Spring has finally arrived to the Redstone Pines. The grass is bright green (but still very muddy from the past few days of rain). Students are spending more and more time outside; the number of hammocks in the pines goes up every day. The breeze blowing through the trees around is no longer cold and biting, but is refreshing on warmer days. Squirrels are coming out more and more, not too afraid to run in front of passersby. Bird calls pierce the air. The calmness and quietness of winter is officially over. Instead, everything is moving and growing, and colors are brighter, not the dull muted shades of winter.
The Redstone pines are a place for students to get together, relax, and enjoy nature. It is an important place on our campus for the community. Personally, I feel like I am not a part of my place, because I spend most of my time elsewhere. However, when I am in the Redstone pines, I appreciate the sense of place I feel there.
It’s hard to see any visible signs of spring on a day like this, when there’s snow on the ground. The most noticeable change is the amount of birds in the area. The bird calls overlap and pierce the air all day. Since the Redstone Pines are a part of the UVM campus, they encompass a small area, so the edge effect is significant. The pines are greatly affected by winds and harsh weather, and many people walk through the area. The area does not provide much of an area for forest interior species.
Over spring break, I visited a location in my hometown that I’ve been to many times in the past. The composition of Norris Reservation is similar to that of the Redstone Pines, only it is much larger. It is mostly dominated by Eastern White Pines and Red Oaks. A major difference between the two is the amount of dead trees and woody debris in the understory. In the past 3 weeks, there have been two major storms on the south shore of Massachusetts, where Norris is located. As a result, many snags were blown over by the wind, as well as many living trees. These storms didn’t hit as hard in Vermont, so the Redstone Pines weren’t affected very much. A similarity between the two areas is that they are both used frequently by the public. Norris Reservation has a container with dog bags in it for visitors to use if they bring their dog.
Norris Reservation used to be the site of a mill. The pond within the reservation used to be used to generate power, until the mills went out of business and the land was bought in the 1920s. In the 1960s, the land was donated to the public to be used by those who wanted to use it. The reservation is located right in the center of Norwell, my hometown, making it a popular place for the whole town to appreciate.
After observing the Redstone Pines, I believe the community is a White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak forest. The community was difficult to identify, mostly because it is such a small area. However, when looking deeper into the varying species and the surrounding areas, the most likely identification is a White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak forest.
The dominating tree species of the forest is the White Pine, with red oaks and Norway maples sprinkled throughout the area. The animals most often seen are gray squirrels and chipmunks. I was having trouble identifying the specific community of this area, so I decided to visit a nearby location with a similar composition- Centennial Woods. Centennial Woods has a wider array of tree species, including Eastern Hemlocks and Ash trees, as well as non-natives like Honeysuckle and Buckthorn. I decided on identifying this community as a White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak forest because of the forest composition, as well as the background of the area. Both the Centennial Woods and the Redstone Pines were heavily disturbed in the past, which is characteristic of this specific community. White Pines and Red Oaks are known for being pioneer species in disturbed lands.
When looking at the Redstone Pines on Biofinder, I discovered that the area is actually the home of a rare animal species. Other areas around campus contain rare plant species as well. Some places in the area surrounding campus are high-priority wildlife crossings and rare natural communities.
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.