Black Mountain - The Annual Crab Spider-a-thon

Black Mountain macro
Goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia)
All photos by my beautiful wife, Kelli Lewis-Sutherland.

My wife and her best friend, Laurel Abernathy have an annual tradition of visiting the Black Mountain segment of the Cumberland Trail yearly in late August or early September so that they can photograph crab spiders.

Many years ago they discovered that the swaths of Maryland golden-aster (Chrysopsis mariana) growing alongside the trail there are also home to the adorable goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia). Approximately one in ten of the flowers has a little white or yellow spider hiding and waiting for its next meal.

Ghost pipe
Ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora)
We were guaranteed to get our best photos yet, because we now have a Canon EF100mm f/2.8L macro lens and a ring flash. For a little less than a year, we've been experimenting and learning from this combination and have taken lots of pretty decent macros of tiny critters and flowers.

We met up with Laurel and her daughter at the trailhead at 10am and proceeded to very slowly walk towards the tower. This part of the trail is mowed annually, and its lack of forest canopy, while making us quite warm and possibly sunburnt, is the perfect niche ecosystem for the flowers and spiders we are looking for.

Without wasting any time, we started finding spiders in profuse numbers. Soon we've all seen dozens of them, and other insects provided interesting breaks from crab spider-ing.

Being mostly support for this mission, as Kelli had the macro lens, I focused on taking photos for submission to iNaturalist with my cell phone and camera, as well as track logging our short hike. Below is a quick ArcGIS Online map of where we hiked and what we observed. Click here for a full screen view of the map.

Black Mountain macro Ambush bug (Phymata fasciata) Jumping Spider (Salticinae) Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Black Mountain macro Black Mountain macro Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus geminatus) Common Tree Crickets (Genus Oecanthus) Crab spider with fly Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) Black Mountain macro Black Mtn macro Phymata fasciata Crab spider Black Mtn Macro Crab spider Wasp (maybe Gnamptopelta obsidianator) Spotted Apatelodes Moth (Apatelodes torrefacta) Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) eating cicada Ghost pipe


Burgess Falls State Park

Burgess Falls, Burgess Falls State Park, White County, Tennessee 15

Burgess Falls State Park is a beautiful place to visit, and I'm excited to tell you about it!

The park is located in middle Tennessee, about 12 miles southwest of Cookeville. It's home to four waterfalls that cascade down over 250 feet in elevation through Missisippian, Devonian, and Ordovician rocks. The falls are surrounded by lush forests, abundant wildlife, and beautiful exposed geology in the form of riverscour and cliffs, making it a great place to go hiking, fishing, and camping. This is the kind of park that you can be comfortable bringing kids, or your grandma to.

The final waterfall, Burgess Falls (proper) is only accessible from below. One has to take a boat from Center Hill Lake to get to the base of Burgess Falls. If you don't have a boat or kayak, do not worry. Several outfitters run trips there throughout the year, and especially so in the summer.

In the late 19th century, a gristmill and sawmill were built on the Falling Water River, which runs through the park. The river was also used to generate hydroelectric power for the city of Cookeville from 1928 to 1944. In 1973, the territory was designated a Tennessee State Natural Area, protecting the diverse forest and aquatic habitats. The park is now managed by Tennessee State Parks, and it's open to the public year-round.

Window Cliffs SNA & Burgess Falls SP If you're looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to visit, I highly recommend Burgess Falls State Park. It's a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy the natural beauty of Tennessee.

Here are some things you can do at Burgess Falls State Park:

• Hike the trails to the waterfalls.
• Go fishing in the Falling Water River.
Camp in one of the park's campgrounds.
• Have a picnic at one of the park's picnic areas.
• Visit the park's visitor center to learn more about the park's history and natural resources.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Burgess Falls State Park!

Little Falls, Burgess Falls SP, Putnam County, Tennessee 3 Little Falls, Burgess Falls SP, Putnam County, Tennessee 2Falling Water Cascades, Burgess Falls State Park, Putnam County, Tennessee 2Little Falls, Burgess Falls SP, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

Tennessee State Buildings

Tennessee State Capitol Building

The Tennessee State Capitol is a sight to behold, built in the Greek Revival style that was all the rage in the 19th century. It's one of the largest state capitol buildings in the country, and it's made of beautiful limestone that was quarried right here in Tennessee. Look carefully and you can even see Ordovician fossils in the stone! The capitol is home to a number of important historical artifacts, including the original cornerstone and the Speaker's chair that was used by Andrew Jackson. It's a popular tourist destination, and it's open to the public for tours. If you're ever in Nashville, be sure to stop by the Tennessee State Capitol and take a look around.

Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee 1 Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee 3 Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee 5

The War Memorial Building

The War Memorial Building is a beautiful and historic building that was built in 1925 as a memorial to the Tennessee soldiers who died in World War I. It's located in the heart of downtown Nashville, right across from the Tennessee State Capitol. The building is designed in the Greek Doric order, and it has a Doric-columned atrium as its focal point. Engraved into the west and north walls are the names of 3,400 Tennesseans who gave their lives in World War I. A statue entitled “Victory” by Nashville sculptor Belle Kinney sits in the center of the atrium.

The War Memorial Building has served as a home to a variety of events over the years, including concerts, plays, and political rallies. It was also the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1939 to 1943. Today, the War Memorial Building is a popular tourist destination and is open to the public for tours. It's a beautiful and historic building that is a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made for our country.

War Memorial Plaza, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee 2

The Tennessee State Office Building

The Tennessee State Office Building is a handsome Art Deco building that was built in 1940. It's located in the heart of downtown Nashville, just a few blocks from the Tennessee State Capitol. The building is 10 stories tall and is made of limestone and brick. It has a distinctive stepped facade and a large, arched entranceway.

The Tennessee State Office Building houses a variety of state government offices, including the offices of the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Comptroller of the Treasury. It also houses the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The building is open to the public for tours.

The Tennessee State Office Building is a fine example of Art Deco architecture. It's a beautiful and historic building that is an important part of the state's government and history.

Tennessee State Office Building, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee


Blogging Activity

By my best guess I have been maintaining a blog since 1998 when I graduated high school. My oldest post which I still have a de-published record of dates to 5/22/2001. The regularity of posts here have come and gone, but this virtual space has somehow managed to remain the center of my online presence, outlasting MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, and Reddit as a home where I share my content. In the last few years I've been writing more, and creating more multimedia content that is suitable for a blog format. I've also been learning new tools, specifically Google Sheets, which I can use to develop dynamic data tables, charts, and visualizations. Below, I turn those tools inwards to look at the blog itself and view temporal trends on my production of blog posts.

In the period of time between 2005 and 2014, I was producing approximately 3.5 posts a year. In actuality, I was producting far more, but few of those are appropriate for the audience I have sought to cultivate, so I have de-published them. After 2014, I've written approximately 15.4 posts year.


Tennessee Wildflowers Through the Eyes of a Geographer

Thalictrum thalictroides, Wash Morgan Hollow, Jackson County, Tennessee 2 Every spring my photographic activity emerges from its winter slumber and I begin re-learning everything I once knew about wildflowers again. I love this time of year when I can start wearing shorts again, and see the familiar wildflowers return to our roadsides and hollers.

Jim Fox, Flowers, Putnam Co, TN While I thoroughly enjoy capturing the beauty of wildflowers, I also like to think about how they ended up in their current location. As a practitioner of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), I find this question particularly intriguing. I provide this not as an empirical study, but rather a casual conversation to introduce readers to GIS concepts as related to wildflowers.

The locations where I find my favorite wildflowers share a few common traits: steep slopes facing different directions (known as "aspect" in GIS) and intermittent water sources resulting from nested water tables. By seeking out these characteristics, I am more likely to find ideal habitats for wildflowers.

Using GIS, I can easily develop "layers" of data that illustrate these and other landscape qualities. Between taking photographs, I often contemplate how the landscape would appear in ArcGIS Pro, the software I use to analyze these attributes. Here, I've shared some of the products I've created that highlight attributes that influence wildflower habitats. While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers many of the significant variables.

Aspect, or the direction that a slope faces, plays a significant role in the habitat of the plants living there. It impacts the amount of sunlight the area receives, with south-facing slopes receiving the most sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, seasonal storms can disproportionately impact vegetation on southwest-facing slopes, leading to more damage to larger plants.
Elevation, while a minor player in most of Tennessee does have an impact on both temperature and rainfall. Higher elevations mean cooler temperatures and less rainfall broadly for most of Tennessee.
Slope is another crucial factor in habitat development, as it affects soil creation. Depending on the bedrock geology, high slopes may mean a rocky environment with minimal soil, or a thin layer of soil perched atop easily broken bedrock. Slope and aspect also impact the amount of solar radiation that reaches a given area.
Soil characteristics are essential to habitat development. Factors such as soil acidity, drainage, organic content, and depth all influence which plants can thrive in a given area. Soil scientists have developed detailed maps that illustrate soil types and attributes for most of the United States.
Solar radiation refers to the amount of sunlight that falls on a specific unit of area (such as a square foot) over a given period of time. The map I've provided shows the impact of solar radiation in the spring, with significantly more sunlight in the summer. Canopy cover also affects the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, with well-developed forests providing less light to the understory below.
While most geologic maps are at a scale too large to provide any meaningful data to a wildflower enthusiast, geology is a huge driver in habitat development. Intermittant aquitards (rocks that do not let water penetrate lower into the Earth) create nested water tables changing locally how moist the soil is and where flora and fauna can access water. Karst environments also move water in less predictable ways than simply having water flow in a surface stream. In karst, sinkholes and springs are huge drivers of habitat diversity with both providing cooler and less windy environments than surrounding areas.

Lobelia cardinalis, Crusher Hole, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Van Buren County, Tennessee