For Thanksgiving, I visited my home in southeastern Pennsylvania. A few miles away is Ashland Nature Center, a preserve owned by the Delaware Nature Society. I grew up hiking the trails often, so I decided to choose it for my new phenological site to compare to my one in Burlington.
Ashland Nature Center (in the style of Aldo Leopold – author of A Sand County Almanac)
November in the Delaware valley is a month for blues and browns. Rarely does one see any other color, aside from the occasional pine. As I walked the path to this new site, these colors starkly stacked on top of each other. The real jewel of the plot twists through the air, reaching out its arms nearly horizontal to the ground; the scrambling sycamore is a favorite for visitors. Climbing up its limbs, the avid adventurer is treated with a splendid view of the flowing Red Clay Creek. It is evident how low lying the land is; this area has been disturbed by many floods, one particular one wiping out much of the plant life in the floodplain region. Thus, many of the trees found are young and small. Very little coverage is offered, providing fantastic views of the surrounding valley. Rich in history and sediment, the site supplies a plethora of information for the naturalist and historian alike. As for animal life, birds are the main focus at this time of year. Migrant raptors fly over following the edge of the Piedmont flyway. As you walk through the meadow, though, rustling emerges from the brush. If in luck, you might see a fleeting thrush or warbler. This site proves that as boring and dull as the valley might seem, you can find gems of the natural world tucked away in its corners.
Comparing Ashland to Centennial Woods (in the style of Mary Holland – author of Naturally Curious)
When I compare my site in Centennial Woods to the Ashland site, the most notable difference would be the density of trees. In Centennial, the abundant woods host a variety of older, larger trees with higher DBH measurements. This offers a thicker overstory, letting very little light reach the ground in the forested area. Even the meadow has higher reaching grasses, making it difficult to walk through. Contrastingly, the site at Ashland is open and light. The trees are younger and the meadows are shorter. Conifers are absent; they make up much of the biomass of my site in Burlington. Even as the winter months approach, the original site still sports some colors while Ashland is almost all brown, with some grass poking through.
It also lies in a low floodplain, making the spot slightly more flat.
The Centennial Woods spot seems to offer more protection, and therefore I tend to notice more wildlife during my visits than I did at Ashland. A squirrel and a few birds were all that graced my visit.
Both spots feature flowing water, but the brook in Centennial is considerably smaller.
Ultimately, while both places are great to explore ecology and phenology, my original spot seems to be more cozy and intimate.
All photos are my own.