Saturday, July 26, 2014

in search of lost time


GNI SPECIAL REPORT: Dateline Knoxville: Barcus, world renowned archaeologist and suspected tomb raider, i.e. dealer of lost artifacts, paid a visit to Ijams last week. 

The international bon vivant Barcus is secretive, little is known about him. It is believed he has a penchant for 10,000-page French novels about the utter meaninglessness of modern existence, thus his interest in the remembrance of things past, antiquities. At Ijams, Barcus quickly called for a closed door meeting with the second, third and fourth graders attending the Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp at the South Knox nature center. 

Barcus shared a secret and none of the campers are talking. It's all very hush, hush.

Afterwards, the group slipped out of the building and quietly explored one on the iron-gated caves nearby in search of lost time. The hidden cavern is sealed-tight to protect the wildlife that lives inside: bats, salamanders and various cave-dwelling squiggles. It's a limestone cave, thousands of years old, steeped in mystery but does it really hold a shadowy secret? The rusted heavy gate had not been opened in years. And we hear that another shrouded-in-intrigue conclave was held inside in the dark. Lips are sealed. Everything on the QT.

We're also in the dark on what to report, other than not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, cave bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster. These animals are not pernicious, they have their role in the natural world. Ijams' Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp is designed to separate the fact from the fiction and to have a little fun doing it.

- Photos by Jill Sublett and Katie Plank.


In search of lost time









Upon leaving the cave, everyone knew the secret





But they're not talking.



Monday, July 21, 2014

a sheep in wolf's clothing


Unmasking the truth about nature's monsters.



Last week's Super Full Moon brought out Max, the Southside Where?Wolf. He made a guest appearance at the Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp at Ijams to kickoff the week.

For the first time ever, the second, third and fourth graders, got to interview a werewolf, an unfortunate monster. For 28 days, Max is a normal man, a mechanic who specializes in vintage MG repair. Then on the night of the 29th day — every full moon — he becomes a werewolf, which he likened to having a super bad temper tantrum. 

Max warned all the campers that learning to control their tempers was hard but they could do it, because you often hurt someone you love with your emotional outbursts. 

They also learned that Max's normal everyday life changed when he was bitten by another werewolf. There's a warning there as well. All wild animals can bite and you should never try to pick one up, especially RACCOONS even if they were very young. Always watch wild animals from a distance, give them their proper respect.

One of the young campers decided that Max must be lonely and that she could tame him, which she eventually did. 

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster. But these animals are not pernicious, they have their role in the natural world. Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp is designed to separate the fact from the fiction and to have a little fun doing it.

- Photos by Jill Sublett and Katie Plank. Monster wrangler, Cam Basden 




And beauty tames the beast. The wolf man's tantrum is quailed with a soothing voice and calm demeanor. And the inner Max returns. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Misunderstood monsters



Afraid of snakes? Who knew?







Frankenstein's monster, created by Mary Shelley on a dark and stormy night in 1818, is afraid of fire, but rumor has it that he is also terrified of snakes? 

Who knew?

He stopped by Ijams' Monsters! Monsters! Nature Day Camp this week to learn more about our scaly friends and to seek some advice about dealing with his ophidiophobia (an abnormal fear of snakes).

It's a good thing our nature campers are snake experts! They taught him all about the habits of our local snakes and the important role they play in various ecosystems. 

After the campers interviewed Frankenstein learning of his phobias, they went to the Ijams' Homesite to look for reptiles and amphibians. The second, third and fourth graders found three water snakes, plus oodles of frogs. 

Like Frankenstein, northern water snakes are often persecuted. People bludgeon them thinking they are killing water moccasins but the venomous cottonmouths are not found in the Tennessee Valley. Northern water snakes are not monsters, they're harmless unless you are a frog.

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster. Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp is designed to separate the fact from the fiction.
 
FYI: The original movie Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff was the number one box office hit of 1931. 

- Jenny Newby, Guest blogger. Frankie photos by Jill Sublett. Other photos by Katie Plank. Monster wrangler, Cam Basden 

Yes. I'm afraid of snakes. Can you help me?




Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon)





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

millipedes: the ancient ones




Rumor has it that Lord Roch Vole-Téck, supreme ruler of Mars, visited Ijams' summer Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp today. He wanted to speak to the Earth Elders, the really old, old ancient ones.

And just who are these elders? 

They are the unassuming, slow-moving millipedes who have roamed this planet for over 420 million years.  These "thousand legged" creatures (none actually have 1,000 legs, but they do have hundreds) are lowly detritivores. They consume detritius, the organic material — dead leaves and plants — that fall to the forest floor, helping to convert it into soil. 

The campers learned the difference between millipedes, harmless vegetarians, and centipedes, carnivores that can sting, sworn enemy of all millipedes. 

FYI: The scientific study of millipedes is known as diplopodology, and a scientist who studies them is called a diplopodologist.

With the help of some future diplopodologists — that would be today's camp kids — and a leaf rake, the Martian ruler Vole-Téck was able to find several handsome Tootsie Roll-sized millipedes, docile creatures to converse with and the kids to study. 

And the Earth was saved once again for the thousand-legged meek to inherit.

Not everything in nature that seems like a monster, be it spider, snake, wolf, bat, hawk, crawdad, vulture or creepy, crawly millipede, is a monster. Monster! Monster! Nature Day Camp is designed to separate the fact from the fiction.


Martian ruler Vole-Téck uses mental telepathy to put thoughts into Camp Counselor Cam's brain. "Take me to your elders," Vole-Téck demands.












Saturday, July 12, 2014

sunflower fields forever


 
Ijams Hiking Club sunning it

Photo by Bari Gerbig
A warm, or should I say "hot summer sun," thank you to all who joined me today for the July hike of the month. 

Sun. Sun. Sun. Everywhere suns.

"Let me take you down...bum, bum, bum...to sunflower fields" Today, we explored trails (Dozer, Argus, Wyatt Way, Wild Briar, Auggie's Run, Will Skelton) at Forks of the River WMA and its five fields planted with sunflowers east of Ijams, all part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South Loop.

The Ijams Hiking Club ventures forth the second Saturday of every month, so join us for informative camaraderie!

For those wanting a checklist of all the trails in the Knox Urban Wilderness click: gotta record it.

And thank you Eric Johnson for planning our route.





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

little spitfire


Trust me. She's a cold-blooded killer.

In the past 14 years, I've worked with several birds of prey at the nature center. All have been injured in some way, that's why we have them. All have had different – for want of a better word – personalities.

The dictionary defines feisty as: full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky. This American kestrel, le petit tigre, is all that plus she's loud! She's got cap a Attitude. Female kestrels weigh roughly four ounces. If she was as big as a golden eagle, this little spitfire could dismember me in seconds. If you find yourself in a street fight, you'd want this bird on your side, she's a four ounce pitbull.

Kestrels eat small rodents and insects. In the summer, they love crunchy grasshoppers.

I know she's cute. Once called sparrow hawks, not because they ate sparrows but because they're petite like sparrows, kestrels are now known as falcons. Yet, recent genetics studies indicate that the falcons are more closely related to parrots than to hawks, so she's parrot-pretty. But the Ijams kestrel ain't no Polly. She'd make a great scrappy faux parrot, sitting on the shoulder of a rogue pirate captain like Jack Sparrow...hawk.  

All photos by Chuck Cooper. 

If you're a grasshopper, this could be the last face you ever see.

You want a piece of me?
Female American kestrel—parrot pretty.