Hiking Nature

Hiking in Nashville, Tennessee and beyond

hiking in Nashville, Tennessee

March 31, 2013
by Stephen

Credit due: Five dead in South African rhino anti-poaching effort

March 31, 2013 – Five (5) South African soldiers died in a helicopter crash while patrolling for rhino poachers in the sprawling Kruger National Park, according to CNN and other news sources.

Poaching at Kruger National Park

rhinos at Kruger National Park in South AfricaGame poachers (including big game poachers) often operate in darkness, benefitting from the use of increasingly sophisticated night vision goggles, related technological instruments, and large caliber rifles — often fitted with suppressors and the latest telescopes. It is thought that most poachers at Kruger National Park are Mozambique citizens who initiate their carefully planned incursions from the Mozambique border region. Around 200 poachers were apprehended in 2012 while about thirty (30) poachers have been killed during confrontations with armed guards, anti-poaching forces, etc.

Nearly 200 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year, a majority at Kruger National Park.

In July 2012, a pair consisting of a Kruger game ranger and policeman were the first wildlife protectors to die in anti-poaching operations. There have also been reports of other Kruger National Park employees experiencing various incidents of intimidation by big game poachers in the area.

Resources – Credit due: Five dead in South African rhino anti-poaching effort

  • South African copter crash kills 5 soldiers on rhino patrolCNN (Easter 2013) — Five South African soldiers died in a helicopter crash while patrolling for rhino poachers in the sprawling Kruger National Park.
  • Rangers Kill Suspected Rhino Poachers In South Africa’s Kruger National Park – Huffington Post (Mar 2013)


    JOHANNESBURG, March 28 (Reuters) – Three suspected rhinoceros poachers were killed in a shoot-out with rangers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a park official said on Thursday.

    Record 618 South African Rhinos Poached for Horns in 2012, so farNational Geographic Newswatch (Dec 2012)


    The number of rhinos killed for their horns in South Africa so far this year has shot up to 618. This is well past last year’s shock record of 448 and substantially more than the tally of 550 predicted at the beginning of 2012.

  • Kruger National Park

February 12, 2013
by Stephen

GOP on climate change: Do nothing; ‘We cannot change weather’

planet rotationThe Republican position on climate change is that the U.S. should do nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because other countries are misbehaving in more environmentally harmful ways than we are. This is tantamount to the familiar sibling refrain, "But he started it," or "Her foot is on my side!"

It is, at the very least, the opposite of progress.

But at its worst, such attitudes are rooted primarily in one or more of the following sub-ideal, ego-based motives or beliefs:

Could this be the worst, least progressive idea that has ever been suggested on the subject? You decide:

"The government can’t change the weather. I said that in the speech. We can pass a bunch of laws that will destroy our economy, but it isn’t going to change the weather,” Rubio said on Fox and Friends, as part of a series of interviews on the morning shows following his response Tuesday. “Because, for example, there are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point — China, India, all these countries that are still growing. They’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing."

"America is a country, it’s not a planet," he continued. "So we can pass a bunch of laws or executive orders that will do nothing to change the climate or the weather but will devastate our economy. Devastate it!"
Source: Marco Rubio On Climate Change: ‘The Government Can’t Change The Weather’Huffington Post

As science advances and time goes on, undeniable trends always emerge. One such trend is that of climate change caused in part by carbon emissions and other controllable acts. A sad truth with regard to the planet Earth is that there is no real leadership without responsible climate change action.

When strong beliefs are adopted without honest, deep, objective research — when opinions lack any real application of critical thought — the original source of the wayward thinking is often fundamentalism: Arguably the most common cause of faulty prejudgment and closed mindedness in the United States.

Resources: GOP on climate change: Do nothing;’We cannot change weather’

January 21, 2013
by Stephen

American Robin currently nesting: January 2013 in Nashville, TN

American RobinExperiencing the spectacle of doomed behavior in local wildlife can be a sad or even heart-wrenching affair for those of us who are diehard animal lovers. Perhaps these situations are all the more heartbreaking upon realizing that climate change is in some way probably at least partly to blame for what amounts to a certain death — by freezing, in this case — approaching the young American Robin chicks, should the eggs now being warmed by the mother bird actually hatch.

This is probably the same American Robin that lost one or more of her chicks to a two story fall onto the driveway below from a nest in the exact same location — on the gutter spout just under the eave — in her second nest of 2012 (late August). (Read post)

As I write this blog post it is MLK Day at 7:30pm CST; the current temperature is a bit over 30 degrees F. Tonight’s low temperature in the Nashville, Tennessee area is expected to drop to around 17 degrees F after midnight.

American RobinWhat else but ridiculously warm, unseasonal winter weather could cause such an American Robin to nest in January here in Nashville? Of course, I may be jumping to this conclusion; however, I fear this episode is portentous and that such behavior will occur more and more often as mankind continues to heat up the average temperature of our world.

If you’ve seen birds nesting in winter locally, I’d appreciate hearing any stories.

Will the female American Robin actually nest through such a deep freeze? We’ll see.

January 14, 2013
by Stephen

Hurricane Sandy does little to spur U.S action on climate change

hurricane Sandy, U.S. Oct 2012Sadly but predictably, even a unique, major U.S. weather event like Hurricane Sandy was apparently not enough to garner serious attention. Hurricane Sandy has done next to nothing in terms or opening the eyes of Congress to the seriousness of impending climate change & its increasingly disastrous effects on the United States (and across the globe). In fact, I have yet to see even Obama’s White House get serious on the issue of climate change.

To proponents of climate action, Sandy seemed like a last, desperate chance. If the sight of flooding streets in lower Manhattan couldn’t galvanize political will on climate-change adaptation, what would?… For the U.S. Congress, however, it seems that what is likely to be the second most expensive extreme weather event in U.S. history isn’t quite enough to spur meaningful action. There’s little indication from the White House or Congress that climate change will be a priority this term… The brief moment when Americans saw and feared the effects of global warming has already been eclipsed by the long-running, intra-Washington war over the nation’s finances, or whatever is up next on Politico.
Source: Adapt or Die: Why the Environmental Buzzword of 2013 Will Be ResilienceGoing GreenTime Science)

Resources: Hurricane Sandy does little to spur U.S action on climate change

August 31, 2012
by Stephen
1 Comment

American Robin chick: Left the nest too early

American Robin chick fell out of nest on 8-26-2012 near Lipscomb/ Green HillsThis morning I was saddened to see that an American Robin chick whose nest is about 18 feet above my backdoor patio had fallen to the ground, perhaps the result of a not-quite successful first attempt at flight. The helpless chick was a concern of mine for most of the day, but since it appeared Mother Robin was still interested I mostly stayed out of the way.

When I returned home around 7:30pm from a nice-but-very-humid dusk walk to Kroger, Baby appeared to be gone. I was relieved in a sense; perhaps Mother Robin had successfully moved Chick to some nearby shrubbery or something. But a couple of minutes later, I saw it huddled on the patio, several feet away from where it had been, its head tucked under its wing.

American Robin chick fell out of nest on 8-26-2012 near Lipscomb/ Green HillsThen I remembered an extra, unused bird nest laying around in the garage. Sounds funny, but it’s true: Last year I found a complete bird nest in the yard after a storm, and I kept it. I retrieved the nest and placed it in a plant pot (a former potted plant minus the plant, which died long ago).

The plant pot – the new nest – was then placed up off the ground, on the patio table. This was a real relief, what with the cats and other predators around. I finally scooped Chick into my cap then placed her in the new nest. She was not too hip on drinking the water from a straw which I offered her. (Earlier, around 3pm, Chick did drink some water from the straw.)

That’s it for now.

August 30, 2012
by Stephen

George McCabe: A heartfelt loss for many, including NHM

George McCabe of Nashville, Tennessee - Nashville Hiking Meetup groupThe sudden passing of George McCabe has been a shock to many, including members of the Nashville Hiking Meetup group.

McCabe has recently been very helpful, generous, and even instrumental in the support and promotion of the Nashville Hiking Meetup group’s overall mission, working closely with Kelly Stewart on a number of expansion and improvement projects aimed at making the hugely successful hiking group even better.

Very recently, George McCabe’s assistance was vital to the funding and launching of an NHM-related nonprofit organization, Discover Tennessee.

Resources: George McCabe a heartfelt loss for many, including Nashville Hiking Meetup group

This post was started on Thursday, August 30, 2012.

August 30, 2012
by Stephen

Strong book recommendation for avid hikers

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

August 8, 2012
by Stephen

Red-shouldered hawk: Radnor Lake, Nashville

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

July 31, 2012
by Stephen
1 Comment

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

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

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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)

May 19, 2012
by Stephen

Anticrepuscular rays: Atmospheric optics photography

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