Mid-April Prompt

It feels like just yesterday, I was observing phenological changes occurring in March. In the blink of an eye, I am now catapulted into mid-April! I am also shocked at how quickly things are changing at Niagara Falls. The ice has completely melted, flowers are beginning to bud, and the frequent chirping of the birds continues to increase with each passing week. In the book, Naturally Curious, the author refers to April as the month of “Transformation” and I couldn’t explain it more accurately. She goes on the explain that “An explosion of sights and sounds takes place from beneath the forest floor to the top of the forest canopy.” (Holland, 2019). By the end of March, the sunset was around 7:30 and it has changed to 8:00 in just under two weeks. While the temperature in Niagara Falls is still brisk and sometimes requires a jacket for more comfort, signs of Summer are beginning to appear and I couldn’t be more excited.

Within the past two weeks, I have discovered some information and interesting answers to some questions I had in my previous blog. For human interaction in my field notes, I have been marking the cutting down of trees. On April 4, I decided to follow the trail down the river and stumbled upon a sign that explained why these trees were being cut down! It turns out they are cutting down invasive tree species due to the degradation of wildlife habitats and a decrease in soil quality. Some invasive trees they have cut down include the Norway Maple and the Tree-of-Heaven. In order to feed birds, wildlife, and pollinators as well as maintain clean water and health sols they have planted over 600 native tree species in their place. Some of these trees include Red Oak, Black Cherry, White Oak, and several others. I thought it was really interesting the New York and Vermont have a lot of the same tree species. If you are interested in learning more about this project I have provided the link to Niagara Falls website here

Figure 1. Trees cut down and left on the ground.
Figure 2. Niagara Falls Park Sign

Another sign of transformation that I noticed was the rapid change in sprouting of twigs. Below I have included a gallery that shows the development of the twigs. When you see them side by side you really notice how quickly things are changing this month! In the first photo, there is little life present on this twig. By the last photo just 2 weeks later, the buds are bursting with life!

Next, I noticed a huge transformation in scenery regarding vegetation on the ground as well as in trees. While they may be harder to see in photos, I can assure you in just a little over two weeks, my phenological site has switched from being a barren wasteland post-winter to a flourishing breeding ground for wildlife and vegetation.

I have also begun recording updates on an area near my phenology site where it appears there is serious erosion that I have not previously noticed. There are multiple factors that might contribute to this such as invasive species degrading the soil quality and causing erosion as well as lots of heavy snowfall this winter that melted and created this area of erosion. Another factor is the pollution of the area. You can clearly see empty Corona beer glasses in the eroded pit and there is a mixture of used wrappers, cigarette buds, illicit drugs, and other items that could be harmful to the area. Since my site is over 500 feet above sea level, the soil quality is already very dry and rocky so, the overuse of the land it very harmful to the area. You can see the area where most people walk as there are no soil or grass patches. Even within a week, you can see a slight enlargement of this eroded patch. I will remind myself to keep an eye on this and note the litter that is inside this patch.

Due to my VERY messy handwriting, I made the point to transcribe my notes onto here:

Saturday, April 4, 2020 12:59 p.m. cloudy. 48 degrees (Fahrenheit)

Location: Niagara Falls, NY, US (43 5’50″N, 79 3’38″W). elevation: 499 feet

humidity: 83% wind: SSW 2 mph feels like: 48F UV Index: 3

vegetation: 

  • beginning to see seeds on ground from canopied trees
  • buds beginning to form on certain trees (approximately 5-10%)
  • some flowers are seen (red flower)
  • twig is having sprouting buds

Wildlife

  • robin bird
  • sound of birds but not visible or captured on camera
  • Checked under bark for insects but none were found

Human disturbance

  • graffiti
  • trash
  • broken glass and drugs found on some rocks
  • trees cut down
  • construction at the entrance of the trail
  • log burned

Sunday, April 12, 2020, 1:48 p.m. cloudy. 64 degrees (Fahrenheit)

Location: Niagara Falls, NY, US (43 5’50″N, 79 3’38″W). elevation: 499 feet

humidity: 40% Wind: SSE 8 mph feels like: 63F UV Index: 1

vegetation:

  • While trees are still bare, there is an increase of greenery beginning to form on branches (10% vegetation)
  • Twigs are sprouting flowers (photos can be seen above)
  • grass appears to be greener from warming temperatures and rain that occurred throughout the week

Wildlife:

  • several seagulls flying above tree canopies
  • Robins were seen flying from tree to tree and chirping
  • Other bird chirps were heard but not captured on voice memo or camera

Human Disturbance:

  • graffiti
  • trash
  • broken glass and drugs found on some rocks
  • trees cut down
  • construction at the entrance of the trail
  • log burned (an additional one to last weeks)

The word “transformation” is the perfect way to describe this month. With everything going on in the world, it sometimes feels like everything is so uncertain. However, one thing I can count on throughout this time of ambiguity is the reassurance that nature continues to grow and transform. With longer days, louder chirps, and the color green being more vibrant than the previous week, this provides some positivity.

Until next time. Stay healthy. Stay home. Stay positive.

Sources Cited:

Holland, M. (2019). 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 Books. 

Niagara Falls. (2017). Vegetation Management Invasive Tree Species Removal. Retrieved from https://parks.ny.gov/inside-ouragency/documents/NiagaraFallsS tateParkScopingReport/MosesParkwayNorth/PublicInformationMeeting/171026RMPPIMInvasiveSpeciesSection.pdf