Saying Goodbye

As I walked up to my phenology site, chipmunks started alarming and birds started to scatter. I stopped. I watch a chipmunk watch me for about five minutes. He stopped alarming and began to move closer. I noticed the bird started to sing again. Eventually, the chipmunk declared I wasn’t a threat and went about his business as I went about mine.

We are intruders to the natural world. However, if we take time to respect and be gentle towards nature, it accepts us.

The phenology blog has taught me the importance of place. Becoming a part of a place is far more humbling than just being in a place.

My cite has a culture of the edge. It is heavily populated by edge loving species; but, welcomes the presence of unusual dwellers passing through to hunt, breed, or explore the territory. It welcomes humans who treat it well. Otherwise, it can’t handle the stresses of the edge and unkind humans.

It’s history still lives within its culture for the land hosts pine trees that took over abandoned land that was once farmed on.

These pine trees limit the understory growth but yet it is full of life. Little green stems are popped up everywhere from under the pine needles and dead leaves. The lows of the topography are flooded with water but are unable to hold the aquatic life of any kind due to how quickly the land drains.

Small details link all the big things of every place. It’s important to know these details before intervening with any place for the interconnectedness is so fragile.

The chipmunk I interacted with:

A squirrel who wasn’t quite as welcoming as the chipmunk:

My place welcomes me to be apart of it:

A few small ostrich ferns coming through the leaf litter:

Signs of Spring

The pine trees have started adding new, bright green needles and the understory is still snow covered. No flowers have bloomed in the shade of the pines but I can imagine seeds under the leaf litter taking root and waiting for another week of warmth.

 

The nearest edge is about 100 ft away from the edge of my plot. The edge effect includes noise from traffic and the housing complex. However, the pine trees help eliminate wind and exposure to the sun. My place provides a protective, dense overstory for edge favorable wildlife. I don’t think my place provides a great habitat for forest interior species because the understory is very open to the edge.

Classification

My forest can be classified as a Pinus strobus – Pinus resinosa Forest. This translates to Eastern White Pine – Red Pine Forest. These forests are known to have very well-drained, course, acidic soils. Canopy closure is 70-90% minimizing the light that reaches the floor. Because of this, shrubs are sparse. The canopy is dominated by Eastern White Pines and scattered by oaks, maples, and Yellow Birch. It is a cool temperate forest and woodland that is common in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Quebec.

My forest is largely dominated by Eastern White Pine. A few oaks and maples are on my site and a few Yellow Birches can be seen from my site. The forest floor of my forest is covered in needles and few plants. Also, these forests are commonly found on sloped landscapes and my site has a continuous slope to it allowing the soil to be very well drained.

My site experienced a lot of water runoff. Thanks to the warm weather the past few weeks, the small stream bed is freshly eroded. The soil is soft and muddy under the few patches of remaining snow.

BioFinder:  The area of Centennial Woods that my site is a priority of interior forest, connectivity, surface water and riparian areas, and riparian corridors.

My site is uphill from a Class 2 wetland.

In the middle of Centennial Woods, there are rare animal species. There are also rare upland natural communities.

The landscape is “a place with a diverse mix of topography, bedrock and surficial geology and aspect. This is the stage upon which the biological world is set and can serve as a surrogate for places that will have biological diversity into the future.”

It’s Been Awhile…

As I walked the trail leading to my spot in Centennial Woods, it was almost unrecognizable. I hadn’t yet been to my location with snow on the ground yet. Before the snow, the place looked dark and dead-like with all the fallen trees and thin understory; but, now, with the snow, the place seems bright and full of life. Now, as I walk through the tall pine trees, I can see tracks and trails going in all directions at my feet.

There were squirrels, humans, dogs, deer, voles, mice, and a grey fox.

I followed the deer tracks and found where they had bedded down not too far from my location.

I also followed a grey fox trail for almost an hour as it seemed to mindlessly wander around the same general area. However, I am glad I followed the trail for as long as I did because I came across a large chunk of grey hair. There was no evidence in the tracks of the fox stopping or of any animal that may have pulled the hair off. My best guess would be that it ran into the branch of the fallen log as seen in the image below.

There was a lot of individual pieces of hair spread all over this area. Another possibility is that it was a deer and the deer slipped on the log, in the bottom right you can see a nice slide marking, and hit the branch, taking off the clump of hair, then in the mess of other deer prints it stopped and shook itself before continuing.

While I was meandering along the foxes path, I was also keeping my eye out for buds. I swear, there were none. With the needle baring pines casting their shadows on the forest floor, and the common visit from deer, the understory of my place ceases to exist.

Here is the grey fox print.

Here is a squirrel print.

Here is a vole tunneling in the thin layer of snow.

Human History

Centennial Woods used to be a farm. The last owners were Lorenzo and Grace Ainsworth. After they both passed away, UVM bought the land in 1904.

My place in Centennial is mostly Eastern White Pines which are known for their ability to be the first to grow in disturbed, open areas. From this knowledge, I feel it is safe to infer that my place was once a pasture or a field used for crop growth. Then, once the farm was abandoned, the pines were able to quickly populate the area and grow to the size I see today.

One other thing that I found interesting, but isn’t a part of my place, is the area of the brook directly across the trail from my place. I read about beaver dams flooding areas of Centennial Woods and how to identify an area that was possibly once upstream from a dam. The area across my place is a very wide and grassy field, almost like a wetland but with one small stream running through it. These are the types of descriptions I read about while visiting Special Collections. I found it very intriguing to image that area full of water.

Rocky Ridge County Park – Pennsylvania

Photograph by: Janelle HousmanPhotograph by: Janelle Housman

My home in Pennsylvania borders Rocky Ridge County Park.  It is a forested park with many miles of trails; and, I know these trails like the back of my hand.  At a young age, my family would take me on hikes and picnics in these woods. We had a designated picnic spot upon a large flat rock. This is where I decided to do my phenology at home assignment. Years of spending time in these woods grew into a love for hiking and trail running so much so that I would spend an hour or more on the trails almost every day in high school.  A high appreciation for nature sprouted from this time spent in the woods and my curiosity for nature began. I see this place as the birthplace of what drives me to protect the environment and cherish it so much for that reason.

One thing that really caught my eye was a young sugar maple is growing directly across from the picnic rock. Ironic that the place my passion came from grows just one sugar maple and I came to a place known for its plentiful sugar maple trees.

Photograph by: Janelle Housman

Photograph by: Janelle Housman

I tend to be one to relate unrelatable things so here it goes

Maybe I am that one sugar maple by the picnic rock growing strong but out of place-just how I like it. Maybe I came to Vermont to be amongst the all mighty syrup producers to see what I can take back home with me.

I walk through my backyard as I have done a countless number of times to a narrow, leaf hidden trail leading to a main trail. I take a right down the hill of the main trail but pause to take a deep breath. The smell of autumn fills my lungs. I hear birds singing and squirrels quietly rustling through fallen leaves. And, I think to myself, “I’m home.”

I begin my walk being careful not to slip on the damp, rocky path that had been rained on the night before. Mushrooms are sprouted and my boots mud covered thanks to that rain.

I take a left, wandering off the main trail and there it is – the picnic rock.

Memories fill the area. So many years of visiting this rock, with my family and friends, has given me a great sense of connectedness to this place.

In this place, the understory is not dense. Deer are highly populated and may be to blame for this. Mostly tall, small crowned trees scatter the area allowing lots of sunlight reach the forest floor. Ferns and prickly plants take advantage of this and create a carpet of green in the spring and summer. But, for now, it remains bare.

There are, in this bare understory, two eye-catching trees the deer seemed to miss – a sugar maple and a small evergreen.

Photograph by: Janelle HousmanPhotograph by: Janelle Housman

The area is sloped and rocky with sandy, ashy soil. An area beloved by mountain bikers, hikers, runners, horseback riders, and hunters. Rocky Ridge used to be a dump spot for. It is one of the first places the county’s original settlers established homes. It was the home of an old peach orchard, an old landfill and much of the area was always forested.

Photograph by: Janelle Housman

My place in Centennial Woods is a mature Eastern White Pine forest and Rocky Ridge is a mature Oak forest. Centennial Woods is an area for squirrels, chipmunks, and woodpeckers to thrive but Rocky Ridge is better for birds and deer. Both areas are sloped but Rocky Ridge does not have any type of obvious creek bed because the rocky soil allows water to drain without eroding a creek bed. Sunlight easily reaches the floor in Rocky Ridge but, because of the evergreen Eastern White Pines, the floor doesn’t receive sunlight and therefore lacks heavy floor grown.

Photograph by: Janelle Housman

A Walk In My Woods

Drawing by: Janelle Housman

While walking through my place, the chances of seeing and/or hearing a squirrel and/or a chipmunk is very high. Holes from them digging in the fallen needles are everywhere under your feet. Pinecone remnants lay in piles and show where they have harvested their winter food. Movement in the trees and on the ground, through the decaying logs, is noisy, yet you hardly catch a glimpse of who created the noise. Then, it is silent. You can notice a muted trickling of Centennial Brook mixed with the hum of air and road traffic in the distance.

While I was walking through my place, I was fortunate enough to witness two chipmunks chasing each other. Now, I am no expert on chipmunk behavior (although I would like to be); so, I am not sure if they were playing or if it was territorial or what it was. Either way, though, I found it adorable to watch those two little dudes run around in the fallen trees.

Another thing I was able to witness was a chipmunk disappearing into a hole in the ground that was hidden under a fallen log. At first, I did not know there was a hole and was completely frazzled by where the chipmunk had gone. But, as I stood there, other chipmunks started to holler at me. I knew that they were warning other about my presents so I was determined to figure out what they were hollering for and where that chipmunk went. Then, I noticed it. There was a small hold directly under this fallen tree (the fallen tree is about four inches off the floor). There were pine cones places along the edges of the hole which helped camouflage it from my sight. After experiencing this, I began to notice many other holes all throughout my place but there was one area in particular that really stood out. Using my aerial map as a reference, at the bottom middle of the map there is a collection of small branches piled up and slightly covered by fallen pine needles and leaves. In this mess, there were multiple holes that looked like the one I just described. Almost as if the chipmunks had a grand entrance to their burrows.

Another thing I noticed that stood out to me while I was walking through my place was a piece of Paper Birch bark. At first, I actually thought it was paper and that someone had littered but was amused when I then realized it was bark. This find stood out to me because there are no birch trees in my plot. The closes Paper Birch tree to this finding is about 50 yards away. I am very curious as to how the bark got there. Was it the crazy windstorm? Was it an animal? What was the animal doing with it? Or what was the animal going to use it for?

Speaking of litter- actual litter, in this case, I also found a red solo cup.

Since the uncanny power of the windstorm last week, many green leaves and needles have fallen along with many small branches. Fortunately, though, no trees have fallen to join the many that lie on the forest floor.

Photography by: Janelle Housman

Evidence of Wildlife

While drawing the aerial map of my plot, I noticed some scat next to the Black Cherry that marks the center of my plot.

Also, all over my plot, in the fallen pine needles, are tiny burrows or dig marks.

I’m not sure who’s scat it is or who’s creating the marks in the pine needles but I hope to find out.

Photography by: Janelle Housman

Location

My phenology project place is located in Centennial Woods in an area populated by Eastern White Pines. In the center of my plot are two large Black Cherries. Here is the Google Maps link to my location:

Here are the coordinates of my location:

44.4774, -73.1873

To get to my place, follow the trail until it splits into two (this happens before Centennial Brooke). Then, instead of going straight, turn left and a new trial should be seen between two Eastern White Pine trees in this opening space.

Follow this trail for a short while.

Once you have stepped over the second fallen tree, look to the left and that is my place.

I chose this place because it reminds me of the woods that surround my cabin in northern Pennsylvania. It presented a welcoming vibe and sense of familiarity. There is a variety of vegetation, and here are just a few: Eastern White Pine, Black Cherry, Norway Maple, Broad Beech Fern, Prickly Gooseberry, multiple types of fungi, and moss. The most common woody plants in this space are the tall Eastern White Pines and the Norway Maples.

The reason I titled this area Cherry in the Pines is that there are two large Black Cherries growing in the midst of the shading Eastern White Pines. Black Cherries are not shade tolerant trees which is another reason this area stood out to me.

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This area also had a dried up creek bed that I assume runs after rain storms and when the snow melts.

Photography by: Janelle Housman