Final Post for Centennial Woods

Hi everyone,

Through the year I’ve really enjoyed visiting Centennial Woods, particularly a patch of coniferous forest right by a stream bank. The carpet of golden pine needles and smattering of cones along with the trickle of the stream has always been a great place to unwind and decompress while listening to bird calls and thinking. Even in the winter, without the trickle of the stream and with snow covering any pine needles, the beauty of fresh white snow on dark green American Pine and Eastern Hemlock is unparalleled. What makes this place even more beautiful is the beauty of nature and culture represented together. Today Centennial Woods is a popular place for hiking and picnics but used to be used as farm land. Families used to depend on this land for food, sustenance and production, calling it home. The thought of that is incredible to me, imagining what the land might have looked like in the mid 19th century. Culture plays a role in why I chose this spot too. Idyllic evergreen trees are featured in classic New England art and the idea of a mythical, dense forest with vast trees with roots that extend outward, and trees that filter the sunlight so achieve a radiant glow at a certain hour, is what attracted me to the site. The culture I have consumed in art and literature is what makes this place so meaningful to me. While I am not physically part of the landscape because I leave only footprints behind, I feel I have a presence there. This presence may be invisible to others, but when I visit I see the fallen log that I sit on every time as I listen to birds and try and identify the vegetation on the forest floor. I have visited this site in many different states of being throughout the year, under different circumstances and when I visit each time is recalled to mind. I know I will be returning to this spot, even if I won’t be posting about it here. It’s grown very meaningful to me over the year.

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April Centennial Updates

What a day to be alive in Vermont, it’s a solid 65 degrees and while the storm clouds were starting to roll in it still felt sunny and pleasant. While there were not any wildflowers at my coniferous forest spot, I did pass some on the way over. There were beautiful patches of small light blue flowers and dandelions along the sidewalk and the entrance to the woods. When I got to my spot, I was happy to see the completely thawed stream which was high due to rain. There seemed to be more erosion on the river bank as well. There were no flowering trees because they were all coniferous but I noticed lush green moss on the dead trees. I also saw ferns which had been buried under snow for months but still retained there greenness. I listened to bird calls and heard the short successive rap of a pileated woodpecker as well as the two-toned call of a chickadee. I didn’t see these birds but I imagine the chickadees were nesting in nearby deciduous forest stands.

Light blue wildflowers
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Macon Georgia vs BTV

This Spring Break I traveled to Macon Georgia for Alternative Spring Break to do service on the homes of elderly and disabled residents. Macon is built along the Ocmulgee River, home to the Ocmulgee Native Americans. After European settlement, Macon became a center for manufacturing which is evident in vast open fields that often featured piles of lumber, wood chips or gravel.

The considerably warmer weather felt great after a long winter spent in BTV. Unfortunately I did not have the autonomy to venture somewhere removed from city or suburban life but I took note of some phenological differences all the same. Macon celebrates it’s Cherry Blossom Festival this week, a beautiful time of year where the whitish pink blooms of the flowers attract tourists. This type of festival definitely wouldn’t be found in Vermont this time of year since leaves don’t typically emerge until mid April.

I also experienced what the locals called “Georgia Clay”, a deep orange clay that resides just beneath a thin layer of dark soil, filled with iron deposits. It was different than any type of soil I’ve ever seen in Vermont, the vibrancy of the orange was incredible.

At a nearby park, I spotted what I am fairly confident was a wood stork, standing in warm shallow, stagnant waters. It’s long curved beak and full body tipped me off as to what species it was. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this bird and was certainly different than the typical Vermont wood thrush that frequent Centennial Woods.

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Hello again everyone! So glad to be back at Centennial Woods. The stream at my Centennial Woods site is lined by small gritty pebbles and sand, known as till. Till originates at the time of plate tectonics and various orogenies, an exciting indicator of times past. It was left behind when the ice melted at the end of the ice age after being dragged and dispersed over the landscape.

The abundance of eastern white pine is indicative of second succession and former farming use of the site. All of the trees are the same size which tells the story of a former clear cut.

This leads me to believe that my site is natural community with mid to late succession vegetation.

The amount of hydrology which comes with the presence of the stream is also an indicator.

Since my last visit, I’ve noticed a lot more moisture. The half melted snow from the strong sun lately is showing bare patches. Water is pooled at the base of the trees. The stream has partially thawed and in some areas has later sitting on top of the ice. This strange dichotomy between incoming spring and the last of winter creates a wet, half melted environment.

See you again soon!

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A Return to Centennial: Ice Edition

Hello again all! It’s been over a month since my last visit to Centennial and I came looking with new perspective after our tracking lab! Since the snow is deep, powdery and crystallized, deciphering tracks is nearly impossible. However, I did find urine and feces as well. Their presence indicates there are indeed species that frequent my site. My guesses would be deer, rabbits and squirrels. Using my twig identification guidelines, I could tell there were American beech trees and sugar maples mixed in with the mostly coniferous tree population. Some of the other deciduous trees did not have enough low hanging branches to be able to tell.

Since my last visit, the stream has completely frozen. I know this because I chanced to stand on it and thankfully it did not break! There are many downed branches that have snapped from the weight of the snow littering the forest stand floor. The presence of animal tracks makes me more conscious of the activity around me. I detected a diagonal trail of tracks and a bounder. Unsure of what the specific animals are but I’m excited to try again under the right conditions!

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Bye For Now, Centennial!

Today I saw Centennial under a light layer of snow, some flurries were still falling as I walked to the spot. I spotted some squirrels along the way but not a single chipmunk, indicating that the chipmunks have begun their hibernation. Thats not to say chipmunks are MIA in the winter, they wake every few days to eat and raise their body temperature. I must have caught the chipmunk inhabitants of Centennial on their nap days. In fact, I watched one of their burrows for several minutes in hopes one would come out but that was not the case.

Spending time in a certain area naturally makes you wonder what the land used to look like, who lived their before and all the people who gazed on the same sights as yourself. According to Burlington Geographic, Centennial Woods as a whole used to be privately owned by several different people. A map I found in UVM Special collections confirms that one of these owners was the Ainsworth Family around 1980. However, I was hard pressed to find a description of what the land was for but I can only assume a plot of land so large was either an estate or used for agricultural purposes. Thinking in terms of the time period (1980) it was most likely dairy farming rather than sheep for Merino Wool. This inference is backed up by the fact that barbed wire can be found at parts of centennial woods, which could have kept animals enclosed in a pasture. Additionally, my particular spot is made up primarily of White Pines which signifies stand youth, since white pine is a species common to second succession. All of these factors together imply that the land was once cleared, most likely for pasture.

It’s been so fun getting to know Centennial Woods through humidity, beautiful autumnal leaves and snow! I hope I get to keep coming back.

Works Cited:

Centennial Woods Natural Area. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, 1993. (accessed December 02, 2018)

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


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Coyote Sighting

Attached is a nighttime video of a coyote at the Devil’s Den in Connecticut.I would love to see evidence of a coyote at Centennial Woods, especially considering their rebound as a species after extensive trapping and near extinction  in Vermont. It’s certainly possible because they have been found in suburban as well as rural areas. Enjoy!

EK000013 (9) (1)


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A Mystery Fungus

Hello! An unscheduled update from Centennial Woods today. I’ve discovered a very strange fungus! It’s not mushroom shaped but has the same texture as your typical fungus. It looks like a flat, gray, chunky flower with petals splayed and stuck to the ground. I’ve done some research and determined that it is a “common earthball”. the scientific name is Scleroderma citrinum. It’s actually poisonous! It starts off as a ball of a yellowish brown color and eventually splits open. I learned that it has a symbiotic relationship with trees. It grows near trees and shares the nutrients while also helping the roots absorb new water. So much to learn from this site!

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Devil’s Den, Wilton Connecticut

The site of interest:

Hello all! This week while I was back in Connecticut, I took a few nature walks. My favorite is at Devil’s Den Preserve, a spot I used to hike at very frequently with my dad.

A description of the Devil’s Den, in the style of Leopold

The forest is absolutely still, the skeletons of the trees are stark and unwavering in the late November chill. Oak, Maple and Beech are the trees that have settled here, making up the majority of the stand. Dry upland soil gives way to a deceptively wet swamp area, after several feet of decent. It is covered in leaves and there are shallow frozen waters beneath them. The frozen water ribbons past several overturned trees, dead trunks dark, decayed and waterlogged. The presence of beech is even more so here.The rocks sport a thick green moss on their faces, which is soft to the touch.The ground is thick with leaves, creating a uniform blanket of caramel brown that crunches underfoot. This is November in Connecticut. An unsuspecting visitor might accidentally plunge a foot into half a foot of icy water, cleverly disguised beneath the leaves. The wildlife knows this, squirrels nimbly skip from rock to log without touching down on suspicious leaf piles. A light wind makes the few remaining leaves quiver on the branches they still cling to. Autumn is coming to a close and soon snow will cover everything, and the leaves will lose their crispness. The air is full of scent, the richness of decomposing tree matter and as I inhale I wonder how long the trees will remain there until the join the soil entirely.

A comparison of Devil’s Den with Centennial Woods, in the style of Holland

As I have witnessed at Centennial Woods in Vermont, I watch a squirrel leaps down the remaining few feet of a towering oak in Connecticut at the Devil’s Den. He quivers at the base of the tree, slightly lighter grey belly moving inward and outward, paws pressed together. The gray squirrel prefers to live in a hardwood forest although I see them at the primarily evergreen site at Centennial as well, subsisting on acorns, beechnuts, butternuts, berries, maple seeds and more. They are agile, and skilled at jumping and climbing trees, scampering from branch to branch. Overhead, a red tailed hawk circles, a sight I wouldn’t be able to see through the dense canopy of evergreen at Centennial Woods. The red tailed hawk has a fanned tail and a wingspan of about 4 feet. They soar with scarcely any wing movement for moments on end. I also see white-tailed deer, cautious and easily startled when they catch sight of a stranger sitting between two red maples. I have never seen a deer in Vermont, perhaps it is the prevalence of hunting? Or the proximity to campus? The question fascinates me because my new spot is half a mile to Rt 7, much closer to dangers and disturbances.


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Nov. 5th Centennial Update

Hey everyone! I went to visit my site again on a cloudy November day and was excited to see some distinct changes. Firstly, the ground that had been exclusively covered in golden brown pine needles was now mixed with yellow sugar maple leaves which blew in from where they grow at the edge of the stream. This will create fresh organic material on the O-horizon on the soil. The lack of leaves in the canopy will allow for more sunlight to reach the vegetation.  Secondly, the stream looked very impressive this visit because all the rain recently caused a very high stream flow, and expanding the width of the stream. A windy stream such as this one indicates the bank is being actively undercut by the stream flow and eroding the edges. Places that had been uncovered sandy areas before, were now hidden by all the water which appeared to have a high turbidity because of it’s brownish color. The Sugar Maples are still retaining a decent portion of their leaves, but significantly less than my last visit as evidenced by their presence on the forest floor. The conifers look much the same, except for the vivid green color and almost black bark that resulted from being absolutely saturated with rain. I spent a good amount of my time there, walking the length of the area and observing. I hope my experience is transferred through the event map I created. 

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