A Phenological Exploration of Centennial Woods – A New Beginning


I decided to choose a new location for the spring semester phenology project, as I felt the Burlington Country Club golf course was not exactly a good location to observe natural phenological processes due to the overwhelming human influence in the area. To get to my new phenology spot, I entered Centennial Woods by the UVM Medical Center and continued down trail until reaching the meandering frozen stream. At this point I decided to wander off trail to the left until I came across a small clearing that borders the stream. There were many signs of wildlife at my location.First, I discovered what I believe to be the tracks of a cottontail rabbit, who crossed the stream I stood on the bank of and continued down the bank back into the denser sections of forest. As I stood photographing the evidence of wildlife imprinted into the snow, the familiar smacking of beak against bark was clearly audible. I was lucky enough to spot a pileated woodpecker searching for food in a nearby tree. After I made my presence known with a stumble, the pecking stopped but the bird remained in the tree. Some deciduous tree species I was able to identify by their buds and bark were sugar maple, red maple, Norway maple, and paper birch, with one bud that I was unable to identify.

Pictured above: Tracks of what I believe to be a cottontail rabbit.

Pictured above: Pileated Woodpecker, located towards the bottom, red feathers on head help with identification.

Pictured above: Paper Birch on left, buds of sugar maple and Norway maple and one bud that I was unable to identify


Pictured above: Sketch of Norway Maple Bud

Saying Goodbye – A Phenological Retrospective

I never have been good at saying at goodbye, so this isn’t going to be easy. With you, my readers, we have explored a world that would otherwise remain unobserved, that lies not too far off from where I lay my head at night. Together, we have identified tree species, spotted wildlife, and examined the natural history of a spot that is now dear to my heart. After doing a bit of research on the history of the Burlington Country Club, I learned that the 150 acres that the golfing community takes up was purchased in 1924 from Fairholt Estate. The Fairholt estate was built in as a summer home for publisher Henry Holt in the 1890’s, and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of Shelburne Farms and Central Park in New York. The location has been transferred from owner to owner over the years, but the land was remained mostly unharvested and unused for agricultural or natural resource collection for the last one hundred years. However, being close to the road and because of other signs of evidence, I am assuming my forest is young. There is not an excess of paper birch, an early succession species, but the dominance of eastern white pine in my clearing shows evidence of forest age. The prominence of sugar maple also leads me to believe this small stretch has been established for around 20-30 years. The connection I have formed with this forest grotto is indescribable, as I have watched the seasons change and Mother Nature put the world around me to sleep.

Off to the Hills of Southern California

Highlands of the Los Angeles Basin

In the style of Aldo Leopold – The sounding of rushing wind pounds my ears as I turn to face the burning red sky. The grasses I like to remember as waving, deep green, and full of life now lay sun dried and dormant. The echo of a hawk’s screech echoes throughout the valleys and hills of the Las Virgenes Highlands. The oak dotted chaparral foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains that seperate the San Fernando Valley from the rest of the Los Angeles Basin are unique, and its mostly unforested features allow for exquisite views in all directions. The mighty blue Pacific lies just to the west beyond the green tinged Santa Monicas, while to the east the snow capped peaks of the San Gabriel mountains are visible through the valley haze. The tall grass poked my sides as I maneuvered my way through a skinnier section of trail, and the barren coast live oak branches hauntingly hanging above my head reminded me this landscape would soon resemble the meadows featured in The Sound of Music once the rains of spring came. As the sun dipped below the 3000′ peaks of the Santa Monicas the all too familiar yipping of a pack of coyotes was audible, sounding relatively close to me, presumably hunting a cotton tail rabbit. Dust covered my sneakers as I trudged back to the trailhead, the cold of dusk seeping over the hills, dark fully enveloping my surroundings as I drove back down into the valley.

In the style of Mable Wright – The cool, damp woods surrounding Burlington differ greatly from the sweltering savannah of Southern California. In the forested Champlain Valley, mixed armies of deciduous and coniferous trees stand tall and at attention as far as the eye can see, and the mess of sticks and leaves are sparsely covered by pearly patches of snow. A blanket of snow covers the surrounding vegetation rather than dust, and the timid sun sparingly graces the cold earth with its presence. Poison ivy is the largest threat in my wooded grove rather than menacing rattlesnakes, however I find myself warier of the former. Amongst the bald foothills of the Santa Monica mountains, the lone oak guards its sanctuary on the summit, and its naked form prepares to embrace the cooling rains to come, needing to be refreshed after months of intense heat and sun exposure. The loud howls of coyotes fill the nights on one side of the country while the silence in Vermont is unbroken except maybe by the hoot of a snow owl or the stirring of a bobcat. Wind blows both through the coastal California grass and Vermont maples, and no grass in either region is a stranger to swaying. As the day comes to an end, the moon rises amongst the clouds of east while the sun beams strongly in the west, continuing its reign for another 3 hours.



Winter is coming…

Winter is coming…

Hey! It hasn’t been too long since my last blog post, but my nestle of wooded peace alongside the Burlington country club has experienced many changes since I last wrote. Last time, during the peak of foliage, the leaves were golden, red, and green, and clung onto the trees. Now, many of the trees that surround me are bare and look haunting in their dusky backdrop. The forest floor is littered with brown and decaying leaves, and there is very little visible insect activity. I am excited to see how my spot will look covered in snow and I can’t wait to breathe in the cool winter air.


My Event Map

My Poem

Days pass by fast like a hummingbird.

Late afternoon, chatty chirps and whistling wind come together to

produce the most beautiful song I’ve heard.

Leaves crunch under my feet,

Signifying the end of one season and the beginning of the next.

Sitting alone in the woods just cannot be beat.

I will soon bring out the jackets with down,

But while shivering in the nighttime rain I’ve found it hard to frown.


Blog Post 2 – Map and More

Some changes in vegetation that I have noticed since my last visit is that the leaves of the hardwoods have began to change color and fall, and one of the box elders have even become leafless. The conifers have not seemed to undergo any changes, nor have the shorter plants such as the poison ivy. It is also now difficult to see the forest floor due to the increase of leaves on the ground. It is difficult to observe changes in the shrubbery as it is as unkempt as before. This visit an owl graced me with its presence as it was perched at the top of an eastern white pine and hooting. It was too dark to try to identify the owl, but that was the only animal presence I have observed at my spot.

Forested Area of Burlington Country Club

My location for the phenology project is the wooded area complete with a small clearing that is right off the golf course of the Burlington Country Club. To get there, I take a left on South Prospect St. from the Redstone dorm complex until I reach the club. Then, making a right turn right after entering straight into the woods. I chose this place for a couple of reasons. First, it is very close to my dorm building so it is very accessible. Second, it is a beautiful plot of land with spots of native Vermont forest, so I thought it would it be a good example for this project. Finally, I saw an owl there during my first visit so I figured it would be a good place for wildlife spotting. There is dense vegetation including poison ivy along with the hardwood forest floor which is characteristically covered in leaves and branches. Some wooded plants I observed in this plot included, black cherry, eastern white pine, striped maple, and green ash.


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