As we get further into spring, all the trees have branches nearly covered in beautiful green buds (Figure 4). Most fall and cover my driveway, but it nice to be reminded of the beautiful weather. We are starting to see more signs of wildlife as well. It had rained the other day, and we saw a muddy footprint belonging to a raccoon on our front porch (Figure 5). I was able to determine it was a raccoon because you could see the shape of its thumb and the nails in the footprint. The grass in our backyard is becoming greener as well (Figure 6). After the winter the grass starts of very yellow and dead, and often stays like this for a couple months. Now, it is starting to look green and full again. Our peony plants are starting to grow taller and they will flower next month in June. The arborvitaes that line our driveway are starting the gain their very small pine cones (Figure 1). There are very large moss patches growing in the soil around the trees on the side of our house, and they are slowly beginning to climb the bottom of their trunks (Figure 3). The climbing hydrangea in our back yard has started to gain more leaves and the buds for flowers are beginning to grow (Figure 2).
I really enjoyed this project because I liked to see how the seasons and weather changed one spot overtime. It feels like yesterday I was analyzing the soil after it snowed and looking for animal tracks. I think it was really helpful to learn the different processes in nature and how they affect the wildlife. It allowed me to think deeper about the behavior of the wildlife and what they might be doing to cause their tracks to appear in that manner. I thought it was a good way to put everything into perspective and understand the cycle of nature.
Now that it has reached mid-April, signs of spring can be seen everywhere. I have noticed that the sun is out for longer as I can look out my window at the sunset well past seven at night. I feels like only a few days ago I was walking back to my dorm from class and the sun had already at 5:00 pm. Now that the sun is out more often, my houseplants have been able to handle more water and I no longer have to worry about root rot. My palm though, had a major mold problem at the base of its stems. I removed all of the infected stems and I am hoping the mold does not spread. I have also begun to notice a lot more birds as most have returned for the spring. We have a bird feeder right outside my kitchen window where I have seen cardinals and chickadees eating the seeds there every morning. There is also a murder of crows that sit in my neighbor’s tree which I have seen everyday around 3:00 as I sit in front of the window to do my homework.
The weather is consistently getting warmer as well. Most of the trees have yet to show signs of any leaves, but the the two oaks growing next to my drive way have hundreds of little green buds (Figure 2). My neighbors two trees have grown beautiful white flowers, but the storm a couple days ago had such strong winds that it knocked one of them over (Figure 1). My sister’s lilac bush in our garden has begun to grow green buds as well (Figure 6). Sadly, the sprout off of my peony tree I mentioned in my last post has disappeared (Figure 5). I suspect that it must have been eaten, perhaps by one of the bunnies that live under the trees behind my house. We usually see the bunnies around this time of year, but I have yet to see any so I can expect that they will appear in the next couple weeks. The rest of our peony plants have begun to grow again, and I can see small red stems growing out of the soil (Figure 4). The vinca-minors that cover the ground next to my garage have begun to bloom as well (Figure 3). We planted two ferns from last year next to my house which we were hoping we would see grow again. We did some research, and the soil and shady area was supposed to be a perfect spot for them to regrow. However, it is about the time we should have seen them by now, so I am hoping they will grow within the next few weeks.
Under the new circumstances as the University of Vermont moves to remote learning, I have moved my observation spot to my backyard (Figure 7) and observing the changes my many houseplants have towards the shifting of seasons. Massachusetts has advised everyone to stay home so I must keep my observations from my house, but I hope as the weeks progress I will have the opportunity to observe some of the parks and hiking trails.
The weather lately has been very cloudy and windy. It has rained multiple times for only short periods of time, but the clouds have prevented the rain from drying up so the garden has remained pretty muddy and the grass mushes under my feet. It is still relatively warm out showing that spring approaches. The snowfall from the winter caused the brick patio my dad built last summer to become loose and shift apart. It has made the surrounding grass bend outward and the sand in between the bricks sink into the sand, so the patio must be filled in. Despite the cloudy weather, there are clear signs of spring. My peony tree is growing a brand new bud off of the original branch clusters (Figure 6). The crabapple tree on the side of the house has a hundred of bright green buds growing off its branches (Figure 5). It was not a harsh winter so many of the berries from the fall are still on the tree. We had to trim a couple of lower branches as we assumed bunnies were tearing of some of the smaller ends of the branches and gnawing on the bark.
The lack of sunlight the past couple weeks has shown a real damage to a few of my houseplants. My carnivorous bog plant was thriving in the summer, but as it prefers heat and sun it has slowly died through the winter (Figure 1). My small palm also does best in tropical weather and is beginning to droop at the lack of sun (Figure 3). Almost all of my plants have had to go a week and a half with out another watering since the sun has not yet been able to soak up the water from their soil which has me concerned for root rot. However, both my copperstone succulent (Figure 2) and cactus (Figure 4) are growing new buds. They both handle changes in weather very well, so it is not surprising that they were able to grow new buds while the rest pf my plants are having difficulty with this cloudy weather.
When I reached my phenology site, I noticed that there was a beautiful owl sleeping in a nearby tree. I was originally searching the area for birds because there was an interesting call that sounded like water trickling in different notes. While searching for this bird, I noticed the owl. The call was too high for the deep call of the owl, and I was unable to find the bird I was looking for. However, it was an amazing experience because I had not expected to see an owl in such a populated area like Centennial Woods. After researching on the Audubon society website, I was able to identify it as a barred owl (Strix varia) (Figure 3). After looking through a variety of their photos, I could match the darker feather around the neck and framing the face, and the whiter feather of the belly to be similar to a barred owl. Since owls are nocturnal and I traveled to my site around 10:00 in the morning, I was not surprised to notice that it was sleeping. Barred owls prefer habitats close to rivers and my site is right next to the stream where the owl was sleeping in a tree directly next to it (audubon.org). While I was originally drawn by the call of a different bird, I heard a bark or cough but did not see any people or dogs nearby. The noise appeared to be coming from very close and while researching I learned that barred owls will make small barking noises before their call which could explain the noise that I heard (nationalgeographic.com). There is an open field near my site. While it is covered in snow and most small rodents are hibernating, the field would be a perfect hunting ground for the owl as it likes to sit on a perch and swoop to grab its meal (audubon.org).
Owls hunt small rodents, especially mice and squirrels, and the occasional fish. The location near the stream would have been a good food source, however there are no fish in that part of the stream because of the abundance of rocks. However, there were tracks showing sporadic behavior on the ice sheets frozen over the stream. I wished to get a closer look, but as the tracks were on a sheet of ice over the stream, I did not want to step onto it. The tracks showed that it ran in circles on the ice as the overlapped each other, before running off into the clearing. The tracks appeared to belong to a gray squirrel and it can be assumed that its behavior was caused by seeing the owl and it was frightened (Figure 1). I determined that it was a gray squirrel because you could see the toes of the squirrel and narrow shape of the feet. It was not in a hopping motion so I knew it was not a bunny, and the small size of the tracks eliminated any larger animals. There also was a large abundance of birds in the area at the time as I heard a variety of different calls. During the winter, barred owls tend to hunt for small birds as other food is limited (Lewis. D). Being nocturnal has its advantage here as barred owls have difficulty catching birds from the air, so they wait until nightfall to hunt when the birds are less active (Lewis. D). The abundance of bird calls could show that the other birds are aware that the owl is nocturnal, and they are not afraid to make calls since they know it is sleeping, despite it being so close by.
There were a few changes in my site since my last visit. The stream has become nearly completely frozen over, except for a few circular spots where the movement of the water underneath is stronger (Figure 2). I had originally thought the tracks over the ice could be a fox because they are much larger, however the tracks get larger as the snow melts and the weather has been warmer lately (Schneider. E). These factors helped me come to the conclusion that the tracks belonged to a gray squirrel. The warm weather has also drawn out a lot of squirrels as I saw many running around in search of food. It has not snowed recently so most of the remaining snow, even in my remote site off of the trail, has been packed down to a solid from all the hikers walking on it. I also noticed and empty hornets nest hanging from a tree across the stream. It appeared to have been empty for a while, and I simply had not noticed it before, since a side of it had been broken open probably from the harsh wind in snow from the past month.
Barred Owl. (2018, September 21). Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/b/barred-owl/
Barred Owl. (2019, October 11). Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barred-owl
Lewis, D. (n.d.). Barred Owl (Strix varia) – Information, Pictures, Sounds. Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.owlpages.com/owls/species.php?s=1740
There were a lot of animal tracks seen around my site in Centennial Woods. Most of them were made by dogs since the tracks were often followed by human footprints and the trails are often used by owners to walk there dogs (Figure 1). However, there were a couple of gray squirrel and deer tracks off the side of the trails. The squirrels are probably very active, as they are less wary of humans and are constantly digging up their supply of hidden food during the winter (Figure 3+4). I was more surprised to see the deer tracks because I had assumed they would stay away from such frequently visited trails (Figure 2). However, in Naturally Curious by Mary Holland, it is stated that deer spend most of their time in deer beds under trees during the winter and that “white-tailed deer have great difficulty travelling through deep snow, and because of this they are far more vulnerable to attacks from predators” (Holland 393). It can be assumed that the deer were looking for food near the trails because the snow is more packed down due to the amount of hikers passing through, and this makes it easier for the deer to look for food. I was surprised to not see many bird tracks, but this could be due to most of the birds flying south, the fact that birds are arboreal, or that the snow was pretty old and since birds are very light, their tracks would only be visible in fresh snow.
I was able to identify a couple of deciduous trees by the twigs around my site. Almost all of the trees were sugar maples while one of them I believe is a sycamore tree based on the alternate branching and shaping of the buds (Twig and Tracking Guide 4). However, I am unsure of how frequent sycamores are in centennial woods and perhaps it could be another maple. I determined that most of the trees were sugar maples because the buds were brown, and had three extensions from the the tip, similar to the picture, which had the buds (Figure 7). The trees also had opposite branching and the buds were growing in an opposite pattern as well. I assumed the one twig to be a part of a sycamore tree because the buds were growing in an alternate formation rather than opposite like the sugar maple (Figure 8).
There are many phenological changes since the last time I visited my site since it has been nearly a month. The sky was very cloudy which cast a dark shade over the woods. The water level in the stream has raised quite a bit, almost at the top of the bank, due to the melting snow. The bend in the stream was rushing with water and some splashed onto the sides (Figure 6). All of the rocks that were once visible were completely covered by the water. The small island of dirt that I used to cross the stream with was covered in a large sheet of ice. There were small tracks across the ice which appeared to be a small squirrel. I wanted to get closer, but did not for fear of breaking the ice. The fallen tree that crosses the stream had man icicles hanging from underneath it, almost touching the water. The grass field that used to be so tall that it would block my view of the other side, was now so packed by the snow that I could clearly see the other side of the field which was filled with coniferous trees (Figure 5).
Holland, M., & Kaneko, C. (2019). Naturally curious: a photographic field guide and month-by-month journey through the fields, woods, and marshes of New England. North Pomfret, Vermont.: Trafalgar Square Books.
After returning back to school after Thanksgiving break I noticed that my sense of place in my hometown was stronger than I thought it was before I left for the start of college. I had not payed much attention to the nature around me at the time because I was so excited to leave for college. When I returned home I began to appreciate the green-spaces I had taken for granted growing up. I visited Borderland State Park which is a conservation area with a large natural history since the Ames family, a wealthy family in Easton, Massachusetts, chose to build their mansion on the estate. This class has taught me to look at landscapes and vegetation with a more observational eye which allowed me to notice the little changes in my environment I did not have the knowledge to understand before. Learning to identify twenty one different tree species made them more apparent on my hikes. At Borderland I noticed most of the trees were Eastern Hemlocks which I never would have noticed before. I would have simply assumed they were all different evergreens and now I am able to make keen observations and ask questions such as “why is eastern hemlock so common in this one area?” Being able to notice the little details throughout my hometown made me feel more connected to it because I can better understand how the land was formed.
I think your hometown can greatly affect your view of the world. If you grow up in a city or a more rural area, you tend to be drawn to similar types of areas because it is what you are comfortable with. I was very lucky to grow up with easy access to nature reserves and hiking trails, so when looking at colleges I was drawn to places that valued the outdoors and provided many outdoor activities. People who grow up in rural towns tend to view cities with a sense of “placelessness” due to their lack of nature.
The natural history of a place can also provide significance to what it means to people. My house is right next to our town hall on main street. Every house on this street can see its natural history in its own back yard. Tall rectangular pieces of stone sit in the middle of peoples backyards representing the original property lines of the people’s land. Ours sits at the very edge of our patio and the original edge of our property is now nearly three houses down. It is interesting to imagine what the house used to look like and how it may have looked with a larger plot of land. It reminds me that the center of my town was not always so busy and full of people. The houses used to be further spread apart. I can imagine that it used to be a lot more tranquil and serene. Knowing the history of my town makes me feel more connected to it because it allows the familiarity to grow and you are more comfortable in a place that you know nearly everything about than a place you do not. Sense of place is about having a spot that is meaningful to you and I think that this feeling can grow over time, especially in absence of it. I do not think sense of place is defined by the trees you identify or the history of it because it is simply a place you hold dear and you are comfortable. However, I feel like noticing the little details in your space helps you to feel even closer to the spot because it allows you to make observations you had not seen before which provide new and stronger meaning to your home.
So much has changed since my last visit to Centennial Woods and most of it is due to the recent snow and decrease in temperature. Much of the wildlife is preparing for winter as the vegetation begins to die off. Tall grass used to stand around the edge of the creek, but after the snow, all of it has been flattened to the ground exposing the earth which is damp and muddy. Despite the snow melting, the water level in the creek is very low allowing the rocks to be more visible. The lack of water helped me to notice a large amount of broken glass tucked in between the rocks. They have been stuck there for a long time because the constant stream of water has eroded them into smooth edges. Someone must have broken a ceramic dish because white fragments with pink flower designs were scattered down the stream. I noticed a small piece of wood leaning against a tree, hidden under snow and branches. It was smooth and rectangular so it had clearly been cut, possibly used as a plank for one of the boardwalk bridges across the creek.
One change that immediately caught my attention was the contrast between the snow and the moss on the fallen tree next to my spot. The white snow illuminated by the sun was beautiful against the bright green moss growing on the log. After looking through “Naturally Curious” I noticed that this was Foliose lichen growing on the tree which was common to grow in November. I also noticed how almost all of the vegetation was nearly dead except for these bright green ferns growing outside the tree. While I was reviewing “Naturally Curious” October, I saw that these ferns, Hay-Scented Ferns, should have turned yellow a month ago. I was surprised that the ferns were still green and that they survived the snow.
After returning to this spot over the course of a couple weeks, I feel like my Sense of Place has really grown. At first I did not feel much of a connection to Centennial Woods, but now I know every nook and cranny of this spot. I think one of the reasons I enjoy this spot is because it is so similar to trail spots at home. I grew up in Massachusetts and I love being in New England because the terrain is so similar and beautiful throughout. Since Centennial Woods is a public trail, it is strange for me to think of all the other people that have come across my spot. Did other people have a connection with it? Or was it simply a pass-by in their day? I then begin to think about all of the people that have come across my spot in the past years. I wonder if the creek still had the same bends or if it has changed its course overtime. Centennial Woods used to be used as a landfill and I compare my connection to this spot to the people’s then. It is sad to think they may not have seen the beauty I do because in their eyes it was simply a landfill.
While visiting my spot in Centennial Woods, I noticed that there were still many birds singing in the trees. I identified one of them as the Black-Capped Chickadee (Poeicille atricapillus). Chickadees do not fly south for the winter because they rely are nuts from coniferous trees or they scavenge, which is why they have become so predominant in the area as it nears the colder season. A Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) was very noticeable as it was the tallest plant and very colorful growing in the middle of a yellowing grass field. In the fall the sumac’s leaves turn a brilliant red which contrasts greatly to dark green color of the coniferous trees. In the field across from the creek grew Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium purpureum). These plants stood tall in comparison to the majority of low growing vegetation. These plants were the previously mentioned purple flowers that covered the field, which now have turned brown with white soft seeds flowering at the end of the stem due to the change in seasons. A similar plant growing in the field was the Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). This plant normally has yellow flowers, also changes to have white soft seeds at the start of winter, but these are much more prominent and the branches are longer than that of the Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed. Growing low to the ground was a young Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) which had five large red leaves growing out of its very skinny trunk. It almost looked like it could topple over! The northern red oak is a very common tree in Centennial Woods and this is just one of many saplings across the reserve. One plant that really struck me while sitting in my spot was the Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sesibilis) which almost appeared like it had purple fruit or bead-like flowers all along it stem. Sensitive ferns enjoy wetlands and growing near water sources which is why many of them were growing along the sides of the creek. This is just one of the many plants that act as a filtration system to remove harmful bacteria from the water.
Despite only a weeks difference, so much has change in the surrounding area near my spot. It had rained the night before so the ground was very soft and muddy, which caused the sides of the creek to slope inward into the water. Multiple branches had fallen from the nearby trees into the creek causing the water flow to be more jagged and rushed. The previous rain had caused the water level to raise in the creek so nearly all the rocks were completely covered by the water. All the purple flowers that were there the previous weeks had wilted and turned brown. Nearly all of the trees have lost all their leaves so the ground was covered with red, orange, and brown leaves. Looking around the site there is almost no green left and all the vegetation has turned a brown-yellow as the woods prepare for winter.
Creating a map really showed me just how much an impact this spot has made on me. I was able to remember almost every detail of the place after only visiting there a couple times. It also really helped to be aware of where I was in comparison to other landmarks. Some places seemed really far away, but once placed on the map were clearly much closer than they seemed.
Hi! I chose a spot a little ways into Centennial Woods where I hope to document changes in the area throughout the year. The spot is right next to the creek so you can hear the babbling of the brook as it flows over rocks and sticks. I thought this spot was special because it is very small clearing right next to the creek, just big enough for me to sit down, and has a beautiful view of the field of wildflowers. The sun always hits this spot beautifully and lights up the golden fall grass. The sun provides a wonderful contrast to the dark evergreen trees in the background. The scene looks very picturesque, like a painting as the sun rays shine on the grass and the wildflowers wave in the breeze. The tall grass is clearly turning yellow as it nears winter, but there are still remnants if beautiful purple flowers across the field. Near the edge of the field, a large portion of he grass is completely bent over in the opposite direction suggesting human or animal involvement.
The plant life is much greener around the creek. Ferns and bushes line the water because it is a great source of nutrients and the plants filter bacteria out of the water. A beautiful low growing bush hangs nearly completely over the creek providing coverage to the water below. The recent rain caused the water to be significantly faster and the noise from a slight waterfall over a bridge of rocks was much more apparent. The loud rushing water near the rocks greatly contrasts with the small bubbling downstream caused by multiple sticks on the edges of the creek.
At first it appears almost silent in the area, but then you begin to notice the rustle of the wildlife. Grass and plants shake as chipmunks run across the ground in search of food. Birds chirp in conversation and you begin to become more aware of the different songs each use to communicate. The occasional crow makes its appearance and its loud caw dominates over the other birds. The only reminder of nearby civilization are the planes that fly overhead every once in a while. The power of their engines drown out the animals and the serenity. Despite this slight interruption, the animals go about their day and its easy to get lost in the quiet and simplicity.
Enter at the trail head of Centennial woods
Follow the path until you reach the first clearing of a wide open space with trees around it
Take the path with the wooden bridge
Follow the wooden path until you reach the second, larger clearing
Notice the large tree nearly straight ahead at the edge of the clearing, its is growing at the edge of a slight downward slope
Go down the slope until you reach the creek, there should be a fallen tree over it acting as a bridge (do not cross it, just a landmark)
Follow the creek to the left, there is a lot of vegetation but it is a slight clearing with to fallen trees on the ground
Pass those until you reach the giant fallen tree that crosses over a slope, the creek, and into the field.
From here you will notice there is a small space on the other side of the creek next the the fallen tree
Cross the creek to the space and you have found the special spot!