Has Spring Sprung?

I have lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for all of my life. The springtime is symbolized by budding flowers, green leaves, and my annoying allergies in New Jersey. While my parents spent this spring day in the 75-degree weather at the Jersey shore, the snow in Vermont made me question my decision to spend the greater half of the next four years in Vermont. Unfortunately, the same signs don’t seem to appear in the Vermont landscape. My spring allergies and mention of the vernal equinox in NR2 seem to be the only indicators that spring has begun in Vermont.

I headed out to my phenology place this morning with a heavy winter coat, snow boots, and my copy of Naturally Curious in hand. After briefly looking through the April chapter I was optimistic that I would soon begin to see signs of amphibians and wildflowers through the leaf litter. However, it was very hard to see these spring qualities with a thick covering of snow and ice on the ground of Centennial Woods.

When I took a closer look and looked past the snow cover I was able to see some signs of budding on some of the trees I have previously looked at. The birch trees in the area and maple trees in the area had small buds on the branches. However, I am worried that this late freeze may affect the budding trees. Below I have attached a sketch of the budding on a red maple tree.

On my next visit, I hope to see more of the signs of spring. As stated in the book Naturally Curious, I expect to see some wood frogs, northern leopard frogs, and spring peepers. These amphibians are all supposed to reach a “calling peak” in April and the beginning of May. In terms of wildflowers, I hope to see some beautiful flowers pictured in Naturally Curious such as the bloodroot, spring beauty and marsh marigolds.

My spot in Centennial Woods is right on the hiking trail and pretty close to the entrance near the UVM Police Station. Although my spot is not directly in contact with people, there is probably still a lot of disturbance to the area from human and dog traffic and the noise associated with these Centennial Woods visitors. This type of “edge effect” is called a convoluted edge effect because the border is non-linear; people and other natural disturbances enter this habitat in a non-linear fashion.


Spring Break Adventure


Over spring break I visited a new phenological location in my hometown, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This location is about a half a mile away from my house so my mom, brother and I took advantage of a nice day and took a walk to the park. This area has a playground, exercise equipment, a tennis court and some wooded areas. This area is similar to Centennial Woods because both areas are recreational areas. However, the park in my hometown has significantly less phenological features than Centennial Woods. Both areas are a combination of woodlands and wetlands. Also, each area has a centrally located stream. This area was originally occupied by the Lenni-Lenape tribe and eventually became a huge agricultural area. Now Cherry Hill is very developed with little farmland and hardly any evidence that the area used to be a big agricultural area.

I heard a lot of birds while I was visiting the park. I didn’t see any of the birds until we were heading out and my brother spotted the nest. Attached is a video of the bird’s nest. I believe these birds were house sparrows.


House sparrows in a tree.

Coniferous tree.

Invasive bamboo species

Tennis court

Mommy in the park

My cat came with us for the adventure

The erratic weather patterns in Burlington have made some significant changes to the landscape of Centennial Woods. The freezing and thawing patterns have led to a swelling of the bodies of water in the Cenntenial Woods area. As the snow begins to melt each day as the temperature rises, water trickles down from the areas of high elevation into the streams and marshy areas. The ground is very moist and muddy with small areas of snow remaining by the afternoon. The debris from the trees dropping their leaves in the fall is more visible now than in my last visit. I can now see leaves and other plant material decomposing on the ground. Make sure to bring some boots if you plan on visiting in this season!

Biofinder is a tool that was created by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The tool is a database and mapping system used to identify important ecological features in Vermont. Biofinder identifies waters supporting high priority ecosystems, natural communities, habitats, and species. The tool also shows city boundaries, roads and other infrastructure in Vermont.

Above is a screenshot of the Cenntenial Woods area as it appears on Biofinder. Unfortunately, there was not a ton of information. The orange shading on the map indicates that the area is under a small amount of water stress. The green stars indicate wetland projects which confirms my suspicions that the area is considered a wetland in at least some parts.


Centennial Woods is an interesting area with a lot of different ecological features. Humans, by nature, like to classify features in order to create organizational systems.  In terms of ecology, people have created systems of classifying biological features into different classifications of natural communities. Unfortunately, sometimes there isn’t just one natural community classification that an area fits in to. Centennial Woods displays many features of both a woodland and a wetland. I used the book “Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont” as a resource to help identify what type of natural area Centennial Woods should be classified as.

I believe that Centennial Woods can be classified as both a wetland and a woodland because of its ecological features. In some areas of Cenntenial Woods there are marshy areas that are homes to beavers, ducks, and cattails.  These are all ecological features found in a wetland. On the other hand, Centennial Woods is also home to rabbits, squirrels, red oak trees, maple trees, and birch trees which are all features of a woodland. Classifications of natural areas are very helpful to people including scientist and researchers, however, most of the time these classifications aren’t so black and white.

A hiking map of the area



With the new semester starting, I have decided to look at a new phenological location in Burlington. I really enjoyed observing the changes in the Redstone Woods but the area did not have as much wildlife and plant diversity as I would like to see. I have chosen to revisit a Centennial Woods, a place that I visited frequently in August and September.  The area looks a lot different than it did in the summer. Icy snow covers the entire ground in the woods now, the trees are barren and the streams are frozen over. The following is a gallery of some photos I took earlier this week. I observed some animal tracks and sorted through some twigs to identify some of the trees in the area.

Here is a google maps link of the location of Centennial Woods.


Squirrel print up close.

Interesting pattern on a White Birch tree.

Dog print.

Buds on Red Oak twig.

American Beech twig

American Beech with leaves

Red Oak tree twig.

More squirrel prints


The Last Visit

It has been really great getting to see this area change throughout the phenological year. Back in August, when I first visit the Redstone Woods, the area was completely different. The pine trees were thick with green needles and the ground was clear and filled with green grass. Now, on my last visit, the trees look empty and the ground is filled with a thick layer of pine needles and on this morning there is a small sprinkling of white snow.


Redstone Woods is an area that people have been interacting with since UVM was built. Over the years students have used this area for recreation and in our case for education. It was interesting to come to this spot for the tree ID quiz because I was able to apply what I had learned in lecture to an area that I have enjoyed spending time in throughout the semester.




Cold air moves around in a hurry, pestering the fallen leaves the make a loud crunching noise. The falling sun shines rays through the thinning leaves. Squirrels play and chatter with each other as small, earth-toned birds chirp above. Bamboo invades this space, trying to get along with the existing plants and animals. Water divides the two sides creating a barrier for those not willing to cross. Little critters find ways to get across the creek without getting their fuzzy fur wet.

The small children look in amazement. The Earth is so perfect. This place brings fascination. Changes are unpredictable which makes it exciting to come back. This place creates a burning desire to return. Brothers build forts with the branches that have fallen. They are respectful of the place leaving no traces that they have been using the land.

Our family loves this place because it is home. The place looks different but the feelings are the same. There is a comfort in this place that belongs to no one yet invites several visitors. Growing up in a place mostly made of steel and cement makes places like this one so special. There is an appreciation for the little things.


The ecology and phenology of this place are very different from the Redstone Woods. The ecology of Vermont and New Jersey are not drastically different however, the differences are still noticeable. The weather on the day of my observations was clear and warm for the month of November. I happen to check the weather in Burlington on the same day and notices that New Jersey was over 10 degrees warmer than Burlington.

The trees that I observed seemed to be very similar to those in Burlington. However, the Redstone Woods is primarily pine trees and the park close to my house is primarily maple and oak trees. Another difference is the land formation. The Redstone Woods is in a very flat open area of land whereas the park near my house is carved out and very rocky from the creek that runs down the middle. The soil is moister on the ground while the Redstone Woods is currently very dry with a thick layer of pine needles covering the ground.

Also, because the park near my house is not located on a college campus the park’s visitors are much different. In the park near me, I see a lot of young children with their families as well as several older people walking on the path. Additionally, the park near my house has much more pollution whereas the Redstone Woods is well maintained. Both areas are used for recreation.

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