You can find life in winter if you know where to look…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Date: January 29, 2018

Time: 9:40-9:55 am

Weather: 20 degrees, snow flurries

Snow Cover: 9 inches

Birds seen: Black-Capped Chickadee (heard), Downy Woodpecker (heard)

This morning, I went to the Centennial Thicket for the first time in nearly two months. Not much has changed visually since the last time I was there, other than the few leaves that remained on the Red Oaks disappearing. There was also much more snow, with about 9 inches on the ground. Bare twigs were also visible on all of the trees, including the Red Oak.

Red Oak twig

For the first time, I saw no wildlife at the Centennial Thicket, but there were plenty of indications that animals were still around. Firstly, I heard two species of birds, which were the local Black-Capped Chickadees and a Downy Woodpecker. Secondly, I found tracks of several species of animals, which were Humans, Domestic Dogs, Gray Squirrel, Eastern Cottontail, and White-Tailed Deer.

Rabbit tracks

Deer track

Here’s hoping that I see more signs of wildlife soon!

Last visit to Centennial Thicket of the year!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Tuesday, December 4th , 2018, 8:20-8:50 am

Weather: Snow Shower.

Snow Cover: 1 inch

Birds seen at this spot: American Robin, Black-Capped Chickadee, American Crow, Northern Cardinal

Birds seen nearby: Mallard, Carolina Wren

I went to my site one last time this year this morning. A fresh coat of snow blanketed the ground. However, it concealed the hidden danger of massive sheets of ice produced from the recent rainfall. I almost slipped a few times, but continued on. My spot looked quite different compared to a few weeks ago. A few dangling leaves were all that was left on all of the trees, including the persistent Red Oak. As for birds, I only saw a few species around, including several Black-Capped Chickadees and a few Northern Cardinals. A pair of Carolina Wrens were also braving the conditions in some underbrush nearby.

A Carolina Wren in Centennial Woods in late September.

Lately, I’ve been checking out what the human history of the Centennial Thicket was through the Burlington Geographic site. Turns out, it was originally a plot of land used as a farm by J. Whitson in the 1830s, and as the estates of Herald Stevens and C. Baxter in the 1890s. Even when Centennial Woods was starting to be grown in the early 1900s, it was originally much smaller, and my spot was still an open field.

Centennial Thicket in 1937. It is just right of the patch of scattered bushes/small trees left of center.

I can see this age in the vegetation too, as most trees around this site are fairly short when compared to others deeper in the woods, excluding the rapidly-growing White Pines. If you go back even further, you’ll find out from the surficial geology that the Centennial Thicket was on (or just off) the shore of the Champlain Sea, an ancient water body that existed 10,000 years ago.

The blue represents marine sediments from the Champlain Sea.

I can’t wait to explore more and learn more about my place next year!

Phenology a bit closer to home

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018, 12-1 pm

Link to spot:,-73.9690711,165m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c2589232f63bb1:0x8f24b441c268a5f9!8m2!3d40.7768215!4d-73.968892

Weather: Cloudy

Birds seen at this spot: Tufted Titmouse, Black-Capped Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, White-Throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove

Leopold’s Style:

Today, I went for a stroll in one of my favorite areas of New York City’s Central Park: the Evodia Field bird feeders. Under the canopy of Red Oaks lie the swarms of seed-eating birds surrounding an array of almost two dozen feeding stations. Of all its visitors, the Tufted Titmice are most charming, particularly because their antics always interest me. I watch one chow down on a suet cake, one of the most nutritious items in the forest.

Tufted Titmouse on its suet cake

Just as he was settling into his feast, something catches his eye. A rival! The two blue-and-white warriors squabble through the air, squeaking and pecking at each other. Finally, they separate, with the rival depleted of stamina. Our titmouse has won the battle, and so returns to his feast.

The Gill

Not far from the feeders lies a small stream colloquially known as the Gill. It starts out with a small waterfall, that widens up into Azalea Pond, then twists and turns farther down, eventually flowing into the Lake. At the mouth, I stood, waiting for some natural event to happen. Suddenly, a flock of yellow jewels flutter down into the stream. These American Goldfinches clearly must’ve gotten a bit dirty with their heads inside the seed feeders. One by one, they dip their bodies into the water, ridding themselves of all the grime that has accumulated throughout the day. They then fly into the bare branches above, spend a few minutes drying off, and then go back to the sources of nourishment they subsist on.

American Goldfinches bathing in the Gill

Holland’s Style:

Evodia Field is radically different from the Centennial Thicket. To start, there is no snow on the ground, and it is much warmer. Most of the tree species present in the area are also completely different, and many of them still retain most of their leaves. One species present in both spots is the Northern Red Oak, with several 80-foot giants towering over the relatively low bird feeders.

The canopy of oaks

Speaking of birds, there are a lot more of them than at the Centennial Thicket, with hundreds of individuals of around a dozen species present, compared to the paltry dozen or so birds of four or five species being seen right now. I also saw a migrant species that has long disappeared from the Champlain Valley, two Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Hardy as they are, these tiny olive birds still migrate, but are more likely to stick around for longer where it is warmer. Every year, a few may even overwinter in the area!

A native White-Throated Sparrow (front) with a non-native House Sparrow, the latter of which isn’t found in Centennial Woods.

Most notably, Evodia Field is much more altered by humans than the Centennial Thicket. While the thicket only contains one dirt path, Evodia Field contains several fenced-in paved paths. Furthermore, the bird feeders are a major human intervention of the natural cycles. They bring hundreds of birds into a very small area, particularly titmice, sparrows, and finches. It is like an artificial oasis for avian life, and one that I will surely miss once I head back to Vermont.

A bit of a side note is that many finches are coming down from up north! This is known as an irruption, when you get a lot of a species that you typically see very few of during a typical fall/winter. On 19th, I saw several Purple Finches in Central Park, and even a rare Evening Grosbeak!


The leaves have fallen, and so has the snow

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Friday, November 16, 2018, 7:50 am

Weather: Snowing

Snow cover: 5-6 inches

Birds seen at this spot: Carolina Wren, American Crow, Black-Capped Chickadee

Birds seen nearby: American Robin, American Goldfinch (heard)

This morning the first major snowstorm of the season hit the Centennial Thicket, dropping over half a foot there. This was the second snow event to hit; the first hit on Tuesday and two inches fell. The trees looked very different compared with my last visit almost two weeks ago. The Black Walnuts have now lost all of their leaves, and it seems like the Red Oak only has about half of its leaves left, which are now brown and wilted.


As for birds, a few still seemed to be out during the snowstorm. The resident Carolina Wren scuttled across the path, feeding among the snow-covered shrubs. Chickadees were active as usual in their large feeding flocks. I also found footprints at the edge of the spot (as well as deeper in the woods) that looked to be a few hours old. Based the shape, size, and spacing of the prints, I think they may have been made by a deer.

Meanwhile, I was trudging around covered in a fresh layer of snow!

Me after less than an hour outside


Everything is Falling Down + Chickadee Banding!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Sunday, November 4, 2018 10:45 am

Weather: Mostly sunny, low 40s

Birds seen at this spot: Black-Capped Chickadee,  Blue Jay

Birds seen nearby: Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, EASTERN PHOEBE, Common Raven, American Crow, American Robin, Canada Goose

Today I went to visit my phenology site once again. But first, I went out with the Wildlife and Fisheries society (WFS) and Professor Alan Strong to do some Black-Capped Chickadee banding near my spot.

Untangling a chickadee from the net.

Measuring wing length


                   ‘Dee and Me!

In total, we banded 9 chickadees, and recaptured two others. I’ll be sure to keep my eye out to see if I can spot any banded birds in Centennial Woods. Other birds in the area included titmice and nuthatches caught in the net, the resident raven flying over constantly calling, and a late Eastern Phoebe flycatching by the pond near the entrance.

One of the nuthatches we caught. These were let go as soon as we freed them.

Most of the trees in the Centennial Thicket seem to have lost virtually all of their leaves. Perhaps the only tree to have nearly all of them is a young Red Oak.

The Red Oak, one of the last leafy trees.

Many of my focal tree species that are visible outside my site, such as Beech and Sugar Maple, still have a lot of leaves, but few of those trees are in my site, likely because the habitat conditions are a bit different deeper into the forest. I better work on how to identify these trees now that most are rapidly losing their leaves!

There is still some greenery on the ground, but little above it.

On a side note, you can observe many changes in the photos I have posted since the blog’s inception, such as trees gradually losing their leaves, as well as the many resident and migratory birds around. On another side note, I have also put together an “event map” in order to showcase some of the things I saw today.

                            My event map

Phenology Visit 10/26

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Friday, October 26, 8:05-8:45 am

Weather: Mostly sunny, low 30s

Birds seen at this spot: White-Breasted Nuthatch (heard), American Goldfinch (heard), American Crow (heard), Black-Capped Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, White-Throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Hairy Woodpecker

Birds seen nearby: Tufted Titmouse, Brown Creeper, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Carolina Wren (heard)

When I visited Centennial Thicket this morning, it seemed very quiet. Many migratory birds have mostly left the area, even latter ones such as the Yellow-Rumped Warblers. Only a few species remained in numbers, such as the Golden-Crowned Kinglets (still numerous). The most numerous bird was the Black-Capped Chickadee, of which there was a large flock moving around between Centennial Thicket and the floodplain. Many people don’t know it, but not all of these Chickadees are resident. Most of them migrate south for winter, forming these big flocks which often attract all sorts of small birds. Within their flocks were Golden-Crowned Kinglets, at least one Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, and White-Breasted Nuthatch just to name a few. Mrs Hairy was on a tree just east of the thicket, calling to another, unseen woodpecker.

Very few trees have a decent amount of leaves on them

Meanwhile, nearly all of the trees in my spot are rapidly losing leaves. Even the Black Walnuts have finally shed most of theirs. No trees have green leaves anymore, and it seems as if winter will set in at any moment. Snow grains have fallen on a few occassions already, and the snowline seems to have creeped down to about 1000 feet high. I wonder if I’ll see snow cover the next time I visit!


Phenology Visit 10/17

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

A revised sketch of the Centennial Thicket

Wednesday, October 17, 8:05-8:55 am

Weather: Mostly cloudy, mid 40s

Birds seen at this spot: Black-Capped Chickadee, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, White-Throated Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Common Raven, American Crow

Birds seen nearby: Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper Hermit Thrush, Gray-Cheeked/Bicknell’s Thrush (heard), Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Carolina Wren (heard), Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker.

Many trees are losing their leaves.

The path is starting to become littered with fallen leaves.

When I visited Centennial Thicket this morning, I noticed that most trees were losing leaves, with Ash seeming to have barely any at all. Only Black Walnut and American Elm still retained most or all of their leaves, although both were turning yellow. Meanwhile, invasive species are continuing to be removed from the thicket. There were several volunteers removing Buckthorn and Honeysuckle on the north side of the path. They told me that these would be used to help build tents for the Feverish World event taking place this weekend at UVM.

Some of the Buckthorn and Honeysuckle removed by the volunteers.

As for birds, there has been a great shift in migrants. Now, we see the last of the migrants, including Golden and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Golden-Crowned are by far the most common, with some even spending the winter here.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Also seen were a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers, the last of the warblers to come through are area. These are found in the great flocks of chickadees seen in this month that take advantage of the fall bounty of seeds, nuts, and fruit. Some year round visitors were seen today as well, such as the resident female Hairy Woodpecker and Common Ravens.

Mrs. Hairy hard at work.

I had about 20 species in the woods today, and look forward to what next week will bring.

10/9 Phenology Visit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

The Mushroom Hole. one of several interesting natural features of the Centennial Thicket. Since Tuesday, the mushroom has grown much bigger.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018, 8:00-9:00 am

Weather: Mostly cloudy, mid 60s

Birds seen at this spot: Black-Capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker

Birds seen nearby: TENNESSEE WARBLER (late), ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (first Centennial record), Rusty Blackbird (first Centennial record), Carolina Wren (heard), White-Breasted Nuthatch.

This morning, I was able to visit Centennial Thicket, and noticed distinct changes from the last time I was there. First off, there were far fewer birds than observed just a week ago. All that was in my patch were some chickadees and a male Downy Woodpecker. I would presume that the woodpecker is resident, as is the female Hairy Woodpecker I have seen along the trail on multiple occasions (including today). Both of these species are not known to migrate, so I’ll probably see these birds more in the future. Guessing I should give them names then?

The resident female Hairy Woodpecker as seen on Friday. A male (her mate?) was very close by.

Secondly, I was able to identify more tree species in the area. There are several towering Black Walnuts, a few Horsechestnuts (whose flower-like leaves have turned a deep red), as well as a young American Elm. I noticed that nearly all trees are in the full swing of color changing. Only a handful of species appeared to still be very green overall including the Black Walnut, and Norway Maple.

Looking up into the canopy

Moving on to my other bird observations, it seemed at first as if there were no more warblers to be found, but somehow I still pulled through. Looking into a large flock of chickadees and titmice foraging among the flowers in the floodplain, I was able to identify a late Tennessee Warbler in the flock. Later, as I was exiting Centennial Woods, I saw two warblers perch in some nearby shrubs. They were moving fast, so I was only able to get on one of them. However, this turned out to be an Orange-Crowned Warbler, an uncommon migrant in the Champlain Valley, and one of the few warblers that is still coming through our area. Migration is far from over, so I can’t wait to see what new stuff shows up in Centennial Woods!

UPDATE: On Friday, 10/12, I was able to refind the late Tennessee Warbler in the same spot as before.

Phenology Visit 10/3 (+more birds!)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

October 3, 2018, 8:45-9:30 am

Weather: Cloudy and misty, low 50s

Birds seen at spot: Black-Throated Green Warbler, American Redstart, Hermit Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Blue Jay, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker

Birds seen elsewhere: Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler (several), Magnolia Warbler (2), Nashville Warbler, Cape May Warbler (2), Common Yellowthroat (2), Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Blue Headed Vireo, Eastern Phoebe (3), Gray Catbird, Song Sparrow, White-Throated Sparrow

On this wet morning, I visited Centennial Thicket once again, but not for too long, as I looked for birds in other parts of the area. There were several notable changes to the area. First off, the leaves of some plant species were beginning to turn read, including Boxelder and Buckthorn. I actually came across a group of volunteers removing some of the invasive Buckthorn from my spot.

This is a large part of the area cleared of Buckthorn. Note that some of the vegetation appears trampled by the volunteers.

The volunteers were mostly in the area that had less cover. This left some Buckthorn in the more impenetrable areas near the entrance nearly untouched. Looking up at these particular plants, I was able to observe the way that this species spreads throughout the forest. All around the Buckthorn grove (also lined with Boxelder) was a large flock of thrushes. The Hermit Thrush (our state bird) was the most common, but there were at least one or two Swainson’s Thrushes in the mix as well. These birds eat the Buckthorn’s irresistible berries and spread them wherever they go through their droppings. Because there are so many of these birds, it seems like it may be nearly impossible to control the spread of this invasive shrub.

A Swainson’s Thrush perched on one of the Buckthorn bushes the next day.

Meanwhile, I saw 8 species of warbler today, a decent amount for early October. Only two (Black-Throated Green and a late American Redstart) were around Centennial Thicket. The others were scattered around the area. Magnolia Warblers were found further in, along with my first Golden-Crowned Kinglets of the season. Meanwhile, I found Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Nashville Warbler, and a late Wilson’s Warbler at the pond next to East Ave. Although not in the woods, I did a pair of late Cape May Warblers on my way to Centennial Woods just across from the UVM windmill. What an amazing day to be out and about in the woods!

Introduction to the Centennial Thicket

Posted in Uncategorized on September 25, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

A GPS map of where my site is (the JS is the actual centerpoint). Note that it is only a few hundred feet east of a residential housing community, and about a quarter mile north of Main Street.

My name is Jordan Spindel. I am an 18 year-old UVM freshman from New York, NY majoring in Environmental Science. One thing to know about me is that I am a big birdwatcher, and have been doing it for about 10 years. To partake in this hobby at UVM, I often go into Centennial Woods, just 10 minutes away from my dorm. This 90 acre plot of land is owned by the university and is filled with forests, streams, meadows, hills, and many other environments. Recently, I was given another reason to go into these woods. For my NR 001 class, I was asked to study the phenology of a certain spot around Burlington throughout the year. I immediately chose Centennial Woods, but I had to choose a specific spot to focus on. I chose a spot near the entrance of the woods that I would like to call “Centennial Thicket”, due to much of it being a small clearing with shrubs and small trees. This spot has you walking down a Buckthorn-lined hill that is partially made of steps carved into the soil. The intersection of forest and clearing allows many different types of plants and animals to be observed, especially birds.

Without further ado, here is my first report:

September 26, 2018, 8-9 am

Weather: Mostly cloudy, high 60s

Birds seen: Raven, Black-Capped Chickadee, Blackpoll Warbler,  Black-Throated Green Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, PHILADELPHIA VIREO, Blue-Headed Vireo, White-Throated Sparrow, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker

The trees in my spot consisted mostly of Ash, Boxelder, and Norway Maple, as well as one Northern Red Oak near the entrance and the edge of an Eastern White Pine stand on the other end. These trees were a mix of colors, but overall, most were green. The same goes to the shrubs  in the thicket (which also had some flowers like Goldenrod), and of course, the Eastern White Pines, which keep their green needles year-round. I observed many birds flitting around the thicket, mostly a mix of chickadees and warblers. I spotted a vireo briefly in there that was either a Warbling or an uncommon Philadelphia Vireo. As I tried to refind it, I heard what sounded like someone shouting in the woods. I looked up to find that it was not a person at all, but a pair of Common Ravens flying overhead! These birds are known for having a wide variety of vocalizations, to the point where they can even be trained to speak like parrots. Looking back at the flock, the vireo finally appeared again briefly, revealing the lemon-yellow throat that would make it a Philadelphia! This is actually my third Philadelphia Vireo in Centennial Woods, with the second one actually being seen yesterday. Right now, the woods are still lively with action and color, but will it still be later in the fall and in winter?

A drawn map of my spot as well as a sketch of the Philadelphia Vireo I saw



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