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Centennial Woods 4/16/18: Spring???

Today the weather is not quite that of a typical spring day, as the ground is covered in a thick, slushy snow, despite the 40 degree weather and pretty heavy rain. Since all of April has been cold pretty cold and snowy, it feels and looks like February, not April. Because of this, finding signs of spring was really difficult. Even after scraping away all the slush to get to the ground, there were absolutely no signs of amphibians, and no wildflowers beginning to poke through the ground. The only signs of life on/near the ground were the occasional ferns, which remained green throughout the winter, and some moss and lichen on the trees. The trees, including the oaks and maples, in my spot have buds on them, which is a promising sign that spring is underway. However, not a single tree I saw had begun to flower.

One huge sign of spring that was impossible not to notice was the birds. From the second Centennial Woods was in eyesight, I could hear a wide variety of birds chirping and calling out. I am the first to admit that I do not know the different sounds each bird makes, but I did distinctly hear crows and chickadees, among other calls I do not recognize. I also saw a couple of cardinals, chickadees, and a pileated woodpecker high up in a tree.

Also, my place in Centennial Woods is very close to a couple of edges. On one side, there is a residential neighborhood, and on the side adjacent to that neighborhood is a main road. This definitely leads to an edge effect. There is a lot of noise pollution, ranging from loud highway noise, cars and other vehicles, planes, and humans. There is also light pollution from the city and the nearby neighborhood homes, and lots of dogs and cats make their way through this portion of the woods, which can be seen through the tracks left in the snow. This can definitely affect the species living there, as cats and dogs can kill species, especially birds, the light pollution can throw off the species’ sense of time, and noise pollution can confuse species and ultimately lead to their death. This habitat is not suitable for interior species due to the clear cutting for hiking trails, the close proximity to the neighborhood, and the nearby road.

Hart’s Woods Location

 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?hl=en&hl=en&mid=1iDleJsLSvMWs2Y-Y_NZ8m6ChfwibgAh_&ll=43.09003188014108%2C-77.44839544678439&z=16

 

 

Hart’s Woods Visit 3/17/18

While home over Spring Break, I visited Hart’s Woods in Fairport, NY. Hart’s Woods is a beech-maple forest stand on glacial till, with very fertile soils. As a result, the most common species are beeches and maples, but some Eastern White Pines and red oaks were present. The deciduous trees are showing signs that spring is nearly here, as they are all budding (as one can see in the photo I included). Before Perinton was settled, Hart’s Woods covered 47% of Perinton, which was largely inhabited by the Iroquois Native Americans. They hunted, gathered, and grew the three sisters all throughout the area, up until the colonists arrived and drove them out. Unfortunately, the arrival of the colonists also brought upon massive land clearing and infrastructure, so today Hart’s Woods is only around 14 acres.

 

Much of the area is a wetland, with a creek running through the woods, making it a suitable habitat for many species. While there, I saw squirrels, a chipmunk, and a lot of rabbit tracks. There were also many signs of bird activity. I also heard many crows cawing to each other, and saw a couple of them fly overhead. For the last ten minutes I was at this site, I consistently heard a woodpecker up in one of the trees, and saw a black capped chickadee land in a beech not too far from me.

 

Hart’s Woods has some similarities and differences from that of Centennial Woods. One similarity is among the tree species present. In both locations, maples, eastern white pines, beeches, and red oaks are the main/only tree species in the areas I selected. These tree species are currently budding in both locations right now, as well. They also both have many walking and hiking trails, which attract many locals and their pets. Furthermore, both locations have a lot of leaf litter, ferns, and sparse blades of green grass covering the ground. They differ in that Hart’s Woods is smaller, is a wetland unlike the hardwood stand my Centennial Woods site is in, has far more moss, and its creek is far smaller, mossier, and muddier than that of Centennial Woods.

Centennial Woods Visit 3/5/18

From my last visit to my spot in Centennial Woods in early February, more phenological changes have occurred. Similar to last time, there is some snow, although this time it is super fluffy, and only half an inch deep. Through this snow, the earth is soft and muddy. The tracks left before me, both by people and their dogs, were brown and filled with water. My boots left hard, white tracks, as they pressed deep into the soggy soil. Due to the snow, this was the only bit of the ground I really saw, and based on my location in the woods, the only water I saw was in those tracks. Luckily, the tracks left by animals on my site were easy to identify, due to the freshness and fluffiness of the soil. By far the most abundant were red squirrel tracks, pictured above. They were on logs, leading to and from the large Eastern White Pine, and all across the ground.

The most noticeable change was that of the birds. As soon as I entered the woods, I could hear all different bird songs, something I hadn’t really heard in months. This was a very exciting sign to me because it does signal that spring is, in fact, coming, and I cannot wait for warmer weather.

Determining the natural community of my location in Centennial Woods was a task that I initially found to be quite daunting. In Vermont, there are six natural communities, ranging from Montane Spruce-Fir Forests to Northern Hardwoods, and more. My site has a lot of hardwoods, so I pretty easily narrowed it down to being Montane Yellow Birch Red Spruce Fir forest, Spruce Fir Northern Hardwood, or Northern Hardwood. My site does not have any birches present, really only has Eastern White Pines as far as coniferous trees go, and is not at an elevation of 25,000 feet or more, which pretty much means that it is a Northern Hardwood Forest.

This option definitely makes the most sense because the sugar maple is the most common tree in my site, there are two large Eastern White Pines present, there are both red and white oaks along the backside of my spot, the soil is pretty well-drained, ferns are present, and I have seen chipmunks and squirrels while there,  which are all telltale signs of a Northern Hardwood forest.

When I used BioFinder, I discovered a lot about both my specific area, and Centennial Woods as a whole. In regards to my approximate location in Centennial Woods, I learned that it is a representative physical landscape, a priority interior forest block, and the highest priority landscape. It is also directly next to/upland from the creek that runs through Centennial Woods, where all of the land surrounding the creek are class 2 wetlands, connectivity for riparian wildlife, and highest priority surface water and riparian areas.

Centennial Woods Site 2/5/18

I have finally returned back to my site at Centennial Woods for the first time since the start of the new year. Since my visit in December, when the first snow hadn’t truly occurred, many phenological changes have occurred. Now, an inch of snow or so covers the ground and all of the vegetation is covered up. It is also much quieter this time than last, as the whole time I was here today I didn’t even hear a bird chirp once, or see anyone else out there. Also, the fallen log has been moved once again from its usual spot, and now lays closer to the large Eastern White Pine, a sign that humans had been here and moved it around.

Despite these differences, one continuity from last time is that pine cones and needles still cover the ground, despite the snow, as shown above. Because of the snow, I was able to see the tracks left by animals. The main tracks in my site were from a squirrel, as they are the right size, being about 3 cms, all four tracks are together, they front and hind tracks are different sizes, and they were that of a galloper.

I also took note of the buds on the trees, and identified them as Red Maple, an Eastern White Pine, and a Sugar Maple, using both prior phenological knowledge and my Winter Twig Identification sheet.

 

My Centennial Woods Visit 12/7/17

I have returned to my location in the woods for the last time this year, as I won’t be returning until mid January. The woods felt very different even just from my last visit. While going into the entrance to centennial woods, I was met by a much browner landscape than before, a sure sign that the transition from fall to winter is almost complete; all that’s lacking now seems to be snow. What really captured my attention was just how quiet it was. The breeze wasn’t strong enough to sway the trees or low lying plants, and not an animal could be seen or heard, so I was the only thing making noise, as I crunched through the leaves and pine cones scattered along the trail.

When I reached my spot, I was quite startled, as there were two small children running around the open space, laughing and playing, accompanied by their mom. While almost initially annoyed that I couldn’t come and do what I wanted to for this blog right away, I realized how great this actually is; that they’re getting to experience nature in it’s true form, and that they have access to it, so I decided to walk the trails and wait until they finished exploring before going back.

When I returned to my spot, it looked far more bare than last time. It looked as though all of the fallen branches from the wind storm had been moved or collected, most likely by humans, and many of the smaller vegetation plants have lost their leaves and turned brown. Furthermore, the log I oftentimes sit on has been moved across the open area, and now sits by the large eastern white pine, and a new branch lies here as well. Other than these slight changes, the flora of my location appears to be roughly the same as last time.

As I stood up against an oak tree,I heard some small chirps, then saw a black capped chickadee fly over my head and onto a pine branch. Then I heard a rustling in the leaves, and saw a squirrel digging through them. It saw me, and we both stopped moving and stared at each other for a while, it getting up on its hind legs, before it ran up a tree, and jumped branch to branch, tree to tree.

I found myself leaving my place far more relaxed and peaceful than I was when I arrived, as the woods took away all the stress I was/am feeling due to finals coming up.

Human History of Centennial Woods

Centennial Woods is a 70 acre area consisting of hardwoods, streams, wetlands, conifer stands, and fields, located next to the UVM campus, and is one of the nine natural areas managed by the UVM Environmental Program. Today there are extensive trails winding through the area, connecting each of the different landscapes for hiking. However, in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, much of the land in centennial woods was cleared and used for agricultural purposes, which can be seen firsthand through leftover barbed wire. It is also logical to assume this land was also used for logging, as a vast majority of the land was cleared, and logging was a huge industry in Vermont. It is known/believed that the land was cleared because most of the trees are at the same stage of growth and development currently, meaning they all started to grow at the same time. Furthermore, pioneer species such as birches and eastern pines, which are abundant in my location, are also present, meaning regrowth of the forest is newer. Since the area has become a natural area, it has become able to regrow to where it is today, although human activities still remain, such as power lines standing tall above the edge between the forest and the marsh.

Sources:

UVM Libraries Research Guides: Centennial Woods Natural Area: Home. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://researchguides.uvm.edu/centennialwoods

Eagle Lake 11/25/17

This time around, I am not at my usual place in Centennial Woods, because I was home this week visiting my family in Rochester, New York. On my way back to school, we stopped and spent some time at Eagle Lake in the Adirondacks. I picked this spot because it was absolutely beautiful, and on my way home we passed it and I thought it was really pretty, so I wanted to stop and explore.

It is right up at the edge of the water, where the golden woods meet the clear, blue water, and when you look across the narrow lake, the other side is filled with conifers that are growing right on top of a rocky cliff. I was there around four, so the sun was starting to set, creating a pink haze both in the clouds, and on the surface of the slowly rocking water. In the water, there was a lone loon, some stray minnows, and some pondweeds, two of which I learned were invasive to the area. As I looked around the woods, I saw many mature trees, such as oaks, Eastern White Pines, and Basswood, all of which had bird’s nests in them, although most nests appeared to be abandoned, which makes sense considering the season. There was also one birch tree, which had been cut down, so the trunk was lying behind the stump; I wondered why someone would cut it down in the middle of the woods, especially if they were just going to leave the trunk behind. Some of these trees, including the birch, also had lichen and mosses growing on them, which kept the gold and brown winter woods feeling a little more like summer due to their green color. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of litter, ranging from beer bottles to McDonald’s bags, which saddened me, though I was sure to pick them up so the animals and other visitors didn’t have to see or live amongst that. It was also very quiet, and the only sounds I heard was the quiet lapping of the water at the shore, one vocal crow, the wind swaying the trees, and the crunching of the leaves under my feet. All these sights, except for the litter, quiet sounds, and the slight wind created a tranquil, calm environment, and an hour passed in what felt like five minutes.

The ecology and phenology of Eagle Lake has both similarities and differences to that of Centennial Woods. In both locations, there are a few mature Eastern White Pines, and their pine needles and pinecones cover the ground. Both also have only one Basswood in the designated area, and there are dozens of Red and White Oak trees in both locations, with the majority of the leaves and other natural items covering the ground coming from the oak trees. Furthermore, both locations have birds nests, crows, a few remaining small birds, and the leaves on the deciduous trees are mostly gone, except for a few, though all are dead, as there have been many frosts. However, there are many ecological and phenological differences between the two. Eagle Lake had an abundance of small acorns, whereas Centennial Woods only has a few. My area at Eagle Lake is also both woods and part lake, unlike Centennial Woods, which means that there was also a loon, pondweed, and a few stray minnows. Eagle Lake also has an abundance of clovers and a few seedy dandelion puffs along with a couple of extremely invasive and harmful species which are greatly affecting the ecosystem there, such as milfoil and curly leaf pondweed, which are reducing biodiversity, which my area in Centennial Woods does not have.

This was a very beautiful location, with many sights, sounds, and species, and I am very grateful I picked it for my second location. [All photos were taken by Madison Busacco]

Eagle Lake Location 11/25/17

Centennial Woods Site 11/5/17

Today, I made my way back to my site at Centennial Woods. Since last time, the temperature has been consistently colder, we’ve had a few days of rain, and last Sunday night we had a massive wind storm with really fast and strong winds. Once I entered the woods, my walk looked and felt very different from last time. There were many broken branches and trees that got knocked over from the wind storm, and less leaves on the trees, so the path felt more open and exposed to the sky.

At my place, there were many broken branches strewn across the ground, as a result of the strong, heavy winds. Most were fairly small, but there were a couple of very large branches that got knocked down, making it feel quite different from last time I visited. The large Eastern White Pine looked different, as there were large, broken branches caught and laying on other ones up in the tree, as I photographed.

The leaves on the trees are now almost entirely gone, as only a couple of the young maple trees had approximately 20% of their leaves left. As a result of this, the ground is completely covered in leaves, twigs, pinecones, and small branches. Compared to last time, there is a much higher proportion of red and white oak leaves on the ground compared to last time.

The woods are also more quiet than last time. I can hear the underlying noise of crickets, but only heard birds calling and chirping a few times while out there. However, I heard and saw more squirrels than last time. A squirrel with a pinecone ran by me, and I saw a baby squirrel scurrying up and down a pine tree, all while squeaking and barking, which I assumed was in part because I was there and potentially scaring it.

So, some changes have certainly occurred since last time, in large part because of the windstorm, but also because of the early signs of winter. [All photos and maps were taken/drawn by Madison Busacco]

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