Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Late May's Woodland Song

This time of year you’ll hear a long high pitched trill at night in the woodlands.  This is the mating song of the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor).  Only about 2 inches long, this little critter comes in a variety of colors from gray, green or brown, solid or with blotches.  There is always a large, white marking below each eye. The inside of each hind leg is a bright yellow-orange.  Its strategy for survival lays in its ability to quickly change colors to match its surroundings.  It has large sticky toe pads that help it cling to tree bark and other surfaces.  This little frog doesn’t live in a pond but in the trees or shrubs.  There it spends the day resting.  At night it crawls among the branches and leaves looking for moths, tree crickets, ants or other insects.  It can be very acrobatic in its search.  However in late May or early June, it will descend down to woodland pools looking for a mate.  The female, who is much larger than the male, does not sing but will select a mate based on its call.  Each female can lay as many as 2,000 eggs in groups of 10 – 40 on vegetation near the water’s surface.   It takes about 2 months for the tadpoles to fully change into frogs.  During the winter, these frogs hibernate under the leaf litter, bark or rocks.  Like its cousin the wood frog, it will freeze solid.  From the glycerol in its system, it can produce antifreeze which protects its cells from the freezing process.  Even though its heart and breathing stop, come spring it will thaw out and return to the trees.  There it will hunt until the nights warm up to 60°F when it will fill the woodlands with its song once more.  Photo:  beauty-animal.blogspot.com

Monday, May 27, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., May 28th and Thurs., May 30th at Wilton Town Forest in Wilton, CT.
The Town Forest is right down the road from Weir Farm. Drive south on Nod Hill Rd past Weir Farm to Patrick Lane, on the left. Follow to Boas Lane where there is a parking area.

Or drive eastbound on Rt. 102 to Nod Rd to Whipstick Rd,.
Turn left on Nod Hill Rd, to Patrick lane on right.
Meet at 8:30am.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike at Pine Mountain in Ridgefield on Tues., May 21st and Thurs., May 23rd.
Take Ridgebury Rd. to George Washington Highway.
Make right on to Pine Mountain Rd.
Parking area will be near end of road.
Meet at 8:30am.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Woodland Slippers

An endangered flower in our woodlands is the impressive Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule).  A favorite food of the white tail deer, lady slippers are quickly disappearing from over browsing and habitat loss.  This large showy flower belongs to the orchid family and can, if lucky enough, flourish for 20 – 150 years. However, it is a niche plant, only surviving in limited circumstances.  Like all orchids, its seed contains no food for germination but instead relies on a specific fungus to eat the outer shell and subsequently provide it with sustenance to grow.  Once the plant grows large enough to provide its own food, the fungus will extract nutrients from the plant’s roots, making this a truly symbiotic relationship.  And this is what makes the plant so difficult to transplant.  It must have the correct fungus, soil type, and moisture combination.  The Lady takes many years to go from seed to mature plant.  Once it does blossom, it requires bees to pollinate it.  Attracted by its scent and color, the bee enters through the top slit and becomes trapped.  Its only escape route is along hairs that lead past the sigma to a pair of exit openings, one beneath each pollen mass.  Because the flower has no nectar, once fooled a bee will rarely return.  Research shows that out of 1,000 flowers, only about 23 will become pollinated.  But each flower can produce about 60,000 tiny seeds.  So it is the plant’s longevity that provides for the species survival.  If you see one in the wild, consider yourself lucky, take pictures but don’t pick!  The Lady needs to be left alone. Photo: University of Wisconsin - Madison

Friday, May 10, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., May 14th and Thurs., May 16th at Bennett's Pond State Park.
Take Rt. 7 towards Danbury.
Turn left on to Bennett's Farm Road.
State park and parking area will be on the right side.
Meet at 8:30am.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike at Quarry Head in Wilton, CT on Tues., May 7th and Thurs., May 9th.
Take Rt. 35 past the fountain and follow onto Rt. 33 into Wilton.
There will be a State of CT brown sign on the left hand side between mailboxes #760 and #764.
Turn left into the road and follow up the hill.
There will be a sign for parking up ahead.
Meet at 8:30am.