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Spring Break Spot

Over spring break, I visited North Carolina for spring training for the UVM Sailing Team. The first thing that I noticed when we got into North Carolina was that there was very little natural area. Almost everything was huge expanses of mono crop land that would stretch for hundreds of acres. I noticed algae growing in the drainage ditches along the land. In the car with me both ways were a junior Environmental Science Major and a junior Agriculture Major who focuses on the environment. We had great conversations in the car ride about the lack of natural land and how the mono crop farming was completely unsustainable.

This led me to having some great conversations about restored lands around the area. There were often small patches as we drove by with much smaller trees that was obviously a new forest beginning to form. One person posed a question about whether this was an intentional regrowth project like Jericho Research Facility or if it was an abandoned field. It was determined to most likely be an abandoned field due to the fact that there was some species diversity and the trees were all oddly spaced. There were also trees in different stages of life and size, though most of them were around the same size. It was determined the abandoned field was now well into primary succession because the trees were over 15 feet tall, but not nearly mature. There were all softwoods in the patch of land, and I do not think there were any dead trees.

One major problem for me was that there were no natural areas in North Carolina that were not touched by humans recently. There was the occasional patch of trees, but nothing I could consider for a phenology spot. Therefore, I had to improvise. I was constantly sailing, and the water and coastline seemed like a fairly untouched area, so I decided to go with these as a whole as my phenology site. I was very busy this trip, so it was hard to immerse myself for an hour in one place, but I was constantly on the coast and observing from the boats and from the shore and lunch, so I decided to use these encounters as my site.

I noticed several birds of prey. Unfortunately, my phone camera was not good enough to get a quality picture to help with the identification process. I am not good at identifying them, but I noticed a particular habit to stick over the land rather than the water because the land was warmer. When the Seabreeze filled, the air would rise at the land and fall at the ocean, so the birds stayed in the updraft to use less wing power while looking for prey. I saw a few quick dives toward the shore, but nothing extreme. I wish I could have identified the types of birds they were.

I also noticed very few hardwoods. I could not identify the exact tree species because they were foreign species to me, but the majority of pines seemed to be a close relative the Eastern White Pines. They completely overpopulated all of the other tree species. They would grow in the primary succession forests, in the patches of forests, right on the edge of the water, or anywhere else. They were always the dominant species in the area. The only hardwoods I noticed were outside of the hotel where they were intentionally planted or left uncut to enhance the view.


Visit on March 8, 2019

Today I visited my site again to learn about whether it is a wetland, woodland, or woodland. I was debating between wetland and woodland, but I ultimately determined that my site is mainly woodland. The majority of the land is woods, with several different species of trees and a vast number of trees. The very edge of my site is the water, but this is flowing water, not a marsh. The water actually curves away from my site because it is on too high ground due to the roots from the trees holding the land in place when the water began flowing. Many of the tree species are very old, including my central tree, an eastern white pine, which towers over the other trees. There are a vast number of Eastern Hemlocks that take up the majority of the underbrush. There are three distinct trees that lean over the brook toward the wetland, which are starting to cave to the erosion caused by the Brooke. They are still holding strong, but it is evident that they will most likely uproot soon. For the moment, they are the main barrier holding my site back from the pull of the water, helping it maintain its trees and not be overrun by water. That and the natural steep incline from the water to the path that I use to get to my site. This is how I determined that my land was woodland.

There is land on the other side of the Brooke that is wetland because it is clearly marsh. The soil is constantly saturated with water and no trees grow in the area. It is filled with cattails, reeds, and various grasses. This area, on the other side of the brook, is wetland, while the side where my site is is most definitely woodland.

Even with the increased precipitation, there are still a few inches of snow on the ground, allowing for perfect tracking with no new snow covering existing tracks and holding the animals back from coming outside. The Brooke is showing no signs of water level increase due to the precipitation. Whereas at the beginning of the year its flow would change with the rain, from running rapid and high after rainfall to a shallow trickle during a dry spell, the Brooke is now completely frozen over and showing no signs of even flowing during these cold months. There seemed to be an abundance of sunlight today. With no clouds and no deciduous leaves blocking the flow of light, it poured right through in strips through the trunks. The ferns that once populated my site and made reaching the water quite difficult now show no signs of returning in the near future. All in all, my site currently looks like a totally different, white washed version of what it used to be. It will be interesting to see it return to its original state as we move into the second half of the semester.

some sort of dog print, maybe a coyote.
More dog prints. I saw many going down to the water, presumably for a drink, and then climbing back up after.
Odd double print that appears to be a cat print on the left half but a dog print on the right half. The print points to the right of the picture.
Deer poop along with several deer prints in the area. I believe that the deer were trying to find a way down to the water, but the way that they chose was too steep so they wandered for a little and then turned back to go on the less slanted path to the water.
I am not sure exactly what animal this is. I know that it is most likely a hopper, but its large paw seemed to land behind the front. I don’t think it is a rabbit.
This was a small animal, I believe a chipmunk or a squirrel that was trying to get to the water, but could not get over the log. It ran along side the log with a purpose. Once it got to the edge of the log, its path continued to the water.

This is a picture of my site again. Unfortunately, there were a lot of prints that crossed each other, making it hard to decipher. Many were boot prints, but the majority were animals. The water was completely frozen this trip over and did not appear to be flowing. There were two layers of ice, one from early freezing and one just over the water that was much thicker than the original. This is was much thicker this time around, presumably making it more difficult for the animals to find water. There was an abundance of tracks this time around, so I decided to heavily focus on those for this visit.

February 2nd Visit

On February 2nd, I visited the same sight as I did first semester. I found the same Eastern White Pine and began my winter tree identification as well as my tracking. Easily, I was able to spot the distinctive yellow birch right next the my central tree. The small ribbon curling bark with the yellow tint made it really easy to identify this tree, even without its leaves.

Unfortunately, on the day that I visited, we had gotten about 3 inches of snow the night before, so a lot of the prevalent tracks were filled with powder. This made identifying the animals very difficult because I could not get an accurate paw print. So I tried looking for small animal tracks, such as mice and chipmunks scurrying across the top of the fresh powder. No such luck. I did find some tracks that I was able to identify as most likely being deer based on the approximate size and the relative shape. The hoof print at the front of the track where its toes were stood out often even with the snow filling the print.

There was one distinctive fact that I noticed about all of the prints in my area, though. They were all headed toward Centennial Brook for water. Even though it was frozen over, on the edges where the snow caved in and the ice had not quite formed, the animals would go right down to this area. There was a deer that walked across the brook to the other side. I also identified about 3 more deer tracks, all headed toward the brook for a refreshing drink of water. I thought that it was really interesting to see the general trend. Every track in my area was distinctly heading toward the brook in a straight line, conserving their energy on the cold wintery day.

I do believe that I may have seen a cat print, but it may have been a large deer print where the deer slipped. It did appear to have no claws and four toes, but almost the entire print was filled in my the time I got there and there were no other prints nearby that looked to be the same shape, which I found really odd.

One other thing that I noticed was that I was not the first one in my area. There must have been other people with locations close to mine because there were many distinctly human tracks that often would walk alongside the tracks before turning around and heading back to a nearby central tree. This wreaked havoc on my tracking by the time I got there because with the snow, sometimes the human and animal tracks would blend together.

Overall, I hope to return soon on a better tracking day to identify more tracks and hopefully be able to tell a better story. central tree

yellow birch

various deer tracks

 main view

more deer tracks

 water hole

best deer track I could find, see hoof prints in front

maybe a cat print? see paws on top of picture

Visit on December 8

Today, I visited my phenology site for the last time for this project. There were several differences since the last time I visited this site, especially because I was away for Thanksgiving Break and have not visited in close to a month. There is snow blanketing every surface of my site, which was not there the last time I visited. All of the leaves of the deciduous trees have fallen, and the brook has even started to ice over in some areas. The land was completely different than when I last saw it because of all of the snow and the cold weather. I did have some tracks in my site too. Unfortunately, I could not identify them because the little bit of snow last night blanketed them and made then indistinguishable.

My site is deep into Centennial Woods, which is a protected natural area owned by the University of Vermont. It is several acres of thick, lush forest that sits right in the middle of Burlington, a short distance from the busy campus and downtown Burlington. It is filled with a diverse number of  species of trees and other woody plants. Today, Centennial Woods is a prime location for college students to hike through in its vast number of trails. But back in the 1800s and 1900s, the land was used for a different purpose. The woods that used to exist in the area were clearcut. This land was then used for farming just like every other piece of clear cut land in Vermont. This is evident because of all of the rock walls throughout the woods, marking the edges of property and certain enclosures throughout the old farm. The wood that was cut down was most likely sold and used for several purposes back then. Now, as a nature preserve, the trees have had a chance to regrow. There are several shade tolerant eastern hemlocks on my site as well as some large conifers. Because my site is so deep in the woods, it is slightly more mature than the edges of the forest, with some larger and older trees. There are also many more shade tolerant trees because of the lack of sunlight. The brook provides an area for some shade intolerant species to grow right on the edges. Overall, this is still a fairly young natural area that is not very mature because of its need to regrow since being clear cut. There are still many more coniferous trees, but some hardwoods are starting to be able to take a stand in the area as well.

New Site Back Home

Written in the Style of Wright

It is late November in the southern New England region, the seasons blending from fall into winter. Focused in on Rhode Island, there is still a warm feeling to the wind due to the bay a short drive to the east. Hints of winter began to peak through earlier in November with a small snow storm covering the woods in a blanket of white. The pond on my site froze over, covered in a layer of ice that one could walk across. A strong white oak, my central tree, stands tall next to the pond, with a large branch about ten feet up hanging over the pond that used to be climbed by many children including myself about a decade ago. New England has a weird way about it, with no distinct pattern to its weather, winter coming at different times every year. Autumn has come and gone, with all of the leaves of the tall oak trees in the area covering the soil in a tick blanket of various shades of brown. Vivacious leaf colors long ago left Rhode Island quickly replaced by browns and beiges. With the weather warming and rain falling several days recently, the pond is no longer covered in a layer of ice. Rather, it is overflowing with water, draining through a small stream cleared about a decade ago by my friends and me on an autumn day when we were bored. Since then, water has constantly flowed from this point when the level in the pond grows too high. Water slowly pulled at the dirt, allowing the stream to grow and flow down to the drainage ditch before the neighborhood road. Weeds and thorns long ago overtook the path to the pond due to lack of use by the children in the neighborhood. Without the constant footfalls keeping the plants at bay, the thorns make accessing this pond nearly impossible.

 

Written in the style of Leopold

Centennial Woods is completely removed from society, an oasis in the middle of a busy city. If you travel deep enough into the woods, all of the sounds of the city, the car engines, the horns, the people, they all disappear. In their places are the babbling of Centennial Brook, the chirping of the chickadees, and the whistling of the wind through the trees. Westmoreland Farms does not provide these seclusions from the sounds of the suburbs. The pond across my house are far smaller than Centennial Woods, so the sounds of the woods are mixed with the sounds of society. Car horns can be heard from the highway a mile and a half down the road. Neighborhood sounds such as children laughing, dogs barking, cars driving, and bike bells ringing can all still be heard and seen through the thin wall of trees. But the woods are still able to compete with these sounds on a windy day. The trees creak against each other and the wind whistles as it is forced to change course around the tangle of branches in the overstory. If the pond is full, the steady stream of water flowing downhill from the overflow can be heard almost as clearly as Centennial Brook. The sound of a small flock of chickadees can also be heard in the trees. The biggest difference between these two places is the sound of flailing animals caught in the thorns near the pond. These sounds often come followed by a small cry as the animals struggle to free themselves from the tangles. These sounds are not often heard in Centennial Woods because the weather is too cold for the thorns to survive. Both places still have the sounds of nature embedded into them.

Pictures from my site back home:

Visit on November 5

Today I visited my phenology site again. I noticed that a lot more twigs had fallen to the ground at my site possibly due to the heavy wind endured recently. Also, the majority of the deciduous trees at my site have fallen at this point. There seemed to generally be more death and decay, often associated with fall just before winter. The colors were not a vivid as they were two weeks ago. One other thing that I noticed was that Centennial Brook was running much more rapidly than normal because of the increased rainfall lately.

I took several more images at my site today than normal to start making my gallery. They will all be shown in the Original Photos of My Phenology Site gallery on the main home page. Some of them will be shown on this page. Also, my event map is shown below.

Visit on October 18

On October 18th I visited my phenology location again. The weather was significantly colder than my last visit. On my last visit, there was a lot more green. The ferns on the ground were beginning to turn a little yellow, but the moss was still on the dead trees. Now, the moss is starting to die, but it is not dead yet. The ferns have reduced in number by about half. There was a lot more color in the deciduous trees as well this time around because the weather has cooled off significantly the past few days. The brook was running at about the same speed as last time. The water seemed to be the same depth. All of the coniferous trees seemed to be the same.

On my second visit, I noticed a few birds that I could not identify on the upper branches of the trees. One main thing that I noticed was that on my walk over to my location, I saw two garter snakes. Then at my location, there was one under a dead tree trunk. They stood out to me because of my dislike for snakes. This visit, though, I am happy to report that I saw no snakes. I was out a little later this visit so I think that the setting sun and the cold weather drove the snakes to a warmer place. This visit, it was only about 35 degrees while last visit it was almost 70. This could explain why the snakes were no longer out. I will be keeping an eye out for squirrels and other small mammals next time I visit.

Below, I will include more pictures from my site as well as my hand drawn birds eye view of my site.

       

Visit October 9 2018

I returned to my phenology spot yesterday to get a more in-depth understanding of the surroundings. When I previously visited, my main goal was to find a good spot with a great central tree. I then looked at a few surrounding trees in close proximity to my central tree. For this visit, I focused on the species of all of the trees and woody plants in a large surrounding area. I found 7 different tree species in my area. There were:

  • 16 Eastern Hemlocks
  • 9 Eastern White Pines
  • 3 Red Maples
  • 2 Sugar Maples
  • 2 Northern Red Oak
  • 1 White Oak
  • 1 Yellow Birch

Visit on October 1st

My spot for my Phenology Project is in Centennial Woods. To get here, you go to the entrance of Centennial Woods. Take the main path along to small bridges until you reach the water. Continue up the small hill under the Northern Red Cedar until you reach a small clearing where the central tree is an Eastern Hemlock. This is a large clearing where you can either go left down a hill or to a fork in the path to the right. The left fork goes down the hill towards the water again and the right path continues up the hill. Go left until you get close to the water, which is on the left of the path. This is my location, pictured below. The central tree is an Eastern White Pine, also pictured below.

    

Many of the trees in this area are matured, making it difficult for many young trees to grow. This is because the mature trees block the sunlight above, so the young trees cannot grow and will most likely die off. The area is heavily populated with mature coniferous trees. This also makes the soil more acidic because of the dead needles, making the soil less hospitable for small woody plants to grow. This being said, the young trees in the area appear to be mainly coniferous. There are very few small woody plants in my area.

Close to my central tree are three more Eastern White Pines. There is also a yellow birch tree. Also worth noting is that there are dead trees that have naturally died because they grew to old, not because they were cut down. This is a very natural area that have been minimally affected by humans. The radius of the area around my tree that I studied recently is quite small, leading to a lack of diversity in tree species as well as small woody plants in the area. Soon I will be returning to gain an understanding of the larger area surrounding my central tree.

I chose this area because of the natural beauty. It is close enough to campus where it is easily accessible and not far off the path where I may not be able to find it again. I liked how the water naturally flowed close to my site so I could include it in the picture and see how it may also change with the seasons.

Here is the link to my Phenology Assignment Location. I will also attach a picture in case the link doesn’t work. 

 

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