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


Ijams Visitor Center in spring

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's spring! Everything is fresh and new at Ijams

Spring is the most beautiful time of the year at Ijams. Everywhere you look, there are visual treasures, new life.

Photographer Chuck Cooper spent last Saturday roaming the trails around the Visitor Center, over to the Homesite.

Here are some of the things he saw.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Red-shouldered hawk nestlings hatch near Visitor Center

While we have been busy welcoming spring to the nature center—and after the lingering winter we had it was indeed welcomed—the red-shouldered hawk clutch hatched roughly ten days ago. 

This is the third year the woodland buteos have nested in the wetlands downstream from the homesite pond. And the second year they chose a spot behind the red-tailed tail enclosure, much to the chagrin of the redtail; much too close for her comfort level.

The nest is seeable from North Cove Trail behind the Visitor Center. Our own Rex McDaniel got an excellent bit of video. Watch to the right to see the little white puff-ball nestlings. Two we know, perhaps three. Time will tell.

(And it did. Sabrina counted four nestlings this afternoon.)

- Stephen Lyn Bales. Video Rex McDaniel 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rain doesn't spoil TN Naturalist wildflower class

The second TN Naturalist class of 2014 was recently held at Ijams.

Ijams educator Peg Beute taught "Ferns, Forbs and Flowers" dodging the off and on rain showers. Good for ferns, forbs and flowers but not necessarily great for teaching outdoor classes. But they made due. 

This is the second year Ijams has been a part of the now statewide series of Tennessee Naturalists classes. After 40 hours of instruction and 40 hours of volunteering, participants will become certified Tennessee naturalists.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Early morning bird walk has fun/goes grebe-less

The recent early Saturday morning Bird Walk was hopefully. Jason Sturner had spotted red-necked and horned grebes along the river at Ijams and Forks of the River a few days before.

Although we found several birds of interest including a raft of blue-winged teal in the distance and both wintering kinglets. No grebes were located.

Both species have been in the news of late because they are rarely seen in our area. But, lakes and waterways farther north are still frozen which has pushed the waterfowl farther south. 

Grebes do not do well on ice or even solid ground. They're poor walkers but great swimmers and divers, so grebes need water.

Despite going grebeless east of Seattle, a good time was had by all.

- Text and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales

Grebe-less view of Tennessee River

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ijams Nature Center sadly mourns the passing of Rikki Hall

Ijams Insect WalkAbout. Group leader Rikki, sixth from right. 

Ijams is sad. 

We mourn the passing of our friend Rikki Hall. An editor at the old Hellbender Press, he'd often stop by with a stack, the latest issue for our lobby.

Rikki also led several bug and birding walks for us over the years.

Noted for his broad smile and that tress of dark hair that loved to rebelliously fall down over his forehead, Rikki was one of those remarkable people that took enormous joy in noticing nature's minutia, the little cogs in the master clockwork. The oothecae, the pupae, the pedipalps, the warbler wispings, Rikki noted them all. He was in his element in the middle of an overgrown field for he knew that was reality, everything else is virtual.
Rikki knew the secret: that nature is as vast as it is deep, and always infinitely fascinating, a set of nesting Russian matryoshka dolls with one treasure hidden inside another, inside another. The closer you look, the more that's revealed. He taught me if you look through the binoculars the opposite direction they become magnifiers, a metaphor for Rikki's interest: the infinitesimal, the insignificant, often took on huge importance.

Rikki would stop and point out the smallest spider workings or beetle meanderings, sharing the details of their lives and, in turn, his love for such things that generally go completely overlooked. Rikki's passing should not go overlooked. He cared.

Rikki knew if you look deeply enough, nature simply makes sense, yet in his untimely death that logic flies out the fenêtre.

We quote here from Emerson, "To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Transcendent Emerson must have known Rikki, one of life's truly descent human beings and attentive eyed naturalist, sadly missed by absolutely everyone who knew him including this former Hellbender writer.

Kim, we all hug you with tears rolling down our faces.

- Remembrance and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales. 

With a visiting group of Russian students. Rikki second from left. 
Insect exploration at Ijams Homesite. Rikki second from left.
Birding WalkAbout on Ten Mile Creek Greenway. Rikki in the middle with co-leader Janet McKnight. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ijams Superhero Academy graduates first class

Crime in Knoxville took a big hit recently as Ijams Nature Center graduates new Superheroes to join in the fight against evil! 

The Saturday morning workshop saw the first recruiting class enlist in Superhero Academy with the hopes of joining the prestigious Justice League of Ijams. Willing recruits arrived at the academy and immediately revealed their super-secret superhero identity and super powers. Official Academy badges were created to identify official recruits.

Suddenly, the head instructor, Professor Accipiter, was alerted to a possible security threat. After silencing her alarm, she immediately dispatched the recruits into the exercise yard to diffuse the situation. Because the weapon of choice was kryptonite, recruits donned the appropriate safety equipment to prevent injury and set about removing the kryptonite from the area. Once the area was deemed safe again, recruits returned to their training.

- Text and photos by Jennifer Roder. Additional photography by Jimmy Olsen/Daily Planet. 

Carefully removing kryptonite from Ijams
Green kryptonite

Like every good superhero, new recruits needed a disguise to safeguard their true identity. A critical part of superhero training is to develop masks and accessories to aid them in the fight against dastardly villains. 

Once complete, superhero candidates donned their disguise and assumed their heroic alter ego. Training was complete once they had finished several missions in the superhero flight simulator.


Anyone interested in possibly joining the Justice League of Ijams can join us July 7-11, when we host the Justice League of Ijams summer camp.

Congratulations Superhero graduates! May truth and honor guide you in your fight against evil.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ijams Hike-A-Thon thanks Sam and May Ann Venable

Last Saturday, March 22, Sam and Mary Ann Venable led a hike along the River Trail as part of our second annual Ijams Hike-A-Thon. 

As we walked down North Cove, we came across toothwort, bloodroot, trout lily and little brown jugs just to name a few early spring wildflowers. Sam and Mary Ann told lots of stories about their hiking experience. One story that stood out to me was Sam’s rendition of the once benevolent American chestnut tree. Sam talked about how important the tree once was to the livelihood of animals and people alike. The American chestnut was once dubbed the redwood of the south. It was practically wiped out due to a blight that began in the early 1900s.

Sam, beloved columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel,  also talked about his experience with duck hunting across the United States. A good time was had by all. We look forward to welcoming Sam and Mary Ann back for additional hikes soon.

Thank you, Sam and Mary Ann!

- Text and photos by Sabrina DeVault


Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break Campers welcome in the new season at Ijams

Spring Break Camp at Ijams started the week in coats and jackets and by Friday we were in short-sleeves, but it didn't last long.

We welcomed the change of season with wildflowers and meadow larks; we also explored Jo's Grove and other sites.

Special thanks to all of our great camp kids!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Spring bouquet
Mineral hunting
Finally a day of sunshine

Yes, that's a vulture!

Tree hugging

Looking for newts

Playing dragon tail
We are mighty!