The natural areas in Burlington are very integrated with the human processes that take place here. According to Burlington Geographic, Native Americans were present in the Vermont and Burlington landscape for thousands of years and in more recent times, this has been the Abenaki. These people most likely moved through Burlington seasonally. European settlers  began settling in Burlington about 200-300 years ago. Most of the cultural features of the landscape were created by these settlers and in 1772 when the Allen brothers moved to Burlington, industry had taken hold of the landscape and began to shape it (Berrizbeitia).

“By 1792 there were a few buildings in present day Burlington. They were located near the lake shore in the oldest part of the city, on what was called Water Street, but is now called Battery Street. It was called Water Street because the lakeshore came right up to the edge of the street, hundreds of feet from where it is now. The shore was a steep bank, so the first settlements were around the Maple and King Street blocks where the land flattened out and access to the water was easier” (Berrizbeitia). This is a significant change because humans have molded the landscape, effectively pushing the lake back. In the late 1700’s, my phenology site would be feet from the water. The following map shows the lake shore encroaching an area called “Battery”, where my site is located now.

Image retrieved from: Berrizbeitia, I. (n.d.). Focal Places in Burlington. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from http://www.uvm.edu/place/burlingtongeographic/focalplaces/wf-ecology.php

In the 1850’s, industry exploded along the water front with power generating plants, train companies, water pumping facilities, and lumber yards dominating the waterfront’s landscape.

Image retrieved from: Berrizbeitia, I. (n.d.). Focal Places in Burlington. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from http://www.uvm.edu/place/burlingtongeographic/focalplaces/wf-ecology.php

My phenology site was abutting all of this industry and the majority of the trees were cleared during this time. I suspect that there were very few animals or more complex vegetation growing here at the time. The following images compare my site as it looked from a birds eye view n 1937 vs 2017.

The area surrounding my phenology site in 1937. (S., & M. (2017). Greater Burlington, 1937-2017. Retrieved December 6, 2018.)

The area surrounding my phenology site in 2017. (S., & M. (2017). Greater Burlington, 1937-2017. Retrieved December 6, 2018.)

Secondary secession occurred on my site between 1850 and the trees were largely grown back judging from the 1937 image, however, they matured and the forest seems to have filled in judging from the current image.


184 Miles East

184 miles east of my Burlington phenology site rests a familiar forest that I grew up exploring. The woods behind my house in Gorham Maine were my stomping grounds growing up. Here I would build forts, catch frogs, and explore nature. Coming back to these woods now, I look at it with fresh eyes. This forest is a northern pine-hardwood forest that is nestled in between a number of houses and housing developments on either side.

Notice the house through the trees.

At 2:00 pm on a cold, sunny Friday afternoon, I laced up my boots and made my way across the backyard into the woods. Immediately I noticed a number of deer tracks criss-crossing their way through the forest edge. 

The dominant red oak in the area is joined by American beech, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine, few ash, and a confined area of young paper and yellow birch.

This birch stand is abutting the edge of the lawn and must have recently been cleared within the past 10-15 years, when my house was built. The paper birch is a pioneer species, which thrives in the excess sunlight. This explains why the paper birch is secluded to just this area. Other signs of human interaction is a number of large stumps which suggests cutting for timber.

The forest is thick with woody, head height plants. I was able to identify some of these plants as high bush blueberry and buckthorn.


While walking through the deep snow, I noticed a very prominent undulating pattern of the forest floor. This wave-like topography of the forest generally corresponded with a higher volume of plants and roots when the altitude of the wave was at its highest. The roots of these trees and plants must hold the soil better and raise it up higher.

Additionally, the low spots in the forest corresponded with pools of frozen water. In fact, the forest is dominated by a small frozen pond. 

Evidence of wildlife that I noticed included a possible groundhog burrow, woodpecker holes in a number of the trees, deer tracks, and a chickadee sighting. The perpetrator of these woodpecker holes was spotted only two days ago when I saw a pileated woodpecker fly across the road into these woods. Additionally, I saw what I believe to be the tracks of some kind of rabbit, most likely a snowshoe hare.




My home phenology site and my phenology site in Burlington have some similarities and many differences. The Burlington site is impacted much more by its human surroundings. Here I find remnants of a cement trail, trash, and hear sounds of the city all around. The Gorham location has seen human interaction in the past, when the neighborhood and houses were being developed, yet the signs of human interference are much less present. The tree species differ between the two locations with black locus, elm, and striped maple in  Burlington replaced by red oak, hemlock, Eastern white pine, American beech, and birch in Gorham. The topography of both locations is very different which affects the way water cycles through each system. The Burlington site rests on a steep downward slope, yet the forest floor remains flat. Water in this system runs off very quickly down the hill. The Gorham site has no hill but the forest floor undulates intensely. When water enters this system it will pool where there is a depression in the forest or in the small pond. The wildlife you might find in these locations is similar, yet there seems to be more and a greater diversity in the Gorham site. The Burlington site might have less wildlife because of its proximity to the bustle of the city. Squirrels, chipmunks, some song birds, and pileated wood peckers are present in both locations. My connection and sense of place is much stronger tied to my Gorham site, because I am more familiar with it and I have spent more time here.


Please refer to the following link to observe a map view of my Gorham phenology location:




In between the hustle, bustle, and noise of a small city rests a secluded hill side forest.

The elms, locusts, and maples act as a fortress of peace.

If you look close, you can see it begin to prepare for the oncoming winter.

Overhanging on the front edge of the forest are the black locust,

You can see the yellow-gold edges peeking through if you focus.

Even the massive elm trees are no match for the cold,

As frost threatens, the leaves begin to fold.

The skinny striped maples look up to the mature trees,

As they understand how to get through the Vermont winter and not freeze.

Moving through the forest are squirrels, crows, and other creatures hunting for food for which to store,

An acorn here, a berry there, stored either in a cache or in the animal’s tissue, they search more and more.

As the whole forest prepares, I look on and and feel lucky to witness these amazing natural changes.


A Brisk November Morning

I had a pleasant visit to my phenology site on a brisk November morning. The wind was rustling the leaves of the elm and locust trees that are stubbornly hanging onto their branches. However, the trees are beginning to show color now. The black locust trees are showing signs of changing to their striking golden-yellow color and the elm trees are showing hints of brown and yellow on the edges of their leaves. According to some research, the elm tree is often one of the later trees to change colors and drop its leaves (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/american-elm-shed-leaves-68093.html) I am curious if the hill that my site rests on or its proximity to Lake Champlain effects or insulates the trees here, resulting in their leaves falling later than other trees. It does seem, through simple observation that the trees closer to the lake have more leaves and more green than those farther from the lake. For example, on UVM’s campus there is a section of at least twenty black locust trees. These have all been bright yellow for about two weeks, and have started dropping their leaves; the black locust trees on my phenology site have only just recently begun to turn yellow. One theory I have is that it is generally warmer near Lake Champlain because of the ability of the water to act as a heat sink. The lake changes temperature much slower than the air and holds its heat much longer. This could account for trees changing colors and dropping its leaves later if they are near the lake.

On another note, I saw a murder of crows fly over and a few resting in the trees on my phenology site. One other thing I noticed on the large hill of my site was the paths where water from previous rain had flowed down. The rain flowed in the small depressed area near the broken cement. I wonder if the water would channel and flow through this area if the cement had not been there. The water erodes areas of soil in my site as it flows down the hill and carries the soil into Lake Champlain where it will eventually end up.

Please enjoy the drawn map of my experiences when I visit my phenology site:

The changing seasons and temperatures has been getting me excited to see the quintessential phenological event here in the Northeast: the changing colors of the fall foliage, in my phenology site. Given the number of trees showing their fall golds and reds I expected to find the same in my phenology site. I was disappointed however. Although the colors of the trees in my site were mainly the same green (with hints of yellow on a few leaves) I saw two weeks ago, they did seem dryer and slightly more shriveled. One curious thing I noticed was small, ovular capsules on the underside of many elm tree leaves. They ballooned out and were connected to the leaf tissue itself.

One other thing I noticed about the leaves was small to medium sized holes/rips in the leaves. I tended to notice this mainly in the patch of elm saplings but it is probable that these are simply the leaves I could see the best. Possible explanations for these holes are the two recent hail storms we have had or caterpillars have been feeding on them. There has been minimal to no changes in the herbaceous vegetation. 

I was on the lookout for more evidence of wildlife during this visit. Immediately as I walked into my site, I recognized the chattering of three grey squirrels. This time of year they were almost certainly on the lookout for nuts and seeds to cache for the winter. Grey squirrels in particular are one species that buries their food stores in various locations, called scatter hoarding. See this interesting article to learn more: (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/10/squirrel-behavior-cache-fall-video-spd/). Other evidence of wildlife was bird poop scattered on the leaves of saplings underneath the large elm tree at the center of my site.The birds most likely use the large elm as habitat. I noticed one small snail in the relative shelter of the crevasse of a tree.In this same patch of saplings, I noticed many spider webs and spiders themselves. Lastly, I saw prime evidence of a pileated wood pecked. Although it is possible that my site was used by pileated wood peckers as habitat in previous seasons, the evidence is still clear. I counted at least 15 oblong holes in just the three trunks on one tree. There were about 8 other holes in a total of 2 other trees. These holes were left from where the woodpeckers used their strong beaks to bore holes into the tree where they proceeded to use their sticky tongue to slurp up the grubs and insects inside of the tree.

This visit to my site, I did a much more extensive tree count and approximated there to be 28 large or medium trees in the vicinity of my site (> 5in circumference). I also noted there to be 26 small trees (< 5in circumference, but taller than head height).There were a plethora of small saplings. There are also 5 standing snags in my site. I estimated the sky cover to be 75%. 

Below is a birds eye view of my phenology site so you can better imagine the lay out:

This is the Spot!

This is the spot!

My phenology location is east of Battery Park in Burlington Vermont. There is a small path leading to the forest just before you get to the Burlington Police Station on Sherman Street. I first visited the location on September 30 at 11:30 am. It was a cloudy, 60 degree day. I got to my location by taking the Green Mountain Transit bus from UVM to the stop on Cherry street. Use this link to view a map of the site: MAP.  I chose this location to study for the upcoming months because it has very unique features. One of these features, is the fact that it is so close to very populated and developed areas; this adds an interesting dynamic. Also, the most defining feature of this place is its steep eastern slope leading towards Lake Champlain. This slope offers the opportunity to monitor erosion. Additionally, in my plot, there were two interesting tree species that I was not able to identify prior to visiting my site. Let me paint the picture of my location for you. As you walk South, down the paved path adjacent to battery park, you will see a steep, densely wooded forest to your left. The children and dogs are playing in the park to your right. You walk to the farthest extent of the park and come to the parking lot of the Burlington Police Station. To enter my phenological location, you must find the opening behind the dumpsters. Once here, you will see a large section of broken cement/rock that is running parallel to the hill; it may have once been a sidewalk. You will see evidence of erosion, aided by the steep slope I’m sure. You will also discover holes in the trees most likely from a woodpecker’s hunt for food. In the plot, there are sections of minimal ground cover and those with heavy ground cover. The trees that make up the forest, all of which are deciduous hardwoods, range from large, mature trees, to thin saplings. This location includes the following tree species:

  • Norway Maple
  • Basswood
  • Black Locus Tree
  • Boxelder
  • American or slippery or rock elm tree (Further investigation during my next visit)
    • This is the dominant tree species in my plot.

The plant species on the forest floor include:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Oriental Bittersweet vine
  • Unidentified herbaceous plants (Most likely Canada Mayflower-Further investigation to come)
    • UPDATE: the Herbaceous plants found in my plot are:
      • Wire-stemmed muhly

      • Canada Mayflower


Plants identified using key from: New England Wild Flower Society-Full Key. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2018, from https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/full/

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