I recently visited my site at the Salmon Hole on the first day of May, and I was delighted to see the changes that have taken place. There were a multitude of different types of birds chirping from the trees and the rivers edge. The trees are all beginning to bloom, with some already growing green leaves. The water has lost all ice and is flowing rapidly. The entire landscape has taken a new lively look and it feels like spring has truly sprung. While visiting, I saw a few toads and I even saw a lake trout as I was watching the water. It is a wonderful time to be at the Winooski River Salmon Hole.
Nature and Culture intertwine at my place because it is a wonderful natural site full of unlimited phenological processes to learn about, and at the same time it is a revered place for fishing, a cultural practice here in Vermont. It also offers a sort of spiritual feeling to us as humans, and allows us to truly interact and connect with the landscape. I would definitely consider myself to be a part of my place because I interact with it about as much as many of the animals or plants that are there. I feel the changes and I have a deep connection to my place. I am in awe of the processes that take place there and I feel like over time I have become at least a small part of them.
My phenology place is in a pretty different state from the last time I visited it. Last time everything was covered in snow, and no creatures were stirring. This time, the vibe is changing, and the plants and animals are feeling the difference. Although the spring has not fully sprung here in Vermont, it is in the transition. It is still pretty cold, but the snow has majorly turned to rain and the ground is finally visible. Finally, the Winooski at the Salmon Hole is no longer frozen over, and the phenological changes are taking place. While visiting, I saw an American Toad, no wildflowers blooming yet, and none of the trees have begun flowering. I am sure full-fledged bloom is right around the corner, but not quite yet. The closest edge to the Salmon Hole would have to be the road that is on the outskirts of it. There is the river, and some woods surrounding it but the road cuts around the edges. There are most interior species in these woods like the Blue Warbler and the Douglas Fir tree. The Salmon Hole is beginning to feel the effects of Spring, and I would expect that the changes will be in full swing in the new few weeks.
My spring break spot was about as different as you can get from my Burlington spot. There is no body of water, no hardwood trees, and no ice. I went back to my childhood home of Arizona and visited the red rocks of Sedona. The natural history of Sedona is defined by the Schnebly Hill Formation made of reddish-orange colored sandstone. This is the only place in the world that this type of sandstone is found, and it was deposited during the Permian Period between 299 and 252 million years ago. While at Bell Rock, one of the many mountains in Sedona, I saw many hummingbirds, hawks, and quail. There were also many agave plants, and creosote bushes scattered throughout Sedona. This part of the Arizonan climate gets a bit cooler in the winter than where I am from, and does not get as hot, so plants thrive here climate-wise. Although, it does not get a lot of precipitation which narrows the amount of plants that can live in this area. The Creosote bushes flowers open up when it rains and excrete an amazing smell, as they were the day I was there. The Agave plant loves the sun and can be found everywhere in Sedona, even on the mountain tops, like the one pictured on Bell Rock.
The Salmon Hole is difficult to classify because it has aspects of wetlands and woodlands. At the end of the day I would classify it as a wetland, as the Winooski River is the most defining factor on the landscape. It shapes the geology and lifeforms of the place. The river has been present for a long time and seems as if it will continue to be for a long time. There is lake sturgeon, salmon, tracks of mink and fishers, and much shrubbery surrounding the river. There are also many trees, but the closer you get to the shoreline the more they fade back. The freezing and melting of the ice determines the shaping of the rocks on the shoreline and the habitats of the animals surrounding. Since my last visit, most of the ice has melted. When I was here last, the Salmon Hole was mostly frozen over so much so that you could walk across it, but now it is flowing much more freely with very little ice on the sides. The substrate is always shifting due to the turbulence of the river, and it can erode and redeposit boulders. This movement is a real cause of disturbance and constant changes in the area. I discovered that the Winooski River is a conservation priority. It is also chalk full of rare species of both plants and animals, but mostly animals. This is an incredible ecosystem that provides a home for many species.
The river was quite frozen over, but small parts escaped and ran freely. Some parts were frozen enough to walk on while others were not. The snow was fresh enough that tracks were pretty easily detectable.
I saw a variety of twig species at this location. I believe they belonged mostly to American Beech, Yellow Birch, and various Maples. I believe this particular twig to be a sugar maple because of its buds and the brown color.
These tracks look like they likely belong to a rabbit.
This set of track appears as if it belongs to either a large fox or a dog.
These tracks look like they could belong to a bounder, possibly a weasel or a mink.
The human history of my place is majorly influenced by the Catholic institution of Trinity College. This college was granted permission to exist in 1925, and was created by the Vermont chapter of the Religious Order of the Sisters of Mercy. From 1925 to 2002 it was owned and operated by Trinity College (as of 1980 Trinity College of Vermont), but in 2002 after suffering substantial financial losses, it was sold to University of Vermont.
The late November breeze caught my hair as I gazed out over the Stainton Wildlife Refuge. I have been visiting this wooden bird watching perch since I was a child with my grandpa, and watching the beautiful birds fly and dive in the pond with no fear of predators. The expansion of wilderness in this very developed area is refreshing, it brings a feeling of serenity in a sea of real estate and tourists. The carefree nature of the blue herons, egrets, willets, and seagulls brought me great joy, as they are usually much more hesitant if seen in a less protected environment. Ocean City, New Jersey is a huge tourist destination, and a huge migration ground for birds, so it is wonderful that there is a refuge dedicated to protecting these amazing, breathtaking creatures. The refuge is full of different kinds of green and brown grasses, as well as ponds and waterways for the birds to enjoy. From the perch, you can see rooftops in the distance, but the birds are untouchable due to a thick protective outer layer of plants to surround the refuge. As I peer over the edge, a calm relaxation comes washing over me. The freedom and untouchable nature of the refuge for these birds gives me peace.
The landscape of the Burlington site is quite different from that of the birding site in Ocean City. In my Burlington woods site the land feels softer, and the leaves that were once crunchy on the ground have grown wet and begun to decompose to become one with the soil. The trees sway with each other in a way that makes it seem like the sky is whispering to you, while the leaves trickle down like water droplets dripping down a drain. The spot in Ocean City, New Jersey has a very different feel to it. The elevation of the wooden perch brings a wind that brushes against your cheek and blows your hair in the wind. It gives a strange sense of freedom, which can be confusing since the rooftops are not far off in the distance. The flying, diving, and chirping of the birds communicates a joy and will to be alive, while the earth underneath them seems to welcome them home. The water stays stagnant, except by random bursts from the birds diving in to catch a fish for lunch or dinner. The trees and grasses communicate with the sky and animals by swaying in a way similarly to the Burlington site. From my perch, I feel one with nature. From my perch, I can feel the comfort and Zen of the birds.