Archive for October, 2018

Running List of Identified Flora

Trees:

  • White Oak
  • Eastern Hemlock
  • Eastern White Pine
  • Sugar Maple
  • Red Maple
  • American Beech
  • Green Ash

Understory Plants:

  • Buckthorn (both Common & Glossy)
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lady Fern
  • Marsh Fern

Second Visit

Two weeks had passed since I had been to my phenology site last. It was a considerably sunnier day, though the air was colder, much more reminiscent of a fall day than the previous. There was a fairly strong breeze, and barely a cloud in the sky. Back in the woods, underneath the shade of trees, it was much colder, but in the sun, I felt the need to take off my jacket as I walked. It was about noon when I arrived.

Though some time had passed for me since I had been there, not much had changed in the area. Much of the vegetation looked the same, especially throughout the understory. The hardwood trees had definitely started to lose more of their leaves – the ground was blanketed in mostly maple leaves of varying colors, mostly yellow but each a little different than the next, some with splotches of red. The white oak at the center of my area was mostly unchanged, still retaining green in many of its leaves. I had to sift through the many maple leaves on the ground to even come across a few downed brown oak leaves, and there were even less needles from the pine trees around. The ferns, like the maples, had started to shift as well, many of the pinna starting to yellow or wither as the increasingly colder weather began to get to them. Many of the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) retained their dark green color and have not yet started to yellow; the other type of fern common in my site, what I think is marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), has begun to yellow. Other woody plants in the understory have stayed very green in coloration much like the lady fern. At that point, temperatures hadn’t quite gotten so cold, so maybe that had some sort of effect on the longevity of the plant life.

This time, however, I was not alone with the plants. There were a few types of birds that I got to see this time through. The songs of blue jays were loud that day, and even though I didn’t see them they overpowered a lot of the other birds that were singing in the area. In the lulls between their calls, I heard the familiar chickadee-dee-dee call, and sure enough there were two black-capped chickadees above me, happily flitting around the branches. They seemed unbothered by my presence, hanging upside down on the branches above my head and giving me a once over before disappearing off into the trees somewhere else. Some time passed, and I was recording some observations when I noticed a strange hollow tapping sound coming from somewhere in the trees. At first, I couldn’t tell what direction it came from, but eventually I found the source – a pileated woodpecker tapping away at the dead snag diagonally west from the center oak. The snag is a tall, dead conifer of some kind. The wood is just starting to go soft, so I assume its a great place for the woodpecker to find food. I watched him from a log beneath the dead tree for a while, tapping decidedly then moving his head back and forth to decide his next strike. Eventually, he’d decided he’d had enough, and I watched him go to somewhere else in the forest.

When I left, I watched a crow land in a nearby maple, calling to the rest of its friends. I’d collected some leaves from various woody plants and shrubs and pieces from the two types of ferns, so that I could identify them later. The walk back was pleasant, warmer than the walk there. I can only hope for days this nice in the coming weeks.

Bird’s Eye View

Map of Place in Centennial Woods

 

In The Beginning

It’s a clear September day when I go to my phenology spot for the first time. The sky is clear of clouds, the air even starting to heat up as we cross from the morning into the early afternoon. The walk from Redstone Campus down to Centennial Woods isn’t a difficult one, but in the warmth I find myself wishing I had left my vest at home, or brought a water bottle. Following Carrigan Drive down across East Avenue and past the Police Department, the entrance to Centennial comes up on the left side. My spot, marked in the center by a towering White Oak, is about a 7 minute walk back into the woods. If you take the trail that follows the creek to the clearing dominated by various types of conifer trees and then turn left, cross the stream and continue along it until you come to a path that t-bones the main trail – that is the rough area of where my phenology spot is.

The reason for choosing this place isn’t necessarily specific or calculated. During previous trips to Centennial, I liked the vibe the area had, the way the trees filled the spaces. It became familiar, and since I don’t have a car or a bike – Centennial was pretty easy access. I ended up exploring a part of Centennial that I had never seen before, and the big White Oak really was what caught my attention for the specific spot. Its sheer size definitely stood out among the other trees, which were considerably skinnier – so much so that it was the first thing that caught my eye as I started to walk up the small hill.

Most of the surrounding trees were hardwoods, dominated specifically by Red, Sugar, and Norway Maple. Both varieties of Buckthorn can be found in abundance in the understory, and in one of the attached pictures you can clearly see the overlap of a Common Buckthorn and a Glossy Buckthorn growing right next to each other. Besides that, there are three main varieties of ferns I observed that provide a lot of groundcover, as well as maple sprouts and saplings. There is some grass, and towards the creek-facing side of the area, there is a great deal of shrubbery that I couldn’t identify on either of my visits to the place. A few coniferous trees also inhabit the area, including an Eastern White Pine and a few Eastern Hemlock. Additionally, there are a few large downed trees that have a lot of moss and fungal species growing on them. The logs once belonged to coniferous trees, likely pine trees. The ground cover mostly falls in the realm of Oak and Maple leaves, with very little of it able to be attributed to dropped needles.

The air was cold that day, with thick cloud cover. Periodic sprinkles of rain found their way into the forest as I observed my surroundings, but nothing too strong. The darkness of the wood and the vibrant greens were products of rain from the night before, and the air had a fresh, clean smell to it, underlaid with a small hint of wet dirt. It was very quiet, and devoid of animal activity, so much so that I don’t think I even heard a bird calling in that area of the woods.

Its a gloomy October day when I leave my place for the second time, my visiting family happily commenting on how beautiful it is. I must agree – there is nothing quite like the tranquility of the woods after a good rain.

                                  

 

Map of Phenology Area

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