- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Stephen Lyn Bales, editor

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Campers visit old Sad Vlad and learn about trees

This past week, the summer Adventure Camp kids got to visit Ijams' senior resident shut-in, old Sad Vlad, the vegetarian vampire who lives in the Homesite basement. 

Time for breakfast. Is it dark yet?
Vlad is harmless to humans, he only drinks the blood of trees, a.k.a. sap, and the blood of fruit, a.k.a. juice. At night Vlad turns into a vampire fruit bat. This makes Vlad a frugivore not a carnivore.

Sad Vlad showed the young campers his leaf collection and gave them a copy of his nightly menu that has his favorite sipping trees: sugar maple, sweet gum, sassafras, tuliptree, wild cherry and red maple to name a few entrées. Or as he says, "Vlad eat ontrees.")

Ijams summer Adventure Camp specializes in outdoor adventure and imaginative learning; well, and it's fun too. (And, yes, Vlad knows Count von Count from Sesame Street.) 

Who will the kids meet this next week?

- Supplied photos by Christie Collins and Jack Gress.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sunrise Stretches and Smoothies welcomes in the weekend

What a great way to start the weekend! 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Sunrise Stretches and Smoothies hosted by Smoothie Queen Christie.

If you missed it today, we'll have additional dates coming soon. And heck. You know the sun rises every morning.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ijams Hiking Club takes to the High Ground

Ignoring the heat—or maybe escaping from it—the Ijams Hiking Club ventured to higher ground, namely the Civil War site of Ft. Higley at High Ground Park and River Bluff Wildlife Area for the best view of downtown Knoxville and the river.

Ijams volunteer leaders were Amy Oakey and Eric Johnson

For Amy, it was a bit of a celebration/anniversary. She started hiking three years ago, tagging along with the Ijams Hiking Club to the same location. After that, she caught the hiking bug and has notched off all of the trails in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness twice and many of the trails in the Great Smokies.

Great hike. Thank you, Amy and Eric!

Ijams congratulates volunteer Amy Oakey for her life-changing accomplishment!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

TN Naturalists@Ijams spend a day for/with the birds

The 2017 edition of TN Naturalists@Ijams held its fifth class Saturday, May 20 at the nature center.  

This class was devoted to ornithology, the study of birds. Ijams' senior naturalist Stephen Lyn hosted the class

Because of the sultry forecast, the class started outdoors then moved inside to escape the heat. Under the shade of a sycamore, we talked basic bird-ology using a live red-tailed hawk as a teaching aid. What better way to learn about the different types of feathers—flight, contour, semiplume, down and modified—avian anatomy and field markings than looking at a gorgeous bird of prey close-up? 

And with titmice and Carolina wrens singing in the background, we learned about the different types of bird vocalizations. Not all bird calls are melodic. Warning calls are harsh and usually mean there is danger about, watch yourself. 

This is the fifth year the statewide program has been taught at Ijams. In all, it's 12 classes held once or twice a month until November. After students finish the 40 hours of classes and the required 40 hours of volunteer work, they become certified Tennessee Naturalists.

The next class focuses on herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians.

For a look back at our previous four classes, click:

- Supplied photos by naturalist student and commercial photographer 
Kristy Keel-Blackmon. Thank you, Kristy!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

WBIR's Live@5@4 brings hour long show to Ijams

The Live@5@4 gang: Emily Stroud, Beth Haynes, Russell Biven and Todd Howell holding cutout of "The Voice" winner Chris Blue

Imagine an entire hour of WBIR's Live@5@4 broadcast live from Ijams. Wow! Wouldn't that be fun!

And indeed that is what happened last Monday, May 22. And all of the smiling-faced Live@5@4 gang were here. We talked about things happening at the nature center this summer and rooted for fellow Knoxvillian Chris Blue to win TV's The Voice. The finals were announced just a few hours later and Blue did indeed win.

Amber Parker 

Ijams new executive director Amber Parker welcomed the WBIRians. Newsman John Becker interviewed summer camp director Christie Collins in kayaks on the river, news anchor Robin Wilhoit and reporter Emily Stroud explored the treetops with Navitat. Stroud also chatted with Stephen Lyn about snakes. 

Co-hosts Russell Biven and Beth Haynes interviewed Dr. Bob Overholt about common summer health concerns and Todd Howell spoke to chef Miss Olivia about summer picnics.  

Also, Ijams Education Director Jen Roder chatted about our oh-so-odd emergence of 17-year-cicadas four years too early and Sarah Brobst spoke of upcoming special events.

Thank you WBIR Live@5@4 producer Lee Ann Bowman for arranging the show and to videographers Brian Holt and Tim Dale for making us all look good.

Was it ready for its close up? Emily, I believe our snake is disappearing into the camera!

Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 TN Naturalists@Ijams visit the world of mammals

 The 2017 edition of TN Naturalists@Ijams held its fourth class last Saturday.  

This class was devoted to mammalogy, the study of mammals.  

Ijams' own part-time veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad, taught the class. Dr. Louise oversees the care and well being of all the Ijams adopted and injured education animals. She has been connected to the nature center for over 20 years; first as a volunteer, then as part of the staff.

The class began indoors with a mammal class and a visit from our lame opossum then proceeded outdoors for a reconnaissance of places where mammals are generally seen especially along the river and wetland and a look for tracks. The group also had a one-on-one visit with our new adopted inquisitive gray squirrel

This is the fifth year the statewide program has been taught at Ijams. In all, it's 12 classes held once or twice a month until November. After students finish the 40 hours of classes and the required 40 hours of volunteer work, they become certified Tennessee Naturalists.

The next May class focuses on birds.

For a look back at our previous classes, click:

- Supplied photos by naturalist student and commercial photographer 
Kristy Keel-Blackmon. Thank you, Kristy!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Big Bug News: 17-year cicada early emergence still a mystery

Photo by Sofia Tomov

File this under geeky nature nerd news!

Last Wednesday, Jen Roder, Lauren Bird and Ben Nanny noticed curious gold-winged cicadas on and around a sycamore just outside the staff entrance at the Visitor Center. Ben recognized them. He had seen lots of them in May 2004. They were Brood X (10) of 17-year cicadas but the math wasn't right. They shouldn't reappear at Ijams until 2021.

Jen took the lead and got in touch with the national cicada watch group (Click: Cicada Mania). The big question: What was going on? 

Photo by Sofia Tomov

Their speculation was that it was Brood X "stragglers"—an odd appellation considering they were "four years early," said Volunteer Naturalist Rich Henighan. "Shouldn't they be called the 'Vanguard' instead?" he quipped.

Jen located a small plastic box of dead cicadas collected by Stephen Lyn in 2004 and made a second discovery. Unbeknownst to our kindly senior naturalist, thirteen years ago, Ijams actually had two species of 17-year cicadas emerge at the same time: Magicicada septendecium. and probably Magicicada cassini.

The mystery deepened. Did we have two species emerging early or just one?

Or was it a separate population of 2017's Brood VI, displaced?

Photo by Sofia Tomov

Ijams quickly cobbled together a pop-up program last Sunday about cicadas in general and 17-year cicadas in specific.  Thanks to all who attended our Cicad-Academy and to the Goodalls for bringing cicada-cake.

The workshop began indoors with basic cicada information and adjourned outdoors for the fun part: looking for the red-eyed, gold-winged hemipterans.

Early in an emergence, it's almost exclusively males. Later the females join them. Saturday we were finding them low to the ground on shrubs and forbs, by sunny Sunday they had moved to the treetops and were starting to call.

Our search turned up several shed exoskeletons and multiple adults.  Jud even climbed high into a sycamore by the Plaza Pavilion and shook a branch to dislodge more to inspect.

Sofia Tomov, one of our junior naturalists who is all grown up now, got some excellent photos.

More to follow as we learn more. 

Education Director Jen Roder inspecting cicadas collected in 2004.
Dear senior naturalist, "You actually collected two different species in 2004!" Said Roder
Photo by Sofia Tomov
Jen Roder with Lynne Davis and Sharon Burnett inspect a cicada to determine gender and species.
Joseph with shed cicadas exoskeletons

Cicada hunters

Jud literally up the tree to shake down cicadas
Goodall's cicada cake