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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First of the Hobbit Days celebrated at Ijams

Ijams Nature Center celebrated the release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” last Saturday. 

Hobbits, elves and wizards alike found something fun at this Hobbit-themed event. They made cloak pins, Hobbit ears, Hobbit door pendants and even decorated their own furry feet cookies (sounds gross, tastes great!). All this Middle Earth fun and they didn't even need to travel to the Lonely Mountain!

- Jennifer Roder, Sabrina DeVault, Stephen Lyn Bales


Dr. Louise holds Gandalf and, yes, that's his real name!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Scrawny dog? No, make that a coyote spotted near Ijams

South Knoxville coyote. Not great photo quality but I shot it with my cell phone out the car window.
(I did manage to park the car first.) 

Driving to Ijams is always a joy for naturalists. With over 300 acres, you never know what you'll see or hear. 

Last Thursday, a flock of sandhill cranes flew past. Beavers, even otters, are sometimes seen in the river, both red and gray foxes are present and the birdlife varies with the season.

Two weeks ago, I saw something I had never seen. On my way to work just after crossing Chapman Highway on East Moody—the major in and out of the business district since repairs are being made to the Henley Street Bridge—there it stood; bold as brie.

At first glance, I thought I'd spotted a skittish, scrawny dog watching traffic from a hillside, yet, in a flash, I realized it was NO DOG. There was a coyote (Canis latrans) a scant two miles from downtown Knoxville, south of the river, during the noon hour, a brazen assault on my world view. Wow. (I think we all need flexible world views, don't you?)

Karyn Adams, president of the Ijams board, has seen one in that general area as well.

First a wily coyote, is a roadrunner too much to hope for?

Beep!  Beep!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday shopping tip: Adopt an Animal at Ijams

Dr. Louise Conrad is in charge of all animal care at Ijams including the great horned owl

Turkey Vulture
Here's an idea for a gift for someone that has everything and needs nothing. Adopt one of the education animals at Ijams for a year. 

No, the animal doesn't come home with you, although having supper with a turkey vulture would be most entertaining. She's a very fastidious eater; always cleans her  carcass. 

What you do provide are the funds for veterinary care and food for an animal for a year. Prices vary. Care for a darter is less than care for a great horned owl. Our albino box turtle eats less than the red-tailed hawk. And, although it's the larger of the two, our mudpuppy eats less than the screech-owl, as does the painted turtle. Oh, the advantages of being cold-blooded.

Albino box turtle
Adopters get a certificate. And when they visit Ijams the satisfaction of knowing they have helped care for a captive animal. 

For more information call Sarah at (865) 577-4717, ext. 124.

- Stephen Lyn Bales 

Painted turtle

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ijams TN Naturalists end 2013 schedule after 16 classes

2013 TN Naturalists class on last outing with Mead's Quarry Lake in background

The Tennessee Naturalist Program at Ijams is an ongoing series that introduces participants to the wonder of the state’s amazing natural resources. A total of 16 sessions, each either two, three or four hours long, were held in 2013. 

Sessions were taught by the Ijams education staff: Jennifer Roder, Peg Beute, Dr. Louise Conrad, Sabrina DeVault and Stephen Lyn Bales. By the end of the 16 classes and required volunteer hours,  the attendees will be Certified Tennessee Naturalists. 

For a look back at a couple of the classes taught in warmer weather click: Jen or Peg

For information or to enrollment for 2014 classes call Jen at (865) 577-4717, ext. 130.

For more information about the statewide Tennessee Naturalist Program, visit our website at Ijams TN Naturalists. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sandhill cranes spotted flying over Ijams this morning

NEWS FLASH: A flock of at least 19 sandhill cranes flew over Ijams within the hour: 9 a.m.

Dr. Louise Conrad and I first heard their distinctive bugling calls and then spotted them, circling, gaining altitude east of the nature center before they continued their migration south perhaps to Hiwassee Wildlife Management Area.

Luckily, we heard no shots since the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission recently passed (much to the chagrin of 88 percent of the state's respondents) a limited hunting season on the beautiful birds.

"Commission members allowed the sandhill crane hunt despite massive opposition from Tennesseans who answered polls -- and attended the commission's two-day meeting in Knoxville," reported Louie Brogdon in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "The commission received more than 1,000 responses from the public about the crane hunt; 888 opposed it."

Here's a thought: With so many European starlings out there, millions of them, pests, nesting in dryer vents and newspaper boxes, destructive to other species, who needs another bird to shoot? And besides hitting a starling is a better display of marksmanship than shooting a four-and-a-half foot tall crane that doesn't choose a mate and start raising a family until it's five years old.

In January, Ijams often leads a carpool outing 
to Hiwassee to see the gathered cranes. Watch our website for details.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday on-line auction benefits both CTV and Ijams

Just in time for the holidays! CTV-Knoxville: Community Television Knoxville is hosting an on-line Holiday Gift Auction that ends this Saturday. Proceeds from the event go to both CTV and Ijams, two Community Shares agencies. 

To shop and bid click: Holiday Gift Auction.

CTV does great work, giving people and groups a voice and access to the public airways. Plus, gavel to gavel coverage of local government meetings. Stay informed, watch CTV! Check it out: CTV.

Watch this Saturday, Ijams' own Peg Beute live on air, noon until 2 p.m. And, bid and bid often.

- Stephen Lyn Bales  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pirates gather to celebrate a birthday at Ijams

Ahoy Matey! There was a plethora of pirate pups recently at Ijams. Well, actually it was a pirate themed birthday party. 

This time, Lilah (darling one middle back row) celebrated her eight birthday with a gathering of pirates. Aaaagh!

Ijams hosts over 100 birthday parties a year and although the theme may be whimsical, the nature lessons we teach are real. Generally we show a few live education animals and then go outside looking for tadpoles or salamanders or whatever happens to crawl out from under a log.

For more information about a birthday party at Ijams in 2014 call Sabrina at (865) 577-4717, ext. 116. 

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Discovery Trail barred owl makes another appearance

Barred owl on Discovery Trail. 

Ijams visitor Bill Hahnemann emails, "This guy (gal?) is probably a local park celebrity and by it's stoic behavior, accustomed to human traffic along the trail, but I just thought I would let you know it gave me quite a surprise on my walk through the park on Monday afternoon.  What a beautiful creature and what a moment it was to be in its presence.  I love Ijams!"

Although the great blue heron is the icon we use on our logo, perhaps we should consider the barred owl instead. They are so often seen by visitors, it's almost like they're on staff.

- Stephen Lyn Bales. Photo by Bill Hahnemann

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eagle Scout project restores Ijams' Plaza Pond

Eagle Scout Clifford Stallworth

Ijams would like to thank Eagle Scout Clifford Stallworth.

For his Eagle Scout Service Project, Stallworth of Troop-6 Boy Scouts of America, Knoxville, raised funds to rent a $250 pump to remove silt from the Plaza Pond in front of the Ijams' Visitor Center.

Stowers Equipment rental Company donated the $200 rental of intake and discharge hose for the project. 

They deepened the pond and removed vegetation to maintain the site as a viable pond and keeping it from evolving into a plant-filled swamp. 

Local scouts—first the Girl then the Boy Scouts—began coming to Ijams to fulfill their badge requirements in 1923. That's 90 years ago!

- Story by Ed Yost. Photos by Alan Easley and Stephen Lyn Bales

Troop 6 and volunteers

And a week and replenishing rain later, a pond reborn!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Teachable moments happen every day at Ijams

"It melts in your hand!"

When you are an educator, out on a trail with a group of kids, you are constantly searching for the unexpected. "Teachable moments" as we call them. 

This morning, Ijams/AmeriCorps educator Lauren Bird was outside with a group of kids here on a Parents Day Out Camp. They soon found the ribbons of beautifully sculpted frost growing low to the ground from the stems of plants.

"It looks like Styrofoam,"  said one of the girls near the front of the line. "But it melts in your hand!"

"These are called frost flowers," said Lauren. 

When the water inside an old wingstem or crownbeard plant begins to freeze and expand, the stem splits and the rapidly freezing water is extruded, creating beautiful fine wispy thin layers of ice. They often are formed into exquisite patterns that curl into petals that remind some people of flowers. Others call the icy phenomenon "frost breads" or "hair frost."  Frost flowers tend to form on windless, cold nights.

Frost flowers are as ephemeral as they are beautiful.

Ijams has been a place for urban kids to learn about nature in a safe, structured environment for 90 years (1923-2013).

- Story and photo: Stephen Lyn Bales   

Ice flower that melt away as soon as the sun melts it

Friday, November 29, 2013

Breakfast is served this Saturday at Ijams

Thanksgiving is over, but if you are coming to Ijams this Saturday morning for a program, hike or simple walkabout, bring your appetite.

Peg the Cooker
Our very own green-thumb/favorite cook Peg Beute will be serving breakfast. This week it's hot-from-the-oven biscuits, gravy and sausage with jam, jelly, apple butter or honey, plus fresh fruit, coffee or tea. 

All proceeds from Peg's Kitchen go to the Ijams education department and our programs that let urban kids experience nature. 

Come hungry as I usually do. 

 - Stephen Lyn

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Ijams!

The wild turkey specimen on display in the Ijams Exhibit Hall joins the entire staff in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. Please enjoy the warm company of your family.

Through a spokesman, the turkey related that it would also like to thank you for not eating him. He reminds us that he is only a museum specimen, pretty dry and tasteless, really more dedicated to educational purposes than sating anyone's appetite.

- Many thanks, find something to be thankful for, Stephen Lyn Bales.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Donate to help us care for our many education animals

Last week, it was sunny and pleasant. And there's nothing a turkey vulture likes more than sunning itself, unless it's a roadkill raccoon.

Plus, vultures are highly intelligent and curious, easily bored. Dr. Louise Conrad took our vulture out for a change of scenery and a little time in the sun.

Why is she here? Zoe was hit by a truck in Western North Carolina and rehabbed at the American Eagle Foundation in Pigeon Forge. She eventually healed but needed a home. I wrote an article about her change of fortune for The Hellbender Press just after she arrived at Ijams. 

She's now an education animal, part of the Education Department. We use her to talk about the unique role vultures and other decomposers have in nature. 

She's lived with us in an enclosure near the parking lot for over seven years. Quiet and peaceful. Can you see the smile in the above photo? Well, actually I think they both are smiling.

The vulture eats three mice a day at a cost of about $1.50 per. If you would like to to donate money for Animal Care at Ijams and help us feed our many educational animals—birds, turtles, snakes, fish, mudpuppy, frogs—call Jill (865) 577-4717, ext. 123. Specify Animal Care

- Text and photo, Stephen Lyn Bales 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Letters from the kids at Belle Morris Elementary

Just in case you cannot read the above handwritten letter, fifth-grader Jacob writes in part, "Dear, Ms. Sabrina....That was the best tour I would probably ever be on."

Ijams' educator Sabrina DeVault would add that Mrs. Daniels' fifth grade class from Belle Morris Elementary was an equally amazing and awesome group of students. 

All grade levels have their own innate charms. Fifth-graders are smart and want to go on a long adventure. If we happen to find an alligator—which, of course, we never do—that's just great. We generally find owls, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, turtles and snakes in season. But it is always an adventure.  

And Jacob. The last time I fed the turkey vulture, I told her that, "Jacob said hello!"

- Stephen Lyn Bales 

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Greenhouse and Garden Site dedicated to Alice Ijams

Ribbon cutting for new Alice's Garden demonstration site

 On Saturday November 9, Ijams dedicated a new Greenhouse and outdoor classroom in honor of Alice Ijams.

Alice was a talented lady by any standards. In her day, she was one of Knoxville’s leading ladies, a Girl Scout Ambassador and a leader of the local Garden Club Movement. She was also the owner of local Southside Nursery, the first female-run horticultural business in town supplying flowers to merchants on historic Market Square.

Ijams Nature Center was supported in this endeavor by contributions from Alcoa Foundation, Sustainable Future and Rainwater Resources, who supplied funding and sustainable components including rainwater catchment systems, solar power, composting areas, raised beds and visitor interpretation.  The teaching area supports Ijams’ gardening programs for adults, families and youth groups.

Among those cutting the ribbon were Denis Rochat, President, Rainwater Resources; David Bolt, owner Sustainable Future; Karyn Adams, Ijams Board President; and members of the Ijams Family.  Ijams’ Senior Naturalist, Peg Beute was on hand providing demonstrations and highlighted how parts of Alice’s original greenhouse were re-used in the project.

Thanks to all. Paul James, Executive Director

David Bolt, owner of contributing Sustainable Future, speaks at grand opening

Denis Rochat, president of contributing Rainwater Solutions, speaks before ribbon cutting
Karyn Adams, president of Ijams Board of Directors thanks supporters and contributors
Paul James, Ijams executive director with Denis Rochat, Peg Beute and Karyn Adams
The new greenhouse and garden demonstration site is located next to the solar panels on the Universal Trail