Phenology Log #7

Date: Feb 26, 2020, Time: 1:15pm, Weather: Snowing and cloudy, snow on the ground had turned into ice at this point (-4°C)

From my last visit to my phenological site to this most recent one, one of the biggest changes was the decreased number of footsteps that were present. (Fig. 1) And this also came with a smaller number of different tracks with really only 2 different tracks that I was able to spot during my visit. These two tracks being of deer, presumably white-tailed deer, and only one clear cottontail rabbit track, there were seen with their respective diagonal and galloping straddles. Another change that I had noticed during my visit was the lack of mountain ash berries on the trees that I saw them on before, however, I was able to spot a few of them that had fallen on the snow. I was able to note a couple of different birds chirping during my stay there and I was also able to spot a bird on the large boxelder tree that I grabbed a twig from during my last blog, unfortunately, it was too far away for me to see clearly so I’m not able to name what species of bird it was. (Fig. 2)

Figure 1. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) Outside Centennial Woods [Photograph]
Figure 2. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) Small Bird on Top of Boxelder [Photograph]

The species that I decided to follow during my visit was a white-tailed deer. During the winter, white-tailed deer are usually scarce for food to feed off of whatever plants, twigs, fruits or nuts that are left behind. These deer typically sleep during the day in caves or whatever cover they can find usually in deeply forested areas and then methodically scavenge for food during the night to avoid predators like coyotes and hunters. (White-Tailed Deer)

What was interesting about this particular deer track that I followed was that it wasn’t alone, there were several different paths of deer tracks. The tracks were also deeply ingrained into the ice which made identifying them difficult, the only real indication that they were deer tracks was that at the bottom of the ice were 2 divots where their hooves were slotted into. (Fig. 3) They all originated from inside the Centennial Woods and went towards the open area at the very back of my area and the kept going until the bigger open area even further behind the houses. (Fig. 7) I was also able to spot some tracks going the opposite direction as well which may have been some deer circling around looking for food or the deer heading back into the woods after getting enough food. (Fig. 6) Some tracks also had some red powder or tint to them which I believe came from mountain ash berries that the deer ate. (Fig. 4) I also noticed short and cut off branches underneath the snow without their twigs, twigs are one of the white-tailed deer’s main food sources during the winter so this may have been caused by them.

Figure 3. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) White-tailed Deer Tracks [Photograph]
Figure 4. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) Mountain Ash Berries on Ground [Photograph]
Figure 5. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) White-tailed Deer with Mountain Ash Berry Marks [Photograph]
Figure 6. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) Several White-tailed Deer Tracks [Photograph]
Figure 7. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) White-tailed Deer Tracks Traveling [Photograph]
Figure 8. Benny Berkenkotter (Photographer). (2020) Field Notes [Photograph]

References: White-Tailed Deer. (2020). Retrieved February 27, 2020, from

Phenology Log #6

Date: Jan 29, 2020, Time: 1:00pm, Weather: Sunny but very cold (-8°C)

This semester I decided to stick with my original site right next to Centennial Woods. The last time I visited my site was before Thanksgiving Break so there have been many phenological changes since I last visited. One of the biggest phenological changes that many natural areas experience from fall to winter, besides the inclusion of snow and in this case also ice, is the loss of leaves from all deciduous trees and this is true for mine, with some remaining dead red oak leaves just barely hanging on branches. This is also true for the large fern field that was at the end of the clearing, it was just covered with snow that had turned into ice. Even with the drastic physical change, there were still some similarities from the last time I had visited, such as the birds still being prevalent through their chirps. In fact, there were quite a number of different birds that I heard during my time there.

One of the first I had noticed when I first saw my site was the abundance of non-human tracks on the snow (Fig. 1). Although, I have never done tracking of any sorts before I am mostly confident that I was able to identify some of the tracks that I had found like the cottontail rabbit (Fig. 5.) with some scat that I think is deer scat (Fig. 7). Here are the pictures and measurements that I took during my time there. I used the “Mammals Tracks and Scat: Life-Size Pocket Guide” by Lynne Levine to check the scat and tracks for each of the different trails that I found (Lynn, 2008). However, the iced-over snow made it hard to identify some tracks more than others.

Figure 1. An abundance of tracks was prevalent during my time there.
Figure 2. What used to be the nearby area full of ferns.
Figure 3. More tracks going from the start of Centennial Woods to the back end of the clearing.
Figure 4. Berries that I found on the top of nearby trees, which I believe are some sort of ash tree.
Figure 5. This were cottontail rabbit tracks that I had found near the boxelder tree. The front tracks were bigger than the back ones which means a hopping pattern. The front tracks (or the hind legs) are around 8cm long which is too short for a snowshoe rabbit.
Figure 6. These tracks I had found going into the direction of a nearby white oak tree. I believe these are deer tracks due to their size being around 10cm long and they seem to have a sort of walking and trotting pattern. It also has a large stride which means it must have been a fairly large mammal.
Figure 7. This is a picture of one of the few places I found deer scat in. I can tell it is deer scat due to its cylindrical nature and how they were all found in piles.
Figure 8. These were one of the few tracks that I was not able to identify near the deer scat, they are around 12cm long.

Another part of this lab was twig identification. I was able to find a boxelder twig that was easily identifiable due to its leaf scars around the ring of bud scale, and its spherical lateral buds around the terminal bud and bud scales (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. This is a picture of a boxelder twig that I was able to find
Figure 9. This is a diagram of a twig and its parts

In summary, my site showed to have a lot of life nearby. The massive amount of tracks show a rich amount of wildlife passing through the clearing. I understand that it is near a small suburb so there would also be a fair amount of domestic dog tracks too. But it is still nice to see that deer, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks (although they are hibernating now) still use this area to pass by. The next time I visit my site I will go further into the Centennial Woods but not on the trail to hopefully find some more species of wildlife Hopefully, there will be more wildlife nearby next time!

Figure 10. These were my notes for the visit. There weren’t a lot of changes from my last time thus the small number of notes.

References: Levine, L., & Mitchell, M. (2008). Mammal tracks and scat: life-size tracking guide. East Dummerston, VT: Heartwood Press.

Phenology Log #5

For Thanksgiving Break, I, unfortunately, was not able to go back to my home in Hong Kong but rather I was able to go visit New York City for the first time. The transition from being in Burlington exclusively for 4 months and then traveling to a big city like New York City for an entire week was drastic. The feeling of being in a city again was weird almost foreign to me. I was able to hear an abundance of languages that I have not heard since I have come to UVM such as Cantonese, a language I used to hear every day in Hong Kong. But as the week went on the chaos that the city created became like home to me again. The buildings and skyscrapers that Burlington lacks with the reduced amount of “natural areas” that Vermont has an abundance of became natural to me again and I was no longer overwhelmed. During my time there, I was able to see and experience different parts of New York. I stayed in Soho near Times Square Central Park but I also was able to travel to Brooklyn and the Bronx which are very different from each other even though they are all right next to each other. The idea that even though they are in the same city but have different ambiances may seem weird but to me that just makes sense.

A picture that I took just walking the streets of New York which shows the abundance of human influence and lack of any nature
I took this picture during one of the many times I took the subway
A subway map of New York City to show the amount of human influence underneath the city (Retrieved from

The city is very artificial in its structure with all its buildings and in its infrastructure. The subway line especially, which was my main form of transportation during my time in New York City was definitely the part of the city that I connected the most to. Since I was only a visitor for a short time trying to experience as much as I can, a majority of my time was spent in the city’s underground, in its subway and in a way I was able to experience the true “New York experience”. The sounds of trains passing, the conversations happening around me in English, French, Mandarin, Spanish, even Russian and German, and even the grime that encompasses the old underground tunnels and trains proving that there was history in the places that I was in even though I had never been there at all, all combined into my experience there. It was almost like I was coming back home towards the end of my trip. But that did not come without changes in my thinking towards cities. Central Park, prior to UVM, was a prime example of a large natural area but I no longer think of it as one. Walking through Central Park all I could think about was its structure and how the paths, the roads, and even the shape of the lake just seemed artificial to me. To me, the only reason for Central Park being right in the middle of the city was due to pure aesthetics and to attract more people into the city. Before this, however, I would’ve taken the naturalistic perspective and taken it as almost like a nature reserve in the middle of the city.

This is a picture I took of Central Park’s lake (the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir) as the buildings reflected on it

As of right now, I’m slowly developing a new sense of place towards cities. I still consider them my home and where I belong but the comfort I have towards them has changed. I feel almost overwhelmed and nervous when the thought of going back to the city comes up but I’m excited at the same time. If this what I feel after just the first semester of living here I’m almost scared to think about what will happen in the future. I have always placed myself in the mindset of someone from a large city but I’m also slowly integrating the mindset of a person from a suburb or even a small rural area. I’m beginning to enjoy seeing nature everywhere I go and I hope that sight never goes away.

Phenology Log #4

Date: Nov. 9, 2019, Time: 2:07pm, Weather: Sunny with cloudy parts (2°C)

A lot has changed from when I last visited my place. The biggest one being the weather and the presence of snow on the ground and some tree branches. Compared to the previous visits I was not able to find as much wildlife as I would usually. I was only able to catch glimpses of one squirrel and one chipmunk as they were foraging the tops of trees and then running deeper into the woods or into the large clump of branches. Which is different than their previous behaviors where they would usually just climb to the top of the trees and wait for me to leave. This may be due to them needing to store food as fast as they can since it is getting colder and colder. However, I was able to find a new bird species I have not seen before plus another sighting of a white-crowned sparrow. For the new bird species, which I identified as a Red Cardinal, there were actually 2 of them on top of the eastern white pine tree near the central boxelder foraging at the near top of the tree. As for the leaves, there were little to no more leaves left on the top of trees, there were only leaves present in the underbrush or as leaf litter The only leaves that were left where the lower beech leaves, lower Norway Maples and the leaves of bushes near the entrance of the Centennial Woods. The ground also was much more muddy and wet compared to the previous times, this may have been due to the snow that melted that morning. This exposed the ground much more than usual and thus made it harder to walk on.

This is what the area of my entrance looks like
The ground of the open area at the end of my area was completely covered in snow
Ferns remained to be untouched or unaffected by the snow and cold weather
Small Norway Maple leaves remain on the underbrush of the taller hardwoods
A path leading into the entrance of the Centennial Woods that was covered in snow. There also seemed to be traces of footprints that used this path recently with the holes that exposed the soil.
Red Cardinal spotted on the top of the nearby eastern white pine (this was the best picture I could get before it flew off)

This area as said before is a transitional period between developed land and a natural area which means that the land must have a rich history of use. Even today the pipe that is located in the little valley of place serves as a watershed. There are clear signs also of human development with the grass being cut short meaning the area has been maintained. This gives off a very different feel than the woods or even the suburban area nearby. It is a place that has parts of both the developed and natural land that creates a unique sense of place. It has vegetation such as the boxelders and maples that have been untouched by land development but has the maintained short grass and the little valley with a pipe in it which shows clear signs of use. This also tells us that it has only a recent history of use since the suburban area nearby, known as the Centennial Court, is fairly new. However, before then it was used similarly to the Centennial Woods as a natural area. The area is almost insecure in a way because it’s not just unnatural or natural its a mixture of both and it is important to both the unnatural and natural areas around it. It acts as a watershed for both areas and it acts as a place where wildlife can forage for food. It’s a place where both sides meet thus creating its own sense of place different to the areas around it.

My notes

Phenology Log #3

Date of Visit: October 29, 2019, Time: 11:29am, Weather: Cloudy and windy (13°C)

My site is a transitional area from developed land to a natural area. So the organisms living there are vegetation and wildlife that can stand and thrive in both environments, I was able to find wildlife such as the Eastern Chipmunk and then 2 different species of birds, one of which I photographed, the black-capped chickadee, and one I was only able to record the sound of. I was also able to find small forms of vegetation such as camphorweed, which is a small yellow flower, the eastern daisy fleabane, a small white flower and a type of fungus that was growing on a tree, unfortunately I can’t seem to find a name for it. And the two flowers that I was able to find during my trip are known for living and thriving near disturbed places. Which shows that the area has been touched by humans and has become a transitional site between human to a natural area.

The black-capped-chickadee I was able to photograph
The eastern daisy fleabane
A fungus growing on a dead tree that has lost its leaves.
An eastern chipmunk
The crying of an unknown bird I was able to hear. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a clear look at the bird species.

From the last time I visited the location, the biggest difference I saw were the trees that had little to no leaves, the boxelders, in particular, had no leaves at all left on their branches and they were all scattered around the ground around them. The only leaves that were left on the trees were the Norway Mapes and small short trees towards the entrance of the Centennial Woods Trail. Another big difference was the small short trees at the beginning of the trail that was pushed out towards the open area. Their branches were slanted towards the open area which may have been caused by the winds pushing the trees in one direction. Even further down the open area, trees and fern-like plants were slanted in the direction of the winds that were blowing. Wildlife was also very minimal in fact I saw no squirrels or chipmunks, and I did not hear any birds that day but that may have been due to the weather that day. The ground was also a weird dull color that may have been due to the abundance of dead leaves that were on the grass. The grass was covered in shriveled brown leaves and grew basswood like leaves. The opening at the deeper part of the open area was also bigger and had more grassland which also may have been due to the winds and possibly the rain that happened a few days before.

The leaves were almost all gone from the trees apart from the bushes at the entrance.
Short-slanted plants that may have fallen due to the strong winds.

In terms of the soil and its topography, the open area had a lot more dry mud covering the ground this also includes the beginning part of the trail to Centennial Woods. And this could be due to the rain that the days preceding my visit had. The area also still had signs of human activity with the fallen branches being all located in one place but more were scattered around due to the storms and strong winds that were occurring during that week.

Leaf litter mostly of boxelder leaves
More life litter mostly comprised of basswood-like leaves and norway maples

Prior to this visit, I created a map, as seen below, and this helped me gain a general idea of what areas I was most unsure of had. This then helped me take a closer look at what type of vegetation and what other things of interest there are. It helped me divide the area into smaller sections of what to expect and what to look out for. Such as the boxelder trees that seem to house more wildlife like squirrels and chipmunks than the other areas. One of these things of interest that I found were berries that I had not witnessed before. Unfortunately however, I was nto able to identify the berries or what kind of tree they were growing on. This also helped me find areas that I felt were most important such as the boxelder tree right in the middle of the opening towards the end and the opening at the very end which housed a lot more small vegetation and wildlife, as mentioned before, than I remembered. The map helps me more quickly find out what is new to the area from the last time I remembered and thus helps me make better observations based on the time of year.

Berries I found on my trip
My field notes
The map I created prior to my visit with added landmarks and organisms

Until next time!

Phenology Log #2

Date of Visit: October 9, 2019, Time: 1:12pm, Weather: Sunny, kinda warm (14°C)

The place that I have chosen is a small valley like location that connects the Centennial Woods and the housing suburb that is right next to the Centennical Woods. It is an open area that has a slope to it that can almost act as a small watershed for any runoff that comes from the suburb nearby and the Centennial Woods which is very different to the surrounding area. Although the area is right next to a small housing area it is very quiet. Once you go deeper down the open area towards the back, more and more species of trees and small plants can be seen such as small yellow flowers on the floor and you are able to hear different species of birds too (I counted 3 the day I went). The ground, on the day that I went, was covered with leaf litter. As can be seen on the pictures below.

This particular area was particularly interesting with so many fallen branches of trees on the ground creating something resembling a damn or a small wall of branches.
This open area was filled with leaves of different kinds, maples (mostly norway maples) and basswood leaves were most abundant.

During this time, you are still able to see and hear leaves falling down and there is a still a large majority of leaves on trees still. There are also also chipmunks, flies, and butterflies still going around the area.

Here’s a picture of a chipmunk that I came across nearby.
Here are notes I took during my time there.

Until next time!

Phenology Blog #1

Welcome to my NR001 Phenology Blog where I will post my journal entries for my chosen natural spot. My spot is located right outside the Centennial Woods Entrance, it’s the large opening thats inbetween the houses and the Centinnial Woods. I will be journaling about the different ecological phenomena that would or is occuring in the area over a large period of time.

Here are initial photos of the area I have chosen. (Date: October 9, 2019, Time: 1:12pm)