Hiking Nature

Hiking in Nashville, Tennessee and beyond

Hiking Nature header image 1

Strong book recommendation for avid hikers

August 30th, 2012 · books

Wilderness and the American Mind: Fourth Edition, by Roderick Frazier Nash

book cover: Wilderness and the American Mind: Fourth Edition, by Roderick Frazier NashWilderness is so much more than an encouragement for environmentalists; it seems to me to be a must-read for all lovers of the hiking trail.

Book description (Amazon)
Roderick Nash’s classic study of America’s changing attitudes toward wilderness has received wide acclaim since its initial publication in 1967. The Los Angeles Times has listed it among the one hundred most influential books published in the last quarter century, Outside Magazine has included it in a survey of “books that changed our world”, and it has been called the “Book of Genesis for environmentalists”. Now a fourth edition of this highly regarded work is available, with a new preface and epilogue in which Nash explores the future of wilderness and reflects on its ethical and biocentric relevance.

Resources: Wilderness and the American Mind book recommendation

This post was started on Thursday, August 30, 2012

→ No CommentsTags: ····

Red-shouldered hawk: Radnor Lake, Nashville

August 8th, 2012 · bird identification

Red-shouldered hawk at Radnor LakeDuring today’s hike, Steve D. and I were treated to a close-up viewing of a previously injured Red-shouldered hawk (a broken left wing, I believe) now being raised by the staff at Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Red” — Red is my nickname for the redheaded park ranger girl I see more often than any other ranger there… so often, in fact, that I should know her personally by now — happily handled the red-shouldered hawk to much delight, showing the magnificent bird of prey to everyone walking by, patiently answering what must have been a nearly endless stream of questions from passers-by (including us).

Red-shouldered hawk at Radnor LakeThe Red-shouldered Hawk — Buteo lineatus — is a medium-sized hawk with a breeding range spanning eastern North America, also dwelling along the coast of California and northern- to northeastern-central Mexico.

Red-shouldered hawks are permanent residents throughout most of their range. The main conservation threat to the red-shouldered hawk, a fairly widespread bird-of-prey species, is deforestation.

Bionic vision: The amazing visual acuity of hawks

Coming soon

Categories of birds of prey

birds of prey: eagle, photo by Steven DieringerThe common names for various birds of prey are based on structure but many of the traditional names do not reflect the evolutionary relationships between the groups.

Eagles tend to be large birds with long, broad wings and massive feet. Booted eagles have legs and feet feathered to the toes and build very large stick nests.

Ospreys, a single species found worldwide that specializes in catching fish, and builds large stick nests.

Kites have long wings and relatively weak legs. They spend much of their time soaring. They will take live vertebrate prey but mostly feed on insects or even carrion.

The true hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that usually belong to the genus Accipiter (see below). They are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. They usually have long tails for tight steering.

Buzzards are medium-large raptors with robust bodies and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo (also commonly known as “hawks” in North America).

Harriers are large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long thin legs. Most use a combination of keen eyesight and hearing to hunt small vertebrates, gliding on their long broad wings and circling low over grasslands and marshes.

Vultures are carrion-eating raptors of two distinct biological families, each occurring in only the Eastern Hemisphere (Accipitridae) or the Western (Cathartidae). Members of both groups have heads either partly or fully devoid of feathers.

Falcons are medium-size birds of prey with long pointed wings. Unlike most other raptors, they belong to the Falconidae, rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. Instead of building their own nests, falcons appropriate old nests of other birds, but sometimes they lay their eggs on cliff ledges or in tree hollows. Caracaras are a distinct subgroup of the Falconidae unique to the New World, and most common in the Neotropics – their broad wings, naked faces and appetites of a generalist suggest some level of convergence with either the Buteos or the vulturine birds, or both.

Owls are variable-sized, typically night-specialized hunting birds. They fly almost silently due to special feather structure to reduce turbulence. They have particularly acute hearing.

Red-shouldered hawk at Radnor Lake

Resources: Red-shouldered hawk: Radnor Lake, Nashville

This post was started on Tuesday, August 07, 2012

→ No CommentsTags: ····

Large, active hornets’ nest near South Cove trail at Radnor Lake

July 31st, 2012 · insects

large hornets' nest at Radnor Lake; photo by Stephen FrasierBald-faced hornets, aka yellow jackets (Dolichovespula maculata) – and lots of ‘em – are active near the South Cove trail at Radnor Lake… so please beware!

NOTE: The image at right is a photograph of the nest near the South Cove trail at Radnor Lake (Photo: Stephen Frasier; Sunday, July 29, 2012)

As Steve D. [ Steve's nature photography site ] and I hiked the eastern end of the South Cove trail on Sunday, something out of the ordinary caught my eye. On closer inspection – though we did not stop to examine it (no thanks!) – the gray papery football appeared to be a large nest of yellow jackets (aka hornets).

At first glance, my brain subtly identified the object as a large knot in a tree trunk, located about ten or fifteen feet up the trunk of a 20-year-old (or so) 4”-diameter tree; however, my continued staring revealed the frightening truth.

a hornet on someone's handBased on the images I’ve seen so far, the large, off-white, papery nest at Radnor Lake is indeed most likely probably a home of hornets. The nest is perhaps three or four yards from the hiking trail: Close, but hopefully not too close.

As it turns out, "Mad as a hornet" is a rather accurate expression; bald-faced hornets are apparently among the physically strongest stinging insect encountered by pest control professionals. The hornet is alone among stinging insects in its ability to sting directly through some types of protective clothing – and has even been known to shoot its venom right into the eyes of victims.

Hornets’ nests

hornets' nestHornets’ nests are entirely exterior, built in trees, shrubs, under decks, and high in the eaves. Hornets construct a “football” or upside-down teardrop-shaped nest from their homemade pulp material that looks like gray paper (a mixture of wood and hornet saliva). Hornets, like wasps and yellow jackets, create the pulpy paper by chewing on tiny bits of wood. Young hornets are hatched and food is stored in the hexagonal (six-sided) cells in the center of the nest.

The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculate) is a North American stinging insect which is also known as the white-faced hornet or white-tailed hornet. Well-known features of the bald-faced hornet include hanging paper nests and the nasty (but extremely effective) habit of defending their nests with repeated stings to any intruder.

Interesting hornet facts

  1. Unlike other wasps, hornets will fly after dark — provided there is sufficient light to guide them. Hornets will fly to lighted windows and even buzz around security lights at any hour of the night.
  2. The bald-faced hornet is among those hornet varieties commonly called "yellow jackets". (Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of genera Vespula and also genera Dolichovespula.)
  3. Bees, wasps, and hornets generally do not reuse their nests; new nests are built each year. Old wasp nests usually look old and ratty, perhaps starting to come apart, whereas newly constructed nests appear relatively bright, clean, and tight.
  4. Most wasps dine on insects; bees generally dine on nectar or pollen.
  5. A lopsided number of insect stings actually results from yellow jackets, due to their highly aggressive nature.
  6. Yellow jackets, hornets, and "paper wasps" construct their nests out of paper; other wasps build their nests out of mud. Bees (both honey and bumble) make nests of wax. Certain solitary bees and wasps build their nests in holes in the ground, rotten wood, or natural cavities.

Illustration, details: Morphology of a female wasp
Pictured: A female wasp, though not likely a hornet; the hornet stinger lacks a barb

Resources: Huge bee/wasp nest active near South Cove trail at Radnor Lake

  1. Common Concerns & Questions About Bees: The Bee Hunter
  2. Wasp Nest & Hornet Nest Identification – Hampshire Wasp Control
  3. Bee Nest Identification – Orkin
  4. Hornets – Wikipedia
  5. Bald-faced hornets – Wikipedia
  6. Yellow jackets – Wikipedia
  7. Dolichovespula (a genus of wasps) – Wikipedia
  8. Vespula (a genus of wasps) – Wikipedia
  9. Wasps – Wikipedia
  10. Bees – Wikipedia
  11. Hornet – Newspaper
  12. Eusociality – Wikipedia – This term is used to differentiate the most advanced social activity seen in insects – the very highest level of wasp communication and association. The most familiar examples of eusocial insects include ants, bees, some wasps, and certain termites – all having reproductive queens supported by largely sterile workers.
  13. Bees, Wasps, and Hornets – Wipeout Pest Control
  14. Asian Giant Hornets…in America? Zen and the Art of Beekeeping
  15. World’s Largest Hornet – Ferrebeekeeper
  16. Hornets – U.K. Safari
  17. Whacking A Hornet’s Nest – Sound of Cannons
  18. Numerous photos of hornets’ nests – Petal Photos
  19. The Bee Hunter FAQ
  20. Wasp nest ID videos
  21. Life cycle of the European hornet – Hampshire Wasp Control – One of the more informative and interesting sites on the subject of wasps & hornets
  22. Wasp and Bee Control – University of Minnesota
  23. Nuisance Wasps and Bees – Colorado State University
  24. Asian Giant Hornet: Bad-ass Animals — Largest hornet in the world and a nasty mofo
  25. Yellowjackets and hornets – University of Florida

Removed content

Queen wasps

In the spring (March to early June), larger-than-normal wasps may be seen out & about. These are probably queen wasps which recently emerged from hibernation and are starting to build their new nests for the season. The queen wasp is slightly larger than a typical worker wasp. From early June and on, the queen wasp remains protected inside the nest, completely serviced by the worker bees. At autumn’s end, these larger wasps may be seen again. It’s likely these are freshly hatched queens emerging from their nests; they have mated (or soon will mate) and will then go into hibernation for the winter.

, (although under exacting circumstances)

→ 1 CommentTags: ····

Anticrepuscular rays: Atmospheric optics photography

May 19th, 2012 · weather

These photos of anticrepuscular rays — some with a jet contrail — were taken immediately after a brief period of rain in Nashville, TN on Friday, May 18, 2012.

Resources: Anticrepuscular rays: Atmospheric optics

Friday, May 18, 2012

→ No CommentsTags: ····

A two-inch snake? The smallest snakes in the U.S., world

May 9th, 2012 · snakes

Southern ringneck snake at Percy Warner in Nashville - Frasier PhotosOne of my hiking friends recently mentioned seeing a tiny snake as he hiked at Radnor Lake in Nashville. He estimated the snake’s length as two inches, which really surprised me; I’ve never seen, or even heard of, a snake that small. The subject of peewee snakes came up when I mentioned that Mike E. and I came across a small ringneck snake during an April 2012 hike at Percy Warner.

His diminutive guess was totally ironic, considering the standard tendency for snake and fish length estimates to skew high.

The newly identified species, Leptotyphlops carlae, measures just 3.9 inches long and was found under a rock on the western Atlantic island of Barbados. Two other extremely small snakes, L. bilineatus from Martinique and L. breuili from Saint Lucia, were identified nearby, suggesting that the world’s three smallest snakes are all Caribbean threadsnakes. (Source: Spaghetti-Thin Snake Is World’s Smallest – Discovery News)

His microscopic snake length estimate led me to look into the matter more deeply. What is the smallest snake in the known world these days? This sort of herpetological trivia was totally my bag as a kid, but less so these days.

Resources: Smallest snakes in the United States, the world

This post was started on Sunday, April 29, 2012

→ No CommentsTags: ····

Lightning from nearby thunderstorm, at night

May 6th, 2012 · weather

lightning from nearby storm at night in Nashville - Stephen Frasier PhotosConsidering — and I do mean considering — this photo turned out a little better than expected. It was the only decent lightning photograph out of 35 or so attempts… Thank God for digital photography.

Yes, it is a generally poor photograph from a technical standpoint (as well as other standpoints); however, considering the shot was taken…

  • at around 2:30am
  • with no tripod; hands only
  • with the shutter open for over two seconds

…I’ll take it!

I love storms, I enjoy thunder immensely, and I’m awestruck by lightning. It was a good time!

→ No CommentsTags: ······

Southern ringneck snake at Percy Warner park in Nashville

April 29th, 2012 · snakes

Southern ringneck snake at Percy Warner in Nashville - Frasier PhotosDiadophis punctatus punctatus

Although ringneck snakes are also known as ring-necked snakes, this Nashville hiking blog generally uses the term ringneck for the sake of consistency and simplicity.

The average adult size of southern ringneck snakes is six to ten inches, so the specimen (pictured on this page) briefly captured at Percy Warner Park in Nashville was actually large for the species.

The Southern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus punctatus) is a Colubrid snake species, which basically means the ringneck is classified in the same family as water snakes and garter snakes – some of the most populous, successful snakes in the United States.

Although there is only one official species of Ringneck Snake, there are many subspecies — anywhere from twelve to fourteen subspecies, depending on the source. The Southern ringneck is the most common ringneck snake seen on the hiking trails in and around Nashville, Tennessee (e.g., Radnor Lake, the Warner parks, etc.).

Southern ringneck snake at Percy Warner in Nashville - Frasier PhotosThe dorsal coloration of the southern ringneck is a solid olive, dark or bluish gray to black, some say brownish, and broken only by a distinct yellow neck band.

If you’re hiking in or near Nashville and you see a tiny dark snake making its escape across the trail, it is almost certainly a ringneck snake. The Southern ringneck is so small, you are not likely to notice the yellow ring around the snake’s neck unless you’re looking closely.

This nature blogger has seen more than one dead Southern ringneck snake on or beside various hiking trails in Tennessee, probably the victims of being stepped on by hikers who did not even notice the snake.

The Southern ringneck snake is found throughout the southeastern United States from Alabama & Florida up the Eastern U.S. to southern New Jersey.

Ringneck snakes are secretive, nocturnal snakes that are rarely seen during the daylight hours. Most people are unaware that ringneck snakes are actually slightly venomous; however, their non-aggressive nature and tiny, rear-facing fangs pose little to no threat to humans, even when handled.

Ringneck snakes in general are best known for their unique defense posture of curling up their tails exposing their bright ventral surface (the underside or belly) when the small snake is threatened in the wild. The Southern ringneck snake has a bright yellow belly with dotted lines running the length of the snake.

Ringneck snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout their ranges in general; however, scientific research is generally lacking for the small snake species. More in-depth investigations are greatly needed. It is the only species within the genus Diadophis, and currently fourteen subspecies are identified, but many herpetologists question the morphologically-based classifications…

Biological info

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Xenodontinae
Genus: Diadophis

Ringneck snake subspecies

  • Key ringneck snake: D. p. acricus (Paulson, 1966)
  • Pacific ringneck snake: D. p. amabilis (Baird & Girard, 1853)
  • Todos Santos Island ringneck snake: D. p. anthonyi (Van Denburgh & Slevin, 1942)
  • Prairie ringneck snake: D. p. arnyi Kennicott, 1859
  • Michoacan ringneck snake: D. p. dugesii (Villada, 1875)
  • Northern ringneck snake: D. p. edwardsii (Merrem, 1820)
  • San Bernardino ringneck snake: D. p. modestus (Bocourt, 1866)
    Northwestern ringneck snake: D. p. occidentalis (Blanchard, 1923)
    Coralbelly ringneck snake: D. p. pulchellus (Baird & Girard, 1853)
    Southern ringneck snake: D. p. punctatus (Linnaeus, 1766)
    Regal ringneck snake: D. p. regalis Baird & Girard, 1853
    San Diego ringneck snake: D. p. similis (Blanchard, 1923)
    Mississippi ringneck snake: D. p. stictogenys (Cope, 1860)
    Monterey ringneck snake: D. p. vandenburghii (Blanchard, 1923)

    Resources: Southern ringneck snake

    Sunday, April 29, 2012

    → 2 CommentsTags: ····

    April sunset in Nashville: Frasier Photos

    April 26th, 2012 · sunset

    I took these Nashville sunset photographs as I walked across the Green Hills Mall parking lot on my home from a bit of Krogering. It had finished raining about an hour earlier, and the skies were spectacular. This was one of those types of sunsets that makes it look as though the horizon were on fire.

    Due to the decreasing light, the shutter remained open longer and longer, making clear shots extremely difficult. I deleted far more images than I saved; however, I’m glad I at least captured these.

    NextGen Gallery: A free WordPress plugin

    This is my very first experiment using the free NextGen Gallery WordPress plugin; it took over an hour to figure this much out. It’s definitely not the easiest plugin to figure out. However, I’ve finally learned how to:

    1. Create, save, edit photo galleries
    2. Edit the ALT tag, description, and the associated tags (keywords) for each image
    3. Float a slideshow to the left or the right so text will flow around it (the same effect used for images on all of my blogs)

    I have not figured out how to automatically cause the slideshow to start when it’s not designated in the URL (e.g., http://hikingnature.com/ vs. http://hikingnature.com/sunset/april-sunset-nashville-frasier-photos/nggallery/slideshow/).

    → No CommentsTags: ·····

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    April 10th, 2012 · wildlife

    Here’s another great photo journal of fascinating animal life: Amarula, the popular road rage elephant. This happened in Africa in February of 2011; I’m not sure when it went viral, since I only received it today — and am not on many forward lists, besides! (I usually delete them.)

    John Somers, traveling in Africa with wife Carina:

    When I turned a corner there was a [small truck] in the road in front of us. The driver started reversing and stopped next to us. I’m Irish, and he was speaking Afrikaans, but I could make out the word ‘elephant’, . I tried to reverse, but the back of the car was half off the road in a ditch and in order to get out I would have had to drive forward.

    Amarula, the road rage elephant (photo 1/7)

    The elephant came walking down the road. I was afraid of making a noise and turned the engine off.

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    Amarula was at John’s vehicle by this time; the disturbed elephant broke the driver’s side window and rubbed up against the car.

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    It really seemed to regard the car as a female elephant and was making advances to ‘her’. Carina and I were very nervous, because we could see the elephant was in musth.

    Musth is when bull elephants experience a rise in reproductive hormone and highly aggressive behavior.

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    When the bull started flipping the car over, my life literally started flashing past before my eyes. The car landed on its roof and we were lying inside it.

    Amarula, the road rage elephant

    Resources: Amarula, the road rage elephant

    Post written on Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    → No CommentsTags: ····

    Hiking at Radnor Lake in April 2012

    April 7th, 2012 · Radnor Lake

    pretty brunette park ranger waving to hikers at Radnor Lake in Nashville - Stephen Frasier Photography
    The weather today has been absolutely glorious. (And so was the brunette park ranger who waved at us as we left. Who’s that girl?)

    [ As in other posts within our family of blogs, you can see different images of the subject by clicking your browser's REFRESH button... Enjoy! ]

    Beautiful women aside, today was a simply perfect day in the life of this avid but hefty hiker: Two separate hikes were squeezed in on this wonderful Saturday.

    Lifetime friends and Radnor Lake aficionados, the Arnetts, invited me to tag along on their multi-generational family hike this morning. Michael and his sweet wife Amy picked me up at 9:30am, exactly as scheduled. We’ve not seen each other very often since I moved back to Nashville from Atlanta, where Mike & Amy still live (the Hotlanta ‘burbs, actually, north of the city), so it was a notable and eagerly anticipated reunion.

    Ten minutes later we pulled into the west parking lot of Radnor Lake to meet Mike’s folks — Dr. Jim Arnett and his wife Linda.

    It should be noted that very few people are more intimately familiar with Radnor Lake — especially Radnor Lake’s cold-blooded residents, the reptiles and amphibians — than Dr. Jim Arnett, longtime biology professor extraordinaire at Nashville’s Lipscomb University. Among other research, Dr. Arnett led a five-year turtle study at Radnor Lake…

    [ still working on this post ]

    Saturday, April 07, 2012

    → No CommentsTags: ···