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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Living Clean & Green: the art of compost sifting

Attention composters!

In our opinion, a compost sifter is an absolute must if you’re an avid gardener or generate a lot of compost. A simple backyard sifter will allow you to remove debris, rocks and unfinished compost prior to using it in your yard.  

Last Saturday, Ijams green thumb Peg Beute held a compost sifter workshop, part of the Living Clean & Green! series. 

Each participant built their own sifter, and today, are probably at home doing the compost sift in their backyards, sung to the tune of Chubby Checkers' The Twist, "Come on baby, let's do the sift!"

Good luck to them!

- Story and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ijams has a new, pale education animal

Albino black rat snake becomes part of Ijams education staff

Recently, Paul Osborne, owner of All Creatures Wildlife Servicesrescued an albino black rat snake from a local basement. It is unclear how long it had been there but Paul knew it was very unusual. It was also quite beautiful.  

Ijams veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad
Normally when Paul rescues an animal from a home he takes it away from civilization and releases it but he knew an albino snake didn't stand much of a chance of surviving out in the world because it lacks its protective camouflage. Something is going to spot it and kill it.

So, Paul called Ijams and we called T.W.R.A. to work out the necessary paperwork. (All of our education animals have permits.) 

The remarkable snake is now part of our education staff and will be shown to visitors and school groups for years to come. Ijams also has a young albino box turtle, both are under the care of Ijams veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad.  

Wikipedia: Albinism (from the Latin albus meaning "white") is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme involved in the production of melanin, an ubiquitous color pigment found in most organisms. Albinism results from inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is known to affect all vertebrates, including humans.

Welcome to the staff.  And thank you, Paul.

- Story and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales 

Animals with albinism even lack color pigments in their eyes

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ijams TN Naturalists hold third session: Forbs, Ferns and More

Senior Naturalist Peg Beute leads the Forbs, Ferns, Fungi and more workshop 

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, will be held during 2013. 

Last Saturday was class number 3: "Forbs, Ferns, Fungi and More" taught by Peg Beute. By the end of the year the attendees will be Certified Tennessee Naturalists. This year's classes are all full, but Jennifer Roder is already taking enrollment for 2014 classes. Call Jen at (865) 577-4717, ext. 130 to learn more or sign up.

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

TN Naturalist Program Ijams 2013 Schedule

Sat., April 13, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Introduction, followed by lunch

Sat., May 4, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. Birding I: Spring Birds

Sat., May 18, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Forbs, Ferns, Fungi and More

Sat., June 1, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. Amphibians

Sat., June 8, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. Reptiles

Sat., June 22, 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Tennessee Trees and Forests

Sat., July 13, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Aquatic Systems

Sat., Aug. 10, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Insects and Creepy Crawlies

Sat., Aug. 24, Time TBD, Birding II: Hummingbird Festival

Sat., Sept. 7, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Fungus Among Us

Sat., Sept. 21, 7 p.m.–9 p.m. Nocturnal Naturalist I: Ijams Nightlife

Sat., Oct. 5, 7 pm–9 p.m. Nocturnal Naturalist II: Seven Islands

Sat., Oct. 19, 10 a.m.– 2 p.m. Mammals and Furry Friends

Sat., Nov. 9, 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Geology of East Tennessee

Sat., Nov. 23, 9 a.m.–12 p.m., Birding III: Winter Birds

Sat., Dec. 7, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Closing Social and Class Projects

Monday, May 20, 2013

Now blooming at Ijams, four trees worth a look

Strawberry Bush or Hearts-a-Bustn' (Euonymus americanus)

There are four trees and shrubs blooming at Ijams that can be somewhat hard to find. They are all native to the mountains or Southeast but they often occur in isolated locations, in small numbers. Unlike the maples, oaks, hickories and pines, these are generally loners.

Kentucky Yellowwood alone is worth a trip to the nature center, because finding it in the Smokies or foothills can be difficult. It's a favorite among dendrologists, i.e. tree and shrub aficionados.

And hearts-a-bustin' rarely gets a second glance when it blooms, but its red-magenta seed pods that ripen in the fall are eye-catchers because of their explosive color.

If you add maple-leaf viburnum and Virginia fringetree you get a pleasant treasure hunt at the nature center.

- Story and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales. Thanks, Peg.  

Virginia or White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Maple-leaf Viburnum or Dockmackie (Viburnum acerifolium)
Kentucky or American Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mead's Quarry Lake cleared of fishing tackle hazards

It took the unfortunate death of a great blue heron caught in abandoned fishing line to activate the Ijams Quarry Dog Clean-Up Crew.

The dedicated fivesome (Like the Fantastic Four plus one) took to canoes to remove fishing line, hooks, lures, weights and floats from the trees and branches along the shoreline at Mead's Quarry Lake. The clean-up took three hours and located dozens of objects that could have ensnared other birds and wildlife.

Last year, Ijams veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad and naturalist Emily Boves rescued an American coot entangled in line and lures. Unfortunately, its injuries were so sever it had to be euthanized. 

Our hats off to all of you!

Also, special thanks to the family of Ijams Board President Karyn Adams for helping with the removal on their Mother's Day outing!

Fishermen. Please remove all tackle caught in trees! 

- Story and photos by Stephen Lyn Bales

Lauren Bird and Tanner Scruggs work on line caught on a snag
Daniel Lassman untangles line from a sycamore branch
A selection of dangerous items that could have killed birds
Job well done! Ijams Quarry Dogs Rescue Crew: Daniel Lassman, Victoria Deren, 
Tanner Scruggs and Lauren Bird

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Warm temps, showers bring out gray tree frogs

Cope's gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

Last Saturday, we had a rain shower, brief but intense. It created a damp, muggy afternoon at the nature center. Perfect conditions in May to bring out a chorus of Cope's gray tree frog males crooning for a mate.

Shortly after finding the barred owl, the participants in a nature writing workshop at the Homesite heard the raspy baritone trills...eeeeeerrrrrrr. 

When the workshop ended, Rex McDaniel went back to search for the easy-to-hear, hard-to-see tree frogs that are about the size as half a Cadbury egg. Both are somewhat creme filled.  

Some frogs have the ability to shift their overall color to better blend into their environs. Gray tree frogs can be gray, brownish or, in this case, a bit greenish to better hideaway on a damp Saturday afternoon. 

- Photo by Rex McDaniel. Story by Stephen Lyn Bales 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Most recent owl sighting next to Homesite Pavilion

Today's barred owl! 

Barred owls are seen frequently on the trails at Ijams Nature Center. They seem to have very little fear of the many visitors who are lucky enough to see them. This one was spotted by participants in a nature writing exercise yesterday afternoon. He did fly away, but I went back after 5:00 and he had returned to the same perch he occupied before.

The next nature writing workshop at Ijams will be Saturday, June 15 at 2 p.m.

- Story and photo by Rex McDaniel

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Morning canoe cruise finds peace between the showers

Finding peace in our over-scheduled lives is not always easy. Some days, it's practically impossible, that is unless you are in a canoe drifting quietly, effortlessly on Mead's Quarry Lake. 

Dodging the rain showers in the area, this morning's canoe cruise featured two hours of sereneness. We had the lake with towering limestone cliff stained rusty red all to ourselves. Just us and the geese, turtles, phoebes, swallows and vultures gliding over the placid water.  

The next guided canoe trip will be Saturday morning June 22.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

WaterFest 2013 at Ijams is a splashing success

Water Rockets were a blast

The 18 Annual WaterFest was held at Ijams last week. The one day environmental learning festival is all centered around the importance of water and keeping local waterways clean.

Hosted by Ijams and organized by the local Water Quality Forum, the event is a free field trip for area schools. 

Some of the activities helped students learn more about water, and how important it is to plants, animals and the environment.  Some activities had a big built-in "fun" factor. The children could watch a Water Magic Show and learn about the properties of water; they could shoot plastic liter bottles into the air at the Bottle Rocket station using air and water pressure. 

It was a aqueous day for all. Special thanks to WaterFests’ 200 volunteers, vendors, teachers and parents for their help and support.

And of course, the 650 students that visited, had their faces painted, and shot rockets into the air… and went home with a brain full of water.

- Photos by Daniel Lassman, Story by Stephen Lyn Bales

Aqualogist Peg Beute asks departing students water trivia

Water Magic Show taught by professors of waterlogy

All this talk of water has made me want to pump it

Let us entertain you

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Small, reclusive (and little seen) toad found at Ijams Homesite

Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)

Frog and toad season is well underway at Ijams. Many species are fairly easy to find or at least hear, but there's one that is more reclusive. Occasionally we hear it's bleating call, but actually seeing one? Well that's another story. 

Wikipedia states "The Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis) is a species of microhylid frog. It is a relatively small, toad-like amphibian found in damp, shady habitats. The species is highly fossorial [adapted to digging and life underground], and feeds primarily on ants. These North American microhylids are distinguished from true toads (genus Bufo), and other anurans due to their moist, smooth skin and their lack of eardrum or tympanum.

"G. carolinensis reproduce in aquatic habits, and may breed in either temporary or permanent waters. The toad species will breed in deep water only if it is covered with a dense mat of floating vegetation/debris. They may also breed in ephemeral aquatic habitats such as temporary ponds, roadside ditches, borrow pits, deep wheel ruts in dirt roads, and shallow drainage ditches.

"The mating call sounds like a high-pitched, penetrating, nasal sheep-like bleat. It may also sound like a buzzing quality, and lasts for approximately 1 to 1.5 seconds."

Frogs and toads found at Ijams throughout the year.

      American Toad (Bufo americanus
      Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)
      Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
      Western Chorus Frog  (Pseudacris triseriata)
      Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
      Green Frog (Rana clamitans)
      Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)
      Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
      Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)

- Stephen Lyn Bales