Friday, August 29, 2014

Festival Exhibits--Arts, Crafts, Plants, Food and Fun!

This is the second in a series of posts on the Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival held in Knoxville, Tennessee at Ijams Nature Center and co-sponsored by the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Ijams Nature Center on August 23rd. (You will find the first post here).
At the center of the day's activities were hummingbirds, the star and inspiration for the festival.  Hummingbird banding was one of the main attractions and was demonstrated by Mark Armstrong, Master Bander of hummingbirds and song birds.
Photo credit:  Jody Stone

While people waited their turn to view the banding table, there were plenty of other activities to entertain and educate--presentations on wildlife and hummingbird gardening,  naturalist-led bird and nature walks, wildlife demonstrations, and exhibits with arts and crafts, and of course, food and drinks.
Above and below, author, illustrator and naturalist, Stephen Lyn Bales sketches at his exhibit table.  Lyn also gave a presentation on his book, Ghost Birds, Jim Tanner and His Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941.

And here I am, above, exhibiting art and talking with visitors!  It is always a fun surprise to meet some of the people I know from facebook, blogging and through my website! Thank you all for saying, hello!  Photo credit:  Jody Stone--creator of  the facebook community page, "Hummingbird Love"



 Agri-Feed, above and below.

Photo credit:  Jody Stone

A group of friends who traveled from Indiana planned their visit with each other around the Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival!  We also had visitors from New Jersey and Alabama who met up for a visit to the Smoky Mountains and timed their visit so they could attend the festival!     Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson 

Mike Nelson shows our Indiana friends a tiny hummingbird nest on a twig, above.  Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Above, two of our hard-working KTOS volunteers, Linda Denton and Michael Plaster, providing information to visitors and selling festival t-shirts and the Discover Birds Activity Books. Festival proceeds benefit Ijams Nature Center and KTOS.  Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson
 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson
 Tennessee Naturescapes                          Photo Credit:  Karen Wilkinson
Orchids, Cati and Tropical Plants         Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson  

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Did I mention that there was great food?!                       Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson


 KTOS volunteers, David Johnson, Mariam Fitzgerald, Harold Howell and Jeanne Alexander   Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Next: Hummingbird banding!

Visit all the posts on this year's festival by clicking the link:  Wonder of Hummingbirds--2014

Wonder of Hummingbird festival on Facebook
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival Blog
Stephen Lyn Bales
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival_2013
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival 2013 on Tennessee Wildside
KTOS on Facebook
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration 2009
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society
Ijams Nature Center

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival Celebrates Its Fourth Year!

The Wonder of Hummingbirds Festival celebrated its fourth year on Saturday, August 23rd at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, offering visitors an exciting day of nature-related activities, including hummingbird banding!  
Above, the logo art found on all the signs, t-shirts, schedules and banners at the festival. Everytime I saw a new sign or banner for this year's festival, I couldn't help but smile.  This watercolor image is one of my most spontaneous and playful sketches and I am happy to see it inspiring people to enjoy hummingbirds!
New this year, the festival offered a special area for children's activities.  Children were given opportunity to view a slide show introduction to birds, participate in a bird walk lead by Discover Birds volunteer, Chris Welsh and other KTOS volunteers, create bird feeders from pinecones and bagels, make their own hummingbird paintings, and participate in a migration game, among other available activities.
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell.    
Above, young  festival visitors make bird feeders with peanut butter and pine cones.

Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Above and below, an activity table loaded with paints, brushes, markers and paper supplied young artists all the tools they needed to display their talents!
 Photo credit:  Karen Wilkinson

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

More than 100 visitors, children and adults, enjoyed viewing the Barred Owl, below, while on their nature walks at the festival.  The owl dropped down to the creek behind the brush for a few minutes, out of sight, but delighted when he flew back up to a limb dripping wet from his bath and remained in view for the birding telescope and cameras.  Everyone enjoyed great looks.  
Photo credit:  Jimmy Tucker

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Lynne McCoy, above, wildlife rehabilitator, displayed "Hawkeye", a Broadwinged Hawk, and "Pockets", the ground hog, pictured below, along with other wildlife species, educating both children and adults. Everyone enjoyed petting Pockets and he seemed to enjoy it too.  When he grew tired of all the attention, he rolled over on his back and went to sleep!

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell
Below, face painting, a favorite with the kids and with us!

 "Faces Gone Wild" transformed smiling faces into magical wild creatures!
Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Photo credit:  Billie Cantwell

Nature walks, hummingbird banding, face-painting, expert speakers, arts, crafts, food and wildlife demonstrations--all in one spectacular fun-filled day!

Next:  Festival exhibits and hummingbird banding!

Wonder of Hummingbird festival on Facebook
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival Blog
Faces Gone Wild
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival_2013
Wonder of Hummingbird Festival 2013 on Tennessee Wildside
KTOS on Facebook
Hummingbird Banding Demonstration 2009
Mark Armstrong, Master Bander
Knoxville Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society
Ijams Nature Center

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rainy Day South Loop Enchants with Eastern Box Turtles

Rain isn't exactly the weather that causes people to flock to a hiking opportunity, but there were three of us willing to take a chance on August 9th, hoping that the rain in the area would be light and scattered.  
We encountered drizzle as we began, but it only lasted minutes, cooling the air and creating a damp lushness in this little bit of wilderness at Marie Myers Park along the South Loop Trail of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness.    
Turtles clearly like the dampness and were moving around.  We encountered four of them during our hike and there were likely many more that we didn't see hidden in the vegetation.  I usually see Eastern Box Turtles in my yard, one at a time, throughout the year.  Seeing four of them within a short period of time gave me a unique opportunity to witness their variations in shape, color and patterns.
Naturalist, Stephen Lyn Bales, picked up the turtle briefly to determine if it was male or female.  Males generally have red eyes but that is not always an indicator. On the underside of the shell or plastron, you can feel whether the shell is concave or convex. Males have a concave shape to the lower two thirds of the plastron.  
The second turtle we encountered was young and did not withdraw his head into the shell but continued moving with his neck extended. Besides inexperience, young turtles do not have the capacity to close their shell tightly as adults do.
He was intently feeding on something which he continued to hold in his mouth as Stephen Lyn examined his plastron to again check for gender.
Eastern Box Turtles are believed to be declining and biologists are concerned because we do not have effective ways to count and track populations. Habitat loss and fragmentation, death by automobiles and human collection for pets are putting box turtle populations at risk.
Above, you get an idea of the lushness of the park environment. Portions of the trail follow a ridge where water runs down periodically. Along this portion of the trail we found large stands of jewel weed, a favorite plant of hummingbirds. Our third box turtle encounter is pictured, below.
At the end/entrance of one section of the trail their is a path cut through exotic bamboo.  This is an invasive species that sends runners underground and is very difficult to contain.  You can see how the bamboo blocks light and crowds out native plants as it grows thicker and matures.  It will continue to spread if not kept trimmed back, a task that generally takes a chain-saw.
Our fourth turtle, below, quickly retracted his head and hid under his shell.  The yellow patterns on his back were noticeably different from the previous turtles encountered with less yellow.

Eastern Box turtles are one of the few turtles that can actually close their shell tight. The upper one-third of the plastron is hinged, making this closure possible.  You can see the slant of the upper plastron and the hinged area in the image below.  The ability to completely close their shells means that box turtles have few successful predators--primarily raccoons, whose strength, dexterity and sharp teeth enable them to pry open the shell.  The broken edges on this turtle's front carapace lead one to suspect he has encountered a raccoon.  
Below, Stephen Lyn Bales, examines a box turtle to determine sex.  All of the turtles we encountered appeared to be males.  The Eastern Box Turtle is a species that has  temperature-dependent sex determination--that is, the sex of the hatchling is determined by the environmental temperature during a temperature-sensitive period that occurs while the embryo is developing gender characteristics.
Piece-by-Piece is the name of a series of hikes scheduled monthly by Ijams Nature Center, and led by Senior Naturalist, Stephen Lyn Bales.  These hikes traverse the South Loop of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness Trail in 2-3 mile sections and occur every second Saturday of the month.  We're casual hikers with no speed or endurance goals other than finishing the hike!  We're there to enjoy physical activity, nature, and get familiar with the South Loop trails so we can continue to enjoy them.   Come join us!


Blog posts on hiking the South Loop Trail
Blog posts on sea turtles
Stephen Lyn Bales--Nature Calling
Piece-by-Piece--Urban Wilderness South Loop
Knoxville's Urban Wilderness
Legacy Parks Foundation--Knoxville's Urban Wilderness hike descriptions with trail maps

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham