Swallow-tailed Kite viewing in Sequatchie Valley and online.
Thursday of last week, I crossed Signal Mountain from Chattanooga to the Sequatchie Valley in search of Swallow-tailed Kites. Finding the viewing spot on Stone Cave Road proved easy, with four vehicles pulled off and multiple people with binoculars close by. Nine birds circled over the fields and swooped for insects, which they are known to pick from vegetation while on the wing.
Although the Swallow-tailed Kite was once common in the southeast, they are now found primarily in coastal areas. The range map posted on the National Audubon Society web site shows these birds present in South Carolina, down the coast, and around to Louisiana and Texas. Though they may visit other inland locations after completing the nesting season, I have only heard of them in the Sequatchie Valley.
As part of the National Audubon Society’s bird mural project, the artist known as Lunar New Year painted a Swallow-tailed Kite mural on a building just off 155th street, New York, New York. The mural overlooks the grave of John James Audubon in Trinity Church Cemetery. Although the Kite is most prominently depicted, the artist included several species of birds.
Additional information about Swallow-tailed Kites is available on the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology web page “All About Birds.” This page includes an extensive collection of audio and video recordings as well a photos, maps, and descriptions.
The Missouri Review offers an editor’s prize for fiction, poetry and nonfiction. I have never published anything in this fine journal, nor can I name any acquaintance who has, but it is excellent reading. October 1 is the deadline for the Missouri Review’s annual contest. According to their web site, the 2020 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize awards $5000 and publication in the spring issue to winners in each category.
Opportunities abound for poets who wish to create poems inspired by works of art. The Chattanooga Writer’s Guild offers a weekly ekphrastic challenge. Look for information on their Facebook page. The online publication Quill and Parchment offers a monthly Ekphrastic challenge as does Rattle Poetry, a print publication with a strong online presence.
This review appeared in my column, “Nature’s Bookshelf” which was a regular feature in The Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. I have gathered the columns into a booklet, also titled Nature’s Bookshelf. Hellbender Press is a publication of The Foundation for Global Sustainability.
Billy Watson’s Croker Sack, ISBN 0-8203-1999-6, University of Georgia Press
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman in The Hellbender Press, Volume 7, Issue 7
“It is always dangerous to question a college professor. They are paid to talk by the hour.” So begins the explanation that Franklin Burroughs gives of the term “croaker sack.” The explanation is really a postscript originally written for an editor unfamiliar with the term. As used in Burroughs’ writing, the croaker sack is a large cloth bag containing the results of a day's foraging the bounty of low country wetlands.
Despite this warning of long windedness, Franklin Burroughs is an accomplished essayist. His writing is equally eloquent whether he is describing his homeland in coastal South Carolina or his adopted home in Maine. The two disparate lands are not so much contrasted as joined by the striking narratives contained in this book.
The contents of a croaker sack are surprising and unpredictable, but the contents of this book are surprisingly delightful. In his work, Burroughs includes descriptions of fishermen, duck hunters, one moose hunter, and an aging bird dog to which he pays his final respects. These stories are an engaging tapestry woven together on a loom, which is the landscape itself.
When Mr. Burroughs spoke at the Conference on Southern Literature in Chattanooga earlier this year (2005), he delighted the audience with his humor and his love of the subject matter which shines through his writing. This love of the land is clearly illustrated by a short piece about his recuperation from a childhood illness. Unable to accompany his father on a duck hunting trip, he looks forward to his daddy’s return when he will see the results of the days hunt, and he reads voraciously. Among his books is Audubon’s Birds of America.
About the picture of a wood duck in this book, Burroughs says, “Once in Sunday school we were asked what we would have presented to the infant Jesus in the stable if we had gone there. The right answer turned out to be a pure heart or something along those lines, but I knew in my heart that it would be a pair of wood ducks, bright and friendly as the ones Audubon had painted.”
Franklin Burroughs is a recipient of the John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing and a regular contributor to Down East magazine, a publication devoted to his adopted home of Maine.
A brief biography and a critical description of his work appears on the web page Southern Nature.
You probably don’t have a croaker sack filled with oysters, eels and other low country bounty, but you may own a cloth bag (or several) filled with shopping day bounty. Look at the objects included and see if there is a story behind one of them. If you have herbs or spices, what memories do the aromas bring to mind. Tell us about them.
Shameless Self Promotion
Now that I am finalizing my booklet, Nature’s Bookshelf I am pleased to offer free copies in PDF format. This is a collection of articles I wrote for the Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee several years ago. You can request a copy by email from firstname.lastname@example.org .