Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloweenie thanks

In the guise of arboreal pirate Red Squirrely, protector of ye hickories n' oaks n' beeches, I'd like to thank WBIR Channel 10's Live@5@4 for broadcasting one-hour of live TV today from Ijams to celebrate Halloweenie. Aaaargh!

Co-hosts Beth "Catwoman" Haynes and Russell "Captain America" Biven were on hand to greet kids in costume (and pirate squirrels) as well as were the creative staff of Ijams. 

Thank you also to reporter J.J. "Where's Waldo?" Jones, producer Lee Ann Bowman and all the other behind the scenes TV folks. And to weatherman Todd Howell for holding off he rain just a bit. 

For more photos go to: Ijams/Live@5@4 Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

B & B at Cove Lake

We had such a good time in late September at Look Rock watching for hawks, the Ijams Birding & Breakfast Club is meeting again, Saturday, December 13. This time we're going to Cove Lake to search for wintering ducks, coots and grebes. Oh my! Ijams provides the brunch and spotting scopes. You bring your cameras and binoculars. 

Fee: Ijams members, $15, non-members $20. Visit Ijams website for details or call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to sign up. 

Group photo by Jimmy Tucker.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

blending in

If form follows function, often so does color, it's so important as camouflage. Blending in is key like this yellow warbler pictured munching on American beautyberries. Where's Waldo?

Each and every day, small passerines have two overriding imperatives: 1) find enough food to survive another day, 2) stay hidden enough not to be eaten themselves, it's do or die as this wonderful photo so illustrates. 

Thank you, Jason Dykes for sending it to me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

form follows function

The mole's front paws mirror my own hands.

In biology, form follows function. 

In the case of the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus), a medium-sized rodent-like mammal, its form is perfectly suited for life underground. Its front paws are enormous for digging tunnels in loose loamy soil. Its eyes are tiny, virtually nonexistent, because it senses its world in other ways, touch and scent. To that end, its nose is long and taped to sniff out earthworms and beetle grubs, the mole's plat préféré.

Linnaeus himself gave this species its scientific name: Scalopus, from two Greek words which mean "digging" and "foot," which is spot on but the specific name aquaticus misses the mark. There's a reason: The specimen Linnaeus reviewed was found floating dead in the water, so he assumed it was designed to swim, but a Michael Phelps it is not. 

We're captivated by mammals since we are one; so much like ourselves, yet so curiously different, especially the subterranean moles with eyes like Mr. Magoo and the hands of Van Cliburn. 

Ijams AmeriCorps educator Sammi Stoklosa recently found the dead one pictured above. It wasn't floating, just dead, perhaps killed and dropped by a great horned owl.

If so, did it die from natural causes?

Photo by Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University

Sunday, October 12, 2014

soft like an owl

The thing is, owls are soft. There's really no other way to describe them, especially great horned owls. 

Hawks are alert and intense, taunt as coiled springs waiting to snap. The faster they drop from the sky, the greater their kinetic energy. POW!

But owls are soft, silent fliers that pluck their prey. Big fluffy puff balls with feet and talons like bear traps. The shock is how hard they grasp, how sharp their talons, how much it hurts. Owls are wide-eyed and stoic, watchful. if that equates to wisdom, perhaps they are wise. Wisdom alone denotes a kind of softness.

When you hold a hawk you feel powerful like a Viking king; with an owl you feel calm like a Jedi knight cloaked in darkness, lightsabers tucked. 

If you are a mouse—and if you are one I must congratulate you for reading to the end of this post. Good job! Bravo! But, if you ARE a small furry rodent, don't stress. Either way, your death will be swift.