Goodbye for now…

It is with great sadness that I visit my phenology spot for the last time this semester. I know I will be back, but to miss the changes this spot will go through in the next four months is sad to think about. My visit this week was one of the best, with all the newly sprouting flowers, buds, and the buzz of animal activity around every corner.

A lone mushroom still holds on tight to the rotting log it grew from in late November, but around it is new life, sprouting and twisting their way up into the floodplain ecosystem.

There has been some human made changes along the path to my area, and along with the extreme flooding, it has made the spot almost unrecognizable. I don’t know how to feel about this. When I saw this tree cut and removed from the side of the path, I felt loss. Like part of me had been removed. I realize it was for safety of trail visitors, but this snag that held another dead piece of wood, was the indicator for me that I was almost to my spot; and now it’s gone.

October, 2018
April, 2019
April, 2019

Seeing this dramatic of a change over the span of 6 months was strange and sort of daunting. Even though this form of management was necessary, it made me wonder how humans might continue to change this landscape while i’m gone for 4 months.

In the past two semesters I have witnessed nature and culture intertwine before my very eyes. I have watched each season change, and with it the landscape. I have seen human impact, growth, death, and natural alterations of the natural community. I have seen the inhabitants of the place, and some resonance of those who don’t want to be seen. I have seen the remains of the Winooski junk yard, the rising river levels, and the increase in beaver populations. I have found homeless people’s shelters, set up throughout the seasons, and tracks of wild mink leading back to its den. People live here, and so do animals; such a diverse array of species rely on similar aspects of this landscape to live their lives, and therefore this spot is not only important to me, but to many other people, animals, and plants.

I am part of this spot. I’m not just a visitor. Yes I only stop by once or twice a month to check up on how things are changing, but I impact this environment just as much as it has impacted me. In the fall, I walked over millions of fallen leaves, potentially crushing any insects beneath them. In winter I trudged through snow, potentially disturbing an area of hibernation. In spring I walked through sinking mud and growing vegetation, potentially increasing erosion or preventing further plant growth. In order to study this place, I had to leave my mark there as well, even if it was unintentional. Whether or not my mark left was good or bad, this place has left a huge positive mark on me; giving me a place of peace and serenity, while providing me with education and entertainment. I will most definitely be back.

Just Fiddling Around

The fiddleheads are everywhere!!! It’s just a week after I visited my spot in late April, and the growth in the first week of May has been rapid. These little guys are erupting from the flood plain soil everywhere I turn.


Not a lot of the trees have budded yet, but the ones that are are mostly Boxelders, and their long green buds are growing pretty quickly as we approach early May!

The forest floor here at the Winooski River by Salmon Hole has yet to start sprouting flowers and most vegetation is covered in mud from all of the flooding. I did however notice some small growth in certain areas; grass poking through leaf litter and mud, small cluster of ferns emerging through leaf litter, and bamboo like weeds scatter throughout the hill leading down to the water.

On the muddy area underneath the main trees at my phenology spot, there was a significant littering of flower buds.

These tree droppings seem to be attracting quite the crowd. In this visit I saw at least 7 different individual female robins, 4 sets of raccoon tracks, a few mink tracks, a turkey vulture, and a male and female hawk. The larger birds are most likely here because of the smaller rodents and amphibians that are participating in migration or coming out of hibernation.

Fairfield beaches are much different than most environments in Burlington, Vermont. After immersing myself in my favorite beach in Fairfield, Connecticut for at least an hour, I was able to notice things about the natural environment that I had never thought about prior to this visit.

 I walked up and down the small strip of sand that is sandwiched between two jetties and observed the way the sand felt underneath my boots. Even on a cold winter day the concentration of the sand is obviously going to be considerably different than that of the soil lining the river banks of the Winooski river. Even so, I was surprised by the amount of larger rocks still present in the sand; sand is often assumed to be tiny grains of weathered rocks or shells but when I took time to actually examine what was beneath my feet I discovered that on this particular beach the sand is less of a grainy mix of material and is more separated by grains and larger materials like shells, rocks, pebbles etc.… This makes sense due to my towns history of being greatly affected by recent storms. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy left a great deal of debris along all of the beaches and tore up a lot of what used to be the landscape of this area.  

      I also saw tracks of a canine animal that was not a domestic dog which is unusual for this beach because usually the beach is crowded with pet dogs. I was intrigued by these tracks and followed them to the golf course behind the parking lot of the beach, eventually making a guess that this animal could be a small fox. I found this to be pretty interesting because even though it is a significantly different environment to my Burlington phenology spot, both places are spots that foxes like to roam.

I usually only notice a mass amount of seagulls at this beach but during my hour long visit I did happen to see a morning dove which is a fairly common species in the neighborhood I live in, but it was interesting to see it flying around with the large crowds of aggressive seagulls that flock all Fairfield beaches. Back in Burlington I often see crows, woodpeckers, chickadees, and other far more interesting birds to watch, but I wasn’t expecting these to be on the beaches near me so the lack of bird diversity was not surprising.

A Natural Community

This spot on the Winooski River may seem like a wetland community from afar, however even though it is part of the Burlington watershed it is most definitely closer to a woodland community than a wetland community. The reason I believe this is due to the landform that surrounds my spot. Although it rests on a river bank, the forest floor never floods because the bank is so eroded that the water level never reaches high enough. The Wetland, Woodland, Wildland reference was helpful in ruling out wetlands for this specific area because it describes a wetland as being “saturated or inundated with water” for long periods of time whereas upland communities lack soil saturation or inundation except following heavy rain. My spot has never been overly saturated while I’ve been there, even after a rain storm. The soil is always dense and dry enough where my food does not sink in while I walk along the bank. However, the soil is not dry enough where it would fall in the category of a wildland; there is still fertile ground that allows for trees to grow, mushrooms to sprout up, and vegetation to thrive. A specific species that thrives in woodlands especially is the Oak tree, which my spot has plenty of.

Since the first visit I had to this part of Salmon Hole there have been quite a few phenological changes that I’ve noticed. The amount of precipitation Burlington has had since September is astonishing. All of the heavy rainfall and the thick layer of snow that has coated the ground for the last three months has definitely taken tole on the soil composition in the area. I’ve noticed a good amount of erosion in the side of the river bank, most likely due to run off or heavy snow melt during the February thaw. The absurd amounts of water haven’t had all bad effects though; there has been an abundance of mushrooms popping up in the last couple weeks. Even though the snow is still out and temperatures are not forgiving, the sporadic warm days we have melt the snow and create the perfect environment on dead wood or rotting trees for mushrooms to pop up.

The New Year

My first visit back to Salmon Hole this year was incredibly beautiful. The first February thaw had just begun and the river was echoing with the melting of the ice around the river bank. Snow is melting, damp tree trunks are rotting, growing mushrooms in the cold. Puddles form around trees where the soil has begun to warm up. Although it will not last long, this thaw was a wonderful thing to return too after a month away.

Twig Identification

This is the twig of a Basswood tree

This is the twig of a Boxelder maple tree

This is the twig of a Green ash tree

These three twigs are a good representation of the trees that surround this cite on the bank of Salmon Hole on the Winooski river.

This is a sketch of the anatomy of the Boxelder Maple tree, a tree that is very common around my phenology place. 

A February Thaw

Today, on February 4, 2019, I visited my Salmon Hole Phenology place for the first time since December. This was the warmest day we have seen in weeks, reaching temperatures of high 40’s, and the wildlife certainly seemed to be enjoying it!

All throughout my spot were these large galloper’s tracks which I have inferred is most likely a rabbit on the larger side. These tracks have a straddle of about 3 inches and a stride of about 7 or 8 inches. It was difficult to analyze these prints because of the snow melt due to the thaw.

More tracks were found on my way out of the site, these seemed to belong to a raccoon or a beaver who had come out to enjoy the warmer temperatures.  

Beavers are Near…

Salmon Hole is known to be highly populated with beavers and my last visit confirmed this for me!

As I traveled a little further down the river from my phenology spot, I noticed the beginning of a dam being formed by the waters edge. Drift wood was floating away from the structure which made me believe that there was recent movement around the area. The signs did not stop here; Almost every tree that was medium sized in diameter had evidence of beaver behavior on it. Whether the tree was half chewed, scratched, or fully chewed down, there was definitely a beaver in the area recently.

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