Thursday, August 28, 2014

grin and tonic

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge hit home this week, 
except with a twist of lime and Tanqueray, a jaunty blend 
of grain, juniper, coriander, angelica root and liquorice;
and then there's the tonic, H2O with a splash of quinine, 
to ward off malaria.
After all, no one said you have to use water.

Monday, August 25, 2014

passenger pigeon guy meets ivorybill guy

It was my great pleasure to meet naturalist and author Joel Greenberg this past weekend. He spoke at the fourth annual The Wonder of Hummingbird Festival held at Ijams Nature Center.

Greenberg, an engaging speaker and conversationalist, is the author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction published this year by Bloomsbury. 

And, of course, I am the author of Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941 published by UT Press, just one of several books on the topic of the storied ghost bird of the South. 

So it was the author of a book about the extinct passenger pigeon chatting with the author of a book about a species that may or may not be extinct, a virtual feathered phantom of the Southern swamps. 

We swapped stories, books and thoughts on the perils of birds and of authoring, or was it the angst of authoritis?

Greenberg also spoke at the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my friend Paul James and visited the restored home of my great-granddad, Jim Bales.  

Author Greenberg visits my ancestral homeland: the
Jim Bales cabin in the Great Smokies. Photo by Paul James.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

a voluptuous languor

Downtown Knoxville. 15 August 2014

"But when there comes a voluptuous languor,
Soft the sunshine, silent the air..."

- Walt Whitman

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

royal encounter


It's been awhile since we visited with this wondrous thing.

We were exploring the Serendipity and Discovery Trails at Ijams with the camp kids two weeks ago. Both trails are aptly named; you almost always find something interesting. The forest at the Homesite is much older than the woods that surround the Visitor Center.

As we climbed the hill we spotted a regal moth, a.k.a. royal walnut moth (Citheronia regalis) clinging to a low stem, eye-level for the campers to study. Either name works, the colorful lepidopteran is rather regal. Yet, upon closer inspection, I realized it was two members of royalty, a prince and princess. Katie took a couple of photos and we moved on, telling the kids that "they were on a date and needed their privacy."

There's a general rule: if the moth is beautiful then the caterpillar is rather plain, or vice versa. Yet, the royal walnut is an exception, both ends of the life cycle are clad in spectacular attire. 

Once mated the female will spend the rest of her short life laying eggs that will soon hatch into the big-boys of the larval moth world. Host plants include hickories, pecan, butternut, black walnut, sweet gum, persimmon and sumacs, all are found at Ijams.

The last time we visited the caterpillar stage was a few years ago. Click: hickory horned devil.

- Photos by Katie Plank