Last Centennial Thicket Visit

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Date: May 3, 2019

Time: 8:40-9:30 am

Weather: Cloudy, high 40s

Birds seen: Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal.

Birds seen elsewhere: Ovenbird (heard), Blue-Headed Vireo, Downy Woodpecker, House Wren (heard), House Finch (heard), American Goldfinch, White-Throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse.

Today, I made my last visit to the Centennial Thicket. Recently, the ground has started to become carpeted in greenery. Spring truly is coming back, and it’s a shame that I’ll have to leave right when it is in full swing.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing some new birds coming through as well, highlighted by my first Wood Thrush of the season. This bird is one of the first long-distance migrants to arrive, and we’ll certainly see more in the coming days and weeks. Other migrants around include House Wren, Blue-Headed Vireo, and Ovenbird.

Lately, I’ve looked into the the ways nature and culture intertwine in this place. Many people use Centennial Woods as a sort of retreat, immersing themselves in the grasp of nature. Unlike the bustling campus of UVM, there is little noise other than birdsong, and it’s quite fun to hike the many trails, and check out spots like Centennial Thicket, since there’s something new around every corner. This is especially true with RSENR students, who not only go for a retreat, but also for fun, and checking out all of the plants and animals is a very enjoyable experience. I feel like I fall into this latter category. Every time I head to the Centennial Thicket, I’m excited as to what I might find, what new birds have arrived or what new plants are growing. I feel like that means in some respects, I’m a part of this place to, a naturally curious observer who enjoys documenting environmental changes over time.

Goodbye Centennial Woods!

Spring Has Sprung!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Date: April 21, 2019

Weather: Mid 60s, partly cloudy

Time: 11:05-11:55 am

Birds seen at spot: Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker (heard), American Crow. Black-Capped Chickadee, Dark-Eyed Junco (heard), Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (heard)

Birds seen elsewhere: Pine Warbler (heard), Winter Wren (heard), White-Throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-Winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch, Brown Creeper (heard). American Robin, Blue Jay (heard)

Over the last several days, our area has undergone a dramatic change. For the first time in more than five months, we have gone more than a week without snow cover. This has led to plants finally starting to spring to life (no pun intended). The grounds around my spot are starting to become covered in ferns, and several tree species are beginning to bud.

Boxelder buds

It’s not just the trees that are undergoing change, but also the birds that are here. New migrants, such as the Eastern Phoebe I saw singing today, are arriving.

Eastern Phoebe

This bird is among the first migrants to arrive, and one of the more common nesting birds in the area. A unique way to bird in the spring is by listening to bird songs by ear. By doing this, I was able to identify a couple other migrants, including Pine Warbler, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, and Brown Creeper. Spring is truly progressing, and I look forward to see the how the thicker changes in the future.

When Will Greenery Show?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Date: April 2, 2018

Time: 9:15-9:45 am

Weather: Low 30s, sunny

Birds seen: Black-Capped Chickadee, American Crow, American Robin, Pine Siskin (heard), American Goldfinch (heard), Dark-Eyed Junco (heard), American Crow, Downy Woodpecker (heard), Turkey Vulture (FOS).

Today, I went into Centennial Woods hoping spring had sprung. Unfortunately, there has been little change in vegetation or animals so far. All I could find that was green were a few ferns that were just starting to bloom. Most of the snow cover has melted, and it was pretty muddy. As for birds, I did see several Turkey Vultures heading north, the first spring migrants in Burlington.

Back in NYC…and Almost No Signs of Spring

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

March 13th, 2019

Weather: Partly cloudy

Temperature: 50 degrees

Birds seen: Tufted Titmouse, Black-Capped Chickadee, Dark-Eyed Junco, CHIPPING SPARROW, White-Throated Sparrow, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, House Finch, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, Downy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Cooper’s Hawk.

Still waiting on spring…

On Wednesday, I went back to New York City and stopped by the site that I had previously visited in the fall. Much of the leaves were gone when compared to my previous visit, and very few signs of spring showed. Despite what native Vermonters might think, a lack of snow on the ground at any point in winter is not an unexpected sight in the city. The feeders showed a variety of species, including Tufted Titmice, American Goldfinches, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers. There was also a Red-Breasted Nuthatch and Chipping Sparrow at the feeders, two species that usually don’t overwinter. Despite bird migration having not begun yet, birds such as the American Goldfinch have started molting into their breeding plumage.

Molting male American Goldfinch sharing a feeder with a Tufted Titmouse
The Tufted Titmice were very friendly, and ate right out of my hand!

The nearby stream didn’t attract as many birds, but I did see a Northern Cardinal posing nicely.

The Gill Source
Handsome-looking cardinal

These observations contained many more species than in Burlington last week, with some such as the White-Throated Sparrow being only passage migrants. There are also no signs of any mammals other than the abundant (and begging) Gray Squirrels, whereas there are several other mammal species in the Centennial Thicket. Despite looking, I could not find any tracks in snow or mud. Warm weather is approaching, with highs reaching almost 70 degrees in New York City on Friday. This increase in temperature is expected to bring in some of the first migratory birds, such as Eastern Phoebes and Rusty Blackbirds. Migrants typically arrive 10-15 days later in Burlington, so I have a bit of waiting to do before they arrive. Still, I look forward to witnessing the progression of spring in the Centennial Thicket, even if it’s a little later.

Is Spring Here Yet?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Friday, March 8, 2019

Weather: Sunny, 10-15 degrees

Snow cover: 6 inches

Birds at this spot: Black-Capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse (heard), Northern Cardinal (heard), American Goldfinch (heard).

I went to visit my site today to see if the grip of winter has lessened. I was able to witness a few faint signs of spring. The first of these was hearing a cardinal singing, one of the first birds to break into song. I also noticed many rodent trails around the woods, indicating that they are starting to wake up from hibernation. In fact, there were many tracks all around.

Sometimes I like to look back on how much Centennial Thicket has changed since I first started visiting. Below is a picture taken on my first visit to this place, and then today’s visit.

I would classify my spot as part of a young (overall) Northern Hardwood Forest, since many deciduous trees, such as Horsechestnut, Boxelder, and Black Cherry, are found there. However, many of these trees are quite short, not more than 40 feet tall. This leads me to believe that the forest is pretty young, as imagery from the 1930s shows no forest at all. My spot does border some mixed forest that mainly consists of Eastern White Pines, but it only takes up a small portion of the area. I’m sure I’ll be able to see more defining details of Centennial Thicket’s main natural community in the future. I look forward to seeing spring arrive in all of its vibrant colors, and wonder what I might find then!

You can find life in winter if you know where to look…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2019 by Jordan Spindel

Date: January 29, 2018

Time: 9:40-9:55 am

Weather: 20 degrees, snow flurries

Snow Cover: 9 inches

Birds seen: Black-Capped Chickadee (heard), Downy Woodpecker (heard)

This morning, I went to the Centennial Thicket for the first time in nearly two months. Not much has changed visually since the last time I was there, other than the few leaves that remained on the Red Oaks disappearing. There was also much more snow, with about 9 inches on the ground. Bare twigs were also visible on all of the trees, including the Red Oak.

Red Oak twig

For the first time, I saw no wildlife at the Centennial Thicket, but there were plenty of indications that animals were still around. Firstly, I heard two species of birds, which were the local Black-Capped Chickadees and a Downy Woodpecker. Secondly, I found tracks of several species of animals, which were Humans, Domestic Dogs, Gray Squirrel, Eastern Cottontail, and White-Tailed Deer.

Rabbit tracks

Deer track

Here’s hoping that I see more signs of wildlife soon!

Last visit to Centennial Thicket of the year!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Tuesday, December 4th , 2018, 8:20-8:50 am

Weather: Snow Shower.

Snow Cover: 1 inch

Birds seen at this spot: American Robin, Black-Capped Chickadee, American Crow, Northern Cardinal

Birds seen nearby: Mallard, Carolina Wren

I went to my site one last time this year this morning. A fresh coat of snow blanketed the ground. However, it concealed the hidden danger of massive sheets of ice produced from the recent rainfall. I almost slipped a few times, but continued on. My spot looked quite different compared to a few weeks ago. A few dangling leaves were all that was left on all of the trees, including the persistent Red Oak. As for birds, I only saw a few species around, including several Black-Capped Chickadees and a few Northern Cardinals. A pair of Carolina Wrens were also braving the conditions in some underbrush nearby.

A Carolina Wren in Centennial Woods in late September.

Lately, I’ve been checking out what the human history of the Centennial Thicket was through the Burlington Geographic site. Turns out, it was originally a plot of land used as a farm by J. Whitson in the 1830s, and as the estates of Herald Stevens and C. Baxter in the 1890s. Even when Centennial Woods was starting to be grown in the early 1900s, it was originally much smaller, and my spot was still an open field.

Centennial Thicket in 1937. It is just right of the patch of scattered bushes/small trees left of center.

I can see this age in the vegetation too, as most trees around this site are fairly short when compared to others deeper in the woods, excluding the rapidly-growing White Pines. If you go back even further, you’ll find out from the surficial geology that the Centennial Thicket was on (or just off) the shore of the Champlain Sea, an ancient water body that existed 10,000 years ago.

The blue represents marine sediments from the Champlain Sea.

I can’t wait to explore more and learn more about my place next year!

Phenology a bit closer to home

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018, 12-1 pm

Link to spot:,-73.9690711,165m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c2589232f63bb1:0x8f24b441c268a5f9!8m2!3d40.7768215!4d-73.968892

Weather: Cloudy

Birds seen at this spot: Tufted Titmouse, Black-Capped Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, White-Throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove

Leopold’s Style:

Today, I went for a stroll in one of my favorite areas of New York City’s Central Park: the Evodia Field bird feeders. Under the canopy of Red Oaks lie the swarms of seed-eating birds surrounding an array of almost two dozen feeding stations. Of all its visitors, the Tufted Titmice are most charming, particularly because their antics always interest me. I watch one chow down on a suet cake, one of the most nutritious items in the forest.

Tufted Titmouse on its suet cake

Just as he was settling into his feast, something catches his eye. A rival! The two blue-and-white warriors squabble through the air, squeaking and pecking at each other. Finally, they separate, with the rival depleted of stamina. Our titmouse has won the battle, and so returns to his feast.

The Gill

Not far from the feeders lies a small stream colloquially known as the Gill. It starts out with a small waterfall, that widens up into Azalea Pond, then twists and turns farther down, eventually flowing into the Lake. At the mouth, I stood, waiting for some natural event to happen. Suddenly, a flock of yellow jewels flutter down into the stream. These American Goldfinches clearly must’ve gotten a bit dirty with their heads inside the seed feeders. One by one, they dip their bodies into the water, ridding themselves of all the grime that has accumulated throughout the day. They then fly into the bare branches above, spend a few minutes drying off, and then go back to the sources of nourishment they subsist on.

American Goldfinches bathing in the Gill

Holland’s Style:

Evodia Field is radically different from the Centennial Thicket. To start, there is no snow on the ground, and it is much warmer. Most of the tree species present in the area are also completely different, and many of them still retain most of their leaves. One species present in both spots is the Northern Red Oak, with several 80-foot giants towering over the relatively low bird feeders.

The canopy of oaks

Speaking of birds, there are a lot more of them than at the Centennial Thicket, with hundreds of individuals of around a dozen species present, compared to the paltry dozen or so birds of four or five species being seen right now. I also saw a migrant species that has long disappeared from the Champlain Valley, two Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Hardy as they are, these tiny olive birds still migrate, but are more likely to stick around for longer where it is warmer. Every year, a few may even overwinter in the area!

A native White-Throated Sparrow (front) with a non-native House Sparrow, the latter of which isn’t found in Centennial Woods.

Most notably, Evodia Field is much more altered by humans than the Centennial Thicket. While the thicket only contains one dirt path, Evodia Field contains several fenced-in paved paths. Furthermore, the bird feeders are a major human intervention of the natural cycles. They bring hundreds of birds into a very small area, particularly titmice, sparrows, and finches. It is like an artificial oasis for avian life, and one that I will surely miss once I head back to Vermont.

A bit of a side note is that many finches are coming down from up north! This is known as an irruption, when you get a lot of a species that you typically see very few of during a typical fall/winter. On 19th, I saw several Purple Finches in Central Park, and even a rare Evening Grosbeak!


The leaves have fallen, and so has the snow

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Friday, November 16, 2018, 7:50 am

Weather: Snowing

Snow cover: 5-6 inches

Birds seen at this spot: Carolina Wren, American Crow, Black-Capped Chickadee

Birds seen nearby: American Robin, American Goldfinch (heard)

This morning the first major snowstorm of the season hit the Centennial Thicket, dropping over half a foot there. This was the second snow event to hit; the first hit on Tuesday and two inches fell. The trees looked very different compared with my last visit almost two weeks ago. The Black Walnuts have now lost all of their leaves, and it seems like the Red Oak only has about half of its leaves left, which are now brown and wilted.


As for birds, a few still seemed to be out during the snowstorm. The resident Carolina Wren scuttled across the path, feeding among the snow-covered shrubs. Chickadees were active as usual in their large feeding flocks. I also found footprints at the edge of the spot (as well as deeper in the woods) that looked to be a few hours old. Based the shape, size, and spacing of the prints, I think they may have been made by a deer.

Meanwhile, I was trudging around covered in a fresh layer of snow!

Me after less than an hour outside


Everything is Falling Down + Chickadee Banding!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2018 by Jordan Spindel

Sunday, November 4, 2018 10:45 am

Weather: Mostly sunny, low 40s

Birds seen at this spot: Black-Capped Chickadee,  Blue Jay

Birds seen nearby: Tufted Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, EASTERN PHOEBE, Common Raven, American Crow, American Robin, Canada Goose

Today I went to visit my phenology site once again. But first, I went out with the Wildlife and Fisheries society (WFS) and Professor Alan Strong to do some Black-Capped Chickadee banding near my spot.

Untangling a chickadee from the net.

Measuring wing length


                   ‘Dee and Me!

In total, we banded 9 chickadees, and recaptured two others. I’ll be sure to keep my eye out to see if I can spot any banded birds in Centennial Woods. Other birds in the area included titmice and nuthatches caught in the net, the resident raven flying over constantly calling, and a late Eastern Phoebe flycatching by the pond near the entrance.

One of the nuthatches we caught. These were let go as soon as we freed them.

Most of the trees in the Centennial Thicket seem to have lost virtually all of their leaves. Perhaps the only tree to have nearly all of them is a young Red Oak.

The Red Oak, one of the last leafy trees.

Many of my focal tree species that are visible outside my site, such as Beech and Sugar Maple, still have a lot of leaves, but few of those trees are in my site, likely because the habitat conditions are a bit different deeper into the forest. I better work on how to identify these trees now that most are rapidly losing their leaves!

There is still some greenery on the ground, but little above it.

On a side note, you can observe many changes in the photos I have posted since the blog’s inception, such as trees gradually losing their leaves, as well as the many resident and migratory birds around. On another side note, I have also put together an “event map” in order to showcase some of the things I saw today.

                            My event map

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