Wooly Weatherman

October 15, 2014

Hmmm...thick or thin? And what does it mean anyways?

Hmmm…thick or thin? And what does it mean anyways?, photo by dan bruell

Predicting Winter Weather: Woolly Bear Caterpillars at the Farmer’s Almanac says that in 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sought to determine the average number of reddish-brown segments and use that to forecast the coming winter weather. For eight years, he continued to try and prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that the wider that middle brown section is (and the more brown segments there are) the milder the coming winter will be, while a narrow brown band means a harsh winter.

Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. Curran’s average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a third of the woolly bear’s body. As those relatively high numbers suggested, the corresponding winters were milder than average. But Curran was under no scientific illusion: He knew that his data samples were small. Although the experiments popularized and, to some people, legitimized folklore, they were simply an excuse for having fun. Curran, his wife, and their group of friends escaped the city to see the foliage each fall, calling themselves The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear.

…Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, doesn’t disagree, but he says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. “There’s evidence,” he says, “that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is . . . it’s telling you about the previous year.”

Read on for more!

View Dan’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Fall 2014 slideshow.

More weather on Michigan in Pictures!

Fall Chickadee

October 13, 2014

Fall Chickadee

Fall Chickadee, photo by kdclarkfarm1

The UM Animal Diversity Web’s entry for Parus atricapillus (black-capped chickadee) says in part:

Black-capped chickadees prefer deciduous woodlands, open woods and parks, cottonwood groves, and willow thickets. They are most commonly seen near edges of wooded areas. They are a frequent visitor to backyard feeders. Black-capped chickadees nest in cavities, usually in dead trees or stumps, and are attracted to habitats with suitable nesting locations. During the winter, small flocks of black-capped chickadees can be found in dense conifer forests.

…Black-capped chickadees hop on trees (occasionally on the ground), rather than “walking.” These birds are very active during the day, and can often be seen foraging upside-down. Black-capped chickadees form monogamous pairs which usually stay together for several years. The black-capped chickadee social system has two extremes, one shown by territorial pairs during the breeding season, and the other consisting of non-breeding flocks. These are often mixed species flocks including nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, brown creepers, warblers, and vireos. Black-capped chickadees perform short-distance migrations, but remain in the same general region throughout the year.

Read on for lots more including photos and chickadee calls.

View Diane’s photo background big and see lots more autumn goodness in her Fall slideshow.

More birds and more Fall wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Deadman's Hill Overlook

Deadman’s Hill Overlook, photo by Frank Wulfers

The Michigan DNR’s page on the Jordan River Valley in Northwest Lower Michigan says:

The Jordan River Valley is an 18,000-acre block of state-owned forest land in northeast Antrim County. Good wildlife watching and beautiful scenery are common along the Jordan River, Michigan’s first waterway to be officially designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Much of the area has been proposed as an old growth forest area. Access to the river valley is provided by local county roads and an 18-mile hiking trail, the Jordan Valley Pathway, that winds through this portion of the Mackinaw State Forest. The Pathway contains several loops of varying lengths. One loop begins at Deadman’s Hill, which offers a spectacular vista of the surrounding countryside and river floodplain. A second breathtaking and popular vista is Landslide Overlook. Part of this Pathway is the North Country National Scenic Trail, that when finished, will extend 4,000 miles from New York to North Dakota.

…Fall colors are noteworthy in early October due to the hardwood forests throughout the valley.

Indeed! Click to read more about wildlife in the Jordan Valley and get directions.

Frank took this shot on Saturday so you can see that color is coming along nicely. View it background bigtacular and see more in his Michigan – Northwest slideshow.

Lots more fall wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls, photo by Ashley Williams

If you’re wondering what fall color looks like in the northeastern Upper Peninsula, wonder no more! Ashley took this shot at Michigan’s largest waterfall, the Tahquamenon Falls last week. As you can see, it’s shaping up nicely.

If you’re wondering about statewide color, the Freep shared a NASA photo of Michigan’s fall color from space that’s pretty cool!

View her photo background bigtacular and see more in her Michigan’s Upper Peninsula slideshow.

There’s lots more fall wallpaper and more Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures!

Surf’s Up in Michigan!

September 29, 2014

Surf's up

Surf’s up, photo by Bill Dolak

Fall is surf season in Michigan, so I thought I’d share this photo and a link to a slideshow of nearly 500 photos from the Absolute Michigan photo group on Flickr.

View Bill’s photo from South Beach in South Haven background bigtacular and see more in his South Haven slideshow.

More surfing on Michigan in Pictures!

PS: I feel like I should tell you that if you aren’t a very good surfer, you should stay away from the Great Lakes in high winds and waves, particularly when the water is cold!

"Autumn Leaves" by Michael G.O'Callaghan

“Autumn Leaves”, photo by Michael G.O’Callaghan

Three years ago I posted this. It’s such good and useful information that I thought I’d share it again! #TBT?

The Science of Color in Autumn Leaves from the United States National Arboretum explains that process that starts the cascade of events that result in fall color is a growth process that starts in late summer or early autumn. When the nights get long enough, a layer of cells called the abscission layer forms that begins to block transport of materials from the leaf to the branch.

During the growing season, chlorophyll is replaced constantly in the leaves. Chlorophyll breaks down with exposure to light in the same way that colored paper fades in sunlight. The leaves must manufacture new chlorophyll to replace chlorophyll that is lost in this way. In autumn, when the connection between the leaf and the rest of the plant begins to be blocked off, the production of chlorophyll slows and then stops. In a relatively short time period, the chlorophyll disappears completely.

This is when autumn colors are revealed. Chlorophyll normally masks the yellow pigments known as xanthophylls and the orange pigments called carotenoids — both then become visible when the green chlorophyll is gone. These colors are present in the leaf throughout the growing season. Red and purple pigments come from anthocyanins. In the fall anthocyanins are manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaf. In most plants anthocyanins are typically not present during the growing season.

As autumn progresses, the cells in the abscission layer become more dry and corky. The connections between cells become weakened, and the leaves break off with time. Many trees and shrubs lose their leaves when they are still very colorful. Some plants retain a great deal of their foliage through much of the winter, but the leaves do not retain their color for long. Like chlorophyll, the other pigments eventually break down in light or when they are frozen. The only pigments that remain are tannins, which are brown.

The explain that because the starting time of the whole process is dependent on night length, fall colors appear at more or less the same time every year and are not overly dependent on temperature, rainfall or other factors, other than the fact that weather can shorten or prolong the show by stripping leaves from trees.

Click through to the US Arboretum for more and also see Fall & Fuit from the Science of Color and Wikipedia’s entry on Autumn leaf color.

View Mike’s photo background big and see more in his Autumn slideshow.

Lots more fall color on Michigan in Pictures!

Rainbow over the Badger

September 24, 2014

Rainbow over the Badger

Rainbow over the Badger, photo by mark zacks

View Mark’s photo big as a boat and click for more of his Ludington shots including a few more of the Badger.

More ships & boats and more rainbows on Michigan in Pictures.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,050 other followers

%d bloggers like this: