The sun warms my back as I breathe in the cool crisp air of the coming winter. The sounds of jets and planes fill the air from the nearby airport as I finally make it to the clearing where my phenology spot is housed. I notice a soft ominous wind that gently shakes the trees. The sounds of planes stop and the voices of the forest come alive. I can hear the brook further down the trail flowing vigorously from the rainfall earlier in the weekend. The songs of chickadees calling to each other and voices of crows echo through the woods. I look up and see the needles of the Eastern White pines, and the beautiful golden leaves of a Green Ash and Norway maple. The ferns at my feet still glisten with their green leaves holding on to the last warm days of the season before the first snowfall.
The air smells of mud and the cold, as if the atmosphere was teasing me of the ended summer and the closing winter. Almost stumbling over a rock I notice a dug whole between the roots of one of the pines. It seems that some animal, possibly a chipmunk or a rabbit, had made its den for the winter. The chipmunk storing its food, or the rabbit finding a place to keep warm as it coat changes from summer brown to winter white. As I make my way back on to the trail I notice another yellow tag, like the mentioned before on the Green Ash, this time on a smaller understory tree. This new tag along with the old one have made me wonder what certain humans have in store for my phenology spot.
My existence starts surrounded by those that share my identity. As I get older, I move from the those who I love to cling to, and become a little but not completely independent of them. Then someone bumps into me and gives me the energy to go out on my own, becoming freer than ever. As I move higher and higher into the world, I condense myself and my assets with others, and create a seemingly fluffy life. Too many of us join the life of comfort; I and others fall out of the overcrowded space. As I fall, I develop back into my original self. Plop, I hit a bundle of five needles, and roll off hitting a Norway maple that still has its leaves. I sit there as more who share my identity join me, together we bend the leaf and we fall. Most of us loose each other, some hitting the ground, and some hitting leaf litter. I, however, hit something different, a waxy substance that constricts me into a bead. A warm hand pushes me off the yellow notebook, and I fall to the ground breaking into different parts of myself. All the differences that make up my personality, spread out in different directions leaving me alone with nothing but one thought: who am I?
Eastern White Pine trees
Standing tall against the wind
With the strength of life
Sitting on a rock
Acarophobia sets in
Ticks crawl up my legs
Golden leaves lie down
Bowing to nature’s great forces
The area smelled of worms and ozone, due to the rainfall earlier that morning. I noticed the sounds of silence as most of the birds have gone for the winter. The changes to vegetation have been very apparent since the last blog post. Now cold and mid-October, all the Ash, Black Cherry, and American Crabapple trees in the spot, except for the understory of Yellow Birch, Norway Maple, and Honeysuckle plants, have lost their yellow leaves to the ground. The Virginia creeper usually red and abundant has now lost its leaves, the stems are all that remain.
On the leaf littered ground, a fallen log shows signs of wildlife. A closer look reveals termite tracks from the summer have run their way all over the log. I could not find any evidence of food collection for hibernation, scat, or birds. It seems as though everything has gone dormant for the coming winter. I did however find a yellow band around an ash, showing evidence of human-sized wildlife. Then on my way out of the brush of understory that conceals my sit spot I noticed black spots on my pants. I bend down and realize that their are two nymph ticks are climbing their way towards the warmer regions of my body. Of course having acarophobia, I freaked out, pulled them out of my pants, and ran out of the spot as fast as I could.
One might wonder about the reasons students choose to study the environment at a school surrounded by a city. But, even in those developed places ecosystems and natural areas can be found everywhere. One of UVM’s beautiful natural areas is that of Centennial Woods, a place named for the longevity of its trees. I decided to choose it as the place where my phenology adventured would be housed, and took a stroll to see if anything would catch my eye.
Walking through the woods, I looked for a spot in a new adventure of phenology. As I walked deeper into the forest, the hardwood and Box Elder trees disappeared, and I came into the beginning of the Eastern White Pine forest of Centennial Woods. When I stopped to take a water break, I noticed light shining through the brush, to the left of the trail. So, being the curious person I am, I went exploring. As I pushed my way through the last young American Crabapples, the forest opened up into a clearing. The space had an old Eastern White Pine in the middle, with what seemed to be Virginia Creeper all over the ground and up the tree trunk. All around the clearing was Eastern White pines of all ages, with some younger understory hardwoods mixed in. The place spoke to me in a way I did not understand. It must of been the feng shui of the trees around the clearing, the nostalgia of the forests of home, or the excitement of being able to experience the battle between the older pine and the vine, that led me to choose the place as my new adventure.
List of Most Common Woody Plants: