Many of the state parks in Tennessee were having free guided hikes today. I chose to attend the hike at Big Cypress Tree State Park, because I had never been there before.
Big Cypress Tree State Park was named after a giant cypress that grew in a remote swamp on a farm in Weakley County. Unfortunately the tree was struck by lightning and burned in 1976.
Saturdays are…for imagining a cypress tree over 39 feet in diameter. Bill McCall, park manager, told us that the tree was thought to be the oldest and largest tree east of the Rocky Mountains.
Saturdays are…for spotted and marbled salamanders and one jumpy little leopard frog who almost managed to land in the shirt pocket of a lady from Memphis. Dr. Thomas Blanchard, who teaches herpetology at UT Martin, spent his morning mucking about the swamp finding salamanders and frisky leopard frogs to show us.
Saturdays are…for learning about blue birds and barred owls. First, we watched 2 male bluebirds competing for the approval of a female bluebird. They were also bringing twigs to a bird box for nesting material. While these bluebirds were seemingly going to nest in a bird box, bluebirds will also use old woodpecker holes. Blue birds are secondary cavity nesters. Also, bluebirds are good to have around, because they eat lots of insects.
Dr. Dawn Wilkins, who teaches ornithology at UT Martin, tried to call in barred owls. Dr. Wilkins explained barred owls are named for the vertical brown stripes on their chests. The barred owl’s call sounds like “who cooks for you/who cooks for you all.” Now, if you are sensitive, do not read the next sentence. The barred owl will eat those aforementioned salamanders.
Saturdays are…for thanking Mr. Bill McCall, Dr. Blanchard and Dr. Wilkins for their time and knowledge. While he was sloshing around, Dr. Blanchard picked up a soda can and bag of chips out of the water. Don’t litter. We are all connected. Whether we are spotted, barred, blue or marbled, we are living in the same park. Whether we fly, jump or slither, we look up at the same sky. Whether we hoot, chirp or croak, we breathe the same air. Everywhere we are connected, even when it is just some rural, swampy plot in West Tennessee.