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

Ijams Visitor Center in autumn

Ijams Visitor Center in autumn
Ijams Vistor Center in autumn. Photo by Stephen Lyn

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!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

So what happens when our educational owl gets tired?

Welcoming visitors to Ijams can be exhausting if you only weigh three pounds and spend most of your time alone in a secluded enclosure, away from the crowds. 

So what happens when our male great horned owl gets tired? 

He simply lays down. Luckily this afternoon, he had the friendly arms of our vet, Dr. Louise Conrad, to catch him.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rare grebes spotted off Ijams Boardwalk & at Forks

Jason Sturner, husband of Ijams volunteer Kelly, reports: 

Red-necked grebe
"Wanted to let you know about a rare bird sighting at Ijams. Yesterday morning I saw a red-necked grebe (and two horned grebes) at Forks of the River WMA [upstream from Ijams]. I came back in the evening, and the red-necked was near the boardwalk (the horned grebes were still in the Forks area. 

"Anyway, there's an irruption of water birds this year due to the extreme cold up north, where much of the Great Lakes froze over. Species have been on the move to find open water, including the red-necked Grebe."

Details about this irruption can be found here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/species-on-the-move-wwscrngr/

Thanks, Jason.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Another Knoxville Urban Wilderness piece-by-piece finished

Another brick in the walkway. 

The second Ijams Piece-by-Piece Hike was held Saturday, March 8 on a section of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South. 

Our goal is to hike all 40 plus miles. We don't know when we'll finish, and when we do, we're apt to start all over again. 

This time out, we focused on the Dozer and Bluff Trails on the east side of Forks-of-the-River Wildlife Management Area. Bluff Trail is spectacular, little more than a goat trail that hugs the cliff overlooking Sea Ray Island along the French Broad River just upstream from where the Tennessee River begins

The weather was perfect, best Saturday of 2014. The next Piece-by-Piece hike is set for the second Saturday in April.

Special thanks to Eric Johnson for trail-scouting our route and for Valerie for helping lead the way! 

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dance fitness with Jessica livens up the plaza

You could almost call it a packed house, or in this case a packed meadow.

As part of this month's Hike-A-Thon, Knoxville' own Jessica Byrge brought her dance fitness zumba class to Ijams last Saturday. It was lively, bright and colorful. 

But, most of all, it was fun.

For other March Hike-A-Thon activities go to: Events

Thursday, March 6, 2014

UT volunteer group assist in plaza makeover: brick-by-brick

The University of Tennessee Center for Leadership and Service conducts Fall and Spring Break service projects. The Alternative Spring Breaks are available to students to visit other cities to do volunteer service projects and relief work.

Last Saturday’s group came to Ijams to do pre-trip service and to get to know one another. They moved a 1000-pound sculpture and assisted with landscaping.

They will travel to Charleston, SC to work with the Parks and Recreation Department and the National Park Service.

The plaza is getting a makeover. Above the UT group are removing and stacking pavers, as Coach Butch Jones is apt to say, "brick-by-brick."

- Story by Ed Yost. Photo Stephen Lyn Bales