Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Women's Hiking Oct 25 & 27 - Aldrich Park

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike this week (Oct 25 & 27) at Aldrich Park in Ridgefield.
From Rt. 35 take Farmingville Rd.
Follow until you reach New Rd.  Turn left onto New Rd.
Parking area will be on the left.
Meet at 8:30am.
Contact info or questions:  Mendy Polchinski at mmpolchinski@gmail.com or 203-241-1770 cell.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Why the Fall Colors

The days are growing shorter and New England comes alive with color. Why such great color here? The answer lies in our mixed deciduous hardwood forests and our climate. First - Why Color? Leaves are the food factory of a plant. During the summer the leaf's green chlorophylls are working hard to produce food for the plant's survival. They are so abundant, they mask out the other pigments in the leaf. But chlorophylls are very unstable and they must be constantly replaced. As the sunlight diminishes, they are replaced at a slower and slower pace. Eventually the other pigments called caroteniods start to become unmasked. These appear yellow or orange or many hues in-between. The birch or beech trees have an abundance of these.
As time progresses less water and nutrients can enter or exit the leaf. This causes a backlog of chemicals. In some plants, these trapped chemicals, plus light causes anthocyanins to form. These create the reds and purples. The brighter the light during this period, the greater number of anthocyanins are produced and the brighter the color. Some plants like sumacs have so much anthocyanins that they mask the caroteniods completely. While others like the sugar maple slowly produce it so that their leaves first turn yellow, orange then red. But some like the birch can't produce it at all.
Dry sunny days followed by cool dry nights enable the above processes to create the brightest colors. The best variety of color comes from hardwood deciduous forests which contain a wide assortment of trees. New England's climate and forests meet both requirements for world class fall foliage.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Women's Hiking Group - Oct 4th

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike this week, Tuesday, Oct 4 and Thursday, Oct 6th at Tarrywille Park in Danbury:
From I-84 take the airport exit.
At end of ramp turn right.
Follow through traffic lights and at stop sign turn onto Southern Blvd. ( It will be a sharp right turn).
Follow small brown signs for Tarrywile Park.
The park will be on the right, across from Immaculate H.S.
Meet in lower parking lot at 8:30am.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Andromeda’s Story



To the ancients the sky was their calendar.  They used it to predict the changing of the seasons by watching the patterns of stars as they moved across the sky.  How better to remember these sequences, than by a story.  Andromeda’s story includes five autumn constellations.  It begins with her parents, King Cepheus & Queen Cassiopeia of Aethiopia.  Cassiopeia, already known for her extreme vanity, declared that her daughter was more beautiful than the Sea Nymphs.   Greatly insulted, the Sea Nymphs turned to the God of the Sea, Poseidon for revenge.  He sent a great monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia.  A desperate Cepheus, consulted the Oracle of Apollo who declared the only way to stop the carnage, was to sacrifice Andromeda to Cetus.  Stripped naked the poor girl was chained to a rock to await her fate.  As chance would have it, Perseus was flying by on the Great Flying Horse, Pegasus.  He was returning from slaying the snake haired Medusa and thus was still carrying Hades’ magical Helm of Invisibility, Athena’s Mirrored Shield,  and a sword forged by the God Hephaetus.  He easily slayed Cetus and immediately took Andromeda for his wife.  Together they had seven sons and two daughters and are credited as being the ancestors of the Persians. After her death, according to a Greek play, Athena placed her in the sky along with her hero husband.  And thus they lived "Happily Ever After".  Photo:  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/andromeda-constellation.html

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lady Slippers



Lady Slippers are so special that when discovered it is like finding a treasure.  Wildflower lovers will keep their location secret, in fear that those who don’t understand their complexity will pick them or dig them up.  Both spell disaster to the plant.  Just to germinate, they require acidic soil that contains a fungus of the Rhizoctonia genus.  Like most orchids, their seeds do not contain a food supply.  Under the right conditions, the fungus will crack the seed and attach itself.  It will pass along nutrients to promote germination and growth.  Once the plant is established and producing its own nutrients, the fungus will extract food from the slipper’s roots.  In this way, both benefit from their relationship.  Lady Slippers take years to reach the flowering stage and bees are its sole pollinator.  Attracted by color and scent, the bee enters through the front slit into a one-way labyrinth that contains no nectar.  Near the exit, hairs will grab onto any pollen the bee may be carrying before depositing new pollen onto its back.  Such an elaborate system leads to very few flowers being pollinated.  However, a pollinated flower can produce 60,000 seeds.  In that a Lady Slipper’s average life span is 20 years with some living much longer, they have a long time to successfully produce one pollinated flower.   (Photo:  Donna Roscoe)

Friday, April 15, 2016

First Spring Butterflies by Allison Archambault
 
While hiking in late March, I saw my first butterfly of the season; a mourning cloak butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  I wondered how could it be here so early when most butterflies are en route with the spring migration, and what is it feeding on as the nectar plants aren’t out yet?  A few days later I saw a few more of these distinctive large butterflies, with their dark maroon/brown wings with a cream edge and iridescent blue spots just inside the light edges.  This got me curious, so I did a little research.  I learned that the mourning cloaks are out so early because they don’t all migrate like many other species of butterflies (the monarchs for example).  They over-winter hiding in tree cavities and under loose bark in a state similar to hibernation.  This gives them an advantage come the spring in that they don’t have to travel long distances to return, and can get a jump start on mating.  The adult mourning cloaks feed primarily on tree sap and depend less on nectar, which would explain how they can survive this time of year.  They also live up to a year, which makes them one of the longest living butterflies, if you consider how adult monarchs only live for two to six weeks!  In the spring, the females lay their eggs on host plants such as willow, elm, hawthorn, hackberry, wild rose and poplar.  The larvae which emerge are called spiny elm caterpillars, and they have black bodies with red dots down their back, red legs and a number of long black spines, plus shorter spines with white on the tips.  They have voracious appetites for such small creatures and can grow up to two inches long before they pupate and go through the fifteen day process of metamorphoses before the beautiful adult butterflies emerge.
Mourning cloak butterfly (Ann Murray photo)








Sunday, March 20, 2016

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., March 22nd and Thurs., March 24th at Scott Lot Preserve in Redding, CT.
Coming from the north on Route 7 turn left onto Old Redding Rd. Right after going under RR bear right onto Mountain Rd. Follow Mountain Rd. to end and turn left onto Peaceable St. Parking for the open space will be on the left. If you come to an electrical substation, you went too far.
Meet at 8:30am.