Hiking Nature

Hiking in Nashville, Tennessee and beyond

hiking in Nashville, Tennessee

Coming soon

The primary contributor to this Nashville hiking and nature blog is constantly starting new articles before he finishes older ones – and that’s probably one of the reasons there have not been more frequent updates to this blog. He has some kind of all-consuming fixation or obsession for writing; maybe the guy has too many interests. (Well, I suppose a compulsion for writing is a good thing for a blogger and writer to have.)

Now that I have been asked to help out with this website, I thought I would add a page that reveals portions of articles, posts, and pages in the making. Included on this page are excerpts from hiking and nature material still being researched and written.

NOTE: If you have a particular interest in any Nashville hiking, nature, or related subjects, we would love to hear about them, and there’s a pretty good chance we will take your advice and write about any relevant topics you’d like to see discussed here. Please leave a comment to let us know!

Posts coming soon

Upcoming ebooks

  • Gray rat snake
  • Ringneck snake
  • Alligator snapping turtle
  • Common snapping turtle
  • Eastern box turtle
  • Great blue heron
  • Green heron
  • Bald eagle

Possible pages

Species ID
Plants
Animals
Hiking
Equipment
Photography


When do the fireflies come out in Nashville?
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Every spring I come up with a multitude of topic ideas regarding the emergence of various blossoms and creatures throughout this season of greening. And every year I get busy doing other things.

An hour ago, just as it was getting dark, I took a stroll around the block, and I just happened to notice the first fireflies of the season – which reminded me of this neglected group of topics. As I have not been paying close attention to marking the date of the first lightning bugs of the year, they may have been out for a few nights already.

So, the end of May is apparently the beginning of firefly season in Nashville.

I love lightning bugs.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget capturing them as a child and putting them in a jar with holes poked in the lid. And that funny smell and taste on my hands after an evening chasing and catching fireflies.

Resources: The Firefly
The Firefly – National Geographic

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/firefly/

Firefly, Lightning Bug – wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefly

Firefly.org

http://www.firefly.org/


Measuring the distance from lightning strikes
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Count the seconds as evenly as you can (one one thousand, two one thousand…) from the lightning flash until you hear the thunder begin. Divide this number by five (5) to get the approximate number of miles. For example, if you count up to ten, ten divided by five is two, so the lightning occurred about two miles away from where you are. For approximate kilometers, divide the total seconds by three. In the previous example this would be just over three kilometers away from you.

As a general rule, if you are within six miles of the lightning strikes, then you are in a high-risk zone.

The irrational fear of lightning (and thunder) is astraphobia. The study or science of lightning is called fulminology, and someone who studies lightning is referred to as a fulminologist.

Most common types of lightning
Lightning discharges usually occur between areas of cloud without contacting the ground. When it occurs between two separate clouds it is known as inter-cloud lightning, and when it occurs between areas of differing electric potential within a single cloud it is known as intra-cloud lightning. Intra-cloud lightning is the most frequently occurring type of lightning.

Cloud-to-ground lightning is the best known and second most common type of lightning. Of all the different types of lightning, it poses the greatest threat to life and property since it strikes the ground. Cloud-to-ground lightning is a lightning discharge between a cumulonimbus cloud and the ground. It is initiated by a leader stroke moving down from the cloud.

I went outside to watch the thunderstorm that moved through Nashville at 4:50am this morning, and the sky was lighting up an average of once per second – the most frequent lightning I have noticed so far this year. The closest individual lightning strike I counted was only three seconds away, or just over one half-mile away from where I stood in our driveway.

Resources: Calculating Distance from Lightning Strikes
How to Calculate the Distance from Lightning

http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-the-Distance-from-Lightning

Lightning Distance Calculator

http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110060/reports/lightning4.htm

Lightning – wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning

How to Calculate Your Distance Away From A Lightning Strike

http://www.ehow.com/how_5440682_calculate-distance-away-lightning-strike.html

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GIMP 101
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Sophisticated graphics software like GIMP and Photoshop are not very intuitive to those unfamiliar with graphics software and terminology. Here are few things you should know as you start using GIMP.

First of all, the native GIMP file format is XCF; saving a file any other way will not preserve the GIMP objects. Always remember to save your working GIMP files as XCF before you export them to formats like JPG. XCF is to GIMP what PSD is to Photoshop, or what PNG was to Fireworks: it’s a must-know fact for new GIMP users!

There is no obvious tool in GIMP to select an object on the screen, such as a block of text you need to edit. This can be pretty frustrating – even old versions of Fireworks have a simple object selection tool. In GIMP, you need to use the Layers tab.

Resources – GIMP tutorials
GIMP FAQ
GIMP 2.6 tutorial videos on YouTube (search results)
Downloadable PDF GIMP tutorials – TuxRadar

GIMP photo sharpening filter: unsharp mask
Sunday, April 24, 2011
This is a quick example of how much more powerful the Unsharp Mask is compared to the basic Sharpen feature in high-end graphics programs – in this case, GIMP 2.6.8 (the latest version is 2.6.11). For a long time, I had been curious what the unsharp mask did — but I knew nothing about it until Steve D. told me it was better than “Sharpen.”

I have no doubt that an experienced graphic artist could use the Unsharp Mask far more effectively than I. Unsharp Mask is not a simple, one-variable adjustment like Sharpen; the former allows the tweaking of three (3) variables: radius, amount, and threshold. However, even though this was my first attempt to use GIMP’s Unsharp Mask, it made a big difference in the attached ringneck snake photo. The original photo is so blurry one can hardly make out the snake’s scales; but in the tweaked photo, the scales are clearly visible! (The color differences are the result of experimenting with GIMP’s color tools – not the Unsharp Mask.)

Resources – GIMP’s Unsharp Mask
GIMP documentation – Unsharp mask
Using Unsharp Mask on resized images

GIMP Photo Effects – Tilt Shift
Monday, April 18, 2011
A friend of mine showed me some photos of downtown Nashville last year that were Photoshopped so as to appear like a miniature train set model. I thought this was one of the coolest effects I’d seen. I just learned that this is called the “tilt-shift” photo effect, and there are plenty of tutorials for creating this effect using GIMP.

Resources – Creating the Tilt-Shift Photo Effect in GIMP
How to Fake a Tilt Shift Miniature Photograph in GIMP

http://www.scottphotographics.com/how-to-fake-a-tilt-shift-miniature-photograph-in-gimp/

Create Realistic Miniature Tilt-Shift Photography Effects in GIMP

http://photography.piotrkrzyzek.com/create-realistic-miniature-tilt-shift-photography-effect-in-gimp/

How to: Miniature Faking (Tilt Shift) in GIMP

http://randomoid.com/2010/03/16/howto-miniature-faking-tilt-shift-in-gimp/

My Tilt-Shift Instructions for GIMP

http://www.bartbusschots.ie/blog/?p=774

GIMP Tutorials – Photo Effects – How to Fake a Tilt Shift Miniature Photograph

http://www.sparktutorials.com/gimp-tutorials/gimp-photo-effects/how-to-fake-a-tilt-shift-miniature-photograph/

58 GIMP Photo Effects Tutorials

http://www.tutorialized.com/tutorials/Gimp/Photo-Effects/1

Plugins and Add-ons for GIMP

http://www.softcity.com/contribution/0cDO5AzN/view/plugins-and-add-ons-for-gimp

o The Best GIMP Plugins
o 26 GIMP plugins to get Photoshop’s best features
o Free GIMP plugins
o Top 20 GIMP plugins
o Gimp-Plug-Ins @ SourceForge

How to Install GIMP Plugins

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/GIMP/Installing_Plugins

GIMP Plugin Registry

http://registry.gimp.org/

GIMP Plugin Registry – tag cloud

http://registry.gimp.org/type_tags

A bike and hike with Mike on Wednesday
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
On Wednesday (for the second time in a month), I followed through with plans to ride my mountain bike – an old Specialized Rockhopper — to Radnor Lake, hike with Mike E. (a good friend who simultaneously biked there to meet me), and then bike back home. The weather was perfect for a strenuous (it really was hard for chunky, overweight, out-of-shape me) bike ride and hike and return bike ride: it was partly cloudy and in the upper 60s (F).

This year at least, Mike is an absolute reptile magnet. This has been evidenced on at least three occasions just in the last few weeks: my first snake sighting of the season (which was accurately predicted by Mike only a few moments before it came true), the Saturday hike I missed (briefly described below), and our Wednesday hike at Radnor Lake.

I declined to hike with Mike on a recent Saturday evening, and during that hike Mike photographed two wonderful serpentine specimens: a corn snake (the most beautiful of the rat snakes) and a common king snake. I could not believe I missed that!

Quick mental math: converting Fahrenheit to Celsius
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The United States still does not use international standards of measurement, such as temperature, distance, weight, etc. Why is that?

It could be laziness. It could be cost… or the time it might require, the inconveniencing of the U.S. citizenry. The worse-case reason, or excuse, would be something like national elitism: believing that Americans are too good or too unique to bow to international pressure, or even mere standards, and that Americans should not have to be the ones to adopt a new system. Worse still might be the opinion that the rest of the world should drop the metric system and use our own dated methods.

Regardless of the true reason(s) America still hasn’t adopted the metric system, it can be useful to learn an easy mental shortcut – a math trick we can do in our heads – to quickly convert Fahrenheit degrees to Celsius.

Resources – converting temperature to Celsius
Algorithms for Mental Conversion between the Fahrenheit and Celsius Scales – Citizen Scientist

http://www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2005/2005-12-09/labtips/index.html

Mental Math: Convert Celsius to Fahrenheit

http://www.aviationchatter.com/2009/02/mental-math-celsius-to-fahrenheit/

Ringneck snake observed during hike at Radnor Lake
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I was amused when my friend and hiking companion Mike E. predicted that my first snake sighting of the year would occur on this very hike. Ten minutes later, I was amazed when his prediction turned out to be correct!

Shortly after Mike and I turned left onto the Ganier Ridge trail from the lake trail, I happened to look down and spot a small snake right on the trail near my feet; it turned out to be a ringneck snake – and my first confirmed reptile sighting of the year.

Colubrid is a broad classification of snakes that includes about two thirds of all snake species on earth. Colubrid species are found on every continent, except Antarctica.

Resources – ringneck snake
Ringneck snake – Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diadophis_punctatus

Colubrid family of snakes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colubrid

Riparian zone – one of the 15 biomes on earth

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riparian

About Greenism
The purpose of Greenism.org is to

  • encourage the genuine appreciation of nature
  • promote reason and compassion in humankind’s treatment of the environment
  • expose the fideistic pseudoscience of the new cult Resisting the Green Dragon
  • examine the increasing importance of nature on one’s spiritual path
  • weed out disinformation about nature & environment
  • search for truth in ongoing global warming and climate change conversation
  • expose political talking points, habitual partisanship, and poor voting records relating to nature and environment
  • closely examine public discourse concerning nature

Alligator snapper
Friday, April 08, 2011

Resources: Alligator snapping turtles
Alligator snapping turtle – National Geographic

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/alligator-snapping-turtle/

Snapping Turtles & Things

http://www.chelydra.org/common_alligator_snapping_turtle.html

Alligator Snapping Turtle images

http://www.google.com/search?q=alligator+snapping+turtle

Alligator snapping turtle – Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligator_snapping_turtle

Alligator snapping turtle – Smithsonian factsheet

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Alligatorsnappingturtle.cfm

Alligator snapping turtle (PDF, 1 page)

http://www.srel.edu/outreach/factsheet/AlligatorSnappingTurtle.pdf

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