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.

A Happy Ending With a Touch of Class By Jeff Cantrell

Field notes and photographs by J. Cantrell

I was ten and participated on my first guided hike and it just so happened to be in amazing Yellowstone.  My folks are national park enthusiasts and my mom’s mission this trip was to grant her young conservationist the gift of a rare wildlife experience.

When we think of wildlife, endangered species stories frequently emerge and they have a gloom and doom undertone to them.  Biologists strategize on how to reverse the decline of the population while the nature-loving communities offer support any way they can contribute.  So unfortunately when the subject regarding threatened species comes up we are prepared for a grim outcome.

The trumpeter swan is the largest of North American waterfowl and surely one of the most stunning. The trumpeters to me simply symbolize all that is graceful and stylish in nature.  A swimming swan resembles an ice skater’s refined glide and their reflection appears to pursue the bird on a blue or silver mirror.  The adults are a crisp bright white, while the juvenile’s plumage matches the winter sky.  They are a true conservation success story recovering from brutal market hunting for their skin, feathers and meat.  Quill feathered pens were a favorite instrument of John James Audubon to tailor the groundwork sketches for his celebrated bird paintings.  The swan feathers inflated pillows and mattresses for the aristocrats and colonists to rest well and dream of the promises of a fresh America.  The trumpeter swan contributed a great deal to our pioneer heritage and we find their presence carved on furniture, printed on currency notes, in Native American culture, and much more.

They emerge from a population less than 70 trumpeters in all of Canada and the lower 48.  They rode the conservation/preservation wave of early conservation laws and the collapse of plume hunters and feather fashions.  Heroes like Teddy Roosevelt, George Melendez Wright and William Hornaday were in their corner.  Today, our area benefits from captive conservation breeding flocks of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  It is fortunate the birds don’t recognize state borders and so we benefit from trumpeter swans vacationing here during the winter.  After being completely absent, I have now witnessed them steadily increase in our area every single winter these past 20 years.  Their occurrence restores their place in our culture and history; they certainly glide across our view with a wonderful sense of style.  The story of the trumpeter swan is a real conservation story. I love happy endings especially when they have a touch of class.

I look forward to seeing you on the trail. – Jeff


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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