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Spring Break Update

The site that I chose to visit over break was the pond and a patch of the surrounding forest at the end of my street in Rockaway, NJ. When I visited this site, NJ had been on a warm streak for a few days and I was unfortunately unable to see any tracks due to the lack of snow. I was able to determine which tree species were most common on my site. The three most prominent species were Yellow Birch, Red Maple, and American Beech. My site in Centennial Woods also contains many Yellow Birch and a few Red Maple, but no American Beech. I believe that the occurrence of Yellow Birch at both sites is because both contain moist, swampy soils that Yellow Birch thrive in. My site in NJ contains a lot more small woody plants than my Centennial Woods site, and unfortunately I was unable to identify most of them. There was an abundance of Common Reed Grass along the water’s edge. This grass is not found in my Centennial Woods site due to the absence of water. There was not an abundance of Christmas Fern at my NJ site like there is in Centennial. I know from past experiences that there are ferns on my NJ site, but they are species that die in the winter and come back in the spring like Cinnamon Fern or Hay-scented Fern. I encountered many birds at my site in NJ. I witnessed a Mute Swan foraging through the weeds in the water, and another swan that was presumably its partner out further on the water. I identified a Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee by their calls, although I could not locate them visually. A Red-tailed Hawk also flew over my site at one point. I have identified Black-capped Chickadees at my Centennial Woods site too. One bird I have seen in Centennial that I did not spot in NJ is the Pileated Woodpecker. My NJ site lies at the southern end of their range and it is quite uncommon to see them around.

March Update

My site in its current condition does not really fit any of the natural communities defined in Wetland, Woodland, Wildland very well. Despite being a valley that tends to collect precipitation, I don’t think that it has the potential to ever accumulate enough to be considered a marsh or swamp. It also certainly isn’t a beach or lake shore. That leaves the different kinds of forests as options. Currently, the most abundant trees at my site are Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, and Yellow Birch. That doesn’t really match any of the forest communities given, but I can make assumptions about the soil type at my site based on the trees living there. All three of these species prefer acidic soil. Knowing that the soil at my site is likely acidic, I can predict which natural forest community it has the potential to be. Anything with limestone or high amounts of calcium is eliminated, as that would indicate basic soil. An Oak/Hickory/Hophornbeam community is possible, as there are a few Red Oaks on my site. However, I have not seen any Hickory or Hophornbeam anywhere in the area. My site could also be considered a Valley Clayplain forest, as these sites were formerly very common in Burlington and often used as farmland, just like Centennial Woods was. Overall, I think the best way to describe my site is a Northern Hardwood Forest that happens to have a lot of conifers in this one spot.

In terms of phenological changes, my site has not changed much since the last time that I was there. There is still a thick layer of snow and ice covering the forest floor, and the trees are still bare. Buds are beginning to form, but there are no leaves yet. The conifers are still green, as they always are. Under the snow, the ice covering the bottom of the valley that makes up my site is at least 2 inches thick. Below that, the ground, which is usually somewhat muddy, is also frozen solid.

February Update

My site looks fairly similar to the last time that I visited, although it now has over a foot of snow as opposed to just a dusting. Unfortunately it snowed the night before I visited, so many of the tracks I encountered were not very clear. The majority of tracks on my site seemed to be from White-tailed deer. They were in a diagonal walking pattern, and I was able to make out the slightest hint of a hoof mark in some of the tracks despite all the new snow that had fallen on them. However, I was unsure until I encountered a pile of deer droppings right in the middle of the the tracks, thus confirming my suspicions. The snow is so deep that it almost seemed as though the deer could not lift its feet totally above the snow, so there were dragging marks between each print. I encountered many Yellow Birch twigs with buds on them. I’m pretty sure I found a very young Paper Birch with buds although I’m not positive. There are some Sugar Maples on my site, but I could not find any twigs because of how tall they are.    

December Update

My last visit to my site for the semester came in early December on a very snowy day. My site looked like something straight out of a Christmas card due to all of the evergreens with snow lightly dusted on them. All the deciduous trees on my site have lost all their leaves, but the Eastern White Pines and Eastern Hemlocks are as green as ever. The Eastern Hay Scented Ferns are still green, adding a little bit more color to the understory. I was lucky enough to come across some tracks in the snow on my site, including deer and squirrel. There are many clues on the trail leading to my site about the land use history of Centennial Woods. If you look carefully, you will find loose strands of barbed wire that would indicate that cattle farming (stone walls would indicate sheep pastures) may have taken place in the late 1800s to early 1900s. A friend of mine actually ripped his pants leg on some barbed wire on the way to my site! There are also areas where the land was obviously cleared in the past 150 years, as there are very few old growth trees, and many Paper Birch, which thrive after disturbance. On my site there is a valley on a slight downward angle that I at first thought was possibly an old road, but it seems more logical that it used to be a stream. The largest trees on my site by far are the White Pines, which would also indicate disturbance in the past as White Pines grow much faster than most hardwood trees and tend to come in after disturbance, like Paper Birch.

Phenology Site in New Jersey

The Phenology site that I explored over break is a little spot in the woods along a lake at the end of my street that I have frequented for my whole life. The lake drains into a stream that heads into the woods. Here is a link to its location on a map.

My site is an interesting place to visit regardless of the season. During the summer, you are likely to spot the Northern Water Snake that usually resides by the rocky edges of the lake, or if you are lucky, maybe even a Musk Turtle. Large mouth bass and Blue gills swim in circles, sometimes getting swept out of the lake and into the stream. Blue Herons lie patiently in the shallow areas, surrounded by cattails and duckweed, waiting for the right moment to strike at whatever small fish they are terrorizing at the moment. In the winter, there is much less activity, but my site is still worth a visit. There is a mating pair of Bald Eagles that nests along the lake every year, and it is always a thrill to spot one. Large quantities of Mute Swans seem to remain on the lake no matter how cold it gets. The same can be said for the White Tail Deer (in the woods surrounding the lake, of course). It is always fun to visit during spring, as you are likely to come across a Common Snapping Turtle or Painted Turtle laying its eggs, although they are usually devoured by a hungry skunk the next night.

The most visible difference between my site in Burlington and my site in New Jersey is the absence of water in my Burlington site. The quiet bubbling of the stream in my NJ site is a wonderful backdrop for a peaceful afternoon of thinking and reflection while staring at the quarry across the lake. Neither site offers complete isolation from human activity, as one is likely to be intruded upon by hikers in my little nook of Centennial Woods, while my site in NJ is often rocked by explosions from the nearby rock quarry and military testing facility. Despite this, I find tranquility at each through their unique features. In Centennial Woods, my site plays host to many of my favorite tree, the Eastern Hemlock. Although my NJ site features almost no conifers (which I prefer in general over hardwoods), I still find joy in the many varieties of aquatic vegetation, such as cattails, duckweed, water lilies, and water hyacinths that can be spotted on the lake. There seems to be more of an animal presence in my NJ site, as there are less people around. In Centennial, I have encountered only a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers and a few Chipmunks, while at my NJ site I have seen everything from massive carp to Black Bears.

Update 11/5

After visiting my site on November 4th, I noticed some obvious changes from my last visit. Almost all of the deciduous trees have lost all of their leaves. There are a few Yellow Birch remaining that still have some of their leaves. The singular Barberry also still has its leaves, although they are now yellow. Due to the high amount of leaves dropped, there is a larger amount of parent material/organic matter on the forest floor, composed mostly of Yellow Birch leaves. The ground was also much wetter than it was at my last visit, due to the constant rain from the past week. In some areas at the base of the valley, water has even begun to pool a little bit. Meanwhile, the Cinnamon ferns that were yellowing at my last visit are now all but gone. They seem to have completely died and dissipated into the organic material covering the soil, whereas the Christmas ferns and Eastern Hay Scented ferns look no different than they did at my first visit. Moss is still very prevalent at my site, although much of it is now covered by leaves, so it is not as noticeable. The same holds true for the mushrooms. There was no sign of the Pileated Woodpeckers from my last visit, but I did encounter a Blue Jay.       Here is a link to a bigger version of my Event Map:

Update 10/22

The vegetation at my site changed a surprising amount since my last visit. The most noticeable change was in the leaves of the Yellow Birch. Almost all of their leaves had turned yellow when I arrived. Due to the large amount of Yellow Birch on my site, this had quite a profound effect on the visual appearance of my site. The birch also had begun to shed their leaves, giving the organic horizon a much more yellow appearance, as opposed to the rusty brown hue it last had due to being composed mostly of White Pine and Eastern Hemlock needles. Speaking of the conifers on my site, they remained relatively unchanged since my last visit, as they do not lose their needles in the fall/winter. The few adult Red Maples on my site showed evidence of changing color (mostly yellow), but do not seem to be losing their leaves at the rate of the Yellow Birch just yet. Meanwhile, of the three fern species on my site, only Cinnamon fern seems to be turning yellow and dying. The other two species (Christmas fern and Eastern Hay-Scented fern) remain as green as ever. As Cinnamon fern is the most abundant of these three, the overall look of my site is very yellow at the moment. I managed to identify these ferns by finding a list of Vermont Fern species and looking at enough images of each on Google to narrow in on what ferns were on my site.  One other minor change that I noticed was in the singular Barberry on my site. When compared with when I first discovered it, it has very few berries left on it. In terms of animal activity, I was discouraged at first, having only spotted a chipmunk scurrying around the woody debris, and a lone chickadee in one of the adult Hemlocks. However, I picked a nice log and sat down to wait for a while. Eventually my patience was rewarded as I began to hear some loud bird calls. I had no idea what they were, but soon two beautiful Pileated Woodpeckers flew into my view and began pecking; one at a White Pine and the other at a Red Maple. The one on the Red Maple caught my interest as it kept putting its head into a large hole in the tree that looked like a nest, although I know it isn’t nesting season. They remained on my site for about ten minutes before flying up over the hill. Based on the hole in the Red Maple, I am sure I will be seeing these two Pileated Woodpeckers again. In the photo below, you can see the hole in the tree and just barely make out one of the woodpeckers to the right below it.   

Perry, Leonard. “Native Ferns.” PH for the Garden,

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My Phenology site is located in Centennial Woods. It is compromised of a ferny valley and the two hillsides that border it.


To arrive there, you follow the main path from the entrance of Centennial. When you have gone across the creek and arrived at the clearing, follow the path that goes down hill. This path continues straight until you arrive at the telephone lines. After entering the cleared area where the lines run, turn right. Follow this path briefly until you approach a bridge over the creek. There should be a small path to the right shortly before the bridge. Turn onto this path, and you will soon arrive at a few wooden pallets covering a mucky area. The valley is directly to the right of these pallets. I chose this spot because it contains a lot of my favorite plants, and requires a nice walk to get to.


There are three dominant tree species in my site. These species are Yellow Birch, Eastern Hemlock, and Eastern White Pine. The Birch mostly inhabit the northern portion of the site, while the Hemlock and Pine are more common throughout southern portion. The Birch and Hemlock range from saplings to fully mature. The White Pines however, are by far the largest trees in the area, both in height and diameter. There are no White Pine saplings present. There are also quite a few Norway Maple saplings towards the southern end, as well as a few Red Maple saplings and a handful of adult Red Maples. Most of the trees are found on the hillsides, not in the valley itself, so many of them are growing on an angle towards the valley.

Woody Plants

There are a few normal Buckthorns in my site, as well as one Barberry. There were two other types of woody shrub that I am unable to identify at the moment, but neither occurred frequently.


The non-woody vegetation in my site is comprised almost entirely of ferns. There are clearly three distinct species present, although I would not feel comfortable identifying them at the moment.


Moss is abundant in my site. I have found at least three different species, one of those being Star Moss. The other two I currently cannot ID. This high amount of moss goes in tandem with the large amount of woody debris in the site. Much of this debris seems to have been decomposing for long amounts of time, and has given rise to moss and at least six different mushroom/fungus species. The organic horizon of the substrate is composed mostly of White Pine needles and Yellow Birch leaves.

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