This past Sunday, six people with smartphones and one guy with a pad of paper descended on a 350 acre property in the Green Mountains near Bridgewater Hollow, Vermont. The smartphone people used iNaturalist to document about 300 observations of plants and animals (and quite a few things that might be neither, like slime molds and fungi). The paper guy was Brett Engstrom whose list of vascular plants is probably longer than the list of all the species that everyone else compiled.
The day also included organized field trips which highlighted a taxon or topic (birds, plants, slime molds, bees, and forest history). This is a really important addition to the listing-focused bioblitz activity and allows non-experts to participate and learn.
I led a walk to investigate the history of the forest. Forest history in Vermont usually means the history of people using and disturbing the forest, but we explored a hillside that had no direct evidence of human use. So we had to rely solely on the trees for clues. Had we climbed another few hundred yards up the hill, we would have seen lots of solid evidence of a relatively long history of people using the land.
The zoomable image above is a panorama stitched from 19 handheld photos of a hearth and foundation deep in the woods of the Bramhall property. No records have been found which tell the story of this homestead, but the dry layup (without mortar) stone work suggests a pre Civil War origin. It’s absence on an 1869 atlas suggests that it was abandoned by that time. Extensive stone walls, rock piles, and a sugar arch (a structure for a wood fired maple sap evaporator) are also hidden throughout this rich, mature forest of sugar maples, white ash, yellow birch, and American beech.
Above is a stitched panorama from the south side of the same chimney and hearth.
Thanks to Shelby, Zack, and Cathleen for organizing and running a busy, fun, and productive day of bioblitzing.