Phenology Blog

by Maxwell Horovitz

May 5, 2018
by mhorovit
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Welcome

Welcome to my phenology blog!

Over the past few months I have enjoyed exploring a natural area of my choosing in Centennial woods. I have come to refer to this natural area as the Ridge Line. I have had a great time because this assignment gives me an excuse to escape campus for a little while every couple of weeks and re-connect with the natural world. The posts in this blog are scattered below, with the most recent post appearing at the top. If you are interested in my discoveries, I suggest you start at the bottom of this page with the first post and follow with the progression of seasons as you work your way up. You may also use the widget bar to the right to select which post you would like to view. Enjoy!

May 5, 2018
by mhorovit
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Final Post, 5/5/2018

My final blog post. After nearly 4 seasons spent observing this place I am ending at the perfect time. This week it feels as though spring has shown itself and finally decided to stay here in Burlington. There has not been snow of ice on the ridge-line for some time now. Sprouts are beginning to poke up through the decomposing leaf layer that is left over from last spring. Over the course of the past 3 seasons I have had the opportunity and pleasure to observe the changes of the ridge-line, from 85-degree late summer days to nearly zero-degree winter climes. It is for this reason that I would consider myself a part of the place by now. Not only because of my history observing it, but because of my tentative future here in Burlington. With a planned three more years of school and who knows what after, I may be here for a while. This leaves me many opportunities to come back and interact with my place.

But this also ties into the fact that Centennial Woods is really a part of Burlington, and therefore ties into the culture of the town. So, in living here in the future, I really will be a part of my place. A big part of Vermont’s identity is human interaction with nature. I think this is an amazing thing and part of the reason as to why I was attracted to school here. The opportunity to take a walk in the woods in a beautiful place that is no more than a couple hundred feet from my college campus is great. It is for this reason that Centennial woods is no doubt a part of the culture of Burlington and especially UVM. With so many research projects happening, ecological observations, and just the plain public hiking the area the forest is well integrated to human use. My stay here has been very enjoyable, and this marks the end of my first long-term phenological set of observations. I will miss seeing the ridge-line in the summer months as I’m sure that is one of the most beautiful times of the year.

April 16, 2018
by mhorovit
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Post #8, Spring on the Ridge Line (4/16/2018)

It has been quite an interesting past couple of weeks for the Ridge-Line in terms of weather. We have had a couple bouts where it really felt like Spring for a few days, and then winter would close back in, giving us a cold reminder that full bloom has yet to come. Just this past weekend in mid-April, we had a storm that produced a quite unpleasant wintery mix of rain, snow, sleet and hail. This has left the landscape covered in a sort-of crusty snowy ice layer about a half an inch thick. All the buds and birds who thought it was time to show their colors during the previous week were in for a surprise.

The date of this blog post indicates that some signs of spring should be showing. But at this time, the Ridge Line seems to still be plunged in winter time. There are no buds peeking up through the leaves and snow. As well as no signs of animals other than deer and squirrels. Amphibians are definitely not using the Ridge Line at this time. Because the stream in Centennial Woods is not more than 400 feet away, I can assume that amphibians are using this space in the summer months. But I spotted no signs of such amphibians during my recent visit.

Because Centennial Woods is an urban forest, it is surrounded by edges, and even has a power line running through it. This power line runs horizontally about a quarter mile to the north of the Ridge Line. It is a large powerline, so it is safe to assume that it has effects on the woods. It also has a small stream running through it. But the edge effect is perhaps more noticeable around the urban areas that surround the woods edges. It is here that animals such as house cats may enter the woods, hunting smaller animals such as birds and Chipmunks. The edge effect is also noticeable from the sky, as the Burlington International Airport is not far away. Because of this, the sounds of planes can be heard from inside the forest year-round. All this aside though, Centennial Woods does create habitat for forest interior species such as deer. Once again because the area is surrounded by human development, it creates a much-needed refuge for these animals. I would even go so far as to say that it provides refuge for humans as well. Because each time I am in the woods, although I can hear planes and cars and see signs of human use, I feel quite removed from the urban setting of university.

Below I have included a few sketches of my most notable observations on my most recent visit.

March 20, 2018
by mhorovit
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Spring Break 2018 (3/19/18)

Over spring break this year I went back home, to Maine. It was not a traditional tropical getaway, but I enjoyed days full of skiing and seeing good friends and family. The place I spent the most time at is our small local ski mountain on the coast; the Camden Snow Bowl on Ragged mountain. I chose to compare this location to my phenology spot in Burlington because I have spent a lot of time at the Snow Bowl throughout my childhood. Both skiing nearly every day there in the winter, and hiking, camping, swimming, and mountain biking there in the warmer summer months. The natural history of this area is quite simple, being entirely undeveloped and owned by the town until the mid 60s when they began cutting trails and installed a small chairlift for skiing. Since then the area has remained pretty much the same aside from some added trails and an updated lift. The area has always been run by the town, unlike many other privately-owned ski areas. As a result, locals feel a strong connection to the mountain because it is their tax money and man hours that go to maintaining the area that has been enjoyed by so many over the years.

The elevation of the mountain reaches barely to 1,000 feet, so the ecological changes from the base to summit are barely noticeable. The tree species remain the same traditional Maine evergreens with some Paper Birch, Sugar Maples, and Ash mixed in. Throughout my time enjoying Ragged Mountain over the years I have had the pleasure of encountering some of the most untouched wildlife in the country. For example: the widespread use of DDT in this country threatened the populations of many bird species. But on the islands off the coast of Maine the effects of DDT went unnoticed because of their separation from the mainland. But given their close proximity to the coast, we are lucky to have one of the most natural and oldest populations of Bald Eagles. On a normal summer day, you have a good chance of spotting one coasting on wind drifts by the mountain. Along with Bald Eagles, the Maine state bird is also very prevalent year-round in the area; the Chickadee. Even while skiing in the winter time Chickadees can be spotted on and around the slopes of the Snow Bowl. I have included three photos in this post that were taken by me from the summit of Ragged Mountain. The two in winter time were taken just last week while I was skiing. Notice the ocean right down from the mountain. The third was taken this past summer from my hammock during a camping trip. I have also included the link to a google map of the area, so you may get a sense of it’s geography.

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/sFuDGXJgFp42

March 5, 2018
by mhorovit
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Post #6, A Natural Community (3/5/2018)

We often wonder why ecologists feel the urge to classify natural communities. The text Wetland, Woodland, Windland defines a natural area as “an interacting assemblage of organisms, their physical environment, and the natural processes that affect them.” Natural communities can encompass a large amount of biodiversity amongst flora and fauna and their genetic variability. Classifying these communities helps us as humans to better understand these complexities. Classifying the Ridge-Line at first would seem relatively easy; it is a medium-aged woodland. But then I must consider the ecological potential of the area. Most forests in Vermont have not been untouched by humans, so we can assume that Centennial Woods is not an old growth wooded area. But looking at the landscape we can see that is does have some good potential for future development. The stream that runs through the entirety of the forest provides a good hydrological resource for the flora in the area. It is also a protected area, so although it cannot expand outwards because of the surrounding communities and airport, the forest will presumably have the opportunity to become more diverse in the future and mature into an old growth forest.

Since my last visit to the Ridge-Line in mid-February not much has really changed. Winter has began to fade away into spring, but quite slowly. A few freak warm days here and there have led to multiple thaws and then re-frosts with a couple of snow flurries in between. The ground cover has stayed essentially the same; just a dusting of snow. The thaws have allowed the stream to flow freely again, and along with this the substrate has thawed as well. The biggest difference that I noticed from my last visit, is that the upper layer of the substrate is no longer frozen, and has now turned to a muddy mix. For further insight on the biodiversity and ecology of the Ridge-Line aside from first-hand accounts that I have recorded I looked at the GIS BioFinder map online. I mainly focused on applying community and species scale components to the map as layers in order to better understand the natural community that is Centennial Woods. I discovered that the area around the stream is classified as a wetland, but this does not include the area of my wooded Ridge-Line. I also discovered that the Ridge-Line is classified as a rare and uncommon plant and animal species area, which explains why it is a protected area. Looking at the GIS map gave me some valuable insight as to how the natural area of Centennial Woods is laid out.

February 5, 2018
by mhorovit
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Post #5, Welcome Back (2/5/2018)

It has been nearly two months since my last visit to the ridge-line in early December of last year. From where I left off, there were only patches of snow here and there, and the ridge-line looked as it did in late October. Returning back now after several cycles of snow falling and melting, the surface of the landscape was covered in ice with an inch or two of snow covering it, this made walking somewhat difficult. However, these conditions made the tracking of animals very easy, as their prints were easily spotted in the dusting of snow. On and around the ridge-line I was only able to find tracks of a gray squirrel. I assume that they are one of the only animals to frequent this area currently because it is heavily trafficked by humans and their pets, and the stream down the slope is completely frozen over so water must be found elsewhere. I have included photos of the tracks I found, that seem to lead up a tree where I have set down my bag. The prints are not perfect because I believe the squirrel must have been slipping slightly on the ice underneath. In addition to these tracks, I did hear a woodpecker hammering away near by as well as a few songbirds.

Aside from animals, I spent time observing the largest Red Maple that sits at the top of the ridge-line. It is the only deciduous tree on or around the ridge-line. The majority of the area is scattered with young evergreen Easter Hemlocks or Red Oaks. This medium to large sized Red Maple has a cluster of shoots sprouting up from it’s trunk. It was here where I was able to identify the twigs of the Maple tree. With green and red buds and an unmistakable three-bundle scar with keeled scales on the buds. I have included a photo of the cluster of twigs bellow and a sects of a cluster of buds as well.

December 8, 2017
by mhorovit
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Human History of Centennial Woods

Sadly, this week was the last time I will be visiting the ridge line until mid-January. The last time I visited was yesterday, and through a dusting of snow I was searching for human land use evidence of the area. I took a longer than usual loop walking around the woods to really get a grip on the 70-acre forest and it’s landscape. A few things caught my eye, and upon further research I found that this area has a long and diverse history. One of the most easily noticeable things is the stray barbed wire segments that can be found around the woods. There is also an old cement structure, almost like a foundation of sorts. To a more trained eye, one may also notice that the majority of tree populations in the forest are pioneer species (birch, eastern white pine), indicating that the current tree growth in the area is relatively young. All of these signs mean that the forest used to be cleared and used for farming, as was much of the land in Vermont in the mid-1800s. As I was researching this, I also found that native Americans used this area, but no physical evidence remains. Today, the forest has clearly grown back after the land was purchased off of a few land owners who owned individual portions in the early 1900s. The only current evidence of human use of the area is the stormwater retention pond located a few acres north of the ridge line, and the power lines that direct the forest, creating edges. Beside these otherwise unnoticeable human interferences, Centennial woods continues to serve humans today as a forest for learning an exploration.

Source:

UVM Libraries Research Guides: Centennial Woods Natural Area: Home (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2017, from http://researchguides.uvm.edu/centennialwoods

November 29, 2017
by mhorovit
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Thanksgiving Post #4 (11/29/2017)

From day to night, temperatures on the coast of Massachusetts fluctuate once late fall has turned over every last leaf from deciduous trees. The night is frozen and comfort in the evening is found in resting by a nice fire after a hearty dinner. Day breaks with the glimpse of a piercing winter sunlight. Water pooled in rocks by the water’s edge the day before was frozen overnight, and is slowly thawed by dawn. The small animals that once scurried around each crack and crevice of the shore are hunkered down for winter by this time. Remains of desperation for the last warm meal are scattered in the form of a skeleton resting up on a tree. But even now the predacious birds that had this feast are either hunkered down or have migrated to warmer climates. A pack of coyotes are the only remaining mammals that roam this area. Now they have come out from their previously prosperous forest on the other side of town and prey on domestic animals in this small town on Cape Ann, coming daringly close to civilization. The town rests and braces for the white canvas that promises to come in the near future.

Squam Rock. Gloucester, Massachusetts https://goo.gl/maps/UwdJqN8i9Ez 

-Squam Rock Above-

-Old bones on a tree, indicating a bird had a snack here-

-Annisquam Beach and lighthouse-

The ridge line in Centennial Woods has a certain type of peacefulness that encompasses it. This comes in the form of escaping the noisy college campus or downtown. When in the forest, planes roaring overhead and traffic from the surrounding roadways can still be heard, but there are no other sensory distractions. As a result, the noises can be tuned out and a brief stroll through the woods can be very therapeutic. In Gloucester, Massachusetts the experience is slightly different. While visiting grandparents for thanksgiving as we do every other year or so, our family always enjoys the get-away. They reside in a fairly upper-class neighborhood on Cape Ann. The relatively ancient history of this Gloucester fishing town sets a tone of respect and resting peace. So when taking a walk up the short hill, past Squam rock, down the pasture, and onto the beach of Wigwam point to visit the Annisquam lighthouse it feels like less of an escape but more of an indulgence.

As a little bonus here that I am really excited about, my grandmother recently sent me archived photographs of Squam rock, the huge one pictured above. She volunteers for the local town hall, and over the past years has been tasked with categorizing and archiving old photographs of the town. So we are pretty lucky to see these and I think this is really interesting because the pictures depict the land use of the past, and the huge rock is such an unmistakable landmark, it is pretty much the only thing that hasn’t changed. Here are the two photos that I have, circa 1885:

November 6, 2017
by mhorovit
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Entry #3 (11/06/2017)

Today I enjoyed a nice walk through Centennial woods with my girlfriend and her massive dog, Marlow! We went to visit my phenology location; the Ridge Line. Along the way I took some notes that represented observations that I made of my surroundings, from squirrels scurrying away from us, to geese and even army jets flying overhead. Using these notes I sketched an event map that represents my experiences with visual depictions of objects and sounds I observed. I have attached a scan of it to the end of this blog post. I didn’t notice any big ecological changes, but for some reason the ground seemed to be less covered in fallen leaves than it was two weeks ago, perhaps because of all the wind we have had lately, or all the rain. Cheers!

 

October 22, 2017
by mhorovit
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Entry #2 (10/22/2017)

Here I have drawn a bird’s-eye view map of my location in Centennial Woods, which I have come to call the Ridge-Line.

I’ve enjoyed visiting this spot three times over the past three weeks and observing the seasonal changes. At the time that I started this blog and made my first post, it seemed that fall had not quite started yet. Most leaves on deciduous trees had only began to change color, but not fall yet. During my visit today, I noticed a considerable amount of leaves have fallen, and the temperature has dropped significantly. Other than the normal change of seasons, nothing else has physically changed about the ridge-line. Below, I have included a photo of the area taken from the same location. The top one was taken at the beginning of the month, and the bottom one was taken today. Notice the leaves covering the ground in the most recent photo:

As I sat on the ridge-line and observed nature for about 30 minutes today, I noticed a few evidences of use by little critters. For one, I saw three grey squirrels at separate times, one scurrying out from under the log I usually sit on as I approached the area. This prompted me to look around my surroundings, and I noticed many scraps of acorns littering the ground, that looked like they had been collected and cracked by these squirrels. Songbirds are still singing as well, I think they are confused by the warm weather recently. I also heard and saw two separate flocks of geese flying south as I sat there. For only 30 minutes, I observed a fair amount of animal activity, considering the small size of the ridge-line.

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