Nature, Culture, and Sense of Place- The Last Visit

I visited my phenology spot in Centennial Woods one last time before leaving Vermont for the summer. Though not much has changed in the past week, the buds I observed are getting closer and closer to becoming flowers and leaves.

Centennial Woods is a place utilized by many UVM students for recreation. Every time I go there I always see fellow students out experiencing the nature, just like me. In my opinion, places like this are important for the community. For may people at UVM, hiking is part of their persona culture. Having a place that is easily accessible is very important for the students. Because of this, I think that everyone in the UVM community is part of Centennial Woods. Therefore, I do feel a part of my spot. Observing the changes throughout the year has also made me feel closer to my spot I plan on visiting my spot in the future and continue to observe the changes.

Spring is Here!

On Thursday, April 25th, I visited my spot in Centennial Woods. Luckily, the weather took a break from its recent showers and it was a beautiful day! Wildflowers were unfortunately not yet there, but I saw some promising leaves that may sprout in to flowers soon. There were also plenty of budding trees! I also spotted some mushrooms that I attempted to identify!

Veiled polypore

So many mushrooms!

Wildflower leaves! Something from the avens family.

Boxelder maple buds.
Cottontail rabbit scat!

Pileated Woodpecker?!

Today, while walking to class I spotted a tree with many holes that resemble the ones of a pileated woodpecker makes while looking for insects. Although this is not on my phenology spot, it isn’t too far and I wonder if there are any pileated woodpeckers in Centinneal woods as well! This is the first time I’ve seen woodpecker holes in Vermont! I hope that my next visit to my phenology spot might include another holy tree! Pileated Woodpeckers are one of our focal species this semester. I find them really cool, as they contribute to the biodiversity of the forests!

Phenology at Home!

Over break, I visited one of my favorite spots a town over from my hometown. I used to visit it a lot when I was younger with my family, but hadn’t visted in a few years. Arlington’s Great Meadows (AGM) is 183 acres and located in both Arlington and Lexington, Massachusetts. It is easily accessible as it borders the Minuteman Bikepath which has many daily walkers and bikers. There are also trails in AGM that connect to other natural areas making it a perfect place for a nature outing! Because of this, there are many visitors daily.

AGM is part of the Mystic River watershed and was once a glacial lake. The area is surrounded by a wet meadow created by glacial outwash. This is a similar natural history to that of Centennial Woods, which may explain the similarities in species.

I saw many types of trees that were similar to those in Vermont: Sugar Maple, Oak, and Birch. I also stumbled across a shrub that I had never seen before. upon further investigation I discovered that it is most likely Asiatic Bittersweet, which is a very common invasive species.

Asiatic Bittersweet

I also saw some Paper Birch:

Paper Birch

In addition, I saw some wildlife. I saw some squirrels, just like at my phenology spot in Burlington, but I also saw some birds that I had yet to see this year!

A large squirrel in a tree eating.

Natural​ Communit​​i​y of Centennial Woods

This week, when I visited my spot in Centennial Woods, I paid close attention to the tree species and later looked in Wetlands, Woodlands, Wildlands and discovered that the natural community at my spot is a Northern Hardwood Forest because there are many Sugar Maples, Yellow Birch, and American Beech. There are also Eastern White Pines, Eastern Hemlocks, and Oak trees. There are also many Intermediate Wood ferns. This makes sense, as this community is common in the Champlain Valley Region.

So much has changed at my spot since my first visit. In September, the deciduous trees, like the maples and the beech all had their leaves. Now, all that is remaining are their winter twigs. Also, there was no snow. I wonder if the snow has been deep enough for long enough for animals to live in a subnivean layer below my spot. In the fall, I saw many more birds and occasionally I would see a squirrel or a cottontail rabbit. Now, however, the only animal signs I see are those in the snow. When the leaves started to fall last fall, the ground was damp with the runoff of rainwater. Now, the ground is covered in snow and ice. The brook I walk across is no longer running water as it was in the early fall.

Wildlife Signs and Twigs

I traveled to my phenology spot for the first time back in Burlington on Wednesday, January 30th. To my delight the snow was fresh and I was able to see many tracks in the snow. However, the tracks seemed to all belong to gray squirrels. The tracks are in a galloping motion, and it was clear that the squirrel suspect was leisurely galloping from tree to tree to perhaps find food. There were also tracks that I identified as dog tracks. Their motion was erratic and it was clear that they stayed near the path and did not conserve their energy.

I also was able to identify multiple trees: Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Paper Birch, Oak, and American Beech.

Squirrel tracks in the snow by the path

Close up of the squirrel tracks, showing the toes that allowed me to identify them as squirrels

Dog tracks

Sugar maple twig sketch

Suspected sugar maple twig

This twig was hard for me to identify given that it has multiple terminal buds. However, the cluster of terminal buds also hints that it may be a member of the white oak group.

Human History

Centennial woods is a natural area which is managed by the Environmental Program of UVM. The woods are filled with hiker and dog friendly paths for casual hiking. This allows for a lot of human traffic throughout the woods. However, this 70 acre wooded area was not always like this. In the 1800s and early 1900s, the woods were cleared for agricultural use. There is plenty of barbed wire that remains from the agricultural history of the forest. During this time, the timber industry was a prominent part of the Burlington economy, so perhaps the trees where logged and sold, as many other trees were during this time period. The woods have been able to grow back in the past years. It is evident that the forest is not an old growth, but a rather new growth because of the past history of deforestation at this site. Birch trees and eastern white pines are both pioneer species and are plentiful in Centennial Woods. Eastern white pines are also known to grow in where old agricultural land and hay fields used to be. This helps suggest that the land was cleared and used as some kind of agricultural area. I have noticed that there are a lot of fallen paper birch trees, which would make sense as the short life span of the original new birches as well as the second birches that grew after deforestation is coming to an end.

Map of Burlington, From UVM Special Collections



UVM Libraries Research Guides: Centennial Woods Natural Area: Home. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2018, from

The Changing Landscapes of Centennial Woods Natural Area: A Field Guide [PDF]. University of Vermont Natural Areas. University of Vermont Environmental Program,


Animal Signs in the Snow

In addition to the plant life I saw at Centennial today (check out my last post!) I also found a lot of evidence of wildlife and animals!

First, I saw damage to multiple tree trunks and bark. At first I suspected diseases or insect infestations, but these damages could also have been caused by mice or cottontail rabbits.

I also found multiple tracks in the snow. I saw many human and dog prints, which were easily identifiable.

Suspected dog tracks.

I also found some tracks which were harder to identify. I used my mammal tracks and scat identification booklet to try to figure out which mammals were roaming Centennial.

I decided that the the tracks are those of cottontail rabbit.  

Cottontail rabbit tracks.

Cottontail rabbit tracks.


Ferns, Moss, and Fungi!

Today, December 6, 2018, I visited my phenology spot. It was very cold and snowy, with the temperature being around 28 degrees fahrenheit. Despite the slippery slopes in Centennial, I made it to my phenology spot! It took me a little longer than usual due to the ice coating of the paths and boardwalks.

The icy path.

At my spot I discovered some new nature that I have never noticed before. First, on a fallen birch tree I spotted some white mushrooms. I had difficulty identifying this species of mushroom. At first I guessed it was a birch polypore, mostly because it was growing on a birch tree. However, after closer inspection I realized my mushroom was flatter and whiter than the birch polypore. Also, I researched more on the birch polypore mushroom, and they mature in September and it seems unlikely that the birch polypore will still be alive in December. Perhaps it is an oyster mushroom, but those normally do not survive in the winter either. I think further observation of these mushrooms would be necessary for me to correctly identify it, but I think my best guess at this point is an oyster mushroom. This reminded me of the mushroom I saw on the fallen birch in my Belmont blog. 

Mushroom growing on a fallen paper birch tree.

I also noticed the ferns in my phenology spot. Even coated in snow they still retained their green leaves. This is makes me think that they are perhaps intermediate wood ferns, the most common fern type in New England and also evergreen fern.

A suspected intermediate wood fern.

Lastly, I saw some moss and lichens growing on multiple trees.

Moss growing on the side of a tree.


Belmont, Massachusetts Phenology Spot

November 23, 2018

Belmont, Massachusetts

In the Style of Mary Holland: Description of Belmont Phenology Spot

Located just 7 miles from downtown Boston, wildlife blooms in the Mass Audubon Habitat located in Belmont, Massachusetts. Turtle pond is located in this wildlife sanctuary.

Frogs and Turtles:

As the name suggests, the pond is home to a variety of turtles and frogs, including the ever dangerous snapping turtle. The pond freezes over in the brisk temperatures of November, so she needs to enter a dormant or low response state by lowering her metabolism and her heart rate. The winter here in Belmont reaches below zero degrees fahrenheit and other animals also deal with the cold in there own ways.

The Chipmunk:

The chipmunk can be seen in November eating as many sorts of fruit, nuts, and seeds. She needs to store as much food as possible in her stomach and burrow. She stuffs her cheeks with the food scavenged and brings it back to her burrow. Although she hibernates through the winter, she awakens every few days to raise her body temperature and feed on her scavenged food.

Eastern Grey Squirrel:

The eastern grey squirrel can also be seen feeding aggressively. She does not hibernate, but survives the harsh winter on her fat reserves, therefore it is important for her to find as much food as possible at this time to prepare for the harsher months again. Squirrels and chipmunks seen in Belmont are plump and prepared- there is much to feed on in the sanctuary. Although the icy temperatures have lead to a decrease in the humans visiting the area, there are still plenty animals alive and well in the Habitat.

A chimpmunk spotted today, feeding to prepare for the winter months ahead.

The frozen pond, which houses the snapping turtles.

In the Style of Aldo Leopold: Comparison of Burlington and Belmont

What a beautiful thing that nature is so similar yet so different across the world. In Burlington Vermont, the temperatures are far lower than in Belmont, Massachusetts, yet the phenology is remarkably similar. Both locations are within a sort of wildlife sanctuary: the UVM owned Centennial Woods, and the Mass Audubon owned Habitat. Because of this trait, the two locations are crowded with visitors and their respective dogs on their trails. The tree species are also similar: both locations contain paper birch, sugar maple, eastern hemlock, and eastern white pine among others. However, the differences in location are visible by the leaves. The leaves in Centennial woods have all fallen, but there are some leaves remaining in the warmer climate of Belmont. At the Belmont locations, there is a small birch stand. Although there are birch trees at Centennial, there are far more birches in Belmont. This may be because of the disturbances of trails being built here in the past. Another similarity of the two spots is the presence of water. The Centennial Brook flows through the woods in Burlington and the Turtle Pond is situated in Belmont. These bodies of water affect the wildlife by creating a home for aquatic creatures and provides a drinking source for the land living wildlife as well. The two spots in very different locations provide an insight to the phenology of Vermont versus that of Massachusetts.  

Turtle Pond, with a view of some pine and hemlock trees.

Mushrooms growing on a fallen paper birch.

A dog footprint frozen in mud, illustrating the human interference with the nature.

The paper birch grove.

leaves remaining on some trees.

Phenology Map google Maps Location