Final Blog Post

It was not long ago that I ventured out to my phenology location because the day was warm and beautiful… actually, it was earth day.  And as I neared my location, I was actually told I couldn’t go any further because there was a group doing some wilderness survival situations.  I imagine they were working towards getting a certification of some kind, but that is definitely a cross-section of nature and culture.  Besides that, though, centennial woods as a whole serves as a region where people can walk, bike, and observe nature.

Do I consider myself part of my place?  When those people told me I couldn’t go there because they were doing stuff, I can’t say I felt like a part of it 😛

But on a serious note, I definitely feel more in touch with this location than I do with many others, but I can’t say that I truly feel as if I am a part of my place because I don’t play any integral role in the ongoing phenological processes.  As much as I would love to be connected to my place, I do not feel that I am.

Spring in Centennial Woods?

With my copy of Naturally Curious by Mary Hollins in hand I ventured off into the woods in search of signs of spring, but to my dismay there was a severe lack thereof.  The night before I made this journey, a couple inches of icy snow came down.  This was enough to blanket the ground, but the nature of the precipitation left a firm layer of snow that was more ice-like than anything else.  As a result, any signs on the ground prior were covered up, and any animals, specifically amphibians, that may have travelled over it since, did not weigh enough to leave an indent in the firm icy-snow layer.  Those poor spring wildflowers never stood a chance, whatever signs of their life may have been present yesterday have likely died due to this freeze occurring so late in the phenological year.  I believe that I would have seen dandelions at my place, though, if it hadn’t received the freeze the night before because they thrive in edge communities and in disturbed areas – and my location is nothing if not a disturbed area inhabited by invasive species near an edge on the top of a hill with little protection from the forces of nature.  While no other trees appeared to be showing signs of life yet, the birch trees in the areas were budding, however it is unlikely  that many of these buds survived the icy freeze of last night.

My phenology location’s nearest edge is the hiking trail going alongside it.  It is probably a hundred feet away, however the people, and their dogs, can both be heard quite clear through the brush.  There is an old ROTC barrack very close-by, just down the hill, however this has been out of use for so long that it has been consumed by the natural community surrounding it.  Because the one remaining wall of the barrack is not used, it is not associated with human disturbances and thus does not result in edge effect for animals.  It is unlikely that my phenology location would be inhabited by any forest interior species because of the auditory disturbances caused by people walking through Centennial Woods.

New Spring Break Phenology Place

The immediate similarities and differences that I was able to notice between Bredesen Park in Minnesota and my Centennial Woods location were that both of them were at least partially wetlands.  While the entirety of Bredesen park is wetland, only parts of the Centennial Woods are wetland areas, such as the area downhill from my phenology location that was mentioned in my previous blog post.  In contrast, however, due to its wetland nature, Bredesen park is completely flat, with no elevation changes exceeding 10 feet as you explore the park.  Centennial Woods, on the other hand, has quite large changes in elevation, with many hills.

As for the natural history of this location, Edina was in the past a farming town, but it became a larger suburb of Minneapolis when farming became less lucrative in the early-mid 20th century.  As a result, nearly all of the region was plowed and used for agriculture at one point.  Bredesen park is the result of a restoration project where trees and wetland plants were allowed to grow without disturbance for decades until it became the full-grown wetland that it is today.  So this means that in the early-mid 19th century, this wetland was destroyed and plowed to be farmed on, but then as Edina shifted away from being agriculture based and became more of a suburb, similar to the Levittowns in the post-war era, the area was allowed to grow and return to its natural state as a wetland.  Canada Geese and a bald eagle were seen flying over Bredesen Park.  These birds are known to be seen in the month of March in Minnesota.

The weather in Minnesota has not been as spring-like as Burlington’s.  The temperature has only risen above freezing a couple of times in the past month, and as a result it has not been a welcoming environment for plants.  The trees and invasive buckthorn bushes in the area showed no signs of budding.

This is my location… my computer won’t let me embed a map so I just need to link it.

March 5th Phenology Check-In

Using the class resource “Wetland, Woodland, Wildland,” I classified my Centennial Woods Phenology location as a cross between a Wetland and a Woodland.  The ecological features of Centennial Woods, including streams with surrounding marshy areas, and woods that climb a respectable amount in elevation, provide home for both species found in wetlands and woodlands.  My specific phenology location, however, is most certainly a woods.  Just 100 feet away, down hill, a stream with cattails is in site, but once you climb up the hill it becomes clear that rabbits and rodents are the creatures who call this area home.

Changes that have occurred since my last visit is that while it was almost too icy to climb up to my phenology location before, now it was entirely possible.  The path that I climb up is the erosion path that water flows down when snow and ice melt, or that rain runoff flows down in the warmer months, and as a result it is not an ideal location for plant growth or animal settlement.  As a result it was a desert path of mud which, although slick, was more than climbable.  There are no signs of plants sprouting yet, and this is likely due to the unusual weather we have had where it is above freezing during the day but below freezing at night.  It is not to say that this is an unusual occurrence, it is just unusual to see happen during February and early March.  Evidence of the same bunny or hare that was noticed last time was faintly noticeable hopping across the mud, perpendicular to the erosion path.  All of the deciduous trees in the area still appear to be inactive for the winter season.

Biofinder: Using biofinder I discovered that the Centennial Woods has Wetlands Projects which confirms my suspicion that the Centennial Woods, at least in part, a wetlands area.

Same Phenology Location, New Semester! Looking at Tracks

I remember that when I first chose my phenology location I thought it would be fun to have it atop a very steep hill, then I went to my phenology location shortly after a rainfall once.  It was then that I realized it would be difficult to get there once there was snow on the ground, because even with just the muddy ground it was difficult.  One thing I did not anticipate, however, was a constant freezing and thawing resulting in a thick layer of ice coating the entire hill.  Getting up to my location involved very dextrous maneuvering, pushing my feet off of one large tree and reaching for another large tree to pull myself up the hill another couple of feet.  Once I neared the top I did find tracks, however getting to them involved very slow crawling on all fours and grabbing onto protruding roots to prevent sliding down the hill and needing to climb back up again.  I did, however, manage to get some good photos of tracks in the thin layer of snow at the top of the hill.  There were two types of tracks, both belonging to gallopers.  These were the tracks of both snowshoe hares and cottontail rabbits.  The key difference between these two tracks is their size and width.  The snowshoe hare has a print that is about twice as long and much wider that the cottontail rabbits, and in the images below you can see the much narrower hind foot mark of the cottontail rabbit and the wider print of the snowshoe hare.

As for trees at my site, the only trees I was able to reach without risking falling down the hill were small coniferous trees and large deciduous trees with no low-hanging branches.  As a result I was able to take pictures of their bark, which I can identify the trees by, but I was not able to navigate over towards smaller trees to see and take pictures of their twigs.  At my phenology location I identified paper birch, Eastern white pine, and and red maple trees based on their bark.  Bonus video of me sliding down the icy hill after finishing taking photos of tracks: IMG_9279

Human History of Centennial Woods

In order to learn more about my phenology location in the Centennial Woods, I went into the special collections area of the library and found a senior thesis on the area by Elaine Vidal.  Included within her thesis is an in-depth analysis of the history of the land.  Using a detailed map of the area I was able to pinpoint the approximate location of my phenology spot.  I have previously noted that my area sits on top of a steep incline, and it is for this reason that the area was used as animal pastures.  While there are some areas of the centennial woods that were used for farmland, there is evidence that animals were once kept on the hilly areas.  In particular, according to the map, there should be an oak tree with an indent that is shaped like a chain fence.  This tree is living proof of the fence that was once used as a boundary for animal grazing areas.  Additionally, about 100 yards away from my phenology place there is a concrete wall that has graffiti all over it.  This collapsed concrete structure is what remains of an old ROTC bunker.  It is incredibly interesting that using my knowledge of Centennial Woods, I was able to locate my phenology location on Elaine Vidal’s hand-drawn map and then investigate my proximity to notable landmarks that display human history in the area.  I am excited to go back to my phenology location and explore the area for the oak tree that has been imprinted on by an old fence.

 

Vidal, Elaine. “Wildness in Our Midst: Stories of Centennial Woods: a Senior Thesis.”University of Vermont, 2002.

 

Photo credit Elaine Vidal

New Phenology Location: Tettegouche State Park

Mabel Wright writing style:

-How contact with nature feels – emotional connection

-Nature is an aesthetic experience

 

My new location was at Tettegouche State Park on Lake Superior.  More specifically, it was in a high elevation area, providing a wonderful view onto Lake Superior.  As I sat near the edge surrounded by trees which protected me from the nipping wind, I could smell the gentle and pleasant aroma of pine needles.  The sun, which was low in the sky, gave me the opportunity to see an otherwise undetectable light snow.  The small icy flakes, invisible under standard conditions, could faintly be seen – the late day sunlight falling upon them.  The high wind and low temperatures kept the state park almost empty and allowed me to feel as if I were the one discovering all of this as oppose to being just another tourist.  Waves brought water to the mainland where if froze to the rocks on the shore, creating a brittle layer of protection between the shore and the harsh environment around them.  Stepping closer to the edge, out of tree cover, the wind was able to reach me.  This provided a feeling of liberation: freedom from the stresses of everyday life.  I no longer worried about my cold fingers or the long drive I had home.  I looked around me at the never-ending water in front of me, and the steep cliffs on either side of me.

 

Mary Holland

-Science for the lay person

-stories and curiosities of individual species

 

In my Vermont phenology location, there was not any snow the last time I went, however there was snow at Tettegouche.  This makes sense because Tettegouche State Park is located in northern Minnesota, this location is much further north than the Centennial woods location.  For this reason, it would make sense that Tettegouche would be colder and have snow.  Tettegouche was also much windier.  Tettegouche is located on Lake Superior, and on the shore half of the park is completely exposed to the lake; the reason that Tettegouche is much windier is because there is a large side of the park where there are no trees to block the wind, as oppose to centennial woods where you are surrounded by trees.  The wildlife that was dominant in my Vermont phenology location the last time I checked in was small birds.  I noticed no small birds in the Tettegouche location.  This could be for a couple of reasons: first is that it is several weeks later into the year.  It is possible that there were birds at Tettegouche 3 or 4 weeks ago and that they flew south for the winter.  It is also possible that small birds like the species in Centennial woods cannot brave the offshore winds from Lake Superior and are never found in this area.

 

This is my location on a google map in case the embedded map doesn’t show up.  It’s being stubborn.

Event Map

Birds-eye map

Last time I went to my site in the Centennial Woods all of the trees still had all of their leaves and all of the foliage was green.  Returning on the 22nd, however, most of the leaves had fallen and those that remained were all different shades of red and orange.  The ground was densely littered with these bright leaves.  Although the trees didn’t show any signs of nests, woodpecker holes, or hives, there was a suspicious hole in the ground that was certainly dug by an animal.

About My Site

My phenology site is located in the Centennial Woods. Upon entering the Centennial Woods, if you follow the most well walked path until you reach the first intersection, take a right up a large hill, and then go off the path to a graphitized wall you will be very close. From there you can see a very steep hill that appears to have an erosion path going down it: just up there is my location. I thought this would be an interesting place to choose because of its incredibly steep incline. I am most curious to see how different it looks when all of the melting snow from higher elevations uses this location as a path to get down to the stream. There is a distinct pattern to be seen where not much grows on the steep incline besides larger and more established trees, whereas small shrubs and ferns are able to grow at the top because it begins to even out. The most common woody plants are Red Oak trees because they are able to grow on the steep incline.

 

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