My favorite forest is also reclaimed land. In the picture below, underneath the snow, a rock wall hides going up the hill in a stacked pattern. This piece of evidence that I played on as a child is evidence of the land’s previous natural history. The open spaces with large oaks that have turned into wolf trees at the top show that the hill used to be a farmscape. The rock wall was perhaps from a time making the territory of a farming who would either plant crops or graze cows or sheep. After the farm was abandoned the stages of succession took over changing the grassland to a soft wood pine forest and then the longer living hardwoods took over. In present day the understory is attempting to come back among the wild raspberries, blueberries, and brambles. And, if left untouched the forest will become an old climax hardwood forest. Before the farmscape natural history it is impossible to tell from the surroundings, although one can look at the natural history of New England and presume the harvesting of pines occurred in correlation with The Great Cutover.
Trudging through the snow, I come to my favorite forest at home. On a hill surrounded by Eastern White Pines, a hardwood White and Red Oak forest sits. With a sparse understory of pine and hemlock this forest has wide open spaces where leafy blueberries and small prickly raspberries grow in the summer. I love this place as it shows how great natural barriers are with preventing erosion, and it was a perfect place for a younger me to learn about hydrology.
Comparing this forest to the one of my original phenology spot is comparing two different types of ecosystems. My spring temporary favors sun and hardwoods over my original which favors soft pines and shaded areas of undergrowth. They’re both found on hills which speaks to how well-drained and composition of the soils needed to hold roots. My original spot showed tons of evidence of mammals higher biodiversity, than my spring temporary spot which only shows signs of Turkeys passing through and the occasional song bird heard through the trees.
A crow cries out across the forest, the only bird call I hear. It’s a stark difference from when I had first stopped to marvel at its beauty in the fall, with the songs of birds ringing throughout the forest. The trees from the understory are barren, as well as the ground which has lost all its woody species. The branches of the pines are also noticeably dryer than they were before winter. The inaccessible water from the snow with the lack of humidity has caused the trees to become brittle to the touch. The precipitation levels are still the same just in a different state of matter. The substrate has thus changed from the fertile soft forest floor it once was to a cold hard dirt with no decomposition in progress, limiting the amount of humus at this time.
Looking at Wetland, Woodland, Wildland in the Champlain Valley, I discovered that the natural community of my phenological site is a White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak Forest. I discovered this through looking at the composition of the forest around my site, which was mostly Eastern White Pine, and looking at the landscape layers of Centennial Woods. The landscape layers of Centennial are that of sand, from the Glacier Lake Vermont which washed up a sand plain. But, Pine-Oak-Heath Sandplain Forest are only on flatlands while White Pine-Red Oak-Black Oak Forest are on slopes near the sand plain. My spot sits on a slope making it the latter with a majority species of pine.
Close-up of last picture, possibly bounder
House cat tracks
Bounder, possibly weasel, traveling to an subnivean tunnel
Willow- hoodlike scale, alternate branching
Box Elder- purple downy buds
Green Ash- terminal bud surrounded by two lateral buds
Crisp air stings my face every time the wind picks up the snow drifts. The snow from the previous storm crunches each time my foot falls. After a month, I have returned to my phenology spot in Centennial woods. The surroundings are much different from the last time I visited. Snow covers the ground creating a subnivean underworld that disappears with each step of my foot. The small deciduous trees have buds sprouting from their branches.
As I trek deeper into my sit spot a gust of wind passes over the area. The Eastern White Pines creek in the wind providing a spooky ambience to the area. All around me I see tracks of all shapes and sizes. As I trudge trough the snow to leave, I think back to the first time I visited and the huge changes since the fall.
The sit spot were I frequent, in the study of phenology, sits in a forest called Centennial woods. The namesake explains the century the woods has stood, but it begs the question of before the woods was established. Looking back at the picture from 1937, in the previous post, we can see that the part of the land including my sit spot was cleared of forest. Cross-referencing that with a field guide about the woods, I deducted that it was a farmscape of some sort. The document describes the areas around my sit spot; “Because this field is no longer kept open by humans for pasture or other farm use, it is undergoing succession, or orderly change in the types of plants and animal communities that live here.” (Environmental Program 1). This quote is in a section that describes the conditions of where my sit spot lies, providing evidence, along with the map, that my phenology spot is reintegrated forestland.
Environmental Program. The Changing Landscapes of Centennial Woods Natural Area. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont. Retrieved from: http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmsc/Centennial%20Woods/Changing_Landscapes_Centennial_Woods002.pdf