March: Awakening

Due to being home from college because of the COVID-19 epidemic, I am unable to visit my phenology spot in Centennial Woods. Instead, I decided to visit the Watchung Reservation next to my town in New Jersey. This reservation is massive and full of various trails to hike, learn about the history of the area, and horseback ride which I did here. However, I decided to take a short loop around a park in this protected area, and wandered down a path which took me to a nature center, and behind that building there were picnic tables in a large field and many hiking trails. I decided to sit at a picnic table at the edge of a few trail heads, and observe the area.

Compared to the last time I was able to visit my original phenology site in Centennial, this site did not have the brook which I had been observing in Burlington. The differences I could point out were in the growth of the understory at this site, where smaller plants were beginning to show signs of buds growing.

In order to creatively portray where I was and some of my findings through observation, I decided to draw the landscape.

On the sunny, warm, 50 degree day that I visited this site, plants were beginning to bloom after a long winter. Grass was beginning to grow out of the ground again, and buds on especially the undergrowth were beginning to become green and visible. I noticed that at least from what I could see, taller trees were not beginning to show signs of growth just yet.

My allergies were bothering me, which happens this time of year. This shows me that pollen is in the air, especially being carried by the wind which was quite prevalent this day.

Other signs of life were beginning to arise as well. Birds were chirping, and I especially saw a lot of bluejays, cardinals, and robins. There was quite a contrast between what I saw right in front of me, which was small plants beginning to bloom and grass growing, and the dark colors of the forest ahead of me which did not begin to show signs of life just yet. I thought about this a bit, and was quite confused about why this was.

February: Survival

I journeyed into Centennial Woods last weekend on Sunday, February 23rd. This was a very warm day, where the temperature was on the brink of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to this, there were a lot of phenological changes at my site because of the thawing of the area. Because of the melting snow, it was very difficult to find animal tracks, but I did hear a woodpecker in the pine stand in my phenology site.

One animal track that I identified was a fox track. I was able to identify it as a fox track because the prints were of similar size, and it was a bounder. The tracks were on the smaller side, making me think that it was most likely a gray fox. The tracks were moving towards the brook, and began disappearing at the edge of the brook. According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the gray fox “habitat is commonly located along the banks of streams and rivers. The gray fox requires den sites, which may be a hollow log or tree, rock crevice, piles of wood or a brush pile,” (Vermont Fish and Wildlife). The site explains that gray foxes like hardwood forests, which explains why I saw the tracks in my phenology site, and why they were right near the brook. The gray fox eats rabbits, rodents, birds, crickets, grasshoppers, squirrels, and more (Vermont Fish and Wildlife). The gray fox is “primarily nocturnal, but may forage during the day,” (Wildlife Science Center). It has a few predators, including bobcats, coyotes, and great horned owls (ESF SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry).

One species that the gray fox interacts with is rabbits, which they consume. Assuming that this fox had a burrow in the hardwood stand in my site, it could have left its burrow to follow a rabbit at night. This makes sense because rabbits are nocturnal too. Another piece of evidence that would support this is that there were many other tracks present where the fox tracks were found. They were not very visible to me though because of the melting snow.

Another species that the gray fox interacts with is the coyote. It is quite possible that the coyote encountered the fox’s burrow, and the fox fleed in order to escape the coyote and jumped across the brook.

Due to the warm weather, a phonological change that happened at my site this month was that the thick layer of ice on the brook at my site has melted. It began melting in the middle of the body of water first, and still was present on the edges of the water. Also, a thin top layer of snow has melted at the site which made it difficult to look for tracks in the area. The melting of snow has made the understory more visible.

Fox tracks I identified.
Sun beating down on the area.
Tree I believed the woodpecker was in.
Picture of field notebook.


Gray Fox. (n.d.). Retrieved from Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/learn-more/vermont-critters/mammals/gray-fox

Maier, B. (Ed.). (n.d.). Gray Fox. Retrieved from Wildlife Science Center website: http://www.wildlifesciencecenter.org/gray-fox

Saunders, D. A. (n.d.). Gray Fox. Retrieved from ESF SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry website: https://www.esf.edu/aec/adks/mammals/gray_fox.htm

Centennial Woods in January

For the rest of my phenology blogs, I decided to change my location to a different area of the brook in Centennial woods. To get to this location, pass over the bridge along the brook and follow the trail leading up the hill. At the top of the hill, turn left, and this is where a different area of the brook is situated. A map of this area that I drew will be included below.

Since my last visit to Centennial, the water in the brook has frozen over along the edges connected to the land around it. The rocks situated in the brook were also exhibiting frozen water around them. The understory around the brook had lost all leaves with only a few non pigmented leaves hanging off from the branches ready to fall to the ground.

During my visit, I identified a twig as belonging to a sugar maple. A sketch of this twig I found and identified will be included below.

Also during my visit, I encountered a few animal tracks. One track I found was a straight line of tracks. I identified this as a fox track. A picture of the tracks will be included below. Another track I found was that of a squirrel which for both of these tracks I used my mammal tracking guide to identify.

Sugar maple twig sketch.
Field notes and a map of my new location.
Fox tracks I encountered.
Squirrel tracks I identified.

Sense of Place

My sense of place occupies my hometown Summit in New Jersey. This is the town I have grown up in minus the first four years of my life. My town is a commutor town with a direct train line to New York City, so there is a lot of economic diversity in the population of my town. Due to my town being very close to the city, it is a suburb and mostly developed despite a few parks spread throughout the town. I have a strong sense of place at the green spaces in my town, where I would walk with my family when I was a child. My sense of place in my town has been developed mostly through my abundance of memories I have from growing up in the area. Due to living in this area my whole life, I know where everything is which makes me feel secure in this place. Because the built environment in my town is mostly developed with residential areas and a downtown area, I am able to identify where I am through my memories made in my downtown as well as my work experience. I worked at an ice cream shop for three years in my town and am very aware of the surrounding area. Since leaving home to go to the University of Vermont, I feel as if my sense of place back home has become stronger because of how much I miss it. I think back to my good memories that I made in my town throughout my life while I am at school which makes my place-attachment stronger to this location. Aesthetically, there are places around my hometown that increase my sense of place to my town due to the proximity between locations I enjoy. There is a place called the Great Swamp which is preserved land near my town where I would go to watch the sunset in the summer. A picture of the Great Swamp is included at the end of this blog post. This place is beautiful and full of natural wonders which increases my appreciation of where I grew up and what land I had available to me to explore. Ever since I left home to come to college and I went back for break, it was strange seeing the place I feel the most connected to again. It felt as if all the memories I created in my town came back instantaneously the second I came back to my town and drove through it. The types of trees around my house also increase my sense of place of my home. I have cedar trees all around my front yard where I played when I was little. Now, when I see a cedar tree it reminds me of home.

11/12 Brook Visit

My experience at the brook in Centennial Woods thus far has been one that I have learned a lot from. At first, I saw this brook and thought it was a beautiful place that hikers passed by. However, the appreciation that I have for this place has about remained the same, or grown over time. Other than coming to this location for my blog, I have come to this spot several times over weekends with my friends to just sit. As phenological changes have occurred in the area, I have been able to witness these and it has made me feel more connected to this place. Although the brook will undergo changes from summer, to fall, and to winter each year, it is still the same place despite different aspects being highlighted each season. For example, during the warmer weeks I came to this spot, the plants surrounding the brook and the noises the brook made were highlighted. During the autumnal weeks I visited this spot, the amount of water in the ground and the brook was the most abundant factor in my opinion. And during the winter, this week I have noticed that parts of the brook were covered with ice but still flowing underneath the ice sheet. It was interesting to see all plants covered by snow, and the only noise present was from the babbling of the brook due to the lack of plants and leaves making rustling sounds in the wind. It was also interesting to see how humans have altered the area, through the moving of bridges around the brook for people to be able to cross. At a larger spatial scale, my experience of the brook fits into my sense of place of Burlington through knowing by heart how to get to a natural area which is important for me to know. I think that despite the time of year and how the brook is altered by this, I have a strong connection to this spot due to being able to witness these changes with my own eyes, and I am excited to see how this site is altered when winter actually begins. 

11/1 Visit

Today I visited the brook in Centennial Woods once again. There had been a massive rainstorm yesterday and a lot of wind today. This caused the vegetation around the brook to be extremely flattened. Also, there were parts of the brook that were very deep due to the influx of water to the area. Another damage included that the trees in the area were bare and all the leaves have fallen from them from the wind passing through the area. The water in the brook was brown and opaque due to the lifting of nutrients from the bottom of the brook through the rapid moving water in the brook. The walkway that allows one to cross over the brook on the trail was completely wiped off and floating around the brook. A few of my friends and I put it back. This is very different than the other times I have been to the brook. This was my first time visiting after a major storm and I was able to see the effects it had on the area. Some organisms that I think characterize the brook right now are leaves, grasses, sediment, water, rocks, and branches. I think these organisms characterize the brook right now because of the abundance of all of these in the area. One organism included in the grasses was cattails. There have always been an abundance of rocks which I have identified as shale in the area and they cover the bottom of the brook. There were a lot of branches on the ground that were derived from birch trees, eastern white pine, and more due to the wind and the abundance of grasses around the brook was more apparent when they were all flattened. Leaves were also in abundance on the ground which included a lot of white oak leaves, as well as sediment due to the amount running through the water. I was not able to measure the sight depth, but I could not see the bottom of the brook because of the high amount of sediment picked up. I also think water is a characterizing factor in the brook right now due to the heightened amount in the area. I noticed the soil was very malleable and soft because of the high concentration of it. A lot of the soil had turned into mud, but I was able to notice the O horizon was about a centimeter or two thick. Mapping the brook was a bit difficult because before I went today I did not remember how the land was formed around it. 

My Place

The place that I chose for this phenology blog is a brook in Centennial Woods. The way to get to this place is through the entrance of Centennial Woods where a bike rack is present. From here, I follow a path through the woods for about 5 minutes. On the way to this location I encounter a clearing of pines where one path diverges, where you must take the path on the left. From here, you will walk across small bridges of wood until the brook is present underneath. This is an open and inviting place with a multitude of plants, including shade tolerant species. There are many rocks in the brook that appear to be shale, as well a ledge from the land that is about half a foot down to the water. In the brook there are numerous minnows swimming around, but not much aquatic life other than these creatures. There is a small section of grass in the middle of this brook that is in jumping distance This is my favorite place to sit near the brook. When I hear the babbling of the brook even before I see the water, I know that I am in the right place. The sunlight shines through tall plants next to the brook, reflecting into the water. There is moderate foot traffic in this location, so it is a lovely place to simply sit and enjoy the surroundings. Recently I have enjoyed bringing my sketchbook to this location because it sparks inspiration for me. I have also brought several of my friends to this special place and they share the enjoyment with me. There is a small teepee made out of sticks just above the left side of the brook that I want to venture into the next time I am here. There is also an area of the brook where woody plants on either side of it converge to create a slightly enclosed tunnel which I think is really cool. There is a picture of this area in this post. Overall, the brook in Centennial Woods is a peaceful spot to enjoy the water and surrounding nature.

Notes from Centennial Woods in Lab Notebook:

  • Old vile (possibly for pH experiments) found on the land near the brook left behind as litter
  • Foam surrounding few rocks in the brook
  • 1/2 food ledge from land to brook
  • Grasses present
  • Brook is shallow, 4-5 inches deep

Welcome To My Blog!

I will be studying an area of a brook in Centennial Woods where there is a branch hovering over the brook over the course of the year and observing changes in the area throughout the year. Stay tuned for blog posts in the future!

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