Monday, October 15, 2018

thank you, villagers

Many thanks to Claire Manzo president of the Tellico Village Birders Club for inviting me to speak to their group recently about some of the species of birds that migrate south or downslope from the Smokies to spend their winters here in the Tennessee Valley.

We all look forward to seeing species like the winter wren, hermit thrush, golden-crowed kinglet and dark-eyed junco. The Tellico Villagers routinely have common loons and brown-headed nuthatches, which was a bit of a surprise to me. 

After the rains pass, it will be a beautiful time to go birding. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Monarch Days 2

Not a huge fan of multitasking, living in a digital world with a 1970s 8-track brain and all. One track at a time is my modus operandi. 

But sometimes the need arises. Working on the manuscript for my fourth book for the University of Tennessee Press AND monarch butterfly chrysalis-watching for Jen, Wayne and Sara Cate Roder who are out of town.

Call me an adoptive papa.  

Luckily, the new born emerging on my desk while I was writing. A lovely female and after six hours of wing-drying, ZEE540 was released before the rains sweep through. Good thing, she's flying to Mexico.

Thank you, Clare for showing me the way. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Monarch Days

Yesterday, another big monarch butterfly day. Two more emerged from their chrysalises, both males.

Numbers XYM152 and XYM153 were tagged and sent on their way to the mountaintops of Mexico.

Godspeed, John Glenn.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

migrating monarch season

Been busy of late. It's migrating monarch butterfly season.

Under the tutelage of naturalist, monarch maven and friend Clare Dattilo and her three children, I have taken up the cause. I have been hand-raising monarch butterfly caterpillars and watching over mine and other's chrysalises. When the adult butterflies emerge. I tag them with a number and let them fly away. This time of the year, they migrate to Mexico. Oh yes! 

In my third book, Ephemeral by Nature, I tell their complete story and how, beginning in the 1930s, a husband and wife team, Frederick & Norah Urquhart dedicated 40-years of their lives, piecing together their migration story.

Why do you hand-raise monarchs? Their population is in decline and they need help and to protect them from the hazards of being a caterpillar that include parasitoids insects—12 species of tachinid flies and at least one braconid wasp—that seek them out to lay eggs inside them that results in the death of the late-instar larvae or pupae. And it is not a pretty way to die.

And it is all so fascinating to watch the entire process of metamorphosis. 

Thank you, Clare!

For more photos go to: ephemeral monarchs.

Adult monarch tagged with the number ZEE530 about to fly for the first time over the meadows at Cherokee Farm and begin her trip to Mexico. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

thank you Wild Birds

Spitfire, an injured American kestrel, would like to thank owners Liz & Tony Cutrone and Assistant Manager Tiffiny Hamlin of Wild Birds Unlimited for inviting her into their store. 

Spitfire represented Ijams Nature Center and was there for a talk about how to identify local birds of prey. Birds like hawks, owls, vultures, eagles and falcons like her.

Spitfire has a very injured left wing. She can no longer fly but is well cared for by the folks at the nature center.

Wild Birds Unlimited, located at 7240 Kingston Pike, has everything you need to attract birds to your backyard and with the cold weather months rapidly approaching it is time to clean or replace old feeders and stock up on all of the other items you need to turn your backyard hobby into a passion.

Wild Birds Unlimited is a regular sponsor of the Hummingbird Festival held at Ijams every August.

Spitfire and Ijams thanks them all.


Monday, September 17, 2018

thank you, Seniors for Creative Learning

A warm thank you to the Seniors for Creative Learning for inviting me to speak at the John T. O'Connor Center in East Knoxville.

Our topic? Ephemerality in nature with examples from all three of my UT Press books: from freshwater jellyfish to 17-year cicadas to endangered/extinct species. 

"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away," James 4.14. 

Be mindful. Every day is precious, enjoy each ephemeral moment!

Monday, September 10, 2018

a walk back in time

Last Saturday, the 2018 class of TN Naturalist@Ijams took a walk with me back in time. We passed over the four layers of bedrock or formations that underlie the nature center. Starting with the Ottosee shale under the Visitor Center, we then moved on to Chapman Ridge sandstone, Holston crystalline limestone (the rock that was quarried and sold as Tennessee Marble) and finally brushed past the Lenoir formation of silty, crumbly limestone.

These four layers were deposited—one on top of the other—during the Ordovician geologic period between 443.8 and 485.4 million years ago. That's deep time. And our tour ended up deep in the ground at the Keyhole and Rock Bridge. The first of three pits found in the now abandoned Ross Marble quarry site.

Thanks to all who braved the awful heat.

Anytime I walk back in time at the nature center, I tip my hat to retired geologist and fellow UT Press author Harry Moore who was the first to lead me on such a journey.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

thank you, WBIR

A gracious Ijams' thank you to WBIR's Leslie Ackerson and Katie Inman who visited with me very very early (5 a.m. is early) this morning to meet on live TV some of the injured or disabled animals that we care for daily.

What was the occasion? September 4 is National Wildlife Day, an annual opportunity to learn more about endangered species, preservation and conservation efforts around the world. Zoos, aviaries, marine sanctuaries and nature centers like Ijams provide a variety of ways to get to know local wildlife.

Either feathered, furry, scaly or shelled our adopted menagerie of animals is used by the education department to raise awareness of local wildlife and their issues.

Thank you, Leslie and Katie and our friends at WBIR.

(Both Leslie and Katie revealed that they had first visited Ijams on field trips when they were little girls which made me feel older than mud. Shhh! Our secret.)

Monday, September 3, 2018

thank you, ORICL

A warm thank you to Jim Rushton, Katherine Smith, Priscilla McKenney and the other members of the board of ORICL: Oak Ridge Institute of Continued Learning, for inviting me to be the featured speaker at their Community Lecture Series recently. We met at Roane State Community College on the Oak Ridge Campus.

My lecture was entitled Ephemerality: The shortness of life and I pulled examples from all three of my books published by the University of Tennessee Press: Natural Histories, Ghost Birds and Ephemeral by Nature, to illustrate my topic. 

And I was also able to take a jar of live freshwater jellyfish to symbolize the very nature of ephemerality. 

Thank you to all who attended.

Monday, August 27, 2018

gone jelly-fishin'

At my Look & Learn Sunday at Ijams yesterday, we explored the ephemeral world of freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii). The small medusae are here one day and gone the next.

The medusae are the sexual form of cnidarian in which the body is shaped like an umbrella.

Currently, the penny-sized jellies are in Mead's Quarry Lake and will probably remain there in their medusa form until after Labor Day and the weather and water temperature cools. This is the final part of their lifecycle were the free swimming males and females need to find each other and it is important they get as much time as they need. After all, it's a 25-acre lake.

Thanks to all who attended.

For more information about freshwater jellyfish get my newest book, Ephemeral by Nature published by the University of Tennessee Press.

Monday, August 20, 2018

It's time to hummmmmmm.

Wonder of Hummingbird Festival
Saturday, August 25, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A huge Ijams thank you to media sponsor WBIR Channel 10 and to reporter Emily Devoe who stopped by the nature center this afternoon to chat about our upcoming 8th Annual Wonder of Hummingbird Festival.

There will be birding supply, plant, craft and food vendors plus eight speakers talking about a wide range of backyard nature topics from hummingbird-loving plants, butterflies, honey bees, an ephemeral author and a lot more.

Plus, you'll get a chance to talk with and watch up-close Federally licensed hummingbird master bander Mark Armstrong and his team catch and affix numbered leg bands on hummingbirds. A truly remarkable thing to witness.

For more info and list of sponsors go online:

Hummingbird in flight photo by friend-to-Ijams Wayne Mallinger.

With WBIR reporter Emily Devoe
Master hummingbird bander Mark Armstrong