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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rain crows have been predicting rain, well duh

Yellow-billed CuckooCoccyzus americanus

Now that summer is officially here, most of the birds have become quiet.

One exception is a very loquacious, yellow-billed cuckoo or cuckoos unknown living in the trees around the main parking lot at the Visitor Center. You can hear the  ka ka ka ka ka kow kow kow coughing calls throughout the day.

Once known as "rain crows," folk wisdom has it that when you heard one call it was going to rain, and since the past two weeks we've certainly had our share of rain. I think the cuckoos have been spot-on correct with their forecasts.

- Story and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meadow Lark music festival is a success

Despite a damp beginning, the skies cleared and the first annual Meadow Lark music festival prevailed. 

Such fun! A good time was had by all!

Special thanks to our partner WDVX 89.9 Radio for arranging the entertainment and promoting the event. 

Also thanks to the bands that performed: Donna the Buffalo, Hackensaw Boys, Valley Young, Phil Pollard and the Band of Humans, Spirit Family Reunion and Cletus Got Shot. 

And our generous sponsors: Three Rivers Market, Elizabeth Eason Architecture, The Tomato Head, WBIR Channel 10 TV, knoxmusictoday.com, Uncle Butch BBQ, StrataG and the New Belgium Brewer.  

Meadow Lark is a fundraising event for Ijams.

- Story and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales. For more information call 865-577-4717, ext. 119. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Second flowering shrub dazzles near Plaza

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

If you are into plants like Alice Ijams our namesake and you are longing to see a flower with "dense spherical inflorescence borne on a short peduncle," then do we have a shrub for you. To me, it's flowers actually look like an exploding supernova. KAPOW!

Near the American beautyberry (see last post), there's a second native flowering shrub in bloom near the Visitors Center parking lot.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is found in many wetland habitats including swamps, floodplains, mangrove, pocosin, riparian zones and moist forest understory.

Also like beautyberry, buttonbush makes an excellent native ornamental shrub for your backyard.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Little noticed shrub now blooming in Plaza

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

If you are a frequent visitor to Ijams in the fall, you are well aware of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

The shrub is aptly named; its purple berries grab everyone's attention, they're indeed beautiful.

In October, one of the most often asked questions at the front desk is "What's that wonderful bush with the beautiful berries?"

But in June and July, few seem to notice the shrub or its flowers, which are quite lovely in their own right, albeit a bit small.

American beautyberry is native to the Southeast. It makes an excellent ornamental in your yard that produces berries the birds eat through the fall into winter.

But don't forget to notice the flowers at this time of the year. You can find it around the Visitor Center Plaza.    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Local 10-year-old donates money to Ijams

Addison donates to animal care at Ijams

It's better to give than receive, or so that's what Addison Smith believes.

Recently, she celebrated her tenth birthday and instead of gifts, Addison asked the 30 guests at her birthday party to donate money to Ijams instead.

Everybody loves Ijams, but even Addison was surprised by the amount of money donated to the nature center in her honor. A total of $415 was collected.

Addison wants the donation to go to animal care. The generous gift will go to buying the assorted food items that are used daily to feed the education animals—turtles, birds, frogs, snakes, opossum—taken to local schools and on display in the exhibit hall in the Visitor Center.

In tough economic times, every donation to Ijams is important, but the timing of this one is particularly meaningful.

Thank you, Addison! We applaud your philanthropic heart. You're a shining point of light. 

- By Stephen Lyn Bales 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Photos by local photographer Reeves on display

Photo by Tim Reeves taken at Ijams Nature Center

For the next several weeks, the nature photography of Timothy Reeves is on display in the Visitor Center.

Tim is a native Knoxvillian and frequent visitor to Ijams. 

"I like Ijams because it is a tranquil place to come and get lost in your thoughts and there is always something interesting to see," says Reeves. "Photography is like seeing the world through childlike eyes and finding beauty in places where there is none," he adds.

"I like photography because a well taken photo can speak to the soul. It is always amazing to me to hear someone say that one of my photographs sparked a feeling of emotion to think that the emotions I have are trapped in the photograph and are there to be discovered by others. It is great feeling to know what you have done has touched others," Reeves says.  "I am proud to be from Knoxville and proud to say that I live in a city that has a place like Ijams, a great source of inspiration."

All of the photos in the exhibit were taken at the nature center.

- Text by Stephen Lyn Bales. Photo by Tim Reeves. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great spangled, a favorite summer butterfly

The fritillaries are brush-foot butterflies—they lack claws on their front feet—that range throughout the South. Most species are medium- to large-sized and are overall orangish-brown with wavy black lines or spots. 

Look for them on the flowers planted around the plaza and meadow. 

The great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele, can be found through August on nectar sources such as common milkweed, thistles and Joe-Pye weed, and in this case, on purple coneflower.

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thistle seeds signal goldfinch nesting

Almost as ephemeral as the very breeze that carries them along, feathered thistle seeds sail an open sea over the Plaza meadow. 

Soft. Delicate. Impermanent. 
The American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), 
is the last bird to nest in the calendar year. They wait until the thistle seeds are borne with their filaments of fluffy plant down. The bright yellow songbirds line their bassinets with layers of white comfort like fresh-whipped meringue.

Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Milkweed in Plaza active with beetles

And speaking of successful lifeforms, beetles are the true champions. Some sources estimate over 400,000 known species. That's a four, followed by five zeros.

If you go to South America, spend time in a tropical rainforest, look under a few rotting logs or turn over a leaf or two, you'll probably discover a new species yourself. You can name it after your mother or high school biology teacher.

One found on plants in the milkweed family is simply called red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus).  A herbivore, its body is full of the unpalatable toxins in intakes in milkweed sap, which looks like Elmer's glue. The insect’s red and black coloration is a warning to any would-be predators.

At Ijams look for them on the milkweed growing in the plaza. 

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Box turtles out and about at the nature center

Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) live in the Ijams 275-acre sanctuary all year, but you seem more apt to encounter one at this time.

I found this one munching on Indian strawberries near the Will Skelton Greenway. 

It's also time for them to reproduce, so you're apt to see them venture into harm's way, crossing busy roads. 

Note: If you happen to encounter one in the street and there's a safe place for you to pull over, it's OK to help them on their way. But always take them to the side of the road they seem to want to go. Their slow but determined. And remember to wash your hands afterwards.

And no, you cannot turn them into pets. In Tennessee, that would be illegal. Not only are they a protected species at Ijams, but everywhere else in the state as well. 

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Treefrogs calling all summer if conditions right

With the heat, comes the Cope's gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). 

Actually I think they prefer temps in the 80s, not 90s, but we seemed to have become 20 degrees warmer overnight.

At the nature center the petite gray frog breeds and calls—a deep guttural gerrrrrrrrrrrit—from May to August. The isolated males start calling long before the females are interested, although both soon migrate to temporary ponds and pools to get to know one another.

At Ijams look for them around the small ponds at the Homesite, including the Secret Pond west side of the sanctuary.

As their name and their coloration suggest. They hide in plain sight, clinging to tree bark. 

- Text by Stephen Lyn Bales. Photo by Patrick Coin. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Southern magnolias usher in long, hot summer

Somehow, you know summer is almost here when the Southern magnolias begin to bloom.

In East Tennessee, we have seven species of magnolia: cucumber, umbrella, bigleaf, Fraser, sweetbay, Southern and tuliptee, but it’s the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) with its enormous (up to 12 inches in diameter) citronella-scented white flowers that is so associated with the Deep South and sultry, hot afternoons; it's the polished, aristocrat of Southern trees. 

The evergreen with large glossy leaves was often planted near the house, where—with a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade—it could be admired from the shade of the front porch.

There are two excellent Southern magnolias at Ijams. Look for one on the Giffin-McDonald property opposite the front gate on Island Home Avenue and the other at the Homesite near the beginning of the Serendipity Trail.

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales