Centennial Woods, and my spot along with it, was purchased by the University of Vermont from various private owners from 1891 to 1968. Prior to the purchase, there is little information documented as to the private uses of the land. Through observing stone walls and pieces of barbed wire in my time spent there, and my knowledge of the land use history of the majority of Vermont, I assume it used to host either sheep or dairy farms. The dominance of Eastern White Pine today also indicates reforestation, as they are a pioneer species. Centennial Woods now makes up about 70 acres and is utilized by UVM courses as a natural laboratory. Apart from this, it gets frequent use from students and local residents for recreation, as many people run and take walks through the natural area.
The phenology place I picked in my hometown is called Lantern Hill, and it is a short hike to the summit.
As I ascended the slight gradient, the absence of sound surprised me. This seemed out of place. Had all the animals chosen to hide as I strutted through their unofficially claimed playground? The only thing distinct was the rustling of fallen leaves under my boots, and even this was muffled by my thick layering over my ears. As I glanced up to view the ground which I will eventually cross, a grey mass appeared. With my continuing progress, the ambiguous shape transformed into a trunk with significant girth. Clamoring over this, the peeling bark surprised me. The not-often-respected power of the natural world was on display here, accompanied by her children burrowing and recycling her nutrients. Once I had reached the top, my experience completely changed. A deep roaring greeted me at the peak, as I struggled to maintain my upright position. The various pine trees, among these the Northern Red Cedar, and bare limbs of the deciduous trees vigorously shook. A couple of wide-winged birds soared through the air, effortlessly maneuvering the harsh winds, circling and finally settling on a rock jutting out into the horizon. They remained perched here, guarding their sacred watchtower. My gaze shifted to the body of water far below. The surface wrinkled with each gust, scattering the geese which had decided to momentarily rest, to little satisfaction.
The weather in Mystic mimics that of Burlington, save Burlington displays temperatures that are slightly lower. This may not seem like a big deal at all, and most days it is not. However, if it were to precipitate, snow would appear in Vermont while rain would descend in Southern CT. The fauna visible here is greater than typical in Centennial Woods, and for later on in the year. This also is a result of warmer climate. Several hawks are still present. These must be some of the last sticking around before the harsh winter. Back in Burlington, the birds of prey have migrated to more livable environments already. The rodents which they usually pick off are already in hiding. The coniferous trees stand tall and full of lush green color in Centennial. These are unavoidable as they grow ubiquitously. This is not the case on Lantern Hill. The Cedars grow few and far between. Trees stricken of leaves are more common here. While Centennial is more of a swampy, moist area, the altitude of Lantern Hill prevents those shrubs who like abundant water from growing. There is less soil present too, again limiting the life that can survive at this altitude.
Here is an event map which I created of my visit:
During this visit to my spot in Centennial Woods, I only noticed a few phenological changes that had occurred. The leaves of the oak sampling have turned brown. The pine needles seem less plentiful in the center of the clearing, as if they were pushed to the sides from repeated footsteps. Pine cones were trampled/destroyed, something I thought was interesting. There were also fallen trees I observed while walking to and from my spot.
Here is a poem I wrote while sitting in my place:
The Stunned Forest
“I have come to observe the stunned forest,
Where I am not the only one who feels like a tourist.
The damp floor beneath my feet,
The relative absence of any heat,
The scattered sounds of a few brave birds,
Reminds me that life has left in herds.
The modification of the surrounding environment,
Signifies Mother Nature’s distance from retirement.
The vigor of the weather is promptly displayed,
By the fallen trees which form a cascade.
The sheer amount of broken limbs,
Is sure to be the cause of the wildlife’s whim,
To run away instead of remain,
For danger lurks when winds roar through this domain.
However, the damage is not done forever,
The birds will chirp when they finish their endeavor.
The return of animals will mark a new beginning,
As they adapt and continue on living.
New plants will take the place of old,
The continuation of the story seldom told.
The process of disturbance and regrowth,
and the impacts on plants and animals, both.
I must leave and let the forest resume it’s tasks,
But before long I hope to be back.”
There were few phenological changes to vegetation, other than the changing color of leaves. There were more pine needles covering the ground this time, and more pine cones too. The meadow changed to a dead-looking light yellowish.
I noticed birds chirping in the trees directly overhead. I heard the rustling of leaves nearby and assumed that either chipmunks or squirrels were responsible. There were markings left along the ground in the pine needles which I observed. These could indicate an animal burrowing or footprints possibly.
Here is a birds eye view map of my place. I used dots to represent the trees, with a different color representing a different kind of tree. The key is attached:
My spot for this project is located in Centennial Woods. To get there, take the main path until you reach a clearing with a large oak tree displaying a black and white sign with an arrow on it. Take the path to your left. Follow this for a few minutes. You will pass decaying, downed trees on your left and a meadow on your right. Take the second right turn. This path leads to a circular clearing surrounded by trees, but still overlooking a meadow. This most of the reason I chose this spot. It is very secluded and easy to lose yourself in the nature.
There were many species I recognized in my spot. There were a bunch of Eastern Hemlock and Eastern White Pine trees surrounding the clearing. Because of this, the clearing is covered in soft pine needles. There were a few Yellow Birch trees in my spot, as well as Norway Maples. There were barberry shrubs around the edges of the clearing. I also noticed a sapling White Oak growing towards the side of the clearing.