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Last time at this site! The area has really turned green with new plants popping up everywhere. The trees all have either really developed buds or even the little starter leaves that have come out. Still, no wildflowers except for the dandelions but I put a picture of a pink lady slipper from one of the sites at home that I visited before below, as they are my favorite. I also heard about the first spotting of a ruby-throated hummingbird back in Connecticut so in the next week weeks, they should start to make their way up into Vermont. This site really takes a lot of nature and culture and puts them together with a graffitied wall along one of the trail and joggers always running past however still conserving the land. The land here, however, doesn’t feel like mine, more like when you take a library book our and you read it and get to know what it’s about but unlike a copy you own it’s not earmarked or worn. I can tell you a brief synopsis of the book but not quote a line from the scene we are talking about. Leaving school for the summer I might come back and visit the site just like I take out a library book again but it’s not mine and it’s time to return it. I hope the next people here enjoy it as much as I have!

All photo rights belong to Brenna Christensen 2017′

Pink-lady Slipper, taken May 19th, 2015 in Kalmia Sanctuary, Harwinton Ct.

The return of the Hummingbird!

Sketch from the site. Think the plant was False hellebore leaves?

Ash tree on the border of the stream.

Weird mushrooms that look like oysters on side of paper birch.


“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

At first glance, this visit seemed a lot like the last one in March. However, at a closer look, you could seem the forest had a mini explosion of spring. Chickadees, Red-Winged Blackbirds, American Robins and Tufted Titmouses are all in action as well as many others that I can’t identify. Listening to the bird’s chatter, the beginnings of plants have started to emerge along with the buds on the maples and birches in the area. The oaks ever late in seasonal changes (some still holding on to last years leaves, the old grumps) and still pretending that it’s winter. Turning over a few logs and branches trying to find amphibians I struck out. However, if anyone’s in the area and is trying to find some the ones that should be around this time of year are the American Toad and the Painted Turtle which are probably closer to a real pond or vernal pool than my site it. I did have some wildflower on my site, I had hoped that they would be coltsfoot, however, I’m pretty sure that they were common dandelions. The spring rain is starting to green everything up. Although Centennial Woods is a pretty bing habitat area most of the area has trails and paths that cut through the habitat. This fragments the woods enough that the surrounding roads make most of the area into edge habitat as the closest road is only around 370 feet or so away. The area in Centennial Woods also get a lot of noise pollution as no matter how far I have walked into it there is still the hum and buzz of cars and the occasional airplane or helicopter in the background which if they annoy me must drive the critters that live here crazy.

All photo rights belong to Brenna Christensen 2017

Sketch from Site!

Dandelions along the stream bank.

Artist rendition of tree buds.

Small plant found on the site. Could not identify, any ideas?

Tree buds! From a maple maybe?


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring


Holland, Mary, and Chiho Kaneko. Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-month Journey through the Fields, Woods, and Marshes of New England. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square, 2010. Print.

Hi, guys! Hope everyone has had a good “spring” break, quotations of spring because of you know the blizzard that just happened. A good two feet of snow, a broken snowblower and a lot of shoveling has put a slight damper on my hiking this time around. So I didn’t venture out as far from home as last time I visited a different site. This time I just took as walk down to the marsh (Laurel Marsh) that is a little ways down the road from me to see how it was fairing with all the snow. The marsh is now part of the local land trust and is connected to a man-made lake across the street. (For a brief overview of the land history of the area my post from 11/23/16 has the info) A home to many beavers over the years construction in the area recently has made the marsh seem smaller and out of place. The crisp day showed the marsh-edged with cattails and unfortunately a few phragmites. The phragmites has the local land trust debating on the best methods of removal, so far most of them have been leaning toward using black tarps in order to stop the sun from reaching them. Any plants that may have been getting a start on spring are buried under the snow. However, the pussy willow is starting to bud as well as a few other trees.  The red-tailed hawks have started to return, normally there is a nesting pair in the area. I have seen a red-tail about four times in the area this week but I think that it is just two of them.  They bring with them debates on how it’s nice to have a nest in the area, while some birders dislike them due to their habits of snacking on songbirds. After my stop at the marsh, we continued our walk and came to the natural area I was at last time, however, the abundant amount of snow but the brakes on and instead of plowing through we admitted defeat and returned home.

All photo rights belong to Brenna Christensen 2017

The beginnings of the Pussy Willows buds!

The frozen bit of water is a deep pool before the vegetative plants of the area really kick in.

View of Laurel Marsh from road

Trail head for the marsh.

The massive amounts of snow that got in the way from the blizzard.


“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
― Pablo Neruda

Walking into my site you can see the human impacts on the land in the weird variety of trees with the oldest dominant species being white pine while slowly fading back into a hardwood deciduous forest. With the hemlocks that spring up in the understory as the only other conifers in the area, I would classify my site as a Hemlock-Hardwood Northern forest. The matrix of this forest type being later successional hemlocks with, the early successional species being oaks. Off of these main species, white pine that is found in the forest would match this type as well as the splattering of beech and birch found around the site. Since the last time I visited the snow has melted down to a few patches that are found here or there throughout the site as well as the emergence of come brighter mosses that are abundant in the area. The low levels of fog are beginning to feel like spring is approaching however it is New England and rapid swings in weather are probably due to happen. Looking over the area in biofinder (a site that lets you look for certain qualities in the land around Vermont) showed that it was home to a few rare animal species, a class two wetland and a rare terrestrial community. While it is hard to tell exactly what that means as it does not list the exact type of animal (except that it was class S2B, see for a list of species classification) and it does not list the exact type of community either. While these are improvements that can be made on biofinder it is clear that there are some things in Centennial Woods that are worth protecting.

All photo rights to Brenna Christensen 2017

Key: Light Orange = Rare Animal, Light Yellow = Class 2 Wetlands, Green = Rare Plant Community, Red = Wildlife Corridor

Waiting for spring!

Hemlock in the foreground, with oaks in the general area


















I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.

     -Anne Lamott


Thompson, Elizabeth Hathaway., and Eric R. Sorenson. Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont. Montpelier: Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy, 2005. Print.

Through this semester I will be looking closely at a  new place within Centennial Woods. Changing from the small clearing I was in before in order to be closer to water. This is so that there will be more animal tracks in my site as animals go to the stream in centennial woods to get water. To get to this area first start at Harris Millis on the UVM then walk down toward Spear St. then take a left and continue down  East Ave before taking a right ontoCarrigan Drive. Continue down Carrigan Drive till you find the trailhead on the left. Follow the trail down the hill and over the foot bridge till you get to a large clearing with diverging paths. In this clearing take a left down the hill till it flattens out and becomes opens up into the small stream area.

Photo rights belong to Brenna Christensen 2017


View of stream from the side (apparently couldn’t hold my phone straight, so enjoy the awkward angle)

Since the last time, I visited Centennial woods the forest has quieted down and settled into winter. The plant life has gone dormant and walking past the cattails on the way to my site I saw the fluff that the past year had left behind. Some critters are still up and moving through as there were a few sets of tracks on my site. The tracks on my site were mostly rodent and if I am reading them right squirrel tracks. One of the sets of tracks that I found led underneath a log had the gait and size of a fox but since they were blurred out it could have been a dog.

Rough sketch I drew while at site

Trees Identified in Site Descriptions

Trees Identified at Site

List of Trees and Invasive Plants:

  1. Eastern Hemlock
  2. White Pine
  3. Yellow Birch
  4. Paper Birch
  5. Red Maple
  6. Red Oak
  7. Black Cherry
  8. Ash (don’t know what type)
  9. Japanese Barberry
  10. Multi-Floral Rose
“When snow melts, what does it become?  ‘ It becomes water, of course’
 Wrong! It becomes spring!”
― Natsuki Takaya


My last visit took me back to a slightly snow covered area. It had become the crisp cool habitat that settles into woods this time of year, before real snow hits and after the last leaves of Autumn have fallen. Being here really let me step back and reflect on the semester, taking a break from worrying about finals. The phenology site was supposed to let use connect with the land and feel a sense of place. To be honest I really didn’t know what that meant, however being in the this place in the woods for the past few months did give me something. Going to college was going to a whole new place, in a new city, where I knew no one and nothing. Settling in takes time and going to the site for the last time I realized that I did know it. I knew how to get there, how many people would be on the trials, what animals might be around and the different trees in the area. Unfortunately I forgot how the cold effects cellphone battery, so there are no photos. Enjoy the interpretative drawing I have made below.


Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Centennial Woods is made up of 70 acres of diverse habitat, this includes mixed hardwoods, conifer stands along with streams, fields and wetland area. Located within Burlington it is right next to the UVM campus, being on of the most visited of UVM natural areas. Used for academic study, students in Environmental Studies, Botany, Zoology, Forestry, Recreation Management, and Education use this areas vast array of trails to look at the natural ecosystem and landscape features found here.

Looking into the history of Centennial Woods shows a complex history of different uses, through the time periods. Going back about 10,000 years the sandy soil that is found throughout the area can be traced back to the Champlain Sea. It was deposited from the delta of what would become the Winooski River. As the Abenaki were living by and along the Winooski River it can be assumed that they were in Centennial Woods pre-European settlement. The land was then  owned by C. Baxter Est., H. Stevens, Hickok Est. who most likely used the land for agricultural purposes. This would explain the barbed wire and stonewalls as well as similar aged trees. Although now the forest is one of the oldest in the area it still isn’t a old growth forest. The oldest parts of the forest, mostly the oldest pines, most likely started growing around the 1860’s after farms started to be abandoned. The land was officially designated a UVM Natural Area in April 1974.


From the Natural Areas, University of Vermont a resolution of the Board of Trustees Marks the areas that became natural areas in 1974

Map of Centennial Woods from

Map of Centennial Woods from

An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.

-David Attenborough



Natural Areas, University of Vermont: a resolution of the Board of Trustees [PDF].University of Vermont Natural Areas. University of Vermont Environmental Program,

The Changing Landscapes of Centennial Woods Natural Area: A Field Guide [PDF]. University of Vermont Natural Areas. University of Vermont Environmental Program,

Kalmia Sanctuary is run by Litchfield Hills Audubon Society in North West Connecticut. An old farm and orchard the forest here has been allowed to grow for 30 to 40 years. However recently there has been a push to revive grasslands and early growth forests for wildlife like the New England Cotton Tail and grassland birds. This means that there was a clear cut in the sanctuary around 4 years ago. The flora changed from oaks, maples and beeches into birches, aspens and white pines. This is similar to the outer area of my section of Centennial Woods however as there is no old growth and is much more removed from people. The forest in the area also differs from the Vermont area with little to no stripped maple and basswood. On the hike up to my spot I saw bobcat tracks and a American Chestnut that has gotten large enough to produce fruit however is showing signs of the blight. The sanctuary is also home to many different stone walls and apple trees left over from its days as an orchard allowing for a great hiking area.


American Chestnut, got to be around 9 DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) however is starting to suffer from the blight.


American Chestnut


American Chestnut


Quartz can be found all around this region in great abundance.


Stonewalls line the landscape.


Old skid road from last clear cut.


Possible bobcat tracks, one was seen in the area very recently.


I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, This is what it is to be happy.

-Sylvia Plath

Photo Credit: Brenna Christensen

Visiting the site I veer off the trail toward my small stand of trees. Entering this area I drop down to lean against the fallen log that has long since lost all of its bark. Settling down I sit and take in the area as I wait for it to settle back into a rhythm after my arrival. As the forest begins to accept my presence the bird songs pick up and the squirrels and chipmunks resume their daily business.  From this position I can feel the slight dip down that in the distance I can see becoming a steep slope a hundred feet off. The ground beneath my coat is damp with the rain from yesterday and the whole area has a cold feel to it despite the 50 degree weather.

Since the last time I was visited my site the leaves on the trees have almost completely dropped off, those that have not  are turning brown. As I sat I saw and heard far less birds. There were a few more people on the trails and those who come through are easier to see as the foliage is mostly gone now.



Caught at the Edges:

Walking through the forest the sound comes from the rustle of the leaves under your feet and the rasping of your breath

Pausing for a moment the silence hangs like walking into a room and having everyone stop talking just to look at you

But slowly, oh so slowly the noise begins again

The leaves from the trees above blow in the wind

Squirrel’s chatter and birds began to chip

A foreign city coming to life around you

A culture unknown with multitudes of languages being spoken

A hustle and life that you as a visitor just can’t quite grasp


The poetry of the earth is never dead

-John Keats

Photo of Forest credit to Brenna Christensen

Photo of Chipmunk Credit to

Author Pearson Scott Foresman
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