"I'm never at a loss for things to study or topics to write about: everything in the natural world is fair game. If I'm not intrigued and excited every time I step outside, it just means I'm not paying attention."
- from Feathers by Thor Hanson
Tennessee Naturalist UT Press Author blog
• University of Tennessee Press author and speaker, Tennessee naturalist
Stephen Lyn Bales
writer, speaker, humorist, photographer, artist, gonzo naturalist, local natural historian, official Tremonster, recycler of aluminum cans, listener of old LPs, taker of afternoon naps at 959 feet above sea level at 35º55'N, 83º56'W
"excellent writer, very humorous speaker"
- Crossville Chronicle
• Fifth generation Smoky Mountain hillbilly
(Caleb to Jim to Homer to Russell to moi with a lot of help from Elizabeth, Emma, Pearl and Mary Helen)
•Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, East Tennessee State University & the University of Tennessee
• Author of three books for the University of Tennessee Press:Natural Histories andGhost Birds(Jim Tanner and the ivorybills), plus the new Ephemeral by Nature. In the works: Bad Dads/Good Fathers and Gatlinburg: Timber Town to Mountain Resort.
• History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees
by James Mooney
The Trail of Tears
by Gloria Jahoda
The De Soto Chronicles editors Clayton, Knight, Moore Looking for De Soto by Joyce Hudson Tennessee: A Bicentennial History by Wilma Dykeman
The Cherokees and Their Chiefs by Stanley Hoig
The Southeastern Indians
by Charles Hudson
Tribes that Slumber
by Lewis & Kneberg
Pilgrims of the Wild
by Grey Owl A New Voyage to Carolina by John Lawson Travels of William Bartram by William Bartram
Natural Histories notecards with illustrations from the book
pen to paper
Written over 600 nature articles and columns for local publications: The Tennessee Conservationist, Smokies Life, the farragutpress, Hellbender Press, Tennessee Yards & Neighborhoods and national: Smithsonian magazine. Author ofNatural Histories andGhost Birds published by the University of Tennessee Press.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey Rarest of the Rare
by Diane Ackerman The Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams
Incredible journeys: 10 favorite books
• The Path
by Chet Raymo
River of Doubt
by Candice Millard
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer The Man Who Walked Through Time by Colin Fletcher The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon Walking towards Walden by John Hanson Mitchell
Being Caribou by Karsten Heur Dragon Hunter by Novacek & Gallenkamp
Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
Science books: my favorites to look for
The Evolution of Beauty
by Richard Prum
The Song of the Dodo
by David Quammen
In the Shadow of Man
by Jane Goodall
People of the Lake
by Richard Leakey
The Wauchula Woods Accord by Charles Siebert The Invention of Clouds by Richard Hamblyn Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald Johanson A Gap in Nature by Flannery & Schouten
The Diversity of Life by E. O. Wilson
The Reluctant Mr. Darwin
by David Quammen
The Beak of the Finch
by Jonathan Weiner
The Ghost with Trembling Wings
by Scott Weidensaul
Unearthing the Dragon by Mark Norell Copernicus' Secret
by Jack Repcheck The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester The Measure of all Things by Ken Alder
Plus favorites about birds & birding
What the Robin Knows by Jon Young Atlas of Rare Birds
by Dominic Couzens
The Feather Quest
by Pete Dunne
Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman
The Bluebird Effect
by Julie Zickefoose Living on the Wind
by Scott Weidensaul
The Wisdom of Birds
by T.R. Birkhead
The Grail Bird
by Tim Gallagher
by Tony Juniper Songbird Journeys
by Miyoko Coco Chu The Carolina Parakeet
by Noel F.R. Snyder
Life in the Skies
by Jonathan Rosen
A Shadow and a Song
by Mark Jerome Walters Return of the Osprey
by David Gessner
The Big Year
by Mark Obmascik
In Search of the Ivory-billed Woodpeckerby Jerome Jackson
Red-Tails in Love
by Marie Winn
Uniquely/Oddly American: 10 favorite books
The Thoreau You Don't Know by Robert Sullivan
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
by Dee Brown
The Final Days
by Bernstein & Woodward
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Remembering America
by Richard Goodwin
Stealing Lincoln's Body
by Thomas Craughwell
Confederates in the Attic
by Tony Horwitz
Edward S. Curtis: Coming to Light
by Anne Makepeace
Under a Wild Sky by William Souder
Race to Save the Lord God Birdby Phillip Hoose
Remarkable stories: 10 favorites
• Van Gogh: The Life by Naifeh & Smith The Professor and the Madman
by Simon Winchester
Poe & Fanny
by John May
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer Love and Hatred by William Shirer Mauve by Simon Garfield Killing Mister Watson & Lost Man's River by Peter Matthiessen The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill The Monsters by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
Plus 10 darn good reads, darn good
• Kidnapping the Lorax
by Patricia Lichen
Never Cry Wolf
by Farley Mowat
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh West with the Night by Beryl Markham Thunderstruck by Erik Larson My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir
Special thanks for stopping by my blog. This journal has logged over a quarter of a million page-views. Most of the visitors have lived in the U.S, but after that, nature callinghas been visited by people from 107 other countries plus Antarctica. That's more places than I'll ever get to visit using my own two legs.
Thank you for stopping by
Recent visits from
• Klang, Malaysia • Arica, Chile
• Tallinn, Estonia • Bondy, France • Zaventem, Belgium • Bangalore, India • Karachi, Pakistan • Ryde, New South Wales • Göteborg, Sweden • Khabarovsk, Russia • Bekasi, Indonesia • Robilante, Italy • Maastricht, Netherlands • Smethwick, GB • Brasília, Brazil • Kiev, Ukraine • Shanghai, China • Istanbul, Turkey • Zagreb, Croatia
• Vihtavuori, Finland • Pazardjik, Bulgaria • Taichung City, Taiwan • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia • Quezon City, Philippines • São Paulo, Brazil • St. John's, Newfoundland • Luanda, Angola • Phnom Penh, Cambodia • Cebu, Philippines
If we were looking for owls, Rex McDaniel was usually with us. He just had a knack of finding them, especially at the Homesite around the pond built by H.P Ijams for his daughters. Barred owls preferred habitat is woods near a pond, stream or wetland. Click:looking for owls
Oh, do you remember the Sunday that the -ologists went on a Dragon-Quest looking for the aquatic palaeopterous insects around the Plaza Pond at Ijams? Rex McDaniel and Jason Dykes came along with their cameras. It was quite an adventure. Click:damsels and dragons
There is something about a damp, muggy day in May to bring out the raspy-voiced tree frogs at Ijams. We could hear but not see them on our group's walk through the woods. So Rex McDaniel went back with his attentive eye and camera to find one and, as he usually did, he found his treasure of the day.
Rex McDaniel became known as the "Owl-Whisperer" around the Visitor Center at Ijams. Here is one he found back in May 2013 at the Homesite Pavilion very near where we held his "Celebration of Life" in November. Click: Homesite owl.
If you were to sit on your back patio or front porch chances are in fairly short order you would see a Carolina wren. And since they tend to mate for life, you would probably in time see two. These perky birds with the white eye stripe love to live around our homes. Rex McDaniel sent me a photo back in the spring of 2013. The pair had nested near his home and they were fairly busy raising their young family. Click: Carolina wren.
It was three years ago plus a few dark hours—Monday, November 28, 2016—that a once contained wildfire in the Smokies was whipped into something more horrific by 87 mph winds. The resulting firestorm roared down out of the mountains and left a scar across 10,000 acres of the national park, plus in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and beyond. Fourteen people died, 134 were injured and many people were left with broken hearts. Three years ago today, I published a post about the fire not knowing what had been lost. I even wondered about the four preserved cabins at Junglebrook and along Roaring Fork. I am related to all who once lived there. Their DNA is intertwined within my own.
Unaware of its fate, I included a photo of a log cabin taken by Rex McDaniel. He often went there with his camera in hand. For him, it was a place of great solace, as it is for me. Had anything survived? Click: Gatlinburg fire storm
"Our two regular visitors came by this afternoon for a snack. I hope they aren’t on someone’s menu tomorrow!" emailed Lynne Davis late yesterday.
Indeed. They have been a regular part of our Thanksgivings since the very first one, so much so that wild turkeys had all but disappeared. But through focused conservation efforts they have made a slow comeback. Lynne and Bob Davis now routinely see them around their house. Reports of the menu for the first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoags and their chief Massasoit are a bit sketchy. Only two written accounts survive, one a letter written by Edward Winslow dated December 12, 1621 and the other, William Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation” written 20 years later. The foods the men mentioned were corn, Indian corn (ground into cornmeal), barley (mainly used to make beer), peas (but only a few because the first crop didn’t do well), fowl (probably ducks, geese, swans and cranes), fish (mostly bass and cod), venison (the Wampanoags brought five deer) and wild turkey. Happy Thanksgiving. And we all have many many things to be thankful for. •
Ever so often it is necessary to reinvent oneself. The old ways no longer apply. But perhaps the most spectacular re-inventors are the insects that go through complete metamorphosis. Data fata secutus. In September 2013, Rex McDaniel found a wonderful example in plain sight: the green park bench on the plaza in front of the Visitor Center at Ijams. Rex even got a video.
Click: metamorphosis. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
When the 2016 edition of TN Naturalist @ Ijams went to the ponds to find and learn about frogs, newts and other amphibians, Rex McDaniel was there to record the fun of it all. And it was fun! Click: amphibians! Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
In 2013, Rex McDaniel and I had a wonderful conversation about slugs that included a photograph by his son James. Yes, these mollusks, really shell-less snails, can be rather interesting. Click: white slug Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
And then there were our yearly May road trips to Chota, the Cherokee peace town. We went to honor the grave of Oconastota, the great Cherokee Warrior Chief who died there with peace in his heart in 1783 and in the afterglow, we listened for cricket frogs and chuck-will's-widows in the twilight. Rex McDaniel often went with us to be in that sacrosanct place on the lake, to be in the moment. Click: Chota in the twilight And make sure you listen to Jason Dykes recording at the end made that night in 2013. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
For the past several springs, a pair of red-shouldered hawks have built their nest in the trees behind Tiger's enclosure by the parking lot at Ijams. In April 2014, the attentive eye of Rex McDaniel was the first to see the young clutch moving around in the lofty nest and he got a video of it. Click: red-shouldered hawks. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
We looked at a hot day in June, what about a rainy day in May? In blustery May, Ijams is often slow on Mondays but the attentive eye of Rex McDaniel caught some action in 2012 even in the rain with a caption that could have read... "Don't you just love Ijams." Click: rainy day. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
On a hot day in June, what better way to escape the heat than go to the creek? And that's just what we did in 2016. The attentive eye of Rex McDaniel decided to come along to watch the fun. And it was truly a cool way to spend the afternoon. Click: in the creek. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
One day in July 2017, the attentive eye of Rex McDaniel found a late Northerncardinal nest. Very active, low to the ground in the shrubs. July is somewhat late in the season for cardinals to be nesting. Most of the resident species—wrens, chickadees, titmice, robins—nest early. By July parent birds are beginning to molt. Feathers grow faster in the warm weather. Click: late cardinal nest. Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
The attentive eye of Rex McDaniel took in the little things. He saw everything from big to small. As small as a fly blowing a bubble in 2013. Click: fly bubble? Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
If our topic was owls, Rex McDaniel was generally there, as he was in the fall of 2015 for the Ijams Owl-ology class that also featured wildlife rehabilitator Lynne McCoy and Sugar, a snow-white barred owl, and Laura Twilley with her owl cupcakes. Click: Owl-ology Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
At the memorial "Celebration of Life" for Rex McDaniel held outside last Sunday at the original Ijams Homesite near the woods and pond that Rex loved, Sharon told a story of his attentive eye. When they were working on the front desk together, Sharon said she could go out to the Universal Pond in front of the Visitor's Center and not find a single frog, but Rex could go out after her and find 13, as he did when he found the first bullfrog in 2012. Click: first bullfrog Photograph/graphic by his friend Chuck Cooper.
• You can add this photo to our collection of flowers just beginning to unfurl. I love the birthing of it, the natalness. It'...
"There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein.
The world, I have come to believe, is a very queer place, but we have been a part of the queerness for so long that we tend to take it for granted. We rush to and fro like Mad Hatters on our peculiar errands, all the time imaging our surroundings to be dull and ourselves quite ordinary creatures." Loren Eiseley from "The Star Thrower."
• The naturalist's journey has only begun and for all intents and purposes will go on forever...as the exploration is pressed, it will engage more of the things close to the human heart and spirit. - from Biophilia by E. O. Wilson (b 1929)
• Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all. Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it. - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Nature is the standard for truth and beauty. - Bernd Heinrich
"It's a strange fact about science that until an object or a phenomenon receives a name in some way it does not exist. Names really matter. They retrieve something from the endless chaos of anonymity into a world of lists, inventories and classification. The next stage is to understand their meaning." - Richard Fortey, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The story of the animals and plants that time has left behind.
Life is most precious when its unity and rarity are recognized, and we are among the rarest of things." - from "Written in Stone" by Brian Switek "And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way." - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
The naturalist's journey has only begun and for all intents and purposes will go on forever...as the exploration is pressed, it will engage more of the things close to the human heart and spirit. - from Biophilia by E. O. Wilson (b 1929) • But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. - Vincent van Gogh • To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again. - from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
• Ecstasy is identity with all existence. - from The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (b 1927) • The unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates
• Find the good, and praise it. - Alex Hailey
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune. - President Barack Obama.
• Almost everything in nature is so much more awe-inspiring than it first appears. - Julie Zickefoose
• I'm never at a loss for things to study or topics to write about: everything in the natural world is fair game. If I'm not intrigued and excited every time I step outside, it just means I'm not paying attention. - from Feathers by Thor Hanson
“To live within limits, to want one thing, or a very few things, very much and love them dearly, cling to them, survey them from every angle, become one with them—that is what makes the poet, the artist, the human being.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” - Immanuel Kant, German philosopher (1724–1804)
“Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.” - Immanuel Kant, German philosopher (1724–1804)
“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” - Thomas Carlyle
I am going to refresh, to rejuvenate myself in nature. - Vincent van Gogh
"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars, And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest." - Walt Whitman "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." - Dalai Lama
The history of beauty in nature is a vast never-ending story. -The Evolution of Beauty: Richard Prum
"Chase your dreams as long as they'll let you." Adam Vinatieri, NFL placekicker
“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.”
Il s'agit de saisir ce qui ne passe pas, dans ce qui passe.