Where Has the Time Gone…

Soon I won’t be able to call myself a freshman in college anymore. Soon I will be a sophomore, a wise fool who thinks they know the ins and outs of the world because they just survived a hard transitional year in their life. Hopefully, I won’t be that foolish next year though. I have experienced so much in my first year at UVM and my phenology blog has been there for it all. From the very beginning when I was just getting to know my soon to be friends and when I was still trying to figure out how to work the washing machines in the UHS building. All the way to now where I’m ready to set off on my next adventure and hopefully conquer Chem-31 next semester.

 

At my phenology spot nature and culture intertwine in the use of the pines. Hammockers flock to the pines at the first sight of warm weather. Friends gather at night in the pines to gaze up at the stars. At least me and my friends did that one night last semester and it sure was a beautiful view. I think I have come to see myself in my place because I spend so much time in it. I not only go there to determine what focal tree species are present or to track animals in the snow for the blog. I also go there to bond with my friends, to get away from the dorm,  to clear my head and sketch the beautiful scenery, to enjoy the breeze. The snow is all gone now and the grass is growing in its place. Squirrels scamper along the ground, finally free from the harsh temperatures of winter. The conifers are healthy and strong, casting shadows across their fallen needles on the pine floor. My spot has come alive in the wake of spring this month of May and I’m sad to have to say goodbye. Well, until next year…Godspeed.

What Is Spring?

I expected there to be no snow on the ground by the time I next visited my phenology spot, however I must not know Vermont as well as I thought I did for the Redstone Pines were covered when I stopped by this past weekend.  My phenology spot is located in the center of the green space on Redstone Campus and ringed by a collection of Eastern White Pines, Red Pines, and a Hemlock or two. Therefore their are no riparian areas or vernal pools which could sustain amphibians. The temperatures are still cold and the land covered in snow, so no wildflowers can be seen, nor have the trees in the area begun to flower.

My phenology spot is located close to the edge of the pines and I would classify it as a edge habitat versus amongst the forest interior. Woodland edges are sunnier, warmer, windier, drier and experience more dramatic environmental changes than the forest interior. Edge habitats are also more prone to disturbance and support a larger variety and higher density of predators. I do not believe my spot is adequate to provide habitat for forest interior species.

~Spring Break Spot~

Spring Break couldn’t have come sooner for me and it definitely did not disappoint! For most of my break I spent it away from home in Orlando, Florida. However, between going to Disney World with my seven year-old brother and visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter there was no time to visit a natural place in Florida. So between my few days spent at home I documented the wildlife, tree species, and shrubs in my own backyard!

I call Stratford, Connecticut my home and my temporary phenology spot for spring break can be found at the coordinates 41.202082, -73.144953.

The climate of my location back home is much like my spot back in Burlington. The temperature was a bit higher with temperatures being the high 30s for the week I was home versus the high 20s or high 18 which I have become used to here in Burlington, VT. The tree species in my two phenology spots however are very different. All of the trees in my phenology spot in Burlington consist of pines and other confers while my phenology spot back home consist of only deciduous trees. It was hard to identify the trees since the leaves are gone for the season and the branches are so high up since they are very tall trees. I was not able to accuratley identify them however I believe there is a beech tree among them.

When it comes to wildlife I have been lucky enough to spot many interesting species in my own backyard. One of my favorites being an albino squirrel with bright red eyes that seems to find itself running across my tall fence every other day. When it comes to bird species I have seen cardinals and bluejays pass through in the summer months. Exciting news for this spring at my spot back home is there is a mourning dove that has taken residence in one of our hanging pots. I have identified the mourning dove as a female and I believe she is building a nest in the potted fern to potentially lay her eggs there.

My yard consists of a number of ferns and other small shrubs which are still smothered in blankets of snow at this time of the year. Hopefully the end of March will bring not only warmer temperatures but new greenery appearing where snow once was.

March: Comes In like a Lion and Out like a Lamb

March has arrived and I couldn’t be happier! Not only because spring break is right around the corner but also because the season of spring is upon us! Earlier this week I visited my phenology spot with a group of friends to hammock, just like we used to in the early months of our time at UVM. The first thing that greeted us to the pines was the graveyard of pine cones that littered the wet ground.

The natural community of my phenology spot does have some major human disturbance but still can be categorized as a forest with a moderate climate area. My spot is relatively flat and does not have altering climate or communities due to elevation. The soil of the natural community has a very prominent O layer consisting of beds of pine needles, pine cones, and some leaf litter. I assume the soil has an acidic pH due to the collection of pines in the area because pine needles themselves are acidic and when they fall they have an effect on soil chemical properties. The soil was well drained and muddy upon my visit to the pines. The area does not have much slope aspect meaning there will not be strong changes in micro climate in the area. It is very windy in the pines, making it a great spot for gently swinging in your hammock.

The ground is no longer dry or covered in snow in the pines as it has been on my previous visits throughout the semester. The snow had melted away when I visited and the ground was wet, forming mud and making discarded needles stick to the soles of my shoes. There were also sadly no squirrels to be seen this time. In fact, the pines seemed void of life besides my friends and I who occupied the trees.

When using biofinder I focused primarily on biological factors and discovered that some rare animal species must inhabitant or cross through my phenology spot. I wonder what these animal species are. I’ll have to be sure to keep an eye open for them next time when I visit the pines. Hopefully, for my sake it will be warmer by then.

Winter has Arrived

The Start of a New Year

It is great to be back to my old phenology spot and to witness all the changes that have come over it since I left the spot in December. Now the Pines are covered in snow and the leaves have the decisions trees have since fallen off, leaving bare twigs behind. Smaller plants are now either covered in snow, deceased, or dormant until the next season. 

When I visited the Pines in search of any signs of lingering wildlife I was not too hopeful. But as I stepped into the deep blankets of freshly fallen snow I was pleasantly surprised to see I was surrounded by oddly shaped tracks. The tracks were not perfect by any means. They nearly looked like four individual holes spaced closely together. The two tracks in the front significantly bigger than the two tracks in the back.

 

I concluded that it must be a small mammal, probably a bounder or a galloper because the tracks were very spaced out from one another and each individual track represented all four feet when the small mammal landed in the snow. I followed the one set of tracks that lead me to the base of a Norway maple and I was very happy when I looked up from the tracks on the snow covered ground and spotted the animal that had just recently made them.

A grey squirrel was quickly climbing up the deciduous tree as it caught sight of me watching its progress. If I had not been lucky and spotted the squirrel on its journey when I did I know I would not have been able to accurately identify the tracks I had found.

After my encounter with the galloping grey squirrel I went along and picked some twigs off of deciduous trees which were now bare. After sketching them in my own perspective I identified three twigs I had picked as belonging to a horse chestnut, Norway maple, and white oak.

A Brief History of the Pines

I’m very sad to see how fast the time has flown. It feels just like yesterday I was a bright-eyed first year taking her first steps onto UVM’s campus. Now I’m not so bright-eyed, can actually find my way around campus without utilizing a map, and have grown to love my phenology spot for all it’s given me and for all I’ve experienced in its presence. From hammocking, to studying for the NR-1 midterm, from sketching, to ordering pizza in the middle of the day before classes, star gazing at midnight, or sledding down small slopes on discarded seat cushions and pizza boxes, I’ve done it all in the Redstone Pines. Now very little wildlife is left to be seen, besides a few squirrels scavenging for their winter diet. Pine cones litter the floor, dropping from tree to tree as needles also are discarded and soon turn yellow on the ground. The leaves of Norway maples gone until next season. It’s sad to think this will be my last blog post of the semester.

Moving on, it was very difficult to find research on the human history of the area specifically to my phenology spot near the Redstone Pines. After some research I discovered that there are some mentions of the wooded area in some readings on the actual history of Redstone Campus, which is a more documented area of UVM history. I was not able to find any early history on my phenology spot or any history relating to Native Peoples presence in the area. Therefore, the research I have gathered pertains to the land use of Redstone campus as it pertains to UVM history. In the 1800s UVM was well known as the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College. Therefore, academics at UVM were geared towards developing improved farming practices for the state of Vermont. It turns out that the are that makes up my phenology spot was utilized as experimental grounds for a number of their agricultural experiments. For example, there was a time when cattle roamed and grazed on these grounds.

All rights reserved to United States Department of the Interior: National Park Service.

Well goodbye Redstone Pines! See you next semester!

Flashback Friday

Flashback to the first time I ever visited the Redstone Pines and jammed with my newfound friends as the sun set in the background.

Circa August 2017 UVM

 

A Day at the Beach

The Trees of the Redstone Pines


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