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Changes in My Site

The major difference between my site last semester and this semester is the thick blanket of snow that covers the entire area. The brook, which flowed freely in the fall, now is completely frozen over and most of the ice is also covered in snow. Not only are leaves absent from the trees, the snow covers all of the fallen leaves as well. Additionally, the once vibrant undergrowth of small leafy plants if snuffed out by over a foot of snow. Though lifeless at first glance, the deer tracks reveal that this site has been visited recently. Before, I only detected small animals at my site.

Twig Indentification

Unfortunately, my phone died from the cold before I was able to take photos of the twigs at my site. However, I was able to sketch multiple twigs and label their features. When the weather is more forgiving to my iPhone’s sensitivity to the cold, I will return to my site and attempt to capture actual images of the various twigs.

Signs of Animal Activity

Upon first entering my site, I came upon a very distinct set of what I believe to be whitetail deer tracks! The shape of the print clearly indicated that the animal was either a deer or moose, and since the tracks were no larger than 3″ in size, it is relatively safe to conclude that the animal was a deer. The pattern indicates a diagonal walker and the shorter stride reveals that the animal was likely smaller in stature- perhaps a fawn or doe. Other than these set of tracks, there were not many other signs of animal activity on my site. The unbroken blanket of snow and the fact that the possible foraging vegetation was covered in this snow meant that what activity might be occurring was hidden from me. Perhaps rodents were living in the subnivean zone and entered from a location inaccessible to me.

The Mink!

My only regret regarding my phenology blog is that I was not able to capture footage or picture of the American Mink on my site. So, though I’m no artist, I decided to draw a sketch of a mink similar to the one I saw at my site.

Additionally, with the past lecture in NR 1 discussing the methods in which animals prepare for winter, I felt inspired to do my own research on the mink in the winter.

Based on the information gathered from the Missouri Department of Conservation, I can conclude that the mink remains active during the winter. With thick fur and an ability to invade the burrows created by other organisms, the mink’s adaptions allow them to survive in the winter. In fact, mink even breed in the winter.

For future reference, I wanted to include information about snow tracks that this animal leaves behind in hopes that I will again discover this fascinating little creature on my site!

Source:

“American Mink.” MDC Discover Nature, nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/american-mink.

Winter Wonderland Winds

The last visit of 2018 to my phenological site provided me with a wintry scene. The snow was falling lightly and appeared entirely untouched by both human and wildlife prints. The entire site was covered with about a centimeter of light snow, however, there was a thick layer of ice covering nearly the entire site. This may have resulted from melting snow refreezing in cold temperatures or perhaps flooding of the brook that turned to ice when the temperature dropped. Though the icy ground cover surprised me, I was shocked to see that the upper trunk of a tree in my site had been blown off the lower portion by strong winter winds. The tree limbs covered a large portion of my site. Though I didn’t witness any wildlife at my site, the area was soon visited by an excited dog who investigated the brook.

Though the tale of Centennial woods’ underling geology is as old as the tale of earth itself, the history of Centennial woods, as we have come to know it, occurred 19,000 years ago with the retreat of the Laurentide glacial sheet in Northeast America. As the landscape was freed from the ice that had controlled the landscape for many years, growth of vegetation and immigration of wildlife began. This wave of life eventually came to encompass the Abenaki people, a native people of Northern America who have influenced the landscape of Vermont for thousands of years. The Abenaki people were primarily hunters and gatherers (with some agriculture occurring more recently; thus, the likely left the Centennial woods natural area as just that- a natural area. Whether Centennial Woods was a completely forest area is unknown; however, historians agree that a significant disturbance of the area likely began with the arrival of the European settlers. With the rise of agriculture that the settlers initiated, it can be inferred that Centennial Woods was owned by one or several farmers. In fact this inference is strengthened by evidence of barbed wire found within the forest, indicating fences either to keep livestock in or predators that would eat the crops or animals out. The more recent history of Centennial Woods is known more clearly. According to the Centennial Woods natural field guide, the land was owned by UVM alumnus Fred Fiske who purchased the land for agriculture. Given the presence of trees that are many decades old, it is likely that the farming operation was abandoned or the area was replanted prior to the sale of the natural area to the University of Vermont in 1974. Since then, the environmental protection of the area has been governed by the Board of Trustees. Today, the area is used both as a natural area for the public to enjoy and as a forest for UVM students to learn about ecological principles or conduct research.

Sources:

  • Klyza, Christopher McGrory, and Stephen C. Trombulak. The Story of Vermont a Natural and Cultural History. University Press of New England, 2015.
  • Borie, Louis. University of Vermont Natural Areas.  [Burlington, Vt.] : Environmental Program, University of Vermont, 1977.

Holland’s Comparison

The ecology of the phenological site in Centennial Woods and Valley Garden park share a human influence. Both Sites have been altered due to human use of the land; however, the way in which these uses influenced the land differ. The homogeneous composition of the Valley Garden site reveals that the stand of pine present resulted from the intentional planting of trees. The influence on Centennial woods is more subtle- the path alters the ground cover vegetation. The sites completely differ in species composition horizontally and vertically. The site at Centennial Woods possesses far greater diversity in species and levels or age of vegetation (ground cover, understory, overstory). Additionally, the Centennial woods site possesses greater diversity in micro-landscapes, containing a creek, flatland with leafy vegetation and a cliff. The Valley Garden site, however, is completely flat and remains uniform throughout the entirety of the stand. Though Centennial Woods contains a greater concentration of leafy vegetation in some areas, both sites are essentially covered in Eastern White Pine needles. As the vegetation in my local stand is entirely coniferous, the changes that occur from season to season are far more subtle than that of the coniferous and deciduous site in Burlington.

Leopold’s Interpretation

To view the palace of pines is to witness a miracle of the synergy between the human realm and God. Every tree perfectly straight, reaching into the heavens with vibrant green hands. As one looks up through the coniferous canopy, the vision of the individuals who planted the stand can be realized. To view the blue sky through the frame of these stoic giants is a wondrous privilege. The forest floor is blanketed with the needles of seasons past- a rich golden carpet. If one takes a closer look, the attempts of leafy sprouts to push through the dense cover can be realized. The survivability of these sprouts is unlikely; for, the existing pines are spread out ideally to absorb the sunlight. Three trees growing from the same trunk reveals that the unpredictability of nature delightfully disrupts even the most uniform of forests. Though activity on the forest floor is limited, the canopy of pines sings with the calls of birds and nestling of pines. For the birds, few places in the park are as ideal for nesting as the dense cover of needles that withstands the seasons and provides protection from the surroundings with a superior aerial view of the landscape.

A Perfect Patch of Pines

Hometown Phenology Site Map

https://goo.gl/maps/Diez68CRM5A2

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