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Z is for Zoo



It’s the last day of the A to Z Challenge for 2014. Zoo might seem like an obvious, lazy choice, especially since I used it for last year’s challenge, but I didn’t choose it because it’s easy. As I explained last year, we like to visit zoos we haven’t been to when we travel. Since my theme for this year’s challenge is about our anniversary trip to Nashville, it makes sense to include the Nashville Zoo. It might even be a good place to find some of those birds I mentioned in my last post.

Everyone knows what a zoo is, so it doesn’t need much explanation. In addition to the usual exhibits and animal shows, the Nashville Zoo has some pretty cool features for kids. I won’t dwell too much on those since we won’t be taking any kids on our anniversary trip.

One pretty cool thing at the Nashville Zoo is their Jungle Gym, which is the largest community-built playground in the United States. It is a 66,000 sq. ft. playground with a 35-foot tall “Tree of Life” tree house structure, a concrete sculpture garden, a dancing water fountain, cargo netting, super slides, and other fun things for kids.

They also have quite a few educational programs for kids, including photography classes and programs for home schoolers. They even have youth volunteer opportunities.

One thing I’m looking forward to seeing is the giraffe that was born in December of last year.

Bahati was born in the early morning hours of December 13, weighing 180 pounds (81.65 kg) and standing 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) tall. source

Bahati was born on December 13, weighing 180 pounds
and standing 6 feet 5 inches tall.


If we make the zoo part of our trip, I’m sure I’ll take hundreds of pictures. I always do. I’ll try not to post too many. :)

That’s it for the A to Z Challenge this year, but it’s just the beginning of our vacation planning. It will be fun to share our personal experiences and pictures from Nashville when we go.

Yearning for Yellow Bellies and Yellow Rumps



Yearning for Yellow Bellies and Yellow Rumps—sounds a little weird, huh? It isn’t.

I’m a little late on my Y post for the A to Z Challenge. (It didn’t help that WordPress refused to load pictures into my post, making me a day later than I already was. Thanks, WordPress.) Before that, I hadn’t been able to find any attractions in Nashville that start with Y,  so I knew I’d have to get creative. Some days creativity doesn’t just show up and beg to flow through me.

While I was reading about Nashville hoping to get inspired, a funny thing happened: I got inspired. I stumbled across an article about birds in Tennessee. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but hang with me—there’s a reason I chose birds as my “Nashville attraction” Y.

My two youngest kids have been known to make fun of me for my love of birds. They say every outdoor excursion we take I’m constantly taking pictures of birds and flowers. I can’t deny it, but my fascination isn’t really limited to birds and flowers. I get excited over any kind of wildlife, even squirrels and other rodents. I have what some might think an embarrassing number of pictures of squirrels. I’m not ashamed. All animals, wild or tame, captivate me. I never plan to take hundreds of pictures of birds or any other creature. It’s an impulse that turns into a mission as soon as I start shooting.

If I could clone myself, one of me would be a wildlife photographer. I’d go to Africa and shoot lions and giraffes and such. The other clones would likely be jealous.

Given my affinity to photographing birds, it stands to reason that it will happen on vacation. Needing a Nashville attraction for Y, I looked up all the birds in the area hoping that some would have names that start with Y. From the Tennessee website for Watchable Wildlife, I discovered thirteen different birds that reside in Middle Tennessee and more specifically, Nashville. I eliminated two that are “casual” migrants, meaning they occur with some frequency but not every year.

That left me with eleven birds in the Nashville area that start with Y. Three of those will also be eliminated from our birds-to-photograph list. We are not likely to find them on our vacation because we will be in Nashville in a different season than the birds. This is where the yearning comes in.

I’m glad to knock my list down to eight, because I don’t want this post to be too long. However, I hate that two of the birds we won’t get to see have the two best names. They won’t be posing for us this summer, but I have to at least tell you their names.

The first is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. That name makes me smile. It sounds like it needs to be in an Orbit “Dirty Mouth” commercial. Remember those? The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker would fit right in with a doo-doo-head cootie queen, a lint licker, or a Stinky McStink-face, don’t you think?

The second bird with the cool name is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. That’s not quite as funny as the first one, but it’s at least as funny as a kumquat, which is from the same Orbit gum commercial. Even more fun is that birders affectionately call this warbler “Butter Butt.”

I really wish I could get pictures of these two birds just because I love their names. Weird, I know.

Because I can’t leave it out, the third bird eliminated because of timing issues is the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  If the name means what it implies, I’d like to have one at my home in the summertime. :)

Of the eight birds left that will be in Tennessee during the summer, there are two more I can eliminate from this post for the sake of brevity, which I failed about 550 words ago (sorry). I will still look for these birds, but it isn’t likely that I will find them, either because of their habits or their arrival time in the state. They are the Yellow-crowned Night Heron and the Lesser Yellowlegs.

That leaves us with six birds we stand a chance of seeing and photographing. Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife website has all kinds of information to arm myself with for the best chance at spotting these birds, but I won’t bore you with all that information. This post is already long, so I’ll to try be brief with the birds we will focus on finding.

I’ll start with the bird we are most likely to find. The Common Yellow Throat is one of the most abundant wood warblers nesting in Tennessee.  Although it is common, it can be hard to see because it typically stays low in thick, marshy or brushy vegetation. It does have distinctive markings and a distinctive call that make it easy to identify if found.

Common yellow throat male

Male Common Yellow Throat

Another bird that is pretty common to the area in the summer is the Yellow Warbler. It is the most yellow of all the warblers.

Yellow Warbler source

Yellow Warbler

The Yellow-throated Vireo is also common enough that our chances of sighting one are pretty good. It is the most colorful of all warblers, with a bright yellow wash over its head and breast and prominent yellow “spectacles” around its eyes. It is sometimes overlooked because it moves slowly in the highest layer of the trees and is a less persistent singer than some of the other vireos.

Yellow-throated Vireo source

Yellow-throated Vireo

The Yellow-throated Warbler arrives in Tennessee earlier in the spring than most other warblers. I’d love to get pictures of this beauty.

Yellow-throated Warbler source

Yellow-throated Warbler

The last two birds on my list are common to the area, but might take a little work to spot. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is not easily seen because of its habit of waiting motionless for long periods, watching for an insect or caterpillar. My zoom lens might help, or maybe we need binoculars.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Source

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Last is the Yellow-breasted Chat. This little bird is often overlooked because it keeps itself well hidden in dense, brushy vegetation.

Yellow-breasted Chat source

Yellow-breasted Chat

These are the birds I’ll be looking for on our trip to Nashville. I’m anxious to see how many of the likely six I will get a shot of. I’m pretty persistent, so maybe I’ll even get all of the eight possibles. I’ll let you know how many I find. I’ll also let you know how many times Tim asks if we’re done yet. :)

eXtra Miles



Here we are with only three days left of the A to Z Challenge—three days of more things to see and do in Nashville for our anniversary trip this summer.

If we want to drive an eXtra 35-40 miles past Nashville to Castalian Springs, we can see the Wynnewood State Historic Site, which includes the largest existing log structure in Tennessee.

The main building was built in 1828 by A. R. Wynne, William Cage, and Stephen Roberts to serve as a stagecoach inn for travelers between Nashville and Knoxville. In 1834, Wynne purchased his partners’ shares in the property and moved into the inn with his family. He and is wife raised fourteen kids at Wynnewood. He resided there until his death in 1893.

A grouping of six log buildings including the main structure and five dependencies was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was declared a National Historic Landmark later that year.

The main building is 110 feet long and 22 feet wide.

During the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak, Wynnewood took a direct hit from a tornado and suffered major damage to much of the second story, roof, and trees on the property.

It re-opened to the public on July 4, 2012 after a four-year, $4 million restoration project. The restoration brought a more historically accurate look to Wynnewood and allowed for more of the property to be open to the public than was open before the tornado.

When the stagecoach line moved farther south, Wynnewood was turned into a mineral springs resort. The Wynnewood family entertained and housed many famous people in this home. They were close personal friends with President Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Sam Houston.  By the 1840s Wynne had built a row of cottages on the lawn east of the inn and set up a race course at the bottom near Lick Creek. Most guests were attracted by the medicinal qualities of the mineral waters, but Andrew Jackson, a frequent visitor, was attracted by the race course. He usually brought a favorite thoroughbred to run against one of Wynne’s horses.

They even had an incognito visit by the infamous outlaw Jesse James. The bed he slept in, along with some other original furnishings and artifacts, was added to the Wynnewood collection in 2013. These items were graciously donated by Susan Wynne, the granddaughter of George Wynne.

Wynnewood is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

I wouldn’t mind driving the eXtra miles to see this.

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