Posts tagged #EDUCATION

EVENING ON THE PRAIRIE By Ann Butts

It is impossible to walk a prairie and not use some time for reflection.  Sometimes rolling hills of grass, other times colors blazing, and still others mother nature’s fury on the plains.  You can experience all of this on a prairie walk.  Comfort in the tall swishing grass.  Wonder at the color available in the wildflowers.  Contrast between the wet boggy areas and dry mima mounds. The rich heritage of Missouri’s prairies includes the Osage Indians’ love and respect for this land.  In the book by Robert Liebert,Osage Life and Legends, he discusses their love of the prairies that helped sustain life for them.

The home of the Osage was a lush and nurturing land, which they loved with an almost patriotic fervor, and praised it often in their songs, stories and prayers.

Members of the Chert Glades chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists bonded with our Osage forefathers on a recent evening walk at Coyne and Welsch prairies in southwest Missouri. Prairie walks among naturalists are full of discussion, discovery, and decompression.

We typically fan out into small groups each with a different objective.  This is not planned, it occurs naturally.  Some will discuss and photograph the sighting of certain plants, some will search for an endangered species, and others will simply walk with thoughtful gracefulness and observation. It is a site to behold, with the love of prairies so obvious in each person’s fervor.

Jeff Cantrell (MDC) offered this summary of the evening’s events: “Our first evening was a lengthy walk (for I was short on time to scout), hindered by some standing water while we raced the twilight.  But now that I (we) know of some highway pull-offs the “valley of the blazing star” is very easy to reach.  However all of the site produces wonderful discoveries every time we go out. 

 Some of our discoveries include lots of Wild Petunia (Ruellia), Rattlesnake Master, various forms of Rudbeckia, and sunflower species ready to take control of the grassland.  My favorite was the seedbox clinging to the eroded banks.

 A handful of endangered regal fritillary butterflies, monarchs, pearl crescents, red-spotted purple, wood nymph, golden byssus (a skipper species), sooty wing skipper, silver spotted skipper, cloudless sulphurs, clouded sulphur, giant swallowtail, black swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, silvery checkerspots, variegated fritillary,  and several other Lepidopterans were along the walk.”

Blazing star was the hit of the evening.  Many naturalists could not believe the “sea of purple” they saw, and some could not wait to get to another prairie location to see if the purple was evident there.  It is this unique character of prairies, ever changing – ever the same, that draws us to them. You never know what you will find, each location seeming to have its own agenda on when certain plants will bloom.

The Osage Indians attempted to reflect the natural order of the earth in every part of their lives, with total respect for the natural world. Today’s master naturalists must have inherited that conviction from them.  Our view is to respect the peace, harmony and order of nature while continually learning how to preserve and protect it. There is no better way to accomplish this than to get out there and “be present” on prairies and other natural areas to observe firsthand the amazing glory that surrounds us.

Please enjoy photos from several of our talented photographers from our evening on the prairie.


GREEN GRASS BENEATH YOUR FEET! By Ann Butts

Diamond Grove Prairie

Diamond Grove Prairie

Local prairies are full of amazing color right now so it is fitting to spend some time during the week of the summer solstice observing a local prairie. I always find time during this week to visit some prairies because they are at their peak of blooming.

“I was raised on county sunshine, green grass beneath my feet.

Running through fields of daisies, wading through the creek.”
— Country Sunshine by Dottie West

 I was not raised in the country; I grew up in suburban St. Louis.  But that did not stop me from seeking out any tiny patch of green grass, fields of flowers, or a creek to wade in when I was young.  Summer was an endless time of staying outdoors hours at a time, exploring natural places, and searching for anything wild; turtles, snakes, bugs, and lots of dirt.

At a young age I was fascinated with wildflowers.  Not yet acquiring my “naturalist mentality” I picked some every day and had vases of flowers all over the house.  Today, I find it more satisfying to leave the flowers there for everyone to enjoy, and assure they can reseed for the next season.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis


 

My favorite prairie, Diamond Grove, dressed itself in my favorite color, yellow, for the first day of summer.  Purple headed sneeze-weed, cownbeard, black eyed susans, and coreopsis created a yellow carpet wonderland for butterflies,  dragonflies and birds.

 

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

Poppy Mallow

Poppy Mallow

Contrasting colors came from bright red-orange Indian paint brush, blue spider-wort, and pink sensitive brier.  Hard to find milkwort, wild petunia, and Deptford pinks shyly hid in the under-story of the tall grasses.

My second favorite prairie, Linden Prairie, was ablaze with color.  Dark pink poppy mallow waved above the tall grasses, gray-headed cone flowers delicately shifted their heads in the wind, and bright yellow ox-eye sunflowers beamed in the sunlight.

At Linden Prairie, I recorded eight species of butterflies and two types of dragonflies while listening to dickcissels and many other birds call from one end of the prairie to the other.  I had the whole prairie to myself, which was both wonderful and sad at the same time.  Sad because others were missing what I got to enjoy.

Wood nymph butterfly

Wood nymph butterfly

Many cultures observe the summer solstice as a turning point in the year.  On the prairie, it is also a turning point.  It is the beginning of the end as wildflowers are at their peak and we begin to observe the seeds of summer’s end. So get out there and absorb some country sunshine and get some green grass beneath your feet on a local prairie.  You will be better for it!

Ann Butts has been a member of Chert Glades Master Naturalists since 2005. Preserving wildflowers and prairies are high on her list of worthwhile Missouri projects.   “My goal, through my photography, writing, and volunteerism is to help people think about nature, learn about nature, and respect nature.” 

The Timberdoodle, A Dancer Before the Stars by Jeff Cantrell

A Naturalist Voice

The event has been described in naturalists’ circles as the “Sky Dance”.  The fans of the book The Sand County Almanac are very familiar with it. I have enjoyed the avian flight dance for decades and now look forward to the weeks of performance running most every late winter day on my own property.  The stage is set along my resident nature trail and long driveway snaking through native grass lots, young forest and shrubby fields.   The “stage curtain” rises as the sun retires and I find myself on edge waiting for the first player to come out.   I have known colleagues who have rushed home from work to catch a television show or sports event, clearly I understand their anticipation.  Now every February and March I’m going home, work can wait, the sky dance is premiering.

The contestants are the American Woodcocks and often we Ozarkers know them as “Timberdoodles”.  They are related to the graceful shorebirds of this country’s beaches and mudflats.  Perhaps the timberdoodle is the awkward shorebird cousin, for when I mention to beginning birders the woodcock is “gnome-like”, I get nods and smiles from the baffled birdwatchers.

Twilight brings the performance of the males and it is both visual and auditory.  The nasal “peent” call is the icebreaker.  The call is given from the males at ground level.  The first famous flight display of the evening is a wide circular flight against a backdrop of sunset pastels.  The timberdoodles go higher and higher; the whole time the wings quiver and make a twittering sound.   The most engaging part of the night show is there are sky circles taking place everywhere!  Perhaps at the peak of height, around 300 ft. the twittering jingle stops and a flight song accompanies a zig zag flight to the ground.  If the gnome remark created a sparkle in the eyes of a beginning birder, you should see the expression when I mention the song resembles the sound of kisses on my face from my great aunts in my youth.  If you have that sort of extended family in your childhood, I guarantee you will recognize the sound. The cycle of peenting, display flights and songs continue well into the darkness and sometimes have a short encore at the break of dawn.  It is the type of show in natural history that entwines the fabric of our personality to the outdoors.

We who appreciate nature seek these adventures and want to share them.   We recognize the naturalist bond in every thread of our experience.  I could not agree more with my champion Aldo Leopold who wrote about the drama of the sky dance and my mentor Dr. Janice S. Greene (MSU Biology Dept.) who first introduced me to his writings and observations.  I encourage everyone to grab a youth, friend, or even an aunt and seek out the timberdoodle’s gift to our outdoor experience.

Jeff Cantrell is a local biologist and educator in SW Missouri, adjunct professor at MSU and proud member of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  Jeff can be reached at coyoteteacher2@gmail.com.

Photography by Becky Wylie

FESTIVAL OF EAGLES – STELLA MISSOURI

It’s that time of year again   —  time to view the eagles at Stella.  The Chert Glades Master Naturalists will be hosting  the Festival of Eagles  on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at Stella, Missouri.  Activities begin at 10:00 a.m. and go until 3:00 p.m.  There will be scopes set up for getting up close and personal views of the eagles who visit Stella every year.

Representatives from the Missouri Department of Conservation  and Missouri Master Naturalists will be available for answering questions.  There will be a life-sized eagle nest replica, a life-sized eagle wingspread to compare your “wing span” to that of an eagle, face painting, and more.  Volunteers will be scouting the area for good viewing opportunities and maps will be available to help you get the best views.  Every year the town of Stella has some goodies available for those who visit.  There will be hot coffee, hot cocoa, and baked goodies available at the Methodist Church.

For directions to Stella, you can check mapquest or google maps.  Here are simplified directions:  from Joplin, take I 49 south to Neosho, exit 24 (US 60).  Turn left.  Go 1.3 miles.  Turn righ on I 49 BUS/MO 59/US 71 BUS S.  Go 1.3 miles.  Turn left on Lyon Dr.  Go 1.5 miles.  Turn right on Doniphan, go .8 miles.  The road will curve left and become Hwy. D.  Go 10.6 miles.  Turn left onto Hwy. A.  Go .8 miles and you will be in Stella.  The activities will be located at the city park on the corner of Carter & Ozark streets.

So, come join us for a day of fun in the great outdoors. Dress for the weather, bring your camera and binoculars, if you have them, but mostly just come to enjoy the day.  It’s a great opportunity to spend time with your family, learning about one of the great successes of conservation.

In winter, Missouri is a leading migratory stop for Bald Eagles, and Stella is a great place to see them!

Bald Eagle recovery is a spectacular conservation success story!

  • 1782 – Adopted as national symbol; 100,000 nests (est)
  • 1800’s(early) – Nesting eagles common in Missouri
  • 1900 – Numbers declining; eagles shot on sight to protect livestock; no Missouri nests
  • 1940 – In danger of extinction; Bald Eagle Protection Act makes harming, possessing or harassing illegal
  • 1962 – U.S. nesting pairs dwindle to about 400; Silent Spring(Rachel Carson) is published linking the pesticide DDT to thinning eggs that  break during incubation or otherwise fail to hatch
  • 1972 – DDT banned
  • 1978 – Listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act(ESA)
  • 1983 – First report of re-nesting in Missouri
  • 1995 – Status upgraded to “threatened” (ESA)
  • 2007 – Bald Eagles completely de-listed (ESA)
  • 2007-present – More than 2000 Bald Eagles winter in Missouri with 200-300 nesting pairs!

Photography:  Kevin Mouser, Ken Middick, Katharine Spigarelli, Becky Wylie

Eagle facts:  Val Frankoski

- See more at: http://chertglades.org/?p=2012#sthash.0RqA0N1a.dpuf

GET RID OF THE WINTER BLAHS By Ann Butts

If you are not careful, you’ll catch the winter blahs. You know them, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and STRESS! It’s not the flu, but it is a sickness. Some people call it cabin fever, some use technical terms like Seasonal Affective Disorder. I call it TOO MUCH TIME INDOORS! But there is a cure. Take a nature walk. Get outside, regardless of the weather. Even fifteen minutes outside can cure the winter blahs. You will feel better.

Studies have shown that just being outdoors contributes to overall good health.  There are two kinds of benefits from getting outdoors.  The first is improvement in your cognitive thinking; clear your mind so you can think.  The second is an improvement in your mood.  A side effect is improvement in physical health.  Observing nature takes your mind off your troubles and relieves your stress.

 

There is a lot to see if you know where to look.   Even on an icy, rainy day, you can find treasures.  In a park, along a walking trail, or in your back yard, there are winter wonders waiting for you to discover. Droplets forming on limbs, bright blue seeds on a green cedar tree, and birds at your feeders. 

 

 

Walk along a stream and just listen to the soft rushing of the water.  Observe ducks or geese in a pond, they can be fun and hilarious to watch. Get far away from civilization and listen to the sounds of nature in winter.  A night time hike will open your eyes to the beauty and sounds of the night skies.

 

 Winter walks can be so peaceful!  It will restore you!

Studies have also shown that looking at pictures of natural scenes, while not the same as being there, can have calming affects.  Enjoy this slideshow of  pictures from members of our chapter who have been outside this winter, then make a commitment to getting outside to improve your physical fitness relieve your stress, and  get rid of the winter BLAHS!