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Phenology Project

A Farewell For Now

Posted: May 6th, 2017 by mlemanue

My final visit to Salmon Hole was bitter sweet. This place has become familiar to me as I have gotten to know it from many different perspectives. It was interesting to experience myself, my knowledge and perspective, change from visit to visit as each time a different assignment and change in season prompted me to examine the site in a different way.

One of my favorite moments during this two semester experience was my visit to a place at home during Thanksgiving break. Going to a place that was familiar to me and seeing it in a whole new way was surprising to me, as I realized how much I had learned and changed over the first few months in the Rubenstein school. Upon my final visit, I experienced a similar feeling of amazement as I saw my site explode into life after a long fall and winter of declining activity. I saw how the substrates, composition, land uses, and other factors I had been examining all year came together in the symphony of the spring bloom. As I dug deep into the happenings of the spring awakening at my site, I found myself excited and thankful to have had this experience that bonded me to this place over the course of my first year at UVM. I feel that Salmon Hole is a place that I know well, and is a place I feel a bond with here in Burlington. I felt a sense of peace when I was there and I know I will return to this place over the next three years.

Landscape Ecology

Posted: May 6th, 2017 by mlemanue

From a landscape ecology viewpoint, Salmon Hole has several aspects that make it an interesting a diverse habitat. The overall area of Salmon Hole is small, which makes it a patch surrounded by an urban area. Furthermore, Salmon Hole is in an elongated shape, with lots of edge. One edge faces a residential area, and the other edge is the open to the river, which is bordered on the other side by a similar stretch of forest. There is little interior habitat, which makes Salmon Hole unsuitable habitat for interior species. In addition, Salmon Hole is a somewhat isolated natural area. It lacks connectivity with other natural areas, and is surround by a network of land with intense land uses such as urban, residential, and industrial. The river does connect this place to other natural areas, but only by the waterway and a thin strip of forest in most places. The closest patch of forest is Centennial woods, which is somewhat connected, but blocked by a road and residential areas that prevent a habitat corridor that could otherwise be established. Because of the reduced size of the area, high edge to interior forest area, and surrounding land use, Salmon Hole is at greater risk of disturbance.

Within the boarders of Salmon Hole, there is some disturbance in the form of footpaths for recreation. These cause some disturbance, but is limited to occasional foot traffic of humans on a small dirt path; much less disturbance than a road or highway perhaps. There is a waste water treatment plant seated in the natural area, that discharges directly into the river. This is a source of pollution for the river, as well as the forest habitat that the plant is located in and discharges through. Furthermore, the river itself is disrupted by the Winooski dam, which dramatically changes the flow of the river. Included below is an image of the discharge pipe of the waste water treatment plant.

 

Returning Visitor

Posted: May 5th, 2017 by mlemanue

This tree shows fresh signs of a beaver!! There is several other trees in the area that have shown marks of a beaver since last fall. But this is the first fresh damage that I have seen. I was somewhat surprised to see such a big tree so damaged by a beaver. I was under the impression they went for smaller, more tender saplings. This tree was chewed almost half way through. I looked for signs of a beaver dam, but the water within sight was much too deep and fast moving. I imagine there would be a suitable location for a lodge between the small island and the far shore, or perhaps farther up stream. I looked around at the bottom of the tree in the wood chips for a broken tooth, which would be a lucky fine. I didn’t find one this time.

Reptiles!

Posted: May 5th, 2017 by mlemanue

As I was sitting quietly listening for the birds when I received quite a shock. My eyes had drifted to the ground cover, a combination of ferns and herbaceous plants, when I realized that just in front of me was a snake!! It was curled up quietly on a small piece of wood, basking in the sun. Snakes always manage to give me start, the way the are so stealthy in their presence. After I recovered from the surprise, I got a good look at my reptile neighbor. It was a garter snake, tightly coiled and not moving except for an occasional flit of the tongue to taste the air. Perhaps it was conserving energy after just having emerged from hibernation. It seemed to be quiet content to be in this floodplain area, a place fairly well suited to reptiles. The substrate is sandy and favorable for breeding habitat. The fern cover provides shelter, and proximity to the river ensures many insects, rodents, small amphibians, and other food sources. I took a picture then let the snake be.

 

I was lucky enough to be surprised twice in one visit by yet another reptile! I was investigating the river bank looking at some birds a short way off when suddenly about a yard in front of me a scurrying in the grass startled me! I looked in time to see a painted turtle scurry down the bank, and slide into the river with a plop! I was excited to see it, I have always thought a turtle sighting was a special occasion. It is the time of year that female painted turtles make a nest and lay their eggs. Female turtles look for a sandy spot to dig a nest, which would make much of my nature spot an ideal location because of the fine sediment substrate. The females often look for a spot on a rainy day, which makes me wonder if this turtle had just done such a deed, because it was raining early the day I visited. If so, I hope the eggs survive the next few months and hatch successfully!

Image result for painted turtle vermont

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_turtle

 

Birds!

Posted: May 5th, 2017 by mlemanue

My nature spot was filled with the sounds of birds returning from southern wintering locations. I heard many calls and songs I did’t know, but I truly enjoyed sitting quietly and listening at the different sounds and trying to spot who they belonged to. I have always thought birds were pretty cool, and enjoyed watching them on my mom’s bird feeders in the winter, but I have recently found a renewed appreciation for them. The combination of Walt Poleman’s passion for birds, and seeing Allen Strong’s presentation when he did a guest lecture really got me interested to know more about birds. I hope to learn more calls and be able to identify them by sight, but until then I’ll just listen excitedly to the unknown songs around me.

The one call I was able to identify by sound is the song sparrow. I heard the distinct call frequently throughout my visit. I also heard the honk of Canadian geese, and the squawk of the ever present seagulls.

 

http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/song-sparrow

 

I was ecstatic to see a Kingfisher fly by! The distinct head and huge beak were a dead give away as the Kingfisher streaked by up the river. I only caught one glimpse of him, but it was an exciting sighting.

http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=936693

 

I also saw a mysterious bird that looked unfamiliar to me. It was dark and had a long straight body with an extend neck. It looked a bit like a duck, but smaller. I could not see the coloration of the bird, it looked dark all over from my perspective. I wonder if perhaps it was a wood duck, but that might be wishful thinking. Research was inconclusive on possible identification, my sighting was too far and too brief to match the bird to a field guide.

Spring Has Sprung!

Posted: May 5th, 2017 by mlemanue

Spring is in full swing and many changes are occurring at my place. Winters icy grasp has relinquished to bird calls, buzzing insects, unfurling fiddle heads, budding trees, and plants beginning to peep through in search of the sun. The peaceful quite of winter has turned to a symphony of spring sounds. The rushing high waters of the Winkooski provide a backdrop for the concert of rustling, calls, songs peeps, and rustles of the awakening forest.

This trip to my nature spot was the most exciting yet! After months of winter inactivity, the fast paced changes delighted me! The first change to catch my eye was the budding trees. For the past few weeks I’ve been seeing trees begin to bud out, starting with turning a reddish color at the tips of the branches, then the buds swelling, and finally popping open as flowers pop and leaves unfurl. In my nature spot, I captured a picture of one of the many species of trees beginning to leaf. Pictured below are buds that have already popped open and baby leaves are starting to stretch out for the first time. I believe this is a silver maple. I am not positive in the ID because the tree was juvenile so the bark was non-distinct and the leaves were past the bud stage but had not fully formed leaves. I guessed silver maple because of the opposite branching pattern, pictured below, and the location of the tree. This tree was growing in fine sediment soil in the floodplain of the river. This site looked similar to the site we examined in the floodplain ecology lab, including a fern dominated herbaceous plant structure. I saw ferns in all several stages of growth, between tightly curled fiddle heads to almost fully uncurled ferns. Both silver maples and ferns grow well in the fine soil made from accumulated sediments from regular floods. Even now, the high waters are depositing nutrient rich sediments along the banks that continue to add to the deep layer of accumulated sediments. Areas like this make high quality, productive farmland. Because of this, many silver maple and fern forest community, and other floodplain forest types,  have been deforested for farmland, such as in the Intervale. It is nice to see an intact and diverse floodplain community here so close and accessible from campus.

 

 

 

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!

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