A Change of Pace

A Phenology Blog

May 5th

As the first week of Spring weather comes to a close here in Burlington, Vermont, I visited my phenology site for the last time this semester.  I could hear the warblers chirping, the squirrels and chipmunks rustling for food and the crunching of sticks beneath my feet.  I look up at the trees and down at the understory, and notice many changes.

There are buds on the trees!  Emily Dickinson once wrote, “A light exists in Spring, Not present on the year, At any other period. When March is scarcely here.”  Obviously, Dickinson was not in Vermont when she was writing this poem because it is usually still winter here during March.  However, I resonate with how she writes about hope and happiness that Spring brings.  A light does exist, not only from the sun, but also from the new life that begins in the plants.  The red buds on the trees give off a certain light, not the type that I can physically see, but the kind that I feel when the weather is warm and the air is fresh.

The Sugar Maples are beginning to bud.  These are my favorite trees: the symmetrical leaves, the smooth gray bark, the fierce, dark red fall leaves that come in your eyes like a perplexing painting that jumps off a wall in an art museum.  I’m ecstatic, to say the least.  The pines are beginning to grow their needles, but I’m less excited about those.  Not to offend them, I just have preferences.

The grass I stand on is lush, with a green that resembles the streets of Boston and Chicago during the St. Patricks Day parade.  I lay down, taking in the blue sky and feeling the strands tickle my skin and small bugs crawl on my legs.  Although they won’t be there later, I will still be itching my leg once I leave, as that feeling of tiny legs and tiny feet persist until I shower.  The colors of Spring are beautiful.  The colors of Summer are too, but Summer comes after Spring and Spring comes after Winter – two completely different contrasts.

My place is unique, in that it is sort of a ‘man-made’ place.  It’s man’s attempt to give the people who live near this space a taste of nature, and this place leads me to this question – is this place really nature?  Is man-made nature truly nature?  There are arguments for both sides, and I haven’t decided which side I stand on.  Yes, it is nature.  The trees stand tall, the grass moves with the wind, and there are species that live and breath this area.  However, is it nature for the sake of nature or is it nature for the sake of man?  How does it compare to the places where nature has been undisturbed for centuries? (If those places even exist with our conquest as a society to over come the natural world.)

Culture and nature intertwine here in that the students who live near here come out of their dorms and apartments to be in nature.  I walk through the small, narrow field of grass and notice cigarette butts and plastic wrappers.  I look to the pond and see beer cans floating in the water.  Each piece of trash takes a stab at my heart, and leads me to think that this place is more for man than it is for nature.  And, it makes me believe that our culture is very anthropocentric – those who left this trash don’t care about the nature it will affect.

I do not consider myself to be a part of this place.  Although I resonate with the different species of trees, plants and animals – like the Sugar Maple and the Warbler – I am not a part of this place.  I do not live and breath the tree’s oxygen, I do not help pick up the trash that has been thrown on the ground, and I do not sit on the grass for long periods of time and take it all in.  I do appreciate nature, however, I do not have a deep appreciation for this place.

 

 

 

 

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

April 16th

As Winter continues to linger and the snow is somehow still falling on April 16th, plants continue to be hesitant to poke their leaves out of the ground and begin their development for the Spring.  However, many trees have began to bud.

From a distance, I could see a few buds on the Sugar Maple trees.  Back in the Fall, these were the first to change their colors, so I’m not surprised that they are eager to bloom.  Additionally, I saw a few American Beech trees having a few buds on them; more so than the Sugar Maples.

In the understory, I noticed a few leaves that haven’t decomposed yet and were leftover from the past winter.  This brought me back to when I was little and learning about decomposition.  I thought it was so amazing how sticks, leaves and other organic matter came off of the live plants they were on, and then disappeared into the ground.  Although Chicago is a different climate than Burlington, I still found that same fascination I had when I was little, I digress.  I did find a few plants poking their heads out of the wet, cold ground under the leaves.  The grass was still dormant and not green and lush.

My place has a very interesting dynamic for the edge effect.  Since it is rather small and it is next to a parking lot, it is very clear where the edge of the forest lies.  I see many species of birds fly in and out of the area.  When I visited, I noticed a Gadwall duck swimming in the pond.  I didn’t hear many birds, so I couldn’t identify them with full confidence, but my guess is that they are warblers due to how small they are.

 

April 16, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Over Spring Break, I had the incredible opportunity to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  An Alternative Spring break is a trip that students can go on to do service.  I was able to go on this trip and help the Cape Hatteras National Park.  It was awesome to be able to spend time in a park and also help with the work that needed to be done.

We learned a lot about the history of this place.  It was one of the first colonies that the English settled into, even before Jamestown.  At first the colonists were friends with the Indigenous Peoples, but then fear sparked conflict and the colonists murdered them.  It is quite sad.  However, most of the natural history stayed the same.  When we walked in the forest, there were these massive trees that were very tall and very wide.  I wasn’t able to identify them, but there were a type of pine.  Since they were so wide and tall, I made the conclusion that they have been there for a very long time, so the forest wasn’t clear cutter like how Vermont was.  The cape’s natural history is interesting.  It used to stretch out much further but because of different currents, many storms and rising sea levels, it has has shrunk.  Due to the recent hurricanes in the past three years, there were many large trucks restoring some of the lakeshore and building sand walls to keep the water out.  In my un-credible opinion that isn’t based on any facts, I think the whole place will be gone in a few years of how fast the sea levels are rising.

There were wetlands that the group was able to go into and observe birds.  There weren’t many, but I saw many seagulls and vultures.  I also saw a few beautiful black and red birds in the wetlands.

Before we came to the cape, there was a huge storm that flooded a lot of the area, so I wasn’t able to go into the forest and identify the woody plants.  However, I made a few guesses.  It was a surprise to me that I saw small American Beech trees.  I didn’t know that they grew there until now.  There were many conifers and I noticed many vines.  I looked up why there were so many vines, and it is because the environment in North Carolina is very suitable for them to grow.  I also saw many cacti growing in between side walk squares.  That was also surprising!

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Cape+Hatteras/@35.2473529,-75.7175865,11z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x89a43007ce6f2e1b:0x2b8caa60ce2b8835!8m2!3d35.24804!4d-75.5393155

 

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Wetland, Woodland and Wildland

Since my phenology sight changes drastically within a walking distance of a few feet, it is hard to put an overarching term to classify it.  However, I can classify the different areas.  When you are facing south and look to your left, that area is marsh.  It consists of a small pond and different plants surrounding it.  As the definition in “Wetland, Woodland and Wildland,” it does contain many herbaceous plants.  If you were to walk down there, there is a lot of muck so be sure to wear good boots.  Additionally, there are also a lot of cattails on one side so I am assuming that there is a lot of phosphorus in this water.  I would like to bring out my hockey skates and go skating on it since it is frozen, but I don’t think I am allowed to do it.

If you were to look to your left while facing south, there is a softwood forest.  I identified many Eastern Hemlocks and Northern White Pines.  I have sampled the soil in the past and after reading “Wetland, Woodland and Wildland,” I’ve come to the conclusion that it is spodosol.  Although I didn’t chemically sample it, I inferred that the soil was acidic because of the many conifers in the area.  This small area could be defined as a woodland area because most of community is dominated by trees.  I really like this area because of the serenity.  It is very quiet, and sometimes I’ll bring a book out and study.

I’ve noticed many changes since my last visit.  There isn’t as much snow as before because of the recent warm temperatures.  Also, last time I was here, it was soon after a snowfall and the trees had snow stuck on their branches.  It was really beautiful, but now the branches are plain.  I also notice more birds than before.  Hopefully they weren’t fooled by the one day when it was 60 degrees outside.    The pond also has much more water, which I am assuming is because of the snow.

I didn’t find out much about my place with BioFinder.  Since it is so close to the University and many people, species are probably scared away.  And it isn’t a large area, so I am not too surprised.

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

February 5th Post

Since my phenology site isn’t in a place isolated from humans, there aren’t many animal tracks.  However, there are many plants and trees!  With the winter twig identification sheet, I found a sugar maple, Norway maple and box elder.

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Since my last visit, the landscape has changed a lot.  Obviously, their is snow on the ground and the trees have lost their leaves.  Also, the pond is frozen and the wildlife, like the ducks, that live around the pond have left for the winter.  The birds in the trees have also left, as I can’t hear them singing their songs.  I will occasionally see a murder of crows, but that is it.

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Human History

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the small forest has been largely influenced by humans.  The trees stand tall, which tells me that they’ve been there for a while.  But spaces have been cut out for the use of humans.

The constructed wetland has been built for a place to put extra water.  Although humans built it, it is very good for the natural area so the runoff has somewhere to be filtered.

A lot of the trees were purposely planted in this area for the golf course that is behind it.  My guess is that the trees provide a bit of a noise break so the golfers aren’t distracted.

I envision this forest as much denser in the past.  UVM must have cut it down to build these residential halls and the parking lot.  Biodiveristy in this area was lost and the species had to move somewhere else.  My question is – does the social benefit equal the social cost?

December 9, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

My Backyard

I sit in my chair and listen to the sounds.  My body fills with serenity.  The bee hums a quiet song that only the plants can hear, how I wish I could hear it too!  The birds flutter, flapping their wings as if they need to escape the cold realities of winter approaching them.  I fear for them, but know their instincts will guide them to the south.

My nose is filled with a certain smell.  It doesn’t seem natural.  What is natural?  Is it fresh oxygen from the trees?  Is it cold wind blowing at the top of a mountain?  Natural could be relative.  I smell lavender, then realize a candle is lit next to me.  I blow it out.  I strive to immerse myself in the nature of my backyard.

I crush a fallen leaf in my hand.  My senses tingle and I feel happiness: fall is here.  The smoothness of the leaf makes my palms feel cozy.  Piece by piece, the leaf falls to the ground.  Goodbye leaf, happy decomposing.

The garbage truck drives through my alley.  Serenity is gone.  The loud “BEEP BEEP BEEP” makes me angry.  Can’t I get a break from my human life?  I fall deep into my book.  Maybe that will help me escape.

 

My backyard differs from my place in Burlington.  In both areas, nature isn’t separate from humans.  My backyard was human built, and my place in Burlington is human edited.  The intersection of humans and nature is hard to escape.

The ecology is very similar.  There are two trees, one is a maple and I knew that for the majority of my life.  The second is an American Beech!  I was very surprised.  I didn’t think that Vermont’s native tree before the Great Cutover stood tall in my backyard.  It was always a beautiful tree in the fall and the spring.  The vibrant colors brought my family outside to relax on our patio.

My backyard also consists of many small bushes.  They are similar to the small forest behind WDW in that I don’t know what species they are and in that they still have their leaves.

Birds and squirrels also inhabit my backyard.  My dogs chase them around, probably giving them heart attacks.  One difference I’ve noticed is the sound of cicadas buzzing uncontrollably.  I get used to it after the first five minutes outside.

November 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

November 6th Visit

Since my last visit, there hasn’t been many changes.  The fall feel is still in the air.  The leaves are still falling and the cattails whistle in the wind that stand near the pond.  The birds have started to fly south, as their chirps aren’t as present.  Additionally, the ground is more wet than usual since there has been huge amounts of rain in the past few weeks.

The maples, beeches and the basswoods have lost most of their leaves and the overstory branches crackle in the wind.  The understory are really fast changing.  The Burberrys are red and birds nibble off their fruits.  Below is my gallery of  photos!

 

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

October 23rd Visit

Since my last visit, I’ve noticed a lot of changes.  The most prominent change was in the leaves.  They have began to change and the birds are beginning to move out of the area.  The newly fallen leaves and sticks will surely give a crunch to your step.

I noticed that some of the trees have been turning before the others and they turn different colors.  The Sugar Maples changed relatively quickly, and they are now red.  The American Beeches are beautiful.  They were a little bit behind the maples, and they turned into a dark bronze.  The Basswoods changed along with the maples, and their leaves turned yellow.  The conifers did not change color.

In the understory, the plants are losing their leaves a lot slower than the overstory.  Some have began to change color, but only slightly.  I saw squirrels running around, gathering their food.  In the pond next to the path, I saw ducks swimming happily around in the water that I presume is very cold.

Around the pond, I’ve noticed a lot of cattails.  The land around this pond is hilly and it seems like there is a lot of runoff that goes into it.  I think it might be a constructed wetland for excess rainwater.  Phosphorous levels are probably very high.

The only difference in the soil is that there is more organic matter on the surface.  It is still the great, loamy soil it was before!

I took a moment to breathe in the air and to relax.  I listened to the birds chirp and the water splash.  With the sports season coming to an end, I again heard the soccer fans cheer on their team.  I pondered the question of whether nature can ever be completely separate from humans.  I think that nature should be preserved and that there should be some spaces on Earth where humans never touch.  I look at myself as a guest to Earth. Earth is having me over for a dinner party, and I should be respectful of her space.

 

 

October 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

44°27’59.4″N 73°11’52.3″W

Behind the WDW residential hall is a beautiful strip of forest that sits between the parking lot and the Burlington Country Club.  I sometimes come out here to do homework or to just take a break.  To get here, go to the parking lot that is outside of the back of the WDW residential hall and walk straight back – you can’t miss it.

This place has a wide array of different plants.  There are Basswood, American Beech, Red Maple, and Eastern Hemlock trees in the over story.  Although this is a big area and I can’t make a precise count, there are 10% Sugar Maple, 30% Basswood, 40% American Beech and 20% conifers.  The understory mainly consists of small bushes and gravel.  I identified a few Burberrys.

I dug down into the soil to see what it mostly consisted of.  As expected, the O Horizon was mostly organic matter: leaves, needles and grass.  I kept digging.  The A and B horizon told me that there is mostly loamy soil here which was what I guessed because of the vegetation here.

At this point, the trees haven’t started to change and the birds are still singing their songs.  In this place,  there is a small path that people walk on so there is evidence of humans here.  I found a few plastic bottles and cigarette butts.  As I walked along the path, I noticed the ‘edge effect.’  The trees and the species living in the outer areas are thriving more than the others that are deeper in the small forest.

While I was in the small forest, I could hear noises, both natural and human.  Naturally, the trees rustled, birds chirped, squirrels jumped from tree to tree.  Additonally, car horns echoed between the trees, chants for UVM’s soccer team shook the trees and the sound of tires turning on asphalt made a quiet hum.

There aren’t too many smells.  It rained today, so the smell of damp leaves and wet dirt filled my nose.  I breathed in the air and my nose could detect that I wasn’t secluded from humans.  Gas emissions and asphalt were still present in my smells.

 

                                   

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

   

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