Tennessee is my home state.  It is the place where the family cemetery is, going back to the early 1800’s. It is a place I refer to as home, although I do not live there.  My home, the edge of the Cumberland Plateau.  I have visited and lived in Tennessee at various times over the years but there was never much there for me.  Southern politics, girls with whiny southern drawls, and humidity have never been a good match for me.

titmouse, tufted

The Tennessee photo gallery has photographs taken in the state.  Tennessee - Flora contains a substantial number of entries in its photo gallery.  The following are notes from various visits to the state.

April 2012:  Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge in the northwest of Tennessee turned out to be a bit disappointing because the place is overrun with fishermen (I did, however, see three fisherwomen).  Pickups with boat trailers all over the place.  There was a nice nature walk where I saw a Banded Water Snake and a cooperative ranger who let me sit on the lawn near the feeders and video the local birds - including the Tufted Titmouse to the right.

Turkey, Wild

From there it was off to Shiloh and the Natchez Trace where many of the locals seem to be trying their best to transform the tranquil parkway into a freeway.  It was along the Trace that I videoed a number of Wild Turkeys.

I stopped at one of the Tennessee State Parks which protect Indian Mounds from the Mississippian culture era and found the museum closed, but noted that they may have their own set of problems.  The museum is built inside a fake Indian Mound, near the entrance there is a sign which says: “Please do not climb on museum.”

Rock Island State Park

Earlier in my life, family matters often took me to Tennessee where there was little birding or photography.  As our family sat around and talked there was, however, ample time to watch the common birds; Northern Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Common Grackle, American Crow, but nothing of a serious nature.  Sometimes we did work in a trip to Rock Island State Park where the photograph to the right was taken.

Sparrow, Field Spizella pusilla Stones River 1

In 2006 I was at Stones River National Battlefield in  Tennessee (USA).  I recall the location and time but memories of some of the photographs are not to be found in the wrinkles of my mind.  After some hard remembering, I concluded that these were photographs taken by my Jon -- either that or I am partaking of some psychological defensive mechanism to avoid addressing the possibility of a fading memory.


Later, however, I remembered the photographs (of a Field Sparrow) -- we were near a cotton field (my son’s first cotton field - being a western city kid) and as we walked back to the car I saw this sparrow and took several half-hearted shots.  No tripod and the wrong lens, so I concluded they would not come out and promptly forgot the effort.  Several years later, the worry of loosing my memories triggered a small but rich remembrance.  The two photographs in question are shown to the right.

We all know that many species protect their young, from human to jaeger.  As birders, many of us have encountered such protectionism when we have ventured too close to a nest.  One of the more dramatic instances of such behavior happened to me in a motel parking lot in Tullahoma,  Tennessee (USA).  I found a Barn Swallow nest (photo below right)  tucked up near an outside light and set the camera up for some unattended recording.  The Barn Swallows took exception to the event, even though I wasn’t anywhere around.  The nest was about 100 feet from my room, yet every time I ventured from my room the swallows would swoop from the nest area and attack my bald head.  A bit comical and a bit unnerving I finally gave up and took the camera down -- at which time they left me alone.

After exiting the Natchez Trace Parkway I will generally venture eastward to the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee, an area which has been the home of my family for generations.  Perhaps I stop in Viola for a soda, where I took the photograph below on October 2, 2010.  If I am driving on to Washington, D.C. I then drive on eastward through The Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Viola, TN

After reading “Amazing Rare Things - The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery” by David Attenborough et al.. It is a beautiful book with many prints and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Mark Catesby - spanning the period of 1450 to 1750.  As Attenborough notes: “There is a common denominator that links all these artists.  It is the profound joy that all feel who observe the natural world with a sustained and devoted intensity.”  The illustration to the right is by Maria Sibylla Merian (from the referenced book).

In 1973, I had been called to serve my country and had nothing to do with all that money they were going to pay me - so I bought 25 +/- acres of wonderful Tennessee (USA) woods and farmland.  I was wandering the fields of the property when I came across my first passion flower.  Not like the one pictured to the right by Maria Sibylla Merian but Passiflora incarnata, the native of the Southeastern U.S., pictured below. I was very impressed with the flower and the fruit and the genus has remained one of my favorites ever since.  There are over 400 species of Passiflora in the New World, so I usually have a chance of finding at least one as I travel about.

The photograph below is of my first passiflora species from that land in Tennessee.


Passion-Flower, Passiflora incarnata, Tennessee, USA

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