The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: stephen lyn bales

Lydia_at_Butterfly_Festival.jpgCome join the fun at the annual UT Arboretum Society Butterfly Festival from 10 a.m to 1 p.m on September 9 at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum. The event will include educational activities about protecting these pollinators.  Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

UT grounds planned butterfly release but festival will fly

OAK RIDGE — The University of Tennessee Arboretum canceled a planned release of painted butterflies originally scheduled for its upcoming annual butterfly festival, but the pollinator-positive educational event will go on to the joy of families and nature enthusiasts across East Tennessee.

“While the fun-filled and educational event is still scheduled for Sept. 9, a mass release of painted lady butterflies is no longer scheduled as part of the event,” according to the UT Arboretum Society.

The 8th annual festival will occur from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum, 901 S. Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge. Plenty of activities will provide educational opportunities for the public to learn how we can all protect our pollinators, according to the UT Institute of Agriculture.

“The butterfly species previously planned for release at the festival was the painted lady, Vanessa carduii. Butterfly releases have been held at past festivals with the intention that the more people understand an organism, the more they are inspired to help protect it. Though there has not been definitive scientific research about the impact of painted lady butterfly releases, the UT Arboretum Society has decided to join many other scientific organizations, such as the North American Butterfly Association and the Smithsonian Institute, in not promoting this practice,” according to a release.

Published in News

 Bales Monarch on coneflowerA monarch butterfly, recently declared endangered despite decades of conservation, is seen atop a coneflower. Stephen Lyn Bales

Dramatic monarch declines mean the bell tolls for we

KNOXVILLE — Monarch butterflies are ephemeral by nature. The orange and black dalliances that flitter through our lives, our yards, and our countryside like motes of dust are here one minute and gone the next. We pause for a few seconds to watch the “flutter-bys” and then move on.

For about all of the Lepidopteran family, where they come from, where they go, their raison d'être, we don’t ask. They are winged wisps that pass through our busy lives. But that is not true with this orange and black butterfly, named to honor King William III of England, the Prince of Orange. But two people did ask.

Norah and Fred Urquhart lived in Southern Canada and in the late 1930s they noticed that the monarch butterflies seemed to all be fluttering south this time of the year. Could they possibly be migrating and if so, where did they go? The notion that a butterfly might migrate south for the winter seemed hard to fathom. Yes, broad-winged hawks migrate. But a flimsy butterfly?

Published in News

KNOXVILLE — Hellbender Press took home two awards from the 2021 Golden Press Card contest sponsored by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists.

Hellbender Press was recognized with two first-place awards for East Tennessee digital journalism: The Hal DeSelm Papers and Requiem for the Lord God Bird

Published in Feedbag

Thompson GB Heron 2A great blue heron is seen above a nest in the Tennessee River Valley. Herons moved northward to the valley from tiny remaining Florida rookeries after the birds were annihilated in the early 20th century for hat decorations. Betty Thompson

After their kind almost vanished, great blue herons took a minute to take to the Tennessee Valley. Now they are here in a big way. 

“Life breaks free, it expands to new territories, and crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh, well, there it is,” said Jeff Goldblum’s Malcolm in ‘Jurassic Park.’ “Life finds a way.”

In the early 20th century, after it became illegal to hunt for feathers, as referenced in this previous Hellbender Press story, herons began to recover.

But it took a while. The curious thing with great blue herons, which perhaps attests to the tenacity of nature itself, is that for years they really had little presence in the Tennessee Valley, even after the principal dams and reservoirs were completed. There were plenty of shallow waters for fish eaters.

Published in News

Thompson GB Heron 1Great blue herons and other heron species were reduced to a handful of rookeries after numbers plummeted because of high demand for their plumage.  Courtesy Betty Thompson

Herons were almost a victim of their own beauty

plume. noun. a long, soft feather, or arrangement of feathers used by a bird for display 

During our Gilded Age of opulence and corruption, members of polite society wore alligator shoes, top hats made from beaver pelts, ivory buttons, whalebone corsets and dead foxes draped around their shoulders. After all, status had its price and the surrounding wild lands were bountiful.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, most fashion-conscious women would not be seen in public without a hat adorned with feathers. In 1915, at the height of this fashion craze, an ounce of plumes sold for $32, the same going rate as an ounce of gold. The most highly coveted feathers were “aigrettes,” which are the long, silky white nuptial plumes of egrets and great blue herons. Plume hunters could make a sizable sum of money for a day’s work with a gun. 

Published in News

Bales Common true katydidA true katydid is shown here. It’s one of the main insects that provides a permanent soundtrack to your summer life in the Knoxville area.  Stephen Lyn Bales/Hellbender Press

What’s that buzz? We thought Brood X was over.

In case you haven’t noticed: It’s hot!

The “dog days of summer,” are so called because the season coincides with the period of time when the brightest star Sirius, aka the Dog Star, rises and sets with the Sun: early July through August into September.

The ancients believed that when Sirius and the Sun were in the sky together, the days were hotter. I think they got it right.

August has never been that thrilling to me, more of a month to endure. The birds have finished raising their families and are going through their late-season molt. Some of the migratory birds have already started to move south. But that doesn’t mean that our backyards are totally silent because late summer is cacophonous with insects.

During the day, the trees are filled with large, green cicadas that generally spend three years underground in their larval stage, but they are not all in sync like Brood X was, so each summer we have plenty that mature to collect en masse in our neighborhoods.

To attract females, the male cicadas do the chainsaw buzzing, but the songs are not made with vocal chords but rather special organs on the sides of their abdomens called “tymbals.” In effect, their sides vibrate loudly.

Locally in the Knoxville region we have five species of these annual cicadas. Early in the morning and into the afternoon, swamp cicadas (Neotibicen tibicen) are calling. They are also known as morning cicadas because they usually crank up by 10 a.m. with a long uninterrupted rattle that builds in intensity.

Published in Creature Features