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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Let's go (jelly) fishin' at Ijams

It's freshwater jellyfish season! And we know they can be found in Mead's Quarry Lake, so let's go look for them.

UT Students look at jellyfish in a jar.
There is only one species of freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii) in the world. Although they are not native to Tennessee or even North America, they have made the jump across the big pond, a.k.a. the Atlantic.

They were first discovered in Mead's Quarry Lake in the late 1990s. The News Sentinel's Morgan Simmons wrote a story about their discovery. I've seen them on past canoe trips there, but not this year...not yet. Being nickel-sized and transparent to translucent makes it a bit tough to find the Lilliputian hydrozoans. Tough, but not impossible.

Ijams member Brian Bonnyman
holds a jar of recently caught
freshwater jellyfish.
After two years on the bottom, living as tiny polyps, the medusa stage of the jellyfish's life usually occurs during the heat of late summer, early fall.

Ijams member, Brian Bonnyman, located several in a lake in Blount County while kayaking last Sunday. So, we know the season is right. (The jellyfish in the photos and video were caught by Brian.) 

We'll be canoeing for jellyfish three times in September.

Saturday, September 7, 8 a.m.
Friday, September 13, 5 p.m.
Saturday, September 28, 8 a.m.

Ijams provides the gear: canoe, paddles, life jackets, guide (That would be me). Fee: $15 for members, $17.50 for non-members. Space is very limited. 

To register call me at Ijams (865) 577-4717, ext. 119. 

- Story and photos: Stephen Lyn Bales, Rex McDaniel. Video: Rex McDaniel.  


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Letter to the editor: Hummingbird event was wonderful

The following letter to the editor was published in yesterday's Knoxville News Sentinel. (page B2)

"We would like to send our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society [KTOS] for hosting yet another wonderful hummingbird festival at the Ijams Nature Center this past Saturday. Only 3 years old, the festival is attracting throngs of area wildlife enthusiasts of all ages. The speakers and programs were highly informative and the thrill of watching a young child as he gets to release a recently banded hummingbird is simply magical. We certainly plan to attend next year's festival." 

- Steve and Cyndi Routledge, Clarksville, Tenn. 

KTOS and Ijams thanks the News Sentinel and the Routledges for their kind letter. Yes, connecting young people to the wonder of the natural world is indescribably rewarding.

Video: Master Bander Mark Armstrong hands young birder Rachael Barker a recently banded hummer. Watch for its blast off. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hummingbirds banded at last Saturday's festival

Last Saturday the third annual Wonder of Hummingbird Festival was held at Ijams. The event is co-produced by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) and Ijams Nature Center. 

Over 1,000 attended the birding fest which included several local vendors, a hummingbird banding demonstration and a full day of activities and speakers.

Ijams wants to especially thank Billie Cantwell, KTOS President, for all of her hard work/organizational skills, Master Bander Mark Armstrong, Curator of Birds at the Knoxville Zoo, and his team of banders and all the other members of the bird club for their dedicated help and support.

Mark says a total of 42 hummingbirds were banded in the practice session and the day of the festival itself. One male was caught four times, so either he didn't figure out what the cage-trap was or he liked been held and coddled. 

Also, we thank festival sponsors: Wild Birds Unlimited, Perky Pet, Prism Pools and Visionary Horizons Wealth Management. 

Many have asked me, "How do you catch and band something as lively and tiny as a hummingbird?" 

Here's a series of photos illustrating the process that only takes a few minutes, start to finish.

- Photos and text by Stephen Lyn Bales

Gar Secrist removes hummer caught in cage.
Patty Ford transports two hummers to banding station
Master Bander Mark Armstrong weighs, measures and attaches 
a leg band to each hummingbird. 
Mark Armstrong holds adult male hummingbird about to be released. 
After banding, hummer is laid on the outstretched hand of a visitor and then BLAST OFF!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

See hummingbirds banded at Saturday festival

The third annual Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival is Saturday, August 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $5, children under six are admitted free.

Presented by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Ijams Nature Center, visitors will have the opportunity to see ruby-throated hummingbirds up-close at a banding demonstration by Mark Armstrong, a certified Master Bander.

Hummingbirds will be harmlessly captured, weighed, measured and banded before being sent on their way.

Banding provides a way to document hummingbird movement during migration. August and September are busy migration months in Tennessee with thousands of hummingbirds moving south on their way to wintering grounds in Central America and southern Mexico.

Festival speakers include:

• T. David Pitts, Professor of Biology, UT Martin will talk about “The Hummingbirds that Nest in Your Yard”

• Marcia Davis, Birdlife Columnist for the Knoxville

• David Unger, Professor of Biology, Maryville College

• Steve McGaffin, Naturalist and Educator for the Knoxville Zoo

• Lynne McCoy, a local wildlife rehabilitator

• Peg Beute, Ijams educator

Festival sponsors: Wild Birds Unlimited, Perky Pet, Prism Pools and Visionary Horizons Wealth Management.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happiness is riding in a canoe with your Mom at Ijams

Ijams provides a safe place for kids to explore the wonder of nature. Just ask Joseph! Last Saturday he and his Mom joined our canoe exploration of Mead's Quarry Lake.

Craspedacusta sowerbyi
(Wiki media)
We were searching for freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbyi), which we didn't find, but they are tricky to locate, as ephemeral a creature as one can imagine living at Ijams: small, transparent, active, living down in the water.

A follow-up e-mail from his Mom revealed the young adventurer didn't mind. "Joseph told me this evening that his happiest moment of the day was being out in the canoe!"

Ijams has been providing these kinds of outdoor adventures for young people for at least 90 years, since the days H.P. and Alice Ijams and their four daughters lived here.

Ijams daughters: Jo, Martha, Mary and Elizabeth in a canoe at Homesite Pond, 1923

- Photo and text by Stephen Lyn Bales  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Alice Ijams garden demonstration site taking shape

Volunteers work to fill raised gardening beds. 

What's new at Ijams, you ask? 

We are relocating all of our greenhouse, organic garden and compost demonstration sites to one central location.

The site will be dedicated to the late Alice Yoe Ijams, an avid gardener, who tended her own greenhouse here over 70 years ago.  

Located beside the solar panels on the Universal Trail, the site is beginning to take shape. Last week volunteers helped fill the raised beds.

Peg Beute, our own avid gardener, will be hosting volunteer work days every Wednesday in August from 9 a.m. to noon. It's a good chance to see the site take shape and get your hands dirty. Plus, Peg will provide  the refreshments.

Special thanks to all volunteers who have helped so far!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Greenhouse relocated from Homesite

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August means Ijams Summer Camps are over (boo hoo)

All the area children are gearing up for back-to-school and a return to formal classes. This means Ijams Summer Day Camps are over. (Our loss.)

The adventurous, go-anywhere kids will be missed by the entire Ijams camp education staff—Jen, Peg, Sabrina, Lauren, Sarah, moi. 

It was a great—albeit exhausting—two months, but one photo is worth a thousand words. So, I'll end the latter and feature the former. Below is the equivalent of 25,000 words!

(Special thanks to this year's counselors and volunteers: Ruddy Duck, Turtle T, Rocky, Shamrock and Kiwi!)

- Stephen Lyn Bales




And adieu campers
for another year.

See you next June!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Smooth sumac in bloom along Universal Trail

The only species of shrub or tree that’s native to all 48 contiguous states (and most of southern Canada), smooth sumac is now in bloom in the Tennessee Valley.

At Ijams Nature Center look for it along the Universal Trail near the solar panels, although, most people hardly notice the dense shrub until fall when it develops bright red leaves.

Its name “sumac” can be traced back to the Syrian word “summaq,” which means red.

The flowers are tiny, borne in dense erect panicles. They are followed by large clusters of hairy (yes, hairy) crimson berries that remain throughout the winter, much to the delight of mockingbirds.

- Stephen Lyn Bales