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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Migrating ceruleans make Ijams a stopover

Male cerulean warbler (Dendroica cerulea)

This morning Than Boves and I banded a cerulean warbler along the Will Skelton Greenway at Ijams. 

The cerulean was first heard and seen on Monday afternoon. After putting up a mistnet—a wide and tall net that is designed to look like mist—we lured him in by playing a recording of a cerulean singing. 

Behind the net, we placed a decoy cerulean. The cerulean then came down to investigate and got caught in the net. 

The interesting thing about this bird is that he was molting his crown feathers (the feathers at the front of the head.) Researchers originally thought that ceruleans molt their crown feathers on the wintering grounds in South America, so this is a very exciting discovery. 

Mother-to-be Emily Boves
This particular cerulean was a second year male which means he was born last year. He most likely didn’t breed this year and thus explains why he has already started his migratory route. 

Ijams is a good stopover site for migratory birds. They use it to gain weight before their long trek south. This is the fifth cerulean seen/heard here this July. Previously, I have only seen or heard them during peak spring and fall migration. We will keep you posted as to how long this bird sticks around Ijams.

- Story by Emily Boves. Photos by Than Boves. (Editor's note: Husband and wife—Than and Emily—have been doing research on cerulean warblers in the Cumberland Mountains for University of Tennessee for the past three years. In short, they know ceruleans.) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Here today; flown tomorrow

Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) nestlings

Oh, they do grow up fast!

Ijams education director Jennifer Roder was surprised to find this Carolina wren nest outside her office window at the nature center and had a perfect vantage point to watch the entire nesting process.

Surprised because it's so late in the season, so late in the season in fact, educator Emily Boves speculates that it was the third clutch for this pair of wrens. Raising one brood must be exhausting, but three?

Jen took the above photo on Saturday, July 23 and as she points out, the four nestlings are starting to get their "Big Boy" wing feathers.

Sure enough. Poof. Today they are gone. Fledged. Hasta la vista, baby. Off to wren college.

And their parents? Well, actually they are not quite finished. After they teach their new young ones how to be wrens—what to eat, where to find food, where to roost, what to be afraid of, how to communicate, etc. etc.—then they will take some time off. Or at least, that's what we think.

- Story by Stephen Lyn Bales. Photo by Jennifer Roder.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First class completes wizards of nature school

  The Ijams' distinguished wizarding faculty. Wizards all!

Oh, the magic of nature! The wiz of it all.  

The first class graduated from the Wizarding World of Ijams, our very own Ha-Ha-Hogwarts.

After being sorted into their four houses—and I'm a hard-working, loyal, badger-loving Hufflepuff man, so don't intrerupt me, I'm on task—the sixty young wizards successfully completed four classes: Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, Potions and Charms. Each class was taught by one of Ijams gifted wizardry professors.

But it wasn't all hard studies. After the classes each student got to take part in a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans flavor guessing competition with flavors that ranged from strawberry and blueberry to vomit and booger. Yes, booger and don't pretend you don't know what that tastes like.

The feast treats served after the day of higher learning included pumpkin pasties, treacle tarts, sherbet lemon, licorice wands, cauldron cakes and (my own favorite) cockroach clusters. Crunchy. Crunchy. 

- Special thanks to Jennifer's inspiration, plus Peg, Kara, Louise I, Louise II and Sabrina.

- Story by Stephen Lyn Bales. Photo by Karyn Adams. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fields of sunflowers in bloom near Ijams

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus

Oh my gosh!

If you're into the color yellow. Then park your car at Ijams and walk east along the Will Skelton Greenway to Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area.

The 400-plus acre parcel is managed for wildlife by TWRA and they plant field after field after field of sunflowers.

All during the month of July these fields are a sea of vibrant, intoxicating yellow, enough to make painter Vincent van Gogh swoon because the Post-Impressionist artist loved that color, used it intensely. 

Vincent—if I may be so bold as to call him by his first name since we never actually met—painted numerous canvases of sunflowers while living in Provence in southern France in the late 1800s. And all of the sunflowers he painted originated in America. Once sunflower seeds were exported to Europe in the 16th century, the sunny yellow American flowers became very popular.

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two more weeks of Nature Day Camp left

Camper Isabel James with goggley-eyed
raccoon plant marker craft

Wednesday was Mammal Day, part of Ijams Adventures week, in this summer's Nature Day Camp.

One of the activities to honor mammals was a craft. All of the campers got to plant a tutti-fruiti vinca and make a raccoon plant marker. I ask you, "What could be more precious?"

Camp leader Sabrina DeVault said, "They all were excited to mix the compost and plant the vinca. But what really thrilled them was getting to glue on the googly eyes on the raccoon's face."

There are two more weeks of Nature Day Camp. For schedule, click: Ijams Events.

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Alice Ijams' presence still felt at Homesite

Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) and, in the background,
European boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Our policy at Ijams Nature Center is to plant native plants and remove non-natives.
Orange Asian daylily
(Hemerocallis fulva)

But there is a location where this is waived. For over 50 years, horticulturist Alice Ijams lived with her family on the Homesite—the western 20-acres of the park—and many of the popular cultivated plants of that era can still be found there.

We leave them alone as a tribute to her influence on our park and the early Knoxville garden club movement.

Around the Homesite, look for Lenten roses, European boxwood, crape myrtle and, at this time of the year, blooming tiger and orange Asian daylilies.

Several of the slow-growing, evergreen boxwoods can be found around the Serendipity Trail and Miller Building.

- Text and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ijams' squirrels are friendly, even presumptuous

Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) with pilfered apple

Gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensisare fairly common throughout the Ijams' 275-acre sanctuary. They are one of the few mammals that are diurnal, active during the day. Sometimes even a bit too active. 

Mya, Malachi, Aaron and Rose enjoyed watching
a squirrel help them finish their lunch
Some are quite friendly, even presumptuous. For instance they may think a picnicker has finished eating an apple, even if they have not and scamper down the tree to carry it away and finish off the piece of fruit themselves. 

Recently a group of visitors were having a picnic on the plaza when one of the friendly Ijams' squirrels helped them finish their lunch. And they were delighted to witness the daring heist. 

- Text and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer heat brings out large crooning frogs

Green frog, Rana clamitans

Oddly, green frogs (Rana clamitans) aren't always green. They can be green to bronze to brown, mixing it up to better blend into their watery environs. They are the second largest species found in our area, humbled in size by only those big, beefy boys: the bullfrogs.

You can find and hear both species in the Plaza Pond in front of the Visitor Center.

The bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) is a low, rolling thunder "jugggg-oo-rummmm," "jugggg-o-rummmm." While the green frog sounds like the plucking of a rather thick, out-of-tune banjo string, "gunk" "gunk" "gunk." Both also love to croon in the sultry, hot days of summer. 

The frog in the photo is a male. How do I know? Well ask me. 

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bug Night is scheduled Saturday, July 16

Praying mantis

You know it's summer when the praying mantids around the Ijams sanctuary get big enough to easily find.

Hint: at Bug Night—this year scheduled for Saturday evening, July 16—the kid that catches one usually wins the award for "Biggest Bug."

The largest praying mantis in our area is non-native. The Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) was introduced in 1895 to control garden pests, which it does quite well. In many parts of the world, they are often kept as pets in large terrariums. 

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ijams albino box turtle celebrates second year

Albino eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

The albino eastern box turtle that lives in the Exhibit Hall is celebrating its second anniversary at Ijams.

The tiny turtle was found by Aaron Bullock, at the time he was four-years-old. He named it "Space Rocket." The Bullocks called TWRA and because it was going to need so much special attention to survive, they decided the best course of action was to donate the rare reptile to Ijams. 

"It's was as small as a quarter when we received it," says Dr. Louise Conrad the Ijams' veterinarian. 

The petite albino turtle was initially so small and weak, Louise had to hand-feed it for months and, in time, teach it how to find food on its own.

Two years later, it weighs 40 grams or 1.4 ounces, the equivalent of 6.5 US Washington quarters. It's also very active. 

In the wild, an albino turtle could hardly survive. A predator like a raccoon or coyote could spot it readily. Plus its eyes are so sensitive, direct sunlight could blind it.

Congratulations Dr. Louise! Your patient thrives. 

- Story and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pickerelweed is a Plaza Pond oddity

Pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata

Widespread—Southern Canada to Argentina—pickerelweed is an aquatic oddity. It's tristylous, meaning individual plants occur in three different morphs or variations and most populations contain all three. The leaf shape also varies widely, but fortunately, the lovely lavender flowers are fairly consistent.

Its Latin name honors Italian plantsman Giulio Pontedera (1688-1757).

To a botanist, pickerelweed is a curiosity. To a non-botanist, it's simply a eye-catching flowering plant found in local ponds.

Look for it in the Plaza Pond in front of the Visitor Center at Ijams.

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Too stinking cute to go unblogged, mon chéri

Striped SkunkMephitis mephitis

We all have been mesmerized by the very young striped skunk being seen in the grass on the hill beyond the pavilion. The Nature Day Camp kids were the first to discover it.

Oui, affaire d'amour! Our very own Pepé Le Pew, mon chéri, sniffing the air, exploring the grass, scratching the dirt, looking for bugs, worms and other soft-bodied whatnots. Tasty treats; just the thing for a young growing, odorous skunk—yes, it has a slightly pungent bouquet, but don't mention it. The young thing might become self-conscious.

The odd thing. Normally, striped skunks are nocturnal. But this young one hasn't seemed to figure that out. Or, it's just marching to the beat of a different drummer like Monsieur Thoreau.

N'est-ce pas?

- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales. Happy Birthday sister dear!