Posts tagged #FAMILY


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.




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.” 

Hidden Signs of Spring by Kevin Mouser

The spring colors are on the way! Trees are showing signs of life with buds getting green, birds are returning from vacations in the Southern Hemisphere, and the peepers are keeping us up at night with their mating calls from any little wet area near our houses. These are all clear signs of spring. Many of us spend the better part of February and March repeating a mantra of “spring is just around the corner.” When we gather with our friends, neighbors, loved ones and fellow employees the conversation often turns to signs of spring. There is one sign of spring that many of us don’t even know about even though we drive past it, or over it, every day.

Every spring, as the cycles of light change, and the water begins to flow a little more regularly; the streams of the Ozarks begin to color up. The color comes in the forms of red, blue, and green scales on small, unknown fishes. Not unlike the migration of the birds back to our forests, the fish regain their color for spring breeding on their own time schedule. Some of them like to breed early, when only the most die-hard fish-head would consider going into a stream to look for them. Some, not unlike most of us, enjoy the warmth of a late spring day to strut our stuff. With the exception of a few of the dry or hot months of the late summer or fall, there is almost always a fish in breeding colors in Missouri.

Here in the deepest of Southwest Missouri we have several species of darter, a bottom dwelling, small fish that loves to dress to impress in the early spring. The male orange throat darter sports a beautiful combination of red and blue in his fins. These guys can be so colorful that is possible to see their colors from the shore. If you want to see one though you will have to look in the cool spring fed waters that they prefer. Greenside and banded darters both sport a coat of emerald green when they are trying to attract the attention of the ladies. You will find both of these in bigger streams like Shoal Creek, and around vegetation where their brilliant green isn’t quite so obvious. Stippled darters are a less common, but beautiful species of our small creeks. Like the orang throat darters they prefer the small springs and cool waters. They spend much of their time around vegetation. When they are trying to attract a mate they sport a bright orange belly, while the rest of the body turns very dark. They are quite the little gem to pull out of a mass of submerged weeds. These are just a few of the colorful darters of Southwest Missouri.

Spring is on the way. The darters know it, the robins know it and judging by the number of times I have glanced out the window longingly as I write this, I know it too. Brave the cold and rain a bit and get outside and welcome it. If bravery is calling your name, maybe you will even put on a pair of rubber boots and go look for some hidden signs of spring in your local streams. However you want to greet spring, please take the time to leave it a little better than you found it.

Kevin Mouser is a member of the Chert Glades Master Naturalist Chapter.  He is the Special Education Science teacher, Ecology teacher and Science Club sponsor at East Newton High School. When he is not teaching, driving a school bus or sleeping, he really enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife Cristal and getting into the great waters of the Missouri Ozarks.

Photography by Kevin Mouser and Becky Wylie

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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

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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!