Weather: Clear, chilly and no wind
Temperature: 26 F
November 23, 2018
“There is no dead season… nature has set no fixed bounds to her actions, and does not perish when she casts off her apparel, but gathers her forces to herself, prepares for new effort.” Mable Wright from The Friendship of Nature.
My hometown natural area is not far from my house. In fact, it is located in the lower wooded area of my back property. Just past our old chicken coop, you turn down a small hill and follow an ATV trail to reach my observation area. I’ve explored this location for over a decade. It was my natural playground growing up. I’ve witnessed this landscape change each season. In the fall I anticipate the great view of Mt. Equinox that is revealed as the leaves drop off the trees and then when spring arrives, the beauty of the birch trees replaces the majestic mountain view.
It is not a quiet approach to the newly frozen swampy area. The snow crunches beneath my boots, ruining any chance of a wildlife encounter. Once I started to take in my surroundings, I noticed an old rusty fence that is falling down and lower in one area. I believe that it serves as a game trail. There are deer tracks frozen in the snow and some more recent tracks from deer likely moving through the area just today. The small swampy area is framed by a grove of tamarack trees that recently lost their needles. I close my eyes and I can picture the smokey gold color of the grove that must have been there only a month ago. Given the swampy surroundings, it is not surprising that the tamarack is thriving, as it loves wet soil. The swamp is frozen by a new layer of ice and the swamp grass on its shore is brown and frozen limp.
The entire area is deep in winter mode with life below the surface quiet for the winter season. The peepers that sing their song in springtime are hibernating – surviving on energy that they’ve stored in their bodies this fall. The reality of the change of seasons hits me; the transition from fall to winter always makes me edgy. The dark coming sooner, the temperature dropping my internal compass waiting to adjust.
When comparing my two phenology spots, it is water sources and valley locations that they share in common. Water sources – a river in Burlington and a swamp in southern Vermont are important to each location. My hometown observation spot sits in downward slope in the valley between the Green Mountains and the Taconic Mountains located in the Batten Kill River watershed. The Bromley Brook neighbors my property and it flows into the Bourne Brook and then into the Batten Kill River and then into the Hudson River. If a droplet of water landed in my observation spot it would likely make its way into the Bourne Book and then follow the same path described above. Eventually the droplet would make its way out into the Atlantic Ocean. My Burlington observation spot also sits in a valley between the Green Mountains and the Adirondack Mountains in the Winooski River watershed. A water droplet from my Burlington location would travel down the Winooski River into Lake Champlain and out into the St. Lawrence River and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of St. Lawrence). At both observation sites the water level increases and decreases due to the weather conditions. The water flows down the slope of land and settles into the low spot. The swamp provides important habit for amphibians, insects and the plant life that relies on the wet conditions for growth. At my Winooski River spot, the water level also plays an important role in the habitat. For example, I have noticed that the beavers tend to be more active when the water level is higher. I think that it keeps their damn more filled in and better for living. Both locations are both close to humans, they provide habitat for plants and animals to carry out necessary processes to thrive.