Some Things Never Change, Even in 2020
Shared by Heather Gallagher
Photos courtesy Heather Gallagher During typical times, when we hike freely throughout the Parks, enjoy the Museum and porches without masks, and host school children from all over middle Tennessee, I learn new things every day. Perhaps it’s a new insect on the tomatoes in the garden, or a wildflower on the trail that I’ve never seen before.
I discovered cicadas mating on a tomato plant. Slender Ladies' Tresses orchid is blooming right now in Warner Park. 2020, though, has brought a whole new learning curve. Who would’ve thought 6 months ago that we would be offering hummingbird programs via Zoom webinar? Who would’ve guessed that all of our fall programs would be offered virtually?And yet, even with these changes, some things remain the same:The goldenrod still blooms this year in the fields.
Goldenrod is blooming in the Meadow next to the Nature Center. Although many folks belie…

Butler Field Beauties

Shared by Melissa Photos courtesy Melissa Donahue unless otherwise noted
I’ve been away for a while.  Happy family obligations at the first of the summer pulled me away from Nashville and I’m just getting back to Warner Parks.  I feel a bit out of sync.  Missed seeing the first tiger swallowtail, tasting a ripened blackberry and hearing the first cicada call.  To reconnect with the season and the Parks I hiked around Butler Field.  Will Chamberlain, a co-worker and wildflower enthusiast, was kind enough to join me.  We met on a foggy morning in August.

One of the first flowers we observed was Fogfruit - Phryma lanceloata.  This herbaceous perennial plant is ½–2' tall.  It’s a small plant but once you notice it, it seems to be everywhere.  Many different pollinators are attracted to the flower. The largest group of pollinators are a small to medium size flies which hover motionless in the air.
Fogfruit in bloom in Butler Field
We also noti…

No Holds BARS

No Holds BARS Shared by Perri Haga
Warner Park Nature Center BIRD (Bird Information, Research and Data) Intern
Photos courtesy of Laura Cook unless otherwise notedMy dad likes to say that if he ever wrote an autobiography, he’d call it “Mowing with Swallows,” because of the Barn Swallows (BARS) that love to swoop around him as his lawnmower stirs up insects for them to eat.  They’re fairly easy to spot in flight: just look for the characteristic forked tail silhouette and their graceful, swooping movements.  Courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If Barn Swallows were in the circus, they’d be acrobats for sure!  Barn Swallows are a migratory species that spend their breeding season in North America during the summertime and head to Central and South America for the wintertime.  They nest in Warner Parks with the largest colonies at the Steeplechase barn and at the Nature Center. The next time you are at the Learning Center, turn your eyes upwards and you can see their n…

The Heart of Purple Martins

The Heart of Purple Martins
Shared by Heather Gallagher
Photos courtesy Graham Gerdeman

As you have heard by now,  it has been a banner bird year at the Nature Center. The bluebirds, barn swallows and other insect eaters are visible and plentiful, especially if you choose to view them from the comfort of a rocking chair on the back porch.

And the martins-oh the purple martins! I have documented a minimum of 11 pairs and over 40 young at our site. But let's back up.

As a federally-licensed bird bander, I check our gourds weekly beginning in mid-May, each one yielding more nests, then more eggs, then more young.

By May 27, I counted 32 eggs in 11 gourds. By June 2, there were 46 eggs. The next week eggs had begun to hatch, and I counted 29 young.  

Young martins display no feathers. They are all about food, and have large beaks to show for it. As they age, feathers will begin to develop in the form of pins that serve as protection for the feathers…

Creek Exploration 101

Creek Exploration 101 shared by Naturalist Rachel Anderson photos credit Rachel Anderson
With the warm, humid days here to stay for a while, it’s definitely a great time to head to a nearby creek to cool off and have fun.For many, it’s enough to feel the cool water on your feet, let the kids splash and build dams, maybe watch a leaf boat float along lazily.
Boats made of all natural materials can be fun to float down the creek
But the naturalist in me suggests another exciting idea – look a little closer, delve a little deeper, and discover what other animals (besides humans!) can be found in the creek.
Most people have caught crayfish and there are certainly plenty of these in our creeks.  But have you really looked closely at one?  How many legs do they have? What color are the pinchers? What other body structures do you see? What behaviors do you notice when you place it back in the water?

And there are other invertebrates (animals without backbones) that li…

Wildlife Encounters on the Burch Reseve

Wildlife Encounters on the Burch Reserve
Shared by Naturalist Kim Bailey
Photos courtesy Kim Bailey unless otherwise noted

Walking through the tunnel at the Burch Reserve in early June, I spied a medium-sized rodent at the far end.  It ran out of the tunnel and up the hillside where it hunkered down in tall grass. Peering up through the vegetation, its mottled coat of stiff hairs and medium-length tail gave its identity away. I was thrilled to see my first living Hispid Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus), not just a stuffed specimen.  Although considered common in Tennessee, these rats had never been documented in Warner Park. 

Cotton rats are in the same family as white-footed mice, voles, lemmings and hamsters. 

They love grassy fields with shrubby overstory, so the Burch Reserve provides a perfect habitat for them. They make runways in the grass about 3" across, leaving little piles of shorn leaves at regular intervals. The name comes from the stiff ("hispi…