Winter in the Redstone Pines is much different than Fall. Obvious signs of wildlife, like birds chirping and squirrels running up trees, are much more scarce, yet there are still many other less obvious signs. While walking through the pines looking for tracks, the first (and most obvious) tracks I saw were human. Even in the winter, people still use this area for walking or playing with their dog. After going farther into the area, I noticed a set of tracks following a galloper pattern. the tracks themselves weren’t too large and the straddle was very small, but the stride was very long. I believe these tracks were from some sort of rabbit, possibly a cottontail based on the shape of the hind foot.
Seeing as the area is called the “Redstone Pines”, about 90% of the trees in the area are pines. However, upon examining the buds of a few different trees, I discovered a red oak (first picture) and a red maple (second picture). I also spotted some black cherries but was unable to find any buds (probably because their branches are so high up). I have attached a drawing of a red oak bud.
While walking through the pines for one of the last times before heading home for a month, the changes since I first visited the site are clear (aside from the obvious powdering of snow from this morning’s shower). The pines are much quieter than earlier in the fall. Many of the residing animals are in hibernation or have moved south for the next few cold months. The bird calls are much more sparse, even the plentiful squirrels have been appearing less and less often. I can barely wait to see what else has changed after being gone for a month.
After doing some research, I came across an article in The Cynic about the Redstone Pines restoration project. In 2015, a group of students came together to remove invasive species like the Norway Maple from the pines. I found myself reflecting on what the area must have looked like just 3 years ago, and what it would look like now if this restoration hadn’t occurred. perhaps there wouldn’t be as many new saplings growing, still shorter than me. This restoration project reflects the importance that the UVM community has for its campus.
Wompatuck State Park holds a special place in my heart. For years I’ve visited it year-round and seen the changing of the seasons through my own eyes. I’ve come to know the usual patterns of the park, like when it’s busiest or when you won’t encounter another human. Today at noon, however, was different. The park was filled with people walking their dogs, riding bikes, and having conversations. Maybe it’s because they’re all trying to work off their Thanksgiving dinners, or because the weather was a perfect 56 degrees with a light breeze. People aren’t the only ones out and about. Hundreds of birds sing and call to each other from the trees, enjoying the nice day before the cold winter hits. The Eastern White Pines tower above the underbrush, where dead trees lay scattered from the rain and wind storm a few weeks ago. Rock walls outline old properties from the 1600s. Occasionally, one stumbles upon the remains of an old bunker from the mid 1900s.
When I first arrived to my hometown in Massachusetts a week ago, there were still vibrant leaves on many of the trees. This was a drastic change from the already-barren trees in Burlington. However, by the end of the week, almost all of the leaves had fallen. I’ve come to notice that Massachusetts tends to be a week or two behind Vermont. The leaves fall here, and in two weeks they fall in Massachusetts. The temperature here is in the 30s while MA is still in the 40s for another week. The tree composition of Wompatuck is similar to that of the Redstone Pines. The forests are both dominated by Eastern White Pines. Both have Black Cherries that tower just slightly under the pines. Wompatuck has more diversity in both the understory and overstory. An abundance of American Beeches are scattered across the Wompatuck landscape. The area I chose to focus on borders a small pond, and bird calls can be heard traveling across the water. Wompatuck in general is much larger than the Redstone Pines, which makes it much easier to find solitude. The amount of dead trees on the ground and still standing is significantly more in Wompatuck than the Redstone Pines, since the South Shore of MA was recently hit with a big rainstorm. I’m interested to see what changes these dead trees will cause in the composition of the forest in the years to come.