Here are some spring phenological indicators that I have noticed since i’ve been home. The end of March in Western Massachusetts where I live is the beginning of spring time. Birds such as robins, nuthatches, and chickadees begin to reappear. Twigs can be seen on juvenile trees and you can see scat around from animals coming out of hibernation and winter survival modes. Additionally, you can hear the chirps of the frogs as they begin their mating season.
Holes in a tree created by a woodpecker.
Cigar buds forming on a juvenile twig.
Unidentified animal scat in the woods on Mount Greylock.
Deer scat on a hiking trail at Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.
Frogs chirping on a swampy section the Lake Ashmere.
January is an important month for many of the flora and fauna in the forest. It is a time of intense survival tactics, and for some, hibernation. My location in Centennial Woods has experienced several phenological changes since my last visit. There is a much heavier snow cover on the ground than there was for my last visit. Additionally, there is more evidence of animal interaction with my site through the snow tracks.
The tracks that are apparent in this photo represent a walking and trotting pattern. The tracks are between 10 and 18cm apart which makes it possible that they could belong to a coyote or a deer. Additionally since the tracks are a bit older, it is difficult to distinguish paw/hoof prints which would be a good indicator of the species.
These tracks represent a bounding pattern.
This twig has alternate branching and pointy buds. The tree it comes from is relatively small and looks like it may be a juvenile Sugar Maple branch.
Levine, L., & Mitchell, M. (2008). Mammal tracks and scat: life-size tracking guide. East Dummerston, VT: Heartwood Press.
TREE BRANCHES 1: SUGAR MAPLE. (2016, December 6). Retrieved from http://northernforestatlas.org/2016/12/06/tree-branches-1-sugar-maple/
Holland, M., & Kaneko, C. (2019). Naturally curious: a photographic field guide and month-by-month journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England. North Pomfret, Vermont.: Trafalgar Square Books.
I have spent the entirety of my life living in New England. I spent the first four years of my life living in Maine and the last 14 years living in Massachusetts and the last several months living in Vermont. Overtime, I have come to feel a strong sense of place in New England as a whole. The variety of landscapes, ocean, and urban settings make it an extremely versatile region of the country.
On a more local scale, I feel a strong sense of place in the western region of Massachusetts known as Berkshire County where I lived most of my life before coming to college. Within Berkshire County, I live in a small town called Hinsdale. This place hold special meaning to me because of the people and community there that is special to me. Additionally, the memories that I made in this place, have been some of my favorites.
In my small town of Hinsdale, there are about 2,500 people. I live on a small lake called Lake Ashmere and this lake is a man-made lake that used to be farmland. This lake is where I spent most of my time as a child, swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. This is an example of how the past human interactions with the landscape shape my relationship with it now.
Where I grew up, I had lots of access to outdoor recreation such as hiking, skiing, and kayaking which I believe fostered a strong passion for the outdoors and my interest in pursuing a career helping the environment in some way.
Having a strong sense of place in my hometown has helped me to have a more substantial sense of belonging and care for the area. I feel connected to the place and the people in it which is a good feeling.
Since coming to UVM however, I have a slightly different connection to the Berkshires. At school I have met many people who come from urban and suburban areas that did not have access to the amount of green space and natural areas that I was exposed to in my hometown. Learning this deepened my appreciation for nature in my hometown. On the other hand, since Burlington is much more urbanized than my own hometown, being immersed in an Urban setting surrounded by lots of people, utilizing public transportation to get around, and having more options for fun things to do has exposed me to a different type of lifestyle that I found I actually enjoy. This has helped me to begin to develop a sense of place in Vermont and specifically in Burlington.
I grew up in New England, specifically rural western Massachusetts. Because of this I typically feel a strong sense of place in the woods. Growing up the forest was my backyard and the wildlife that lived there were my neighbors. Some of my best memories as a child were long walks or cross country skis in the woods behind my house. When I am in my spot in Centennial Woods I get a similar feeling of comfort and nostalgia that I get from being in my back woods at home. They are peaceful and serene. This particular visit to Centennial woods was special to me because the day before was the first snowfall in Burlington. This left the woods covered in a dusting of glistening snow that adds a whole new perspective to the woods. As a child, I always thought of the first snowfall as a fresh start. Like turning to a new page on a coloring book, fresh and clean. Now that Centennial woods is mostly forested land, I find that I have a stronger sense of place there. In the mid 19th century when the land was cleared for agricultural lands and timber, I think that that would significantly affect my feeling of place in this area. Since I have never been a farmer and many of the people that I grew up knowing or associating with did share have that identity.
I have always found the forest to be one of the most peaceful places on earth. It doesn’t matter where, but surrounded by the quiet and nature, thoughts about the chaotic outside world seem to fade into the soothing rustle of the leaves. When I am in my spot in centennial woods I feel this way. Calm, grounded, and in harmony with a natural world that is stronger and wiser than the entire human race. When I am in centennial woods you can hear the birds chirping. They are songbirds and their whistles come out in drawn out melodic tones. Like a choir, they serenade the forest. Although the leaves have been changing and the temperatures dropping, a steady few remain. Additionally in the white noise of the forest, I can hear the sound of the grasshoppers. One of the leaves of a tree close to the entrance of Centennial woods has morphed from a pale green to a vibrant pinkish color. If the sunset were to be a leaf, that is what it would look like. In one of these leaves, there is evidence of past insect interaction. Bite marks that mark the meal of a small forest creature. A conspicuous characteristic of my location in centennial woods is a large ditch that is about 2×3 feet in dimension. It looks to be created by an animal that needed a place to sleep or hide. The forest floor that used to be covered in dirt and forest debris such as sticks and greenery is now sprinkled with red, yellow, and brown leaves. The land is relatively flat. There are several squirrels roaming about my spot as well. This time of year is an important one for this species because they must prepare their food supply for the winter.
The place that I chose to observe the phenological changes in is Centennial Woods. When you enter Centennial Woods, the spot that I chose is behind the information stand. There are several characteristics of this spot that make define it and make it recognizable. The first is that it sits behind the information stand which marks the entrance of the woods and evidence of human contact with the land and the space as a whole. Additionally there are many trees but one in particular always sticks out to me. It has a crooked in shape with three trees coming out of the base of the trunk. The base of the trunk also has a large opening that exposes some of the insides of the tree as the forest floor debris inside. There are several other markers that indicate to me that I am in my spot in Centennial Woods. One of other more distinct features is a large hole in the ground where it looks like and animals may have dug for a burrow or for hibernation of some sort. Additionally there is a pathway that leads to my spot. Since I live on Redstone Campus, ride my bike over to Centennial woods. I typically go through the main part of campus and have to cross several cross walks along the way. When I am in my spot in Centennial Woods I feel peaceful. There is something about being surrounded by trees that gives me a different perspective on life and the things that really matter. I feel much more in tune with the earth and nature and overall it is an extremely positive feeling. Additionally, I feel both thankful and lucky to be able to have access to such a serene place and to be able to experience the miraculous changing of the seasons.