Spring Break Plot Phenology

When I visited Fair Haven Fields Natural Area, it had recently been coated with a thin layer of snow. The unusually cold New Jersey temperatures for this time of year resulted in a lack of wildlife in the area, specifically birds. Some robins could be seen and heard in the distance,  but only several. The plot consisted of various different tree species; yellow birch, oaks, locusts, and even some holly. May trees were being overtaken by a species of vine that I am unfamiliar with.

Fair Haven Plot vs. Centennial Woods Plot

The plot I chose to observe over spring break is located in Fair Haven, New Jersey. The plot is located in the Fair Haven Fields Natural Area. While little information is available about Fair Haven’s natural history, it can be assumed that my plot was subjected to an abundance of human interference in the 19th and 20th centuries as the nearby Navesink River became utilized by locals. The somewhat young appearance of trees in my plot support this theory as well. At that time, Fair Haven was bustling with industry and developing at a rapid rate. However, development around Fair Haven Road, the road bordering the eastern edge of the Fair Haven Fields Natural Area, slowed down greatly after the 19th century. The buildings in this area have been preserved, and it is likely the Natural Area began to form then as well.

Like Fair Haven Fields, Centennial Woods is also a designated Natural Area. Centennial Woods contains young trees, and was subject to much land use in its past as well. Overall, my spring break plot and my Centennial Woods plot have very similar backgrounds and are relatively the same age.

 

Spring Break Plot: Fair Haven Natural Area

Phenological Changes

Unfortunately, because it snowed today when I visited my plot, it was quite similar to my last visit. However, the soil at the plot was much more moist and muddy during this trip. This is likely because of the fluctuation in temperatures that have been taking place in Vermont lately. This moisture will likely encourage the growth of shrubs and small plants come spring. Unlike my last visit, there was little evidence of life in my plot during this visit. Previously, I could hear birds chirping all around my plot, and could see many animal tracks in the snow. This snowfall was likely too fresh for animal prints to show up clearly.

Natural Community Classification

Following the standards used in Wetland, Woodland, Wildland, I have concluded that my phenology plot is a part of a Red Spruce-Northern Hardwood forest community. The plot consists almost entirely of Eastern Hemlocks, which is identified as an “occasional to locally abundant” species in these types of communities. There are also several Yellow Birch on and around my plot, which is an “abundant species” in Red Spruce-Northern Hardwood communities. Because my site is located on a slope and has a stream nearby that is not significant and not always present, I was able to determine that my plot is a part of an Upland Forest community. From there, it was quite clear that the area is a Red Spruce-Northern Hardwood forest community based on the few species that can be found in the plot.

Biofinder

According to Biofinder, my phenology site is located in a large area that contains rare natural communities and rare species. The area is also labelled as a responsibility physical landscape and an interior forest block. Both of these labels indicate that this particular area is more important and unique than I have previously realized. It is a part of a large section of Centennial Woods that needs to be protected and conserved.

White Oak Twig Sketch

Deciduous Tree List

  • White Oak
  • Red Oak

Animal Activity

Many animal tracks could be found in the plot. As shown above, several tracks seem to belong to some sort of galloper, perhaps cottontail rabbits. Several tracks seemed to resemble gray squirrels as well. Around the bases of tree trunks, small tracks resembling those of a white-footed mouse could be seen

Directions to my New Plot

Begin at the Carrigan Drive entrance to Centennial woods. Follow the trail for approximately five minutes. You will pass over several man-made “bridges” on your way. When the trail splits, stay right. There should be a steep trail leading up a hill. Follow this trail up to when it is just beginning to incline then stop. Turn left off the trail into the forest. Climb over two large fallen Eastern Hemlock trees, and the plot will be several paces ahead.

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