Author Archives: saclelan

Last Visit of the Year

Today I made one last visit to my phenology. It was around 50 degrees and partially sunny. Already I noticed slight change from my last visit- the fiddleheads arrived. Reflecting all the way back to my first visit to the site in September, I remember how heavily vegetated with ferns the understory becomes later in the season.

Additionally, the bright morning brought about lots of life. I heard several bird species chirping and even saw a chipmunk. Everything was lively. Having visited this site time and time again throughout the semester, I have grown a connection to the area and loved to witness its phenological changes. While understanding that the ecosystem does not need me to be whole, I still consider myself part of it. I am a piece of the ecosystem the same way every other plant or animal is. My visits and connection to the site has allowed me to value the site in a new way beyond just the its traditional ecological values. I think it is important for people to draw these connections to the land and feel a sense of place as it benefits both the land and individual.

Nature and culture have a strong history, intertwining at my spot. The location was initially Abenaki land used to support a naturalist, complex system of people. Over the years as culture changed, so did the land. In the time of peak land clearance, the forest disappeared, hurting biodiversity. Still, the resilience the land allowed for the forest return. As the forest developed so did human culture. Today the individual paths of development of the forest and myself have lead us to a place where connection was created.

Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall

Emergence of Spring

Yesterdays visit to my phenology site was a muddy adventure. The snow has entirely retreated and spring is in the air. Scattered on the floor of my site were tiny saplings and various grasses. Still, my site did not show signs of any wildflowers quite yet.

Several larger plants at the site had began to bud. Unfortunately one of the more dominant plants budding in my site was the invasive species honeysuckle. Their early return from winter pushes out other native species that bud and bloom later on. The only other tree I saw beginning to bud was a White Oak.

Something interesting I noticed was lots of evidence of sensitive fern’s in at my site. Although I could not yet spot any coming in for the season, there were many fertile fronds standing about.

Lastly it seemed my site was filled with snags, many covered in wood pecker holes. Although the only bird I spotted was a chickadee, the site itself is surely great habitat for many species.

Black Point

This week I visited Black Point Park and Fishing Area in Narragansett, Rhode Island. During my visit I mainly followed the Malcolm Grant Trail which historically is a well known public access point and natural area along Narragansett Bay. I found it interesting how drastically the vegetation changed in relation to distance from the ocean. The initial ecosystem seemed to dominate with hardwood trees including species such Black Cherry and Ash. The species found here overlapped with tree species at my VT Centennial site though Eastern White Pines did not dominate the Black Point stand as they do in Centennial. Closer to the ocean was a buffering area of small shrubs and grasses. Some of these species included pokeweed and winged sumac, both which are not found at my regular phenology site. Black Point was also noticeably more windy then my site in VT where a larger forest patch creates wind protection. This difference may create even more differences in the species who live in each habitat.

Walking along the muddy parts of the trail I saw many dog tracks alongside human footprints. Unfortunately these were the only tracks I founds. Still, I suspect both White Tailed deer and Red Fox to live in this region. Deer as they are a very common and an adaptable species, and Red Foxes as they thrive in areas with both woodland and forest edge.

The cliff area boarding the ocean showed cracks and erosion from the water. Additionally all of the stones found on several stone beach inlets were smooth from the constant crashing of waves. This differed from the stones at my Centennial Site that exist jagged and have undergone far less erosion from the weaker brook. Viewing the calmer waters protected by inlets I saw several coastal bird species not found in Centennial such as mergansers ducks. Although the woodland area found at Black Point did share several species with that of my site in Centennial, the ecosystems as a whole are very different. Centennial is a developing complex forest while Black Point is a coastal habitat making the two fundamentally different.

Natural Community

Based off of the information found in Wetland, Woodland, and Wildland, my phenology site can be classified as an old growth forest. Although the forest is historically known to be young and therefore not as complex as it may become in the future, several hints lead me to believe the forest is entering an old-growth, second succession stage. For instance, my site contains many birch trees who are now dying due to their shorter longevity. These trees were likely from the prior stem-exlucsion forest stage but now are blocked sunlight by the dominating Eastern White Pines. Additionally, although not currently, I know in the warmer months that my site has a very strong, dense understory. This further supports the complexity of an old growth forest.

Beyond the disappearance of understory vegetation since my first visit to my site, I have recently noticed lots of dying tree decay during the cold winter months. The area in general is much more sparse. The brook that flows within my site is more turbulent than past visits as it is full of run off and precipitation. Additionally it seems that erosion along the edges of the brook has left sand and rocky sediments to mix into the turbulent water flow.

Winter Life


Today during my trip to Centennial, although I did not see any animals, I witnessed many indicators of life in the area. Heading down the path, I spotted what looked like the paw prints of several dogs. These animals were clearly having a fun time running around and exerting excess energy. Entering into the less-travelled core region of my phenology site, by the brook, I spotted the tracks of deers who had appeared to cross the river. Additionally, I saw what looked to be the pacing prints of a raccoon. Listening I could hear a crow somewhere in the canopy. Lastly I noticed what looked to be a cluster of small, black snails gathered on a dying tree.


Compared to my last visit in December, life in the area has seemed to pick up. I received this impression based off of the many animal tracks present in the area. Deep snow covered all areas of the ground now and enclosed the brook edges. Although the forest remains bare, the area’s Eastern White pines provide a small amount of vegetation up in the canopy. Tree decay has continued on the fallen and death trees at my site, but many hardwoods stand tall and healthy waiting for spring. Some of these species included:

Ash Tree

Sugar Maple

Beech tree


Centennial Woods History


A brief history of Centennial Woods: Centennial woods grows upon the site of the ancient Champlain Sea from 10,000 years ago, this explains the forest’s sandy soils. In more modern history the Abenaki Native American tribe lived sustainably in this region of Vermont hundreds of years ago. They likely hunted, gathered and passed through areas of Centennial during this time. With the movement of European Settlers into the area during the 19th century, Centennials old growth forests were cleared for agricultural purposes and timber. Entering the 20th century re-growth began in some areas of Vermont including the northeastern region of Centennial woods. Only later on in this century, following 1947 did regrowth begin in the lower region of Centennial Woods where my phenology site can be found. This information was determined by Ariel images of the region provided by Burlington geographic.

Left: 1937 Aerial Photograph of Burlington, VT by Sunburn Co.                                              Screenshot of Centennial Woods by me.

Right: Present map of vegetation in Burlington, VT provided by Burlington Geographic. Screenshot of Centennial Woods by me.

When I visited my site this week I found it buried and a sparkly, thin layer of fresh snow. I was shocked to see how many trees had fallen since my last visit although most were standing snags that had fallen. Considering the history of this region of Centennial it makes since that some of the young forests original trees, with shorter longevities such as White Birch trees, are now nearing old age and death.



Mary Holland

Beavertail State Park, November:

Beavertail is especially crisp in late november as the area’s lush summer vegetation has disappeared and given the area more of a hollow beauty. The trees have lost their leaves in preparation for the colder months ahead, all life enters into survival mode.

Chickadee– permanent residents

These gray, black, and white little birds are preparing for the cold. As they have been chowing down on seeds and berries all summer and fall they are finally at maximum size, ready for winter. Their plumb bodies will help them to make it to spring, even when food becomes more scarce.

Honeysuckle– Invasive King

Honeysuckle plants thrive in this area, easily growing and dominating out some of the more local plants. Although flowerless in the cold, they maintain power in numbers as the clear rulers.

White Tailed Deer– Preparation Mode

The deer population is booming at this time of the year, following the replenishment of many young new fawns over the spring and summer. Sighted deer tracks indicate they are on the move, likely eating what vegetation they can find in preparation for future food scarcity.

Paper Birch Trees– First Responders

Paper Birch trees line parts of the trail, exemplifying their ability to grown in damaged forest areas. They stand tall and beautiful inciating to me that the trails creation is fairly young, less than 40 years.

Aldo Leopold

An Comparison Between Beavertail and Centennial Woods in Late November:

This week’s guest phenology site was beautiful Beavertail State Park in Jamestown Rhode Island. The small peninsula stands tall lined with menacing shale bluffs. Hidden between the guarding rocks are small sandy coves waiting to be explored. I notice how the water lapses and swirls creating small tide pools upon protruding shale. Similar to the stream side erosion at my site in Centennial Woods, the shale bluffs appears to be chipping away on a much larger scale with the constant crashing waves. Another similarity I notice between the two sites are the skeletons of seasonal shrubs and trees. Here at Beavertail honeysuckle is far more dominant, intertwined with thickly growing pricker bushes. Rather, at Centennial, the areas understory is more bare. A noticeable amount of Paper Birch trees line the trail, mixed with an assortment of native New England trees at both sites. Mysteriously mixed in at Beavertail is an unusual tree with small pink flowers still in bloom, standing alone. Shrubs full of red and blue berries also line the trails here in Beavertail, proving to host more invasive species. A Chickadee can be heard sweetly chirping in the distance and left in the dark brown mud are the tracks of a deep. Both of these indications of life are something not yet observed in Centennial. Lastly, a small mushroom sits in the grass, slowly eating away at autumns fallen leaves. It has a golden-brown, marshmallow complexion with the addition of small white speckles. This mushroom reminds me of the ones spotted on my last phenology site visit in Vermont.

The Arrival of November


Yesterday morning I took a walk down to Centennial Woods and visited my phenology site. This was a great way to start my day and the rainy weather woke me up. As a results of this rain the stream’s water level was very high, nearly flooding in some places. Witnessing this rushing water helps me to understand the stream-side erosion I had observed on earlier visits. Also during this visit I noticed a dying Paper Birch tree. Knowing Centennial Woods to be fairly young, it makes sense that this birch tree could’ve been a re-gorwth tree from the “Stem Exclusion” stage of the forest. Now that Eastern White Pine trees have become dominant, in the old growth forest stage, trees like this Paper Birch are blocked of sunlight and die. Lastly, on the Paper Birch I also observed wood pecker holes. Hopefully I can soon spot the bird who made these holes!

Photo Gallery




Event Map

Autumn Visit


Sunday I stopped by my phenology site and noticed immediate change. Many of the deciduous understory trees had changing leaves and bare limbs. This allowed me to see much further into the forest beyond my spot. The Eastern White Pines, making up the main overstory of my site, maintained their green needles, keeping the area looking alive. Still, it was clear the forest is preparing for winter. Another indication of winter’s coming was the lack of animals. I did not see nor hear any life beyond the trees and shrubs during this visit. My last observation was a check-up on my site’s Ash tree. It continues to look healthy and beetle free.

Birdseye map of site –

Green and Alive


Today I visited my phenology site. I have a small clearing in Centennial Woods, alongside the creek. I was drawn to choose this location because of its natural beauty. The combination of the creek’s movement and surrounding vegetation make the area feel extra alive. The most common tree at the site is Eastern White Pine, but there are several Ash and Buckthorn trees as well. I am curious if I will see the first hand affects of invasive Emerald Ash Borer’s in the coming months on my sites healthy looking Ash’s. Although there are lots of other diverse trees, such as a Boxelder and Paper Birch, the grounds of my site are covered densely with smaller plants and saplings. Over-story trees seemed more dominant. Getting to the location is straight forward from the Centennial trail entrance. If you follow the trail straight, turning right off of the first path split, you will arrive in no time.