Friday, November 6, 2009

A Purple Pillbug!

This has been a bizarre wildlife day at our house! First, this morning Kenny and I were in the living room when we heard a loud thud and felt the wall shake from the basement. I figured it was a large bird that hit the picture window. We went downstairs and sure enough, there was a white outline of a large bird on the glass. I looked out the window but didn't see anything. When Kenny opened the door to check outside, he said, "There's a hawk sitting on the back porch"! By the time I could get over there it had taken off to a tree branch. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, so I missed getting a good photo of a Sharp-shinned hawk up close! :( Most likely it was trying to attack one of the birds at the feeder and hit the window at high speed. I'm glad it didn't break its neck and die! A few weeks ago a Piliated Woodpecker hit the upstairs window, that sure made a loud noise!

Later in the day I was weeding the garden and I spotted a bright purple pillbug (roly poly). I grabbed it, put it in a plastic container and ran in to get my camera. I had seen one of these a few years ago but I didn't know why it was purple. A check on Google led me to a website that answered my question. These creatures can be infected by an iridovirus that grows beneath their exoskelton, the virus refracts the light making the animal look blue or purple. It is eventually fatal to the animal.

Taking a photo of the pillbug with a flash (right) really makes the blue color show up! Click on the photo to enlarge it.

I named it "Prilosec" (get it, "little purple pillbug?!) Sorry for the bad pun! I couldn't resist it! :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday Kenny and I took advantage of the nice weather and headed out to an area where we had not yet visited. The Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge is located off Kodak Road in east Knox County. It is located on 364 acres of land on a bend in the French Broad River. It was formerly farm land, but is now owned and maintained by the Knox Co. parks and recreation division. The white line on the map shows the route we hiked. We started by hiking up the hill on the Overlook trail. The grassy, mowed trail passes through an old pasture and follows a wood lot. We were much too late in the season to enjoy many wildflowers, but I did find a few goldenrods, a purple morning glory, a Jimsonweed, white asters, Smartweed, and a Ground Cherry. As we walked along the woodlot a deer bolted out and ran up the trail above us. I couldn't react fast enough to photograph her. Earlier I had seen some crows dive-bombing some branches on a tree on the hill. I noticed a flash of white that I assumed was a hawk. Suddenly the hawk took to the air with the crows in hot pursuit! It isn't hard to figure out why a group of crows is called a "mob" when you see action like this! The trails had numerous Bluebird houses and even a couple of bat houses on posts. They were well-protected against hungry snakes by sharp wire mesh and smooth plastic or metal cylinders.

The trail went down a steep hill and went to the bank of the French Broad River. We were suprised at how swift the current in the was. Farther up the trail we enjoyed seeing a large rock bluff.

Since the property had once been a farm, there are still old barns and even an old delapidated house remaining on the property. One barn houses tractors and other equipment. The barns are decorated with large painted quilt squares, perhaps part of the Quilter's Trail. The mowed trail extends behind the barn. We were thrilled to see the spectacular red leaves of Winged Sumac against the yellow locust tree leaves. The brown stems of the grass added to the beautiful sight.