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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winter Birds WalkAbout creeps into creeper

Surprisingly, the Ten Mile Creek Greenway through the heart of west Knoxville can be a good place to find birds. 

The Winter Birds WalkAbout today found several of interest including a sharp-shinned and red-shouldered hawk plus a few species only here in the winter: yellow-rumped warblers, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, white-throated sparrows and a lone brown creeper. But, creepers tend to always be alone at this time of the year. Creeping along, blending in, minding their own business.

Ijams WalkAbouts are scheduled on most Saturdays at parks and greenways around the county. For the next one, visit the Ijams online events calendar.

- Story by Stephen Lyn Bales

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Welcome Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy

Thanks to a generous grant from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, schools in Knox County can now participate in Ijams Nature Center field trips free of charge! 

This grant opens up outdoor learning to a wider audience of schools by providing scholarships and bus transportation to qualifying groups. Participating classes receive customized outreach programs in their classrooms prior to their visit, and then complete a curriculum-based set of activities at the nature center. Topics include Plants, Animal Adaptations, and Geology. 

A special thanks goes out to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for helping us to continue our legacy of quality outdoor learning opportunities for East Tennessee students.

- Story by Jennifer Roder

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ijams owl prowlers flush great horned

AS the sun slipped below the horizon to the west and cold air moved in from the river to the north, the Ijams owl prowlers set out to find those feathered, nocturnal wonders: hoot owls.

You can find five species of owl—Eastern screech, barred, great horned, barn and even migrating saw-whet—at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge in east Knox County, although the Northern saw-whet only passes through. (Locally, it nests in the higher elevations of the Smokies.) 

Our group heard two or three screech-owls along the road, but the real treat was flushing a great horned owl.  

Initially, it seemed to respond with a loud squawk from a distance when we played a tape of an eerie barn owl (If I were a vole, the mere scream of a barn owl would cause me to drop dead in my tracks!) but a recording of a great horned owl itself brought it closer to investigate our group huddled in the cold near a wooded ridge. But it continued to squawk not hoot at us. 

Eventually, the largest owl in our valley flew over us for a eyeball-to-eyeball look-see and perhaps noting we were no real threat, just a bunch of shivering, bundled humans with dreams of warm cocoa, it disappeared into the darkness never to be heard again. 

Great Horned Owl photo by Brendan Lally
Later I learned that young great horned owls do a lot of squawking and very little hooting.

Thanks to AmeriCorps members Katie and Zack for helping and to Nora, Justine and their Seven Islands friends for joining us.

- Story and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales.

Friday, November 11, 2011

WalkAbouters find winged buckeyes at Seven Islands

WalkAbouter Ruth holding a buckeye butterfly

You never know what you might find on a WalkAbout.

Last Saturday, we were looking for insects and spiders at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge in east Knox County. And even though it was November, it was sunny and warm, so we were lucky.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how many buckeye butterflies that were out and about. 

The common buckeye (How could anything as beautiful as a buckeye be labeled common?) feeds on nectar but also takes fluids from mud and damp sand. Males perch on bare ground or low plants, occasionally patrolling in search of females, but they are not territorial. Buckeyes have bold patterns of eyespots and white bars on their upper wing surface. Such a special thing! The populations of late fall, overwinter as adults, waiting until next spring to reproduce. 

Ijams thanks Rikki Hall for leading the WalkAbout.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
And Happy Birthday Ruthie! Nine-years-old is a very good thing to be. 

- Story and text by Stephen Lyn Bales

Monday, November 7, 2011

The nature center goes to the dogs, but in a good way

A warm and fuzzy, wet-nosed thank you goes to all who attended our first Dog Days Event last Saturday. The turnout was great and the friendly, tail-wagging dogs managed their human companions within park guidelines. 

Ijams is really excited about our new partnership with PooPrints, a green initiative helping improve local air and water quality to create a cleaner and greener community.

Watch for other Dog Days events in the future, and ask us about a special Ijams membership for your canine partner. 

- Story and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ijams welcomes new snake to our education staff

Ijams has a new program animal: a young captive-bred corn snake.

We've had it about two months and because of the hands-on care of our vet, Dr. Louise Conrad, it has about tripled in length.  It's a healthy eater.

Once known as red rat snakes, the name "corn snake" is a holdover from Southern farmers who often found the colorful snakes in their corn cribs, eating the mice that ate the corn. A good thing. The farmers would rather have the snakes than the mice. 

The new snake has already been used in a couple of outreach programs.

Welcome to the staff.

- Story and text by Stephen Lyn Bales.