February; Survival

At my phenology site, I spotted eastern grey squirrel tracks. The tracks had four distinct prints, which is expected from a galloper. There were two smaller ones in the back and two longer ones in front, from the squirrel’s hindlegs. 

 During the cold winter months, grey squirrels don’t hibernate, instead, they make dens in the trunks of trees, or they build small nests out of branches, called dreys (Schweig.2015.)

Relying on their fat reserves and food caches to survive the cold winter squirrels have to build up layers of fat. These extra layers come in handy when they have to venture out of their dens to forage for food(Where Do. 2019).

Knowing how hard it can be to find food in the winter months, under the layers of snow, squirrels build up caches of nuts and seeds, taken from near-by tree species in the weeks before the cols. 

Unfortunately for the squirrel, just because its winter and many animals are hibernating doesn’t mean that they can take their eyes off the sky. Owls, one of the squirrels most significant predator, are very active during the winter. Some of the smaller mammals that also prey on the squirrel are active as well. Foxes and skunks remain relatively active which means that during winter there are both predators in the sky and on the ground(Gracheva. 2017).

Two species that play a large role in the squirrel’s lives during the winter are the beech tree and the fox. Squirrels use beech trees to build their homes during the winter. Tracks can be found at the base of beech trees because squirrels use them to escape from predators. 

One of the common predators squirrels would be scampering away from is the fox. Foxes are relatively active during the winter months, which means that squirrels need to be aware when they are down in the ground foraging for food, which would result in tracks that are far apart, as the squirrel tries to get away from the fox as fast as possible. The way the squirrel interacts with these species is very connected. They rely on the trees to protect them from the fox. Preditors and habitat are some of the most important aspects of a squirrel ecosystem. 

My site appears to have changed a lot since my last visit. The snowpack was thick everywhere. The footbridge, which usually sits about 10 inches above the floodplain, was indistinguishable from the ground below it. 

The trees in the backdrop have not lost all their leaves, so you can see through them to another part of the path, which makes the space feel bigger, and not quite as safe and secluded. Along with the loss of the leaves, most of the other vegetation that had survived the beginning of winter was deaf and compacted under the feet of snow. 

Eleanor Jaffe. (Student). (2020). Footprints.

There was also a set of footsteps in the middle of my phenology site, which is usually dominated by plants and appears untouched by humans, but now with all the snow someone felt invited to walk through the center of this small flood ecosystem. 

Another thing I noticed was the silence, usually, I can hear at least some bird call, or bugs buzzing around but on this warm February day all I could hear was the crunch of my footsteps on the icy path 

Eleanor Jaffe. (Student). (2020).Phenology Notes.


Gracheva, & Gracheva. (2017, December 19). How Do Squirrels Deal With Cold? They May Not Feel It Like Us. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/12/animals-hibernation-winter-cold-squirrels/

Schweig, S. V. (2015, November 18). How Do Squirrels Keep Warm In Winter? Retrieved from https://www.thedodo.com/how-do-squirrels-keep-warm-in-winter-1462545052.html

Sokko, N. (n.d.). Squirrel Tracks. Retrieved from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/animal-tracks-you-can-identify-your-own-yard

Where Do Squirrels Nest In Winter?: Orkin Canada. (2019, April 19). Retrieved from https://www.orkincanada.ca/blog/squirrels-in-winter/

January; Endurance

The pathway that I am used to quickly walking down to get to my site was covered in ice and very slippery. But I think it made my experience better, I was forced to slow down and observe the nature around me. 

When finally got to my site, which hasn’t changed from last semester, I saw that it was all covered in a blanket of snow. All of the late summer and fall growth had been pushed down by the snowfall. Some brown stocks remained standing in pools of ice, near the footbridge but most of the open land was completely covered.

The outside of the footbridge was covered in a couple of inches of snow, but the middle of the path had a slick layer of ice. 

Unlike the past couple of visits, this time I didn’t hear any birds or see any signs of wildlife, within my site. Usually, this area is frequented by small bounders and gallopers, like mice, shrews, and squirrels.  

My site looks very different from summer, fall and even early winter before the break. 

Field Notes

Twigs that we saw:

  • Red maple 
  • Sugar maple
  • Norway maple 

In Centennial woods, there was lots of evidence of winter activity. Deer prints were the most common. The key characteristics that we used to identify the deer included, the two toe print, as well as the fact that there was a straight single line of prints which indicates a diagonal walker, like the deer.

Another set of prints we attempted to identify looked as though it belonged to some sort of rabbit, it had a galloper pattern but was too large to belong to a shrew or a mouse. 

The final set of tracks we were able to identify belonged to a raccoon. It had five distinct toe prints, unfortunately, I was only able to find one print, it looked as though the others had been buried so it was hard to tell what type of walking pattern the animal left behind.  

Sense of Place

I spent my Thanksgiving break in the town of Seekonk Massachusetts,  We’re one of my roommates is from. This is my first time in Seekonk so establishing a sense of place was my first task. 

Massachusetts as a whole state is much older than where I’m from,  all the time I spent there I was thinking about the historical implications, and events that have happened  All over the place.

 Ecologically Massachusetts is also very different from Northern California. The trees I saw when we went on walks around here look nothing like the tall redwoods I’m used to,  And the animals that venture out into the cold we’re relatively unfamiliar to me.

Seekonk’s a small suburban town.  my roommate lives at the end of a cute little cul-de-sac where the houses have lights in every window to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.

Massachusetts is very impacted by historical human actions. The roadways are now paved but were once built for animal-based transportation. So the towns and roads are built in older, confusing patterns. 

In my own town, The built environment doesn’t really affect my sense of place, because nature is more present in my life. I find my strongest sense of place in my hometown when I am at the beach, sitting on the bluffs. 

My sense of place at home has definitely changed over the years. When I was younger my sense of place was very based on my parents’ social circles, and events that would take place in the town square. I felt most at home at the Sunday morning farmers market, running around and talking to all of my family friends. 

Now when I’m home I find myself much less drawn to the social circle of my parents, and less drawn to the infrastructure of my town. I feel much more connected to the natural areas around me. And I’m sure that once I return after a semester establishing a strong sense of place in Burlington based on identification and understanding of my local ecosystems my sense of place at home will be even more focused on the natural world and getting to know it. 

I think both my old strong sense of place among elders and the community as well as my new ground connection to the natural world really inform who I am. I am a person who loves and places great value on the community while understanding the true beauty and importance of temporarily disconnecting with others in order to connect more fully with the natural world around you. 

Having a strong sense somewhere is definitely good for you. I know that in times of stress or when I am feeling overwhelmed I can but myself in situations that I have a strong connection to as a way to reground myself. To soothe my mind I can take the time to sit on the fountain in the middle of our downtown square and watch everyone enjoy the farmers market or I can drive out to the coast and watch the rogue waves hit the shore. And while both of these experiences are quite different, they both have a strong sense of place for me and I can use them to rebalance myself and my life. Taking a step back and feeling safe and connected to a place for a moment is a form of self-care.

Phenology and Place

This trip to my site was quite different from ones in the past. Snow-covered the ground, so the usually green path was a blanket of white. 

The snow cover changed my site quite a bit, the central area next to the footbridge that used other tall grasses growing now shows those same grasses that have turned brown and are weighed down by snow. 

There are some areas that still had green plants but they seemed like they were starting to fade.

The sense of place in my site has changed, different animals are now active, plants in different states of life now dominate the ground. 

It is obvious that there is a lot of water or snowmelt moving through the floodplain into the stream below. The footbridges are covered in snow and there were puddles of water on either side.

For me I feel my strongest sense of place in forests, so spending time at my phenology site definitely makes me feel connected. However, this was my first time being in a forest during the winter, while there was snow in the air and covering the ground. 

So while the forests have always had a strong sense of place to me seeing a forest covered in snow disconnect me from the location. The forests I am used to remaining green year-round, so exploring the snow-covered forests is a new experience that I need to get acquainted with to establish a stronger sense of place.  

My place has had many phases in its lifetime. And I’m sure that it sense of place has changed quite a bit as its uses changed. When Vermont had lots of sheep grazing and centennial woods was a part of that. My site would have been missing many of the characteristics that give it its sense of place. 

Large trees would have been removed and the floodplain would have been described and grazed which would have inhibited the ability of the floodplain to drain correctly.

Mapping and Charismatic Species

Today on my visit to Centennial Woods I found myself captivated by all of the leaf litter on the ground.   Many different types of leaves lay in piles, some of them half-buried in mud, others tucked under plants that have yet to wither for the winter. Most of the ground vegetation am I site had lost all of its colors and turn brown, but remain standing. this meant that the area was full of Long Tall reddish-brown sticks standing straight up. Beneath these plants lay a layer of leaf litter and small green plants that couldn’t have been more than 3 in tall.

 Along the south side of the Footbridge a young Norway maple study, it’s yellow leaves stretching only five feet  Into the air. even though it’s quite short it instantly catches your eye being one of the only colorful things left.

 Under the Footbridge I found both narrow Beach Ferns and the sensitive fern, the bridge provides them protection so they are still able to grow in the changing weather.

 The eastern white pines that stand along the back of my sight have needles at the top but many have fallen, mixed in with the leaf litter we’re pine needles. The pine trees stand strong in the winter, their minimal change making them a pillar of stability for the forest ecosystem. In the branches of these trees a chickadee bird. Able to be heard her quite a ways the small bird’s chirp were one of the few sounds. 

The only other animal I saw today was a small Eastern chipmunk, scampering around the area right as I entered. She quickly dashed away for protection but could be heard scampering through the Leafs for a minute or so afterward.

 My site hasn’t changed much in the last 20 days, they’re definitely more leaves on the ground and more mud next to the path. But the levels of vegetation look rather similar. And the eastern pines have changed very little. The biggest thing I noticed was the quiet today. There wasn’t the sound of bugs Orbeez buzzing around my site. The winter has seemed to make everything quieter.

 I’m sure that the increase in water flow will affect my sight, dragging away is topsoil and making it a less stable environment.

The six organisms I looked map:

  1. eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
  2. Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
  3. Narrow beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis) 
  4. Blacked capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
  5. Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
  6. Norway maple (Acer platanoides)

I greatly enjoyed mapping my site. It forced me to look at it from a different perspective. I realized how much of a wall was made by the eastern white pines in the back and I feel like I got to really know the place. Having to draw the path that I always blindly followed made me really applicate the natural curves of the land that the path adheres to. After making this map I feel like I understand the site better.

Introduction To My Place


Walking through centennial woods you see large white pines, tall birch trees, and oaks that reach the sky, but if you wander a little further you find a footbridge. Sitting in a small, low lying clearing. If you walk to the middle of the bridge, you can pop a squat in a nice, lightly shaded zone with no overstory trees and lots of ground cover.

This place is defined by its low lying area, the muddy pathway along the footbridge and its lack of big trees.

Already you can see evidence of water running through the flood plain. The ground on either side of the walk has muddy footprints.

White flowers have bloomed on the American aster plants that grow on the upside of the bank.

Some of the taller sensitive ferns have turned brow, while others remain a light green, not yet Turing to yellow and losing their color. 

Birds can be heard in the trees nearby but this low land is only visited by the bees and mosquitoes, and the occasional Woolly bear caterpillar.

The northern white pines that stand just behind the flood plan, stand tall, still full of needles and color.

The wind is dropping some pine needles over the center, creating a change in diet for the microbes and possibly adding acidity to the soil. 

The air is moist, making the forest smell like it had just rained. Adding a freshness to it