American green tree frog

The American green tree frog (Hyla cinerea), also known as the "rain frog" due to its penchant for calling during damp weather, and the "cowbell frog" (as its call sometimes can sound bell-like from a distance) can be found all over the southeastern United States, its color ranging from dark green to bright yellow. Green tree frogs prefer wet or moist areas such as swamps, lake sides, and edges of streams. You may even find one in your backyard swimming pool! These little guys are insectivores, which means they are crucial in controlling insect populations, mosquitoes especially. As summer kicks in to high gear you can thank them for keeping the blood-sucking hordes at bay (though mosquitoes are just as important to the ecology and biodiversity of Alabama and beyond). Thanks to the rain frog, the cowbell frog, the green tree frog!

June Trail Team Work Day

Help get our trails ready for summer! Maybe you or someone you know enjoys getting outside and getting a little exercise and sun on your shoulders? Well, tomorrow is your chance to join us for our monthly Trail Team Workday! The Trail Team and interested volunteers will meet at 8:00 AM at the Ruffner Ball Park, 300 Ruffner Road in Irondale, to hike to the Overlook Trail to complete trail renovations. Additional projects TBD after completion. We hope to see you there!

Red Buckeye & the Asian Lady Beetle

Known locally as scarlet buckeye, woolly buckeye, or firecracker plant, the red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) plant is native to the southern and eastern U.S. and can reach a height of up to 26 feet. This perennial shrub absolutely covers the state of Alabama. Hanging out on one of the buckeye blooms is a multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), an insect introduced from Asia into the United both accidentally many times and purposefully by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for classical biological control of arthropod pests. A crucial predator of aphids and scale insects, which may damage some plants, this tree-dwelling beetle is just one more contributor to the biodiversity of Ruffner Mountain. These two species, the native plant and the non-native insect, have evolved to harmoniously interact and flourish, both complementing and protecting one another. 

Summer Camp with Fresh Air Family

Do you know about Ruffner summer camps? For the months of June and July, Ruffner Mountain in partnership with Fresh Air Family will present nature-inspired summer camps for ages 3-5 and grades 1-6. For more information see the flyer below or visit http://www.freshairfamily.org/#!ruffner-mountain-camps/c1jrw. 

Spend the summer with Ruffner!

New and Improved: Irondale Trailhead

Here's another shot from our staff trail work day last Thursday. We cleared a whole lot of invasives like privet and wisteria, installed a new gravel pathway and raised bed for gardening, and soon, we will add three new insect condos built by the inimitable Jon Woolley (@littleforest_). If you happen to find yourself in Irondale, driving or cycling down Ruffner Road, be sure to check out the new trailhead. Our new design will reduce the impact of automobiles (call it the "tireprint") on the trailhead environment while promoting biodiversity of the native flora and fauna. Healthier wildlife means happier hiking!

Tomorrow! Night of the Fireflies

If you are a Ruffner or Sierra Club member and plan to attend, please fill out the form below. Non-members, scroll down to sign up! 

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Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 1, Ruffner Mountain members will have the chance to see one of the year's most spectacular outdoor phenomena, the annual synchronous firefly event. Every spring, in late-May to mid-June, fireflies biolumenesce as part of their regular mating ritualthe males flying and flashing as a display to the females, who remain stationary and flash. The resulting light show is unlike any other.

We will meet at Ruffner Ball Park entrance at 7PM. This event is open to all Ruffner Mountain Members.

To become a member, click the button below that's right for you

The Great Southern Brood

“……there was a numerous company of Flies, which were like for bigness unto Wasps or Bumble-Bees, they came out of little holes in the ground, and did eat up the green things, and made such a constant yelling noise as made all the woods ring of them, and ready to deaf the hearers;……”

“……there was such a swarm of a certain sort of insects in that English colony, that for the space of 200 miles they poysond and destroyed all the trees of that country. There being found innumerable little holes in the ground, out of which those insects broke forth in the form of maggots, which turned into flyes that had a kind of taile or sting, which they struck into the tree, and thereby envenomed and killed it..”

The excerpts above were taken from accounts by New England Colonists in the late 17th century. The shock of encountering the deafening blanket of the cicada's call for the very first time must have shaken the colonists, wary of so many new sights and sounds in the New world. 

The image that you see above is of a 13-year periodical cicada of Brood XIX. In May of 2011, cicadas from this particular group began to emerge all over the Southeast, Alabama included. By June, the cicadas had begun to die off en masse. 

Periodical cicadas are divided into 13-year and 17-year groups, each corresponding to a particular "brood." Broad XIX covers almost all of the Southeast, including Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, and Virginia. The immature (nymph) cicada finds roots on which to feed underground and will spend anywhere from 2 to 17 years feeding and tunneling below the earth's surface. Upon emergence, the nymph quickly finds and attaches itself to a tree to begin sloughing its exoskeleton. When the nymph has fully freed itself, it begins its new life as an adult cicada and the process starts all over again! 

Your next chance to see, or hear, Brood XIX will be in 2024. For now, they wait below the surface, till they emerge to sing their song once more. In our fast-paced world of instantaneous connection and ephemeral pleasure, we should consider the time-scale of the cicada, its rhythms and reliance on the earth itself as time-piece.