back in Vermont, I visited my old phenology spot in the power line clearing of Centennial Woods and the winter elements of low temperatures and strong cold winds have made my spot enter a period of dormancy. One of the biggest changes from my last post is the overwhelming presence of snow and low temperatures. I went out on January 21, the day after a large blizzard on January 19 and 20. With such a storm the snow and clouds covered my landscape causing my spot to change. With clouds covering the sun and low temperatures herbaceous and deciduous trees are trying to prevent losing energy and as a result, have lost their leaves and closed their lenticels to store heat. The circulating foraging groups of chickadees are becoming less frequent favoring to huddle together rather than risk exposure in the -17 C° weather. Lastly, both deciduous and coniferous trees are forced to hold onto thick heavy blankets of snow creating strain and can even cause them to fall over. As much as this snow is pressure on wildlife and flora once it all melts it will help revitalize my spot, yet until then my phenology spot is forced to endure this time of dormancy.

I purposely choose to go to my phenology spot after a blizzard in order to see fresh prints in the snow and other present wildlife activity before any hikers could damage or erase any evidence of wildlife. The first major sign of wildlife activity was white-tailed deer. There was an overwhelming presence of deer tracks going up and down the trails and cutting through the frozen covered brook. Other than the obvious distinctive track print it I knew it was deer due to its wide straddle and diagonal movement meaning it was probably walking (not sprinting). I could even possibly claim that maybe its tracks lead to a resting area where it either slept or laid down to rest. There was a large imprint in the snow in the shape of a deer located underneath some eastern white pines, which is a preferable spot for a deer to avoid snow and stay warm. Other than deer I found a white-footed mouse trail leading to a snow den. Based on the small size and shape of the track (1/4 inch) and narrow straddle it was easy to tell it was a white-footed mouse or some other small galloping mammal. Without disturbing the nearby area I saw the tracks lead to an opening to the Subnivean Zone. This opening leads to a den which compacted by snow creates an area of warmth from the exposed winter landscape. Most likely a white-footed mouse left this den to look for resources and then traveled back to its den. Not knowing if there were any residents of this den I left not to disturb them.

In terms of winter trees, there is plenty of deciduous trees at my phenology spot including staghorn sumac. white oak, red maple, northern red oak, trembling aspen, American elm, and black locust. The most overwhelming deciduous tree species is staghorn sumac where they all have lost their leaves and their fuzzy red bobs (fruiting body). Outside my phenology spot I do see some sumac still holding onto their bobs, yet at my sight, there is now visible bobs most likely due from more animal activity (consuming) and being in a more exposed area to colder temperatures and harsher winds. Lacking their bobs the seem as if they were naked, yet under a closer look with their hairs prickled straight you could see their cone-shaped buds. I only imagine seeing these buds now to develop into bountiful colorful bobs by springtime.

Lastly the last set of observations I made as the active wildlife I saw on my visit. With mammals active and so are the birds despite many of them their migrated or remain inactive in their cavity homes. Right after the blizzard, I could only imagine they bunkered out waiting to forage the next day, the day I would check my phenology spot. As luck has it I saw many foraging bird species such as northern cardinals, downey, and hairy woodpeckers, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, American crows, and common ravens. Staying here all year-round these birds have found ways to manage the winter and lift my spirits during the winter.



Human History and Seasons Changing

04 Dec

My phenology site is located near Centennial Brook flowing into the Winooski River making it a key location for human settlement. I found no evidence of Abenaki or other indigenous  groups occupying my site most likely due to a lack of records and documentation. However, they  most likely they did more it being a flat area with well drained soil. They could of made use of my area by using the brook for its fertile soils and active beavers on site. With the arrival of Europeans there is much more recorded land use of my area. The earliest map show is from 1810 showing how the land was marked up by plots per area of land rather than resources. My site produced many natural resources such as beaver, lumber (hardwoods and softwoods), and scouring rush to scouring pots, pans, sand wood, and more. The next major record for my land was in the late 1800s. The Ainsworth family owned my site for many years dating back till 1880 to 1904 in the Burlington Directories. Both Lorenzo and Grace Ainsworth worked on the land as farmers producing wool from merino sheep. Their production was recorded in the Agricultural Census of Vermont. Grace had family nearby on Colchester Ave. called the Edcumbe family. Also farmers, William Edcumbe operates seven acres of land and boards other family members. Lucia Edgcume boarded with William from 1882 operating two acres of land with her college Mrs. Sarah Stevens. In addition, in 1889 Geo Edgcumbe board with William to work at E W Chase company where they produced doors and other wood products. Lorenzo Ainsworth would die in 1889 making Grace the sole owner of the property when the 1890 map was drawn up. Grace would later give her property to UVM when she died in 1904 at age 73. Her land would be operated by UVM to develop Centennial Field and Centennial Forest. I went to both her and her husband’s grave at Green Mount Cemetery located nearby on Colchester Ave., also where the Edgcumbe family is buried.


Centennial field would solve UVM’s problem of a lack of space for athletic space and be home for the UVM Lake Monsters. The rest of my site would also be owned by Fred Fiske who would continue to operate the land as a farm until the 1920s. With the lack of agriculture more industries came into my site such as airlines and power lines. Vermont Electric company would come in and place power lines creating edge habitats. These edges would introduce early succession trees and new habitats for edge species such as catbirds currently present at my site during the spring and summer months. In addition, the area would be later disturbed by excess noise from Burlington Airport. However when UVM declared Centennial Forest as a protected area my site had time to regrow into healthy mature forrest with some signs of disturbance. Now it serves as a natural area for all those who want to escape  the urban setting of Burlington.

In terms of seasonal changes, winter is practically here and can be seen in the wildlife here. For the vegetation, all the herbaceous plants are non prevalent seen as in the phragmites all fallen over exposing the brook for me to see and the deciduous tree species have either lost all their leaves or lost their pigment such as beech trees. In terms of animal life there is limited bird populations such as warblers and thrushes leaving only the year-round birds such as nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, and crows. For the physical properties the ground as frozen over making it difficult for excess water from rain and snow to infiltrate the soil creating large puddles are increase the current of Centennial Brook.




Broad Meadow Brook: Troiano Trail (New Location)

21 Nov

Opening of Troiano Trail showing hikers and dog tracks. This trail has phragmites on the left with Summacs and other native vegetation on the right. This trail is covered in gravel placed by Mass Audubon to allow persons with physical disabilities to come through as apart of their sensory trail.

Snags and phragmites in Broad Meadow Brook. This once flooded forrest provides habitat for wetland organisms such as sparrows, dragonflies, and frogs during the summer months. Now it serves a breeding area for water fowl such as mallards and wood ducks.

Staghorn sumac nearby Holy Name High School’s Wind Turbine. This nearby catholic school uses wind to store as electrical energy that runs the school completely and even is sold to the city of Worcester and underdeveloped areas.

For my new phenology spot, I chose Troiano trail at Broad Meadow Brook, a Mass Audubon Sanctuary. Broad Meadow Brook is a tributary that belongs to the Black Stone River watershed. Despite being in the urban metropolis of Worcester, MA it is a 400 acre wildlife sanctuary. Founded on Nashoba formation consisting of schist and gneiss bedrock formed during the Ordovician 485 million years ago now is home a thriving mix of forests, meadows, and wetlands. The area I was looking at was on Troiano which is a modified wetland with Broad Meadow Brook running through. This slow-moving stream promotes the growth of phragmites, sumacs, red and sugar maples, and a variety of different fern species. During the spring and summer months this is breeding grounds for bullfrogs, green frogs, northern water snakes, painted turtles, red-winged black birds, great-blue herons, beavers, muskrats, and more. This past summer I worked there as a camp consular working with kids ages five to twelve. This was a great experience working as an environmental educator. In the past, I have worked in labs and facilities dedicated to wildlife, yet at Broad Meadow Brook that was the first time I use my knowledge and work outside. During the summer we caught frogs, built boats, catches dragonflies, learn how to use binoculars to watch birds, and hopefully appreciate nature. I love the joy of seeing the faces of my campers glow in excitement, just as I was at their age about nature. As much as they learned from me my time at Broad Meadow Brook challenged me to learn more. Going through their extensive library and working outside I had the chance to learn more about New England Wildlife and become a better educator. Similar to my current phenology spot in Centennial Woods in Burlington it has challenged me to learn more such as tree species, bird calls, and history. Taking NR 1 has enriched me in the local natural and social histories of Burlington and has made me have a deeper connection with the area. I hope to have this same relationship with Broad Meadow Brook learning more about its social histories. Broad Meadow Brook has helped me foster being an educator and a student and I hope to deepen my connection to this place by learning more both its natural and social histories.

Elevated water level from melted snow. During the summer it was shallow allowing for crayfish, water striders, and other macro-invertebrates. In human use this brook was used for racing paper boats and crayfish catching.

The barrier on storm drain prevents active beavers from blocking incoming water. In the past beavers have blocked storm drains causing nearby Worcester streets to be overflowing with water. This barrier allows these beavers to continue to practice building dams, while allowing storm water to pass to be later treated.

End of Broad Meadow brook that enters water treatment center located in top left. This was a forested area taken over by flooding waters making this a wetland. This can be seen by the standing stags and grasses. Now it is occupied by wetland species such as mallards that can be found in this photo (look hard)!

Knowing that my current phenology spot has Centennial brook running through it I chose Troiano trail for it has Broad Meadow Brook running alongside the trail. Both being spots influenced by brooks these phenology spots have similarities and differences. Both Centennial brook Broad Meadow Brook are both tributaries located in urban areas (Burlington, VT and Worcester, MA). Both these brooks flow into larger water bodies where Centennial Brook runs into the Winooski River then into Lake Champlain and Broad Meadow Brook running into the Black Stone River then into the Atlantic Ocean. Originally both these lands were farmlands with Broad Meadow Brook being held by the Holdregde Family with Centennial Brook being used as fields for grazing sheep. Eventually both these lands would be protected as wildlife sanctuaries under the institutions of Mass Audubon and UVM. Today they both make up deciduous forests and riparian areas for research and education, yet differ in ecological status. Broad Meadow Brook has higher stream diversity in macro-invertebrates, fish, and etc. and reportedly better water quality than Centennial Brook. They do both have problems with excess amounts of phosphorous from runoff, yet Broad Meadow Brook has more biological diversity in terms of macro-invertebrates. In addition, the differ in forrest composition where Centennial Brook has more conifers such as eastern white pine and eastern hemlock than Broad Meadow Brook. This can be mostly explained due to human influence making Centennial Brook a more disturbed area than Broad Meadow Brook. Therefore, both these urban based brooks are similar in land history and composition, yet differ in ecological status.

This tree has coppice in that it was once cut down for farming then regrew having two trunks.

Centennial Brook

Saw a pacing set of deer tracks and I decided to follow them off trail for two-hundred yards. Following the tracks I came across two doe (female deer) in the underbrush. One looked back at me, while the another one continued to eat debris on the forest ground.

I guess I’m not the only one interested in the phenology of Troiano trail! Notable mentions of winter is breeding mallards and dark-eyed juncos. From being here over the summer I saw many species listed such as snapping turtles and red-winged black birds

This sign educates the public on invasive species also found in Burlington such as phragmites. One major invasive not mentioned is Japanese Knotweed.

This sign educates visitors about the local Blackstone River Watershed that Broad Meadow Brook feeds into. It shows the natural and historical significance of the watershed

Similar to our lab on pot-ash brook, Broad Meadow Brook emphasizes the importance of runoff water and solutions such as rain gardens.

Local Bird Species

Other species: Winter wren, hairy woodpecker, downey woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, goldfinch, house sparrow, great-blue heron, American crow, and black-capped chickadees.





Event Map and Update

30 Oct

Looking at my Phenology spot through an event map shows a more personal element between me and this location and shows readers what experiences they might have. Over the course of looking at my phenology spot from September till now I have an array of experiences I have put into this map and my photo gallery. Overall my experiences with my location belong within a marsh landscape and center around organismal interactions within the phragmites stands.


For the latest wildlife action at my phenology spot was an actively foraging pileated woodpecker. When hiking to my phenology spot along Centennial Brook I heard it drumming into a snag. With my phenology spot and the nearby area being wetlands it has drowned standing trees, which are now snags. These snags provided the pileated woodpecker a refuge for its favor meal carpenter ants. Pileated woodpeckers are not the only species that benefit from snags and I’m sure to see other wildlife use them throughout the year.

Pileated woodpecker drumming into snag on Centennial Brook

Other woodpecker species such as hairy, downey, and flickers drum into trees. These holes in this fallen tree were most likely done by hairy woodpeckers.


In terms of recent developments it is fall and the leaves are officially gone. Sumac and other deciduous trees are in the process of losing there leaves and fruiting bodies such as the seed pods in Sumacs. The only trees I do see that still hold onto their leaves is a lone white oak sapling, yet its leaves are losing their pigment fast. For the rest of the trees that are losing their leaves and receding their fruiting bodies bird species such as warblers and vireos are starting to migrate south for new food resources. Until then these trees provide food and shelter to many species such as grey and red squirrels and remaining bird species.

As it is getting colder Sumacs and other deciduous trees are starting to lose their leaves.


Bird’s Eye View Map and Update

11 Oct

Looking at my phenology spot it is a complex mix of staghorn sumacs, the phragmites of Centennial Brook, the different variety of different herbaceous and woody plants, and all being surrounded by pine stands. One notable difference I have seen in my location is the changing of the seasons. As it approaches further into fall the leaves of sumac and other deciduous trees are loosing their chlorophyll in their leaves exposing their other pigments. Normally we think of plants only having green pigment, yet fall reminds us of the many other pigments these trees have such as red, yellow, and orange. The sumacs still have the majority of their leaves unlike the the other deciduous trees in my location which have lost most of their leaves already most likely due to their young age.


One notable wildlife experience was seeing black-capped chickadees in the phragmites. With one little pishing call one by one they emerged from reeds to say hello. As active hunters I have seen them foraging in the sumacs, maples, and now the phragmites. Balancing themselves on the reeds they held still enough to be photographed. Up in the canopy I always ignored them, yet now I have a new appreciation of Vermont and my home state’s state bird. Coming up to them with their variety of calls only puts a smile on my face now and I can’t wait to see more of them in the winter and learn more about their natural history.

Black-Capped Chickadee 1 © Chris Liazos

Black-Capped Chickadee 2 © Chris Liazos

Black-Capped Chickadee 3 © Chris Liazos

Black-Capped Chickadee 4 © Chris Liazos

Black-Capped Chickadee 5 © Chris Liazos


My Phenology Spot

04 Oct

My Phenology Spot

Date of Observation 10/3/18

My phenology spot is a disrupted area by powerline companies. Clearing the once covered pine stands it is now filled predominately with staghorn sumac trees. Along this clearing Centennial Brook runs through providing key nutrients that help develop the rich variety of organisms. Along with sumacs other present woody vegetation are white oak, alder buckthorn, red maple, beaked hazelnut, northern red oak, a lone eastern white pine, phragmites, trembling aspen, American Elm, and Black Locust. Most of the hardwoods are not mature and stand roughly between ten and fifteen feet. The sumacs are the predominant species with a large amount of herbaceous plants on the ground level such as flattop white aster, sensitive fern, common bonset, Morrow’s honeysuckle, American hog peanut, and wild sasparilla. The main reason I choose this place was its incredible amount of biodiversity. Let alone the variety of vegetation it is home to a host of bird species including: catbirds, goldfinches, song sparrows, black-capped chickadees, Carolina wrens, yellowthroats, downy and hairy woodpeckers, wood ducks, American black ducks, ruby-throated hummingbirds, white-throated sparrow, cardinals, magnolia warblers, and more. I cannot wait to see what else is in this clearing.

Downy Woodpecker on Sumac © Chris Liazos


Proceed to I-89, Burlington, VT 05401. At the entrance, you should see a green sign welcoming you to the area. Walk down the trail until you hit your first junction. You will be in a pine stand and should continue to bear left onto a boardwalk. Soon you will hit another junction that is wide covered with fallen pine needles. Here walk straight onto the boardwalk crossing centennial brook. After crossing the brook continue straight to a three-point junction. Proceed to the route right of the brook on the base of the hill avoid the uphill trail. As walking on this trail, you will encounter the base of the hill and walk adjacent to the right side of the brook. You will continue this path until the white pines stop. You will see the phragmites and power lines on your left. Continue straight until you see the sumac thicket on your right. At this point you are at my phenology spot that oversees this hill next to centennial brook.

(Top Image) location facing centennial brook and the power lines.

(Bottom Image) location at the top of the hill facing the stag horn sumacs.


Summer is Gone: Goodbye Hummingbirds

27 Sep

Before starting my phenology project I did observe this clearing and was astonished by the amount of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. They are the only hummingbird species in Vermont and will migrate south towards the end of September. I have seen them here at Centennial starting September 2 and the last time I saw them was Sept. 16. They are officially gone marking the end of summer. While they were here they were feeding upon the sweet nectars of jewelweed flowers. With their long proboscis-like beak they penetrate deep into the flower. With their active life-style they must consume up to four times the size of their body weight in nectar. Hopefully they find more in the south. Until they come back in May there is a lot to see at this Sumac Clearing.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Perched 9/5/18
© Chris Liazos

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Drinking out of Jewelweed Plant 9/4/18
© Chris Liazos


My Location

25 Sep

This will be my location for my phenology project for both NR 1 and NR 2. This area is located right along Centennial Brook in a Sumac thicket. The primary focal species is the invasive Staghorn Sumac, however it houses and feeds many local species. I hope to understanding this location’s  natural and human history throughout the year.

Black-Capped Chickadee eating from a Sumac © Chris Liazos


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