Tag Archives: animals

Robbins are a mystery?

2 Mar

People say they’re part of spring, but they were here in Loudon, Tennessee all winter. In fact, I saw them in flocks, their red breasts showing off against the darkening winter sky and the gray of their branches. They sat on branches and flew in clusters. Cornell Ornithology Lab, probably one of the best sources for birds said that’s typical behavior. These tree flocks can sometimes include a quarter million birds.

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The above photo was from near my home. The number only looks small here because I couldn’t get a crowd shot this pretty. Cornell says it can be up to a quarter million roosting in trees.

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See? Not quite as nice a picture.

They spend the fall and winter eating fruit. As a side note, too many honeysuckle berries can be like a drug for them.

Now I’ve begun to see them on the ground again, eating worms and insects. Soon, according to Cornell, they’ll leave their flocks, becoming territorial birds, mating, having children.

My main question has always been “Are these the same ones?”

Cornell’s answer: “Their patterns of movement are poorly understood.” So the winter roosting ones might be the same as the ones we see in the spring or they could be different.

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Odd how such a commonplace bird could be a mystery in any way. But here we are.

 

Barred Owl and Bike at Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

26 Sep

Here is my recent article “Urban Wilderness draws hikers, runners, cyclists” about my the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, particularly the Ross Quarry area. While the article does contain some great pictures by me, here are a few more. All photos here are by me.

The owl that I mentioned in the News Sentinel piece linked above was a barred owl.

Barred owl seen at Ijams Nature Center.

Barred owl seen at Ijams on Imerys Trail.

When barred owls are young they can climb trees using their talons and beak. They don’t migrate and in general, stay in the same place. For more about them, check out Cornell’s page on them.
Also, here’s a video of a cyclist Alex riding the Flow Trail.

 

Last Boomsday and Continuing Tennessee Valley Fair

16 Sep

This year marked the last Boomsday. For those who don’t know, that’s Knoxville’s Labor Day fireworks show. It’s been a tradition for years now. Because this was its last year, I figured that I’d go.

Short version: I ended up on top of the roof of a full garage, jammed between cars going opposite directions, and seeing fireworks behind a tree. When the booming started, I assumed that someone was pounding on our car out of anger actually, until I saw sparks behind said tree.

Knoxville Mercury columnist Jack Neely, ever the contrarian pointed out that even if it was the last Boomsday, plenty of other festivals continue, such as the Tennessee Valley Agricultural and Industrial Fair, which, incidentally, has fireworks. Plenty of people complain that it’s not as good as it used to be, particularly in terms of rides. As someone who grew up going to the much smaller Anderson County Fair, I can’t judge. What I do know is that the Tennessee Valley Fair is still going, which I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for the bunnies and sheep, for the feather-footed chickens, and unicorn looking geese, for the slow moving but scenic observation tower, for introducing my girlfriend to bumper cars and slamming her a few times, for the Space Roller which I enjoyed as it twisted me through the breeze but my girlfriend avoided and compared to a medieval torture device, for the Cherokee flute playing and clothing demonstrations, for the fair lights at dusk, for the trapeze act that we almost didn’t see but wound up catching just above the bleachers of the small circus area and for the fireworks above the lake. I even enjoyed myself puzzling at displays of condiments that weren’t supposed to be eaten, just looked at, because they won awards. There’s plenty more to say, but I’ll leave this post saying I’m thankful for what Knoxville still has.

On the beauty of Rattlesnakes

29 Aug

Rattlesnakes are beautiful. It’s not just me who thinks that, thankfully.

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This is the year of the timber rattlesnake on the Southern Cumberland Plateau. I’ve seen and heard of more in the last five months than I have in the last twenty years combined. They’re sleeping in gardens, gliding across porches, crossing wooded trails, and swimming on asphalt. Most seem to be one or two years old, suggesting that we’re seeing the result of a baby-boom in 2013 or 2014. What might have caused such a successful hatch year is a mystery: perhaps a good mast year of acorns and hickory nuts swelled the rodent population, echoing a year later in the abdomens of fecund snake mothers? Another possibility is that the last two winters have been colder here than any within the last decade, pinching the rodent supply this year, making snakes take to the road where we then encounter them. Certainly 2014 was chipmunk-poor after the “Arctic Vortex” made…

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Hiking and Swimming at Fort Dickerson Quarry

21 Aug

This is my recent GoKnoxville article about hiking and swimming at Fort Dickerson quarry. Enjoy! http://ow.ly/RcYG3

While you’re at it, enjoy some pictures.

Clark Center Park in Oak Ridge

13 Aug

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Here’s my recent Clark Center Park article for the News Sentinel. It’s amazing how little is on the web about Clark Center Park considering how popular it is in the region and how many fun things to do it has nearby. The article also has some reassuring info about snakes.