That’s not a jingle for the telephone, internet, or Facebook! It’s the message that formed the theme of Sleeping Giant’s latest Sunday hike: The Biodiversity Hike.
On Sept. 23, a stunning autumn afternoon, Gail Cameron, SGPA’s Environmental Stewardship Chair, and Jim Sirch, Education Coordinator at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and long-time friend of and volunteer at Sleeping Giant Park, led a group of about 18 individuals out onto the Giant to learn more about just how we are connected.
Gail and Jim, joined by Dick Majka, SGPA’s IT director and an avid naturalist, started us off with an overview of how the natural world exists as a system of environmental synchronism, finely choreographed, that, while stunningly complex, works in balanced harmony. They also offered some suggestions for furthering our knowledge of the challenges, issues, and opportunities for us to interact with and appreciate our natural world more completely.
The group headed up the Tower Path, stopping frequently to examine elements of our surroundings that we might not normally notice. At one of our early stops, a black birch tree, we examined the lines in the tree bark, lenticels that allow for an exchange of gasses between the interior tissue and the surrounding air.
As we moved along, we examined wreath goldenrod that blooms in the shade and another species that grows in dry, rocky soil in sunny light gaps. We noted which varieties attract which butterflies, and considered what would happen to those butterflies, were all the goldenrod to disappear. Jim pointed out that the Maple-leaf Viburnum is the sole host of the larvae of the spring azure butterfly. The larvae are the exact color of the viburnum buds, providing perfect camouflage and protecting them from predators.
As we continued along, Gail spoke of the interaction that occurs within a downed tree; how it attracts fungi and insects that entice birds and other creatures, eventually decomposing to create new soil. Invasive species also came up for discussion, particularly the wooly adelgid which has turned the hemlock groves into tree ‘boneyards.’ Next time you’re hiking, notice the scene along the Yellow Trail where it meets the Nature Trail or the Violet Trail as it approaches the Blue-Violet cross-over.
We veered off onto the White Trail and continued up to the “Chest,” where we passed a vernal pool, host to the noisy orchestra of wood frogs that greet each spring. We continued along Green Trail over the Red Triangle to turn onto the Yellow/Green cross-over to take Yellow Trail “home.” At each turn, a new aspect of nature to examine and consider was revealed; we truly could have spent a week and not exhausted the new and heretofore unnoticed.
It was a wonderful and informative afternoon. We all came away with a greater appreciation for the infinitely detailed interconnectedness of our natural world. Developing sensitivity to the ways in which we humans disturb, often destroy that finely orchestrated interaction can remind us to tread lightly and integrate ourselves into that natural balance.
For more information on Sleeping Giant and to keep up with future hikes go to sgpa.org or follow us on Facebook.