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Phenology Project

A Visit Home!

Posted: March 22nd, 2017 by mlemanue

Spring break brought me back home, and back to my lovely hemlock stand by the river. In the beginning of the week I took a walk down the river to scope out the site, and made many observations, which will be included in the following. I planned on a second visit to take pictures, but a nasty case of the flu knocked me out and I didn’t make it back down. So apologies for the lack of pictures, hope you enjoy!

 

Much has changed since my last visit! Last time I was here, late fall, there had not been a snowfall and many things were still green. Now, after a fresh foot of spring snow, everything looks different. Where a green carpet of princess pine had been, now a white carpet covers everything. I imagine the princess pines are still green under all that snow, their waxy coating keeping evergreen leaves protected. I read that princess pine also has a special anti-freeze chemical that helps the plant survive freezing conditions, it’s definitely coming in hand now!

Looking up, the towering hemlocks dwarf the tiny forest of princess pines below. Little has changed at first glance, but a closer look reveals some visitors other than myself! The squirrels and chipmunks made the first appearance, jumping from branch to branch and scurrying around. The squirrels have been around all winter, but the chipmunks are just emerging from their winter tunnels. Then I became aware of a noise at my ears. Birds! How I missed hearing the many songs and calls, finally spring has sprung and the chorus of voices have returned to the woods! During my last visit in the fall, some birds were here, but over the long winter the woods very quiet as many species had migrated south. Now I see new species, many returning from long migrations to warmer climates. In the thick hemlock canopy, it was difficult to make out the birds, and I wasn’t able to identify many by site or call. One call I found familiar was the peter-peter-peter of the tufted titmouse. I heard the titmouse’s tittering call and looked for the dark little bird above. I have included an audio clip of the song and a picture below, please check it out! The titmouse was the only bird I was able to identify while in the hemlock forest, however, I saw robins looking for berries near the sumac on my walk out to my spot. I also caught sight of two cardinals perched in a rhododendron bush in my yard, both were flashy red males. I looked for their mates but didn’t see the more subdued tones of the females.

 

(All About Birds, Cornell)

 

The river made sure its presence was known during my visit, calling attention to itself with a constant dull roar that could be heard from a surprising distance. The waters were moving fast with snow melt, and had risen quite a bit since the fall. Evidence of past freezes was still present, where ice had formed in quiet coves or had been push and pilled up on the bank in places. The water was flowing much too fast now for ice to form, but perhaps in a few days if the water level drops and so do temperatures, the river could freeze again. Even though it has been five years since hurricane Irene, every time I look at the river I think back to the storm. The path of the storm is still clearly shown on the banks where massive erosion has dug back the land, and trees and debris are still piled, laying tangled far up above the current water level. It amazes me how the ecosystem was able to recover from such a huge disturbance so quickly. Though the path of the river is changed, and therefore some of its processes as well, I’m sure that the organisms that call the river and its banks home have found a way to continue on.

After a quiet moment of reflection standing on the banks, I turned back and returned up the path that had brought me to my place. With lingering eyes and a final deep breath of the thick hemlock scented air, I bid this place a mental farewell. “Until next time,” I thought, feeling thankful to have such a marvelous place so close to my house.

 

BioFinder

Posted: March 9th, 2017 by mlemanue

I used BioFinder, an ecological digital tool developed by Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that helps identify biotic components of the landscape. Some obvious findings of BioFinder were that my site has surface water, and wetland areas on it. More interestingly, however, BioFinder also revealed that there are rare and uncommon animal species on my site, and rare and uncommon plant species near my site, on the far bank. Unfortunately, BioFinder doesn’t identify the species considered rare, so I am left wondering. Perhaps further research will reveal the answers to my inquiry.

Check out BioFinder for youself! Zoom in on Salmon Hole and then play with the layers to see what BioFinder has to say! http://anrmaps.vermont.gov/websites/BioFinder2016/

 

Hydrology

Posted: March 9th, 2017 by mlemanue

There have been some dramatic changes in my place due to the hydrology. Snow melt and the rain from the last week have caused water levels in the Winooski and in streams in my place to rise! When I visited the water level of the Winooski had gone down some, but evidence of its peak volume was everywhere. Lots of drift wood and washed up debris covered the banks in some areas. Sandy substrate covering the rocks had been rearranged, piling at different depths, and rearranged. I wonder what will become of all the washed up debris? Is it useful to the wildlife in the area?I doubt it would be a good food source because most of the tender bark and twigs that could be browse have been ripped off by the forces of the water. Perhaps the debris could provide some cover for small wildlife looking to hide. Or perhaps it will stay on the bank being of little use to anyone until the next high water takes it away.

Ice was another important part of the hydrology changes. Last time I visited much more of the river had been frozen, and this time much had melted. However, bits of ice still covered small cove areas and places around the rocks. There were place on the banks where evidence that high water and ice chunks had eroded the substrate, pushing back the banks some amount. I imagine this can cause damage to the waterside vegetation, causing damage to the plant and its roots, as well as disturbing the substrate from which it grows. However, despite the possible disruptive properties, the changes in the substrate due to ice and high water may provide opportunity for other species to move in after a disturbance.

Furthermore, the hydrology of the streams in the area has also changed since my last visit. There are several streams in my place that feed the Winooski. Since my last visit, much of the ice has melted, and the flow has increased. Some erosion has occurred in the streams as well. The outlets of the streams, where they meet the Winooski, have experienced a lot of erosion as the high water forced its way up the stream in those areas. From years of this process repeating, the areas where the streams meet the river have been formed into wide little coves. I imagine in spring and summer, these small cove areas provide still shallow water, and breeding habitat for aquatic species.

Visitor

Posted: February 16th, 2017 by mlemanue

 

A mouse! These tiny tracks caught my eye as the sun’s light began to fail. The evidence this tiny visitor left behind was the only new evidence of wildlife I saw during this visit. The snow cover had recently fallen and temperatures were low so I expect no one else had ventured out since the snow fall. Perhaps next time I’ll try to go after a warm spell and see who came out to enjoy the sun!

Twig Sketch

Posted: February 16th, 2017 by mlemanue

Winter Twig Identification

Posted: February 16th, 2017 by mlemanue

I was able to identify several twig species using the twig ID chart! I haven’t had much experience with identification using only twigs, so this was a new experience for me. I feel pretty confident identifying trees based on leaves and bark, but haven’t worked much with twigs which made this challenging and exciting. Having knowledge of my place from the warmer months, and knowing what tree species are present on my site was very helpful in guiding my identification. Using twigs alone I was able to identify: American Beech, Norway maple, Sugar maple, and white oak. Some of the other species that I know are on my site, such as Basswood, are not on the id chart. Ill look for another resource to identify these species as well.

Welcome Back!

Posted: February 16th, 2017 by mlemanue

I was welcomed back to my site after a lovely winter break by the beautiful shadows cast by the low sun. My site had been covered with a fresh layer of snow leaving it looking pristine. Though the site was very quiet and serene while I was there, I know it was inactive. Tracks through the fresh snow, and winter buds on trees were some of the evidence that the site was still busy despite the cold and dark!

Evergreen Fern

Posted: December 10th, 2016 by mlemanue

shfern

I was impressed by this fern’s toughness, that it remained green and vibrant despite the cold and snow. I found this fern in Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious. This is an Intermediate Wood Fern, also called an evergreen fern. The fronds remain green throughout the winter, as the name hints at.

Human Use

Posted: December 10th, 2016 by mlemanue

Salmon Hole is located very close to an urban center, and gets lots of human traffic. This area is publicly owned, and maintained as a park free for relational uses. Salmon Hole is a well known fishing site that promises good catch of a variety of species. However, during certain months of the year fishing is prohibited to protect dwindling populations of Walleye and Sturgeon.

The most notable human use of this area is the Winooski One Dam. This hydroelectric dam cam online in 1993, and supplies the city of Burlington with renewable energy. However, the dam may be a source of clean energy, it dramatically affects the natural habitat. Fish species suffer the most, as they are prevented from traveling upstream, as many species do in order to reproduce. Vermont Fish and Wildlife monitors a working fish lift that helps to reduce the impact the dam has on fish species. The lift captures fish, that are then inspected, measured, and tagged, then trucked upstream to North Wiliston where they are released.  Check out this video to learn more about the dam and the lift! https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/about-us/what-we-do/winooski-one-hydro-plant

The Winooski River claims the title of having the largest watershed in Vermont, covering 1080 square miles, almost 11% of the state. Because of this large land to water ratio, the land use effects the water quality greatly, exactly how land use effects Lake Champlain. One major factor that affected the quality of the river in the past was the waste water treatment plants located alone the Winooski. Before 1964, treatment plants dumped raw sewage directly into the river. Now, regulations have ensured that water is thoroughly treated before it is dumped into the river. However, the input of treated water still affects the river. In additon, the Winooski runs through the mostly highly populated place in Vermont, and because of this, is more likely to be affected by human land use, due to a higher population of humans on the land. Because of the vast watershed and the location in an urban area, the Winooski is more vulnerable to disturbances from human use.

Not Just Dirt and Rocks

Posted: December 10th, 2016 by mlemanue

20161015_173359

I noticed the substrate right away when I went down toward the water (I took this picture on my first visit). It was very fine sand. I wonder if this is recent alluvium deposits from the winooski river, or if the substrate is sand deposits from ancient lake Vermont, similar to the substrate we observed during the Jericho Research Forest lab. I know that deposits from the Winooski River make up the fertile soils in the Intervale, so I doubt this fine sand is a recent alluvium deposit because it would make poor agricultural soil. This lead me to wonder why would different substrates be deposited in different ways along the river? Why would the river deposit nutrient rich soils in one place, but not in other places? Is the difference caused by currents? Flooding? Other factors?

shrock2

This is a small pit in the rock surface, worn away by the eroding forces of water. This small pothole reminded me of the potholes in Shelburne Falls, MA. There are many potholes, of all sizes, in the rock there downstream of the Shelburne Falls dam. The potholes were formed by small rocks or sediments that were caught in eddies in the rock. Over time, the particles eroded the rock into a circular divot and the rocks or particles are swirled by the current, causing the circular potholes to form. I imagine this hole was formed in a similar way. This was the only pothole I saw at Salmon Hole, but was still very interesting even in the light of the extensive potholes that I have explored in Sherburne Falls.

shrocks3

Here are more interesting patterns of erosion in the rock surface near the water. Some of the circular marks may be the start of potholes similar to the one above. I believe that the rock here, and in the other pictures here, is Redstone, a common building material in this area, used to build many of the building on campus.

shwavyrocks

More interesting patterns of erosion. This pattern reminded me of how waves at the beach can make sand look sometimes. I wonder how the vastly different patterns of erosion found in these pictures can all occur so close in proximity? I wonder if the currents vary that much in such a small area to cause such different patterns of ware.

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