A Return to Centennial: Ice Edition

Hello again all! It’s been over a month since my last visit to Centennial and I came looking with new perspective after our tracking lab! Since the snow is deep, powdery and crystallized, deciphering tracks is nearly impossible. However, I did find urine and feces as well. Their presence indicates there are indeed species that frequent my site. My guesses would be deer, rabbits and squirrels. Using my twig identification guidelines, I could tell there were American beech trees and sugar maples mixed in with the mostly coniferous tree population. Some of the other deciduous trees did not have enough low hanging branches to be able to tell.

Since my last visit, the stream has completely frozen. I know this because I chanced to stand on it and thankfully it did not break! There are many downed branches that have snapped from the weight of the snow littering the forest stand floor. The presence of animal tracks makes me more conscious of the activity around me. I detected a diagonal trail of tracks and a bounder. Unsure of what the specific animals are but I’m excited to try again under the right conditions!

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Bye For Now, Centennial!

Today I saw Centennial under a light layer of snow, some flurries were still falling as I walked to the spot. I spotted some squirrels along the way but not a single chipmunk, indicating that the chipmunks have begun their hibernation. Thats not to say chipmunks are MIA in the winter, they wake every few days to eat and raise their body temperature. I must have caught the chipmunk inhabitants of Centennial on their nap days. In fact, I watched one of their burrows for several minutes in hopes one would come out but that was not the case.

Spending time in a certain area naturally makes you wonder what the land used to look like, who lived their before and all the people who gazed on the same sights as yourself. According to Burlington Geographic, Centennial Woods as a whole used to be privately owned by several different people. A map I found in UVM Special collections confirms that one of these owners was the Ainsworth Family around 1980. However, I was hard pressed to find a description of what the land was for but I can only assume a plot of land so large was either an estate or used for agricultural purposes. Thinking in terms of the time period (1980) it was most likely dairy farming rather than sheep for Merino Wool. This inference is backed up by the fact that barbed wire can be found at parts of centennial woods, which could have kept animals enclosed in a pasture. Additionally, my particular spot is made up primarily of White Pines which signifies stand youth, since white pine is a species common to second succession. All of these factors together imply that the land was once cleared, most likely for pasture.

It’s been so fun getting to know Centennial Woods through humidity, beautiful autumnal leaves and snow! I hope I get to keep coming back.

Works Cited:

Centennial Woods Natural Area. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, 1993.
http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmsc/Centennial%20Woods/Centennial_Woods_Survey_1993.jpg (accessed December 02, 2018)

The Changing Landscapes of Centennial Woods Natural Area: A Field Guide [PDF]. University of Vermont Natural Areas. University of Vermont Environmental Program, http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmsc/Centennial%20Woods/Changing_Landscapes_Centennial_Woods002.pdf.


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Coyote Sighting

Attached is a nighttime video of a coyote at the Devil’s Den in Connecticut.I would love to see evidence of a coyote at Centennial Woods, especially considering their rebound as a species after extensive trapping and near extinction  in Vermont. It’s certainly possible because they have been found in suburban as well as rural areas. Enjoy!

EK000013 (9) (1)


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A Mystery Fungus

Hello! An unscheduled update from Centennial Woods today. I’ve discovered a very strange fungus! It’s not mushroom shaped but has the same texture as your typical fungus. It looks like a flat, gray, chunky flower with petals splayed and stuck to the ground. I’ve done some research and determined that it is a “common earthball”. the scientific name is Scleroderma citrinum. It’s actually poisonous! It starts off as a ball of a yellowish brown color and eventually splits open. I learned that it has a symbiotic relationship with trees. It grows near trees and shares the nutrients while also helping the roots absorb new water. So much to learn from this site!

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Devil’s Den, Wilton Connecticut

The site of interest: https://goo.gl/maps/zQoKigqPMJS2

Hello all! This week while I was back in Connecticut, I took a few nature walks. My favorite is at Devil’s Den Preserve, a spot I used to hike at very frequently with my dad.

A description of the Devil’s Den, in the style of Leopold

The forest is absolutely still, the skeletons of the trees are stark and unwavering in the late November chill. Oak, Maple and Beech are the trees that have settled here, making up the majority of the stand. Dry upland soil gives way to a deceptively wet swamp area, after several feet of decent. It is covered in leaves and there are shallow frozen waters beneath them. The frozen water ribbons past several overturned trees, dead trunks dark, decayed and waterlogged. The presence of beech is even more so here.The rocks sport a thick green moss on their faces, which is soft to the touch.The ground is thick with leaves, creating a uniform blanket of caramel brown that crunches underfoot. This is November in Connecticut. An unsuspecting visitor might accidentally plunge a foot into half a foot of icy water, cleverly disguised beneath the leaves. The wildlife knows this, squirrels nimbly skip from rock to log without touching down on suspicious leaf piles. A light wind makes the few remaining leaves quiver on the branches they still cling to. Autumn is coming to a close and soon snow will cover everything, and the leaves will lose their crispness. The air is full of scent, the richness of decomposing tree matter and as I inhale I wonder how long the trees will remain there until the join the soil entirely.

A comparison of Devil’s Den with Centennial Woods, in the style of Holland

As I have witnessed at Centennial Woods in Vermont, I watch a squirrel leaps down the remaining few feet of a towering oak in Connecticut at the Devil’s Den. He quivers at the base of the tree, slightly lighter grey belly moving inward and outward, paws pressed together. The gray squirrel prefers to live in a hardwood forest although I see them at the primarily evergreen site at Centennial as well, subsisting on acorns, beechnuts, butternuts, berries, maple seeds and more. They are agile, and skilled at jumping and climbing trees, scampering from branch to branch. Overhead, a red tailed hawk circles, a sight I wouldn’t be able to see through the dense canopy of evergreen at Centennial Woods. The red tailed hawk has a fanned tail and a wingspan of about 4 feet. They soar with scarcely any wing movement for moments on end. I also see white-tailed deer, cautious and easily startled when they catch sight of a stranger sitting between two red maples. I have never seen a deer in Vermont, perhaps it is the prevalence of hunting? Or the proximity to campus? The question fascinates me because my new spot is half a mile to Rt 7, much closer to dangers and disturbances.


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Nov. 5th Centennial Update

Hey everyone! I went to visit my site again on a cloudy November day and was excited to see some distinct changes. Firstly, the ground that had been exclusively covered in golden brown pine needles was now mixed with yellow sugar maple leaves which blew in from where they grow at the edge of the stream. This will create fresh organic material on the O-horizon on the soil. The lack of leaves in the canopy will allow for more sunlight to reach the vegetation.  Secondly, the stream looked very impressive this visit because all the rain recently caused a very high stream flow, and expanding the width of the stream. A windy stream such as this one indicates the bank is being actively undercut by the stream flow and eroding the edges. Places that had been uncovered sandy areas before, were now hidden by all the water which appeared to have a high turbidity because of it’s brownish color. The Sugar Maples are still retaining a decent portion of their leaves, but significantly less than my last visit as evidenced by their presence on the forest floor. The conifers look much the same, except for the vivid green color and almost black bark that resulted from being absolutely saturated with rain. I spent a good amount of my time there, walking the length of the area and observing. I hope my experience is transferred through the event map I created. 

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October in the Pine Clearing

Hello all. Visiting the pine clearing in late October reveals that the area looks similar to the rest of the year because it’s comprised of almost entirely conifers. Although the Eastern White Pine do not lose their leaves as dramatically as deciduous forests, they are continuously shedding needles which decompose on the forest floor. The decomposing pine needles make for a very acidic, nutrient rich soil. Since the site is right by a stream, the soil is also very most which explains the presence of Eastern Hemlock which prefers moist, acidic soil and lots of shade. There is evidence of chipmunk burrows amongst the cover of pine needles, measuring about 5-6 inches in width. I found three of these, far from any of the trees.  Perhaps the presence of chipmunks will draw some bigger predators to Centennial Woods or birds of prey such as hawks or owls. Although certainly not owls, I did find evidence of woodpeckers in the wood of  2 of the Eastern Pines Trees which had large oval shaped gouge marks. It’s common to see this marks in confiders because they typically have softer wood than hardwoods such as oak or maple. Looking forward to seeing the spectacular colors of late fall!

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Introduction to Phenology Site

Hello everyone! My phenology site is in Centennial Woods. This expanse of forest has beautiful walking trails and I often frequent it for a morning run. Running through it’s winding trails, I am introduced to a number of different forest stands. There are deciduous and coniferous forests, meadows and wetlands. However, I found one place I liked especially. After entering the woods at the corner of Spear Street and Carrigan Drive, one only has to follow the trail, take a left past the eastern hemlock clearing, until they are at the site I am studying. I call this the pine clearing. The floor of the clearing is coated in golden pine needles which have fallen from the dominant species, Eastern White Pine. Along with Eastern White Pine, there is Striped Maple in the understory and Eastern Hemlock in the overstory. The sight is edged by a wide stream with rapid stream flow. The soil by the stream is very sandy which indicated permeability. This means that likely whatever is in the water, ends up in the soil of my Pine Clearing whether it is runoff, or dissolved nutrients from further upstream. There is also Hemlock Hill Fern growing in large patches. One of the reasons the site caught my eye is the lack of small vegetation on the ground, either covered by needles or too small to see as well as the beautiful movement of the river. The forest composition is decidedly evergreen and is mostly located in the overstory. I am excited to share more about this beautiful place!

https://goo.gl/maps/EH1HzMrTfEz to see map!

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