Over vacation, I visited Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This center has been around for over 40 years, and the new phenology spot I chose around it was in a relatively fragmented but well forested bit of land.
Despite having a small stream, this area is not a wetland like my spot at the Intervale. It’s a woodland with a large amount of diversity in the trees compared to my usual phenology location and its silver maples.
Here are a few of the mature tree species in this area:
The forest in this area held many bird’s songs, one of which was the recognizable chickadee that my other phenology location usually houses. However, the American crows I saw in this location are not typical of my usual spot, and neither are the chipping sparrows I heard very clearly.
Here are some tracks made by what I believe is a crow:
Here is a photo of some interesting burrows inside this dead American beech tree which may be home to some species of bird.
The day I went to visit my phenology spot was after (and eventually during) a few rain events which washed away the snow that was there previously. It was interesting to observe the site in this rainy but still leafless state, which is something I hadn’t seen prior to that day. I could see straight through the trees to the houses of the Intervale and to the Winooski River.
My beloved shopping cart and tires were also visible without the snow:
Any bird song that may have been was washed away by the strength of the wind that shook the forest. There were many tracks in the mud, but it was mainly that of dogs and human boots slipping about. The soil in the area seems to be quite absorbent, displaying qualities of hydric soils that are commonly associated with wetland natural communities.
The conclusion that my spot is a wetland community is pretty much a given since it is a riparian forest next to the Winooski River made up of silver maples, which are a wetland species.
This is confirmed by the Biofinder program, which categorized my phenological spot and the broader area as a wetland:
This image from Biofinder shows the area that is considered to have rare animal species:
Finally, this image shows uncommon natural communities:
The Biofinder program was helpful in imagining and quantifying just how valuable this area is to not only me as a visitor, but to the organisms that constantly live there.
My absence from my phenology site was not mirrored in the activity of the wildlife at the Intervale, which had continued bustling throughout the cold. The most recent activity was documented in the snow from the tracks of those that traveled throughout the forest. Of course, the footprints of humans walking down the trail were most pronounced due to our notable stomping and lumbering, so it would follow that man’s best friend’s paw prints were also numerous.
Dog Paw Prints
The signs of cottontail rabbits passing through were abundant as well.
Cottontail Rabbit Tracks
The scampering movement of wildlife is a contrast to the stability of the trees, standing still in the snow. I know that the forest composition of this spot is mainly silver maples, and I was able to identify them in their winter, leafless state. The red buds and opposite branching gave them away. I sketched out this twig, labeling its parts.
Below is another image of a silver maple’s twig, except this is of clusters of its flower buds.
Looking back upon previous posts, the images from this site still contained greenery, which has been replaced with a blanket of white. The trees have lost all their leaves, the piles of which have been covered by ice and snow that create an almost black and white world. I did not hear any bird song or sudden rustling indicating wildlife, only the tracks showed that anything still lived there.
While observing the environmental processes of my spot for the past few months, and seeing the changes in the land, I’ve noticed that the human presence (outside of myself) is not far from any spot in the Intervale. The collection of buildings at the trailhead, the sound of the train passing, or the billowing of the smoke from the nearby biomass factory are tangible reminders of modern mankind. Yet, I am more impacted by the forgotten objects rusted in the overgrowth, telling of the time this lush forest was once a dumping ground. It gives hope for ecological restoration in many similarly degraded areas worldwide.
A further time in the past, prior to European settlement in the 1700s, marked this land as the home to Native American communities. Their agricultural methods foreshadowed those of the dairy and food of Vermonters that came after them, up until today with the Intervale’s Food Hub. Human interactions with the land have shaped it, and become a part of the environmental system. The beauty of the community, nature, and history of this location crafts it into a truly wonderful place to visit, which I will continue to do long after this assignment is completed.
History. (n.d.). Retrieved December 04, 2016, from http://www.intervale.org/about-us/history/
Over Thanksgiving break, when my phenology spot and I were separated by many miles, I visited a place that was closer to me physically and emotionally. This place is found after a trek through unmaintained trails where jumping over fallen trees in the path makes me feel like I’m the only one who still knows how to get there.
After slipping down steep slopes to get to it, my spot is at the edge of a flume where water trickles down into further gorges in the land.This body of water is quite different from the Winooski River, since it is more of a stream that is in various states of pooling and cascading rather than the steadiness of a river.
The Winooski runs over sand, but the flume is pulled by gravity down a series of rocks. These rocks and boulders have been left in this location by glaciers.
The composition of the trees in this spot is also quite different from my location at the Intervale, the latter of which is blanketed in silver maples. The flume spot, instead, has many eastern hemlocks with their signature white stripes. It also has American beech and red maple, whose leaves have thoroughly cover the forest floor.
Underneath these brown leaves poke out bits of green, whether it be from the moss covering the rock or the ferns that grow on the result of their decomposition into soil.
The soil on the slopes around the flume is much thinner than that at my phenology spot; it could easily be cleared in the more eroded areas to reveal the granite bedrock below.
While I couldn’t get pictures of them, there were quite a few chickadees singing in the trees over the sound of the water rushing. These birds, which are my favorite, will not be lost to me as I return to Burlington since my phenology spot at the Intervale is home to them as well.
The forest of the Intervale is preparing itself for winter, with trees stringy from their lack of leaves. In fact, the ground is so blanketed in leaves, I could not even find the notable rusty bike near the beginning of the path. As a substitution, here’s an image of a lost shopping cart persevering in the equally surviving green of the poison ivy. Everything other than this in the underbrush has been blanketed by the yellow of fallen silver maple trees, or has turned brown with death.
The tangle of vines that highly influenced my choice on my phenology spot, since the area will be more protected in winter, has lost much of its leaves as well, though perhaps not as much as the surrounding area.
Insects have retreated from the cold, yet the webs of spiders remain around my spot.
Just over the riverbank, I could see that the Winooski River is higher and faster within this visit than the others, as can be seen in the video below.
It felt as though it were sunset when I was at my spot, however, the sun was actually blocked by the emissions of the biomass energy station near the Intervale. The video below is just a glimpse of what was happening during my visit.
Here, in a more complete description of my visit, is an event map, (hopefully my handwriting is legible enough):
Within my week of absence from my phenology spot, the leaves have been tinged with more yellow and cover the forest floor more densely. I’d like to think it’s a sign that the trees have missed me, but it’s simply the turning of the season. The squirrels and chipmunks evidently did not miss me; they skittered away from me as I tried to ghost across the ground to my spot, only to end up crunching every twig and leaf in sight. After a few minutes, the animals seemed to forgive me for my disturbance and resume their scuttling about. A chickadee began the song of its namesake and kept me company while I gazed about and created this bird’s eye view map.
Just one of the many areas where the Burlington community comes together is the Intervale Center, located appropriately on Intervale Road. Were someone from the University of Vermont to make the trek, they could depart campus from the Medical Center on Prospect Street, and follow North Prospect Street within the frame of residential homes. Eventually, the road would slope, with the houses on the left giving way to a cemetery overlooking an intersection. Here, North Prospect Street becomes Intervale Road, the cement of sidewalks replaced by greenery. The traveler would cross railroad tracks to see a dirt road ending with a red barn awaiting them. This is the home of the Intervale, as well as the Food Hub, which strengthens community food systems, providing nutritious sustenance to consumers, and strengthening local farms.
However, this is not the only feature of the 350 acres of bottomland in the Intervale. Behind the crops and buildings, to the right of the eutrophic pond lies the entrance to a trail running along the Winooski River. This is called the Rena Calkins Trail, which can be seen below.
The land’s complex history is evident through the bits of rusted metal and scraps that hide in the ground here, remnants of its past as an informal dumping ground. The majority of garbage and furniture were removed in 1986 by cleanup efforts, allowing the area to support lush gardens and forests, but some remain to this day.
To get to my particular location within these forests is a fairly short walk from the trail’s entrance. After passing a notable rusted bike, it will be across from the small island of fallen trees, under the cover of branches and vines. Fallen logs allow for a place to sit on in the sea of poison ivy.
Video (on my laptop because my phone died) of the Journey to my Location
When I visited my site on October 14th from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM, it was a beautiful 50 F day. The peace of the forest was only interrupted by the tooting of a passing train, which could be seen crossing the bridge from my location. Within these woods, Silver Maples in the canopy give the filtered light an ethereal sheen as it settles upon the poison ivy of the floor. Autumn has visited the area in the leaf litter, but summer holds on through the overwhelming green of the branches and ground.
The interactive view of my location on Google Maps can be seen below.