Category Archives: Outdoor/Nature

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The Plants of Creve Coeur Park: Walk & Learn

Pictured: Mitch Leachman.

Mitch Leachman will lead a tour of the bottomland forest, prairie restoration and lake edge at Creve Coeur Park on September 11, starting at 8 a.m., located at Creve Coeur Park Lake, 2160 Creve Coeur Mill Rd., Maryland Heights, MO 63146. The tour is free and registration is required.

 

Find more information about the event below from the Sustainable Backyard Network.

Don’t miss our first in-person gathering since the 2019 Shindig! In this outdoor lesson in biodiversity, Mitch Leachman will lead a tour of the bottomland forest, prairie restoration and lake edge at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park’s Mallard Lake. Both native and non-native plants will be highlighted as the group traverses a 2.5 mile loop trail. Commentary will be offered on plant behavior, wildlife value and suitability for landscaping projects.

Group size is limited to 20 and advance registration is required. Please note: All are welcome to attend, regardless of vaccination status. Should you not be fully vaccinated, we do ask that you wear a mask at all times out of consideration for the presenter and each other.

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Fall Color Flop? Maybe.

By Holly Shanks

Well, I was looking forward to Fall this year. It happens to be my favorite time of year and the drive from St. Louis to Hannibal or Branson usually shows off the colors of nature.

CNN recently posted an online article, “Why autumn weather won’t be the same this year,” by Hannah Gard and Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologists.

The article offers several interesting updates, but I was certainly bummed about the colorful foliage I was looking forward to. Just another thing to add to the list of disappointment this year.

However, I will remain hopeful and look forward to the possibility of a few reds, golds, yellows and oranges this year. And, next year, as I remain hopeful for, will see me and my husband on the Fall color search road trip again!

Check out the CNN online article HERE.

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Prairie Chicken Count At 100 In Missouri As Habitat Losses Continue 

Photo Credit: Dan Wundrock. Public domain.

By Allison Hagene

The farming industry has been the biggest threat to the bird’s survival, destroying thousands of acres of natural habitat to use for agricultural purpose. Agricultural pesticides also kill insects that prairie chickens depend on.  

Greater Prairie Chickens are non-migratory bird. When their habitat is destroyed, they have nowhere to go. They have no alternate destination. The tall, dense grasses in Missouri prairies enable the birds to nest, hide, and raise their young, without the ecosystem they depend on, they are extremely vulnerable. Deprived of their homes the Prairie Chickens are unable to reproduce productively and lose diversity. 

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For God’s Snakes, Give the Reptiles a Break!

Photo by Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Don Corrigan

Residents in the Times reading area are no strangers to snakes. Forested properties near local homes mean the vipers can be as close as your fire pit wood pile or a rock border on your garden.

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood gets phone calls, emails and even photos of snakes found at residential homes. Residents want to know if the creature they took a selfie with is venomous.

The two most common venomous snakes in our area are copperheads and timber rattle snakes, according to Erin Shank, urban wildlife biologist at the conservation center. Visitors to Powder Valley can see these two poisonous snakes in captivity.

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Spiny Soft-Shell Turtles: Healthy In Missouri, Struggling In Canada 

Turtle found traveling near a private lake in Crawford County Missouri. Photo by Allison Hagene

Allison Hagene

Missouri is home to a wide range of turtle species, with many different ecosystems to inhabit. A wide variety of turtles reside all over the state. One specific turtle has a very unique look: a large smooth speckled shell, a pointed, pig-like nose, and wrinkly feet. 

The Spiny Soft-Shell Turtle is found in Missouri in large lakes, rivers, and ponds with sandy or muddy bottoms. They can be found throughout the United States, and even in Mexico and Canada. They are exceptionally good swimmers and spend much of their lives in water, even burying themselves in lake bottoms to avoid cold temperatures in wintering months. 

The soft-shell turtle is actually not currently listed as endangered in the United States but is endangered in Canada. The major issue in Canada is the advancement of industry and water structures. The turtles are losing habitat due to dams, waterside development, water level changes, and human recreational intrusions. 

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Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly Endangered Due To Human Encroachment 

Photo by Paul Burton/USFWS.

By Allison Hagene

Listed as endangered since 1955, the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly has struggled to maintain healthy populations. One main concern is habitat loss – humans have destroyed their ecosystems for development and agricultural purposes, which not only eliminates food sources, but also changes water levels where the dragonflies lay their eggs. 

The farming industry has also caused setbacks for the dragonfly with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Toxic pollutants damage reproductive abilities, reduce healthy ecosystems and insect populations, and contaminate water sources – making them unable to support offspring.

The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is a unique insect with a long, dark body containing two yellow stripes, and large explosively green eyes. They live in high calcium carbonate spring-fed marshes and meadows where they eat mosquitos, gnats, and other small aquatic bugs. Dragonfly larvae can live up to five years, while adults live for, at most, seven weeks. Their short life span is filled with feeding, reproduction, and egg laying, making those seven weeks vital to species growth and survival. 

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Stay Safe When Enjoying Nature: Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

Photo by Holly Shanks

Missouri State Parks released information about how to stay healthy and what warning signs to pay attention to while enjoying the outdoors.

Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat this might not be enough. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses can help you stay safe when enjoying nature.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness and weakness, dizziness or fainting, headache, nausea or vomiting.

To help prevent heat-related illness when exploring Missouri’s state parks and historic sites, follow these safety tips:

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Missouri Gray Bats Suffer With Loss of Habitat 

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

By Allison Hagene 

The Missouri Gray Bat once flourished in caves across the southeastern U.S., but since 1976 they have been consistently documented as an endangered species. Living only in an estimated 11 caves across the country, the Gray Bat has been struggling to cope with human encroachment, cave disturbances and diseases in their underground living spaces. 

Human disturbance is posing a very real and growing threat to the Gray Bat’s population growth. When humans enter a nursery cave, they can scare mothers who abandon their young which then either die from starvation or fall out of the nest and die on impact. When humans also enter wintering caves, they disturb hibernating bats that, when woken early, use up fat reserves and die from starvation as well. Both issues can collapse a colony’s population and reproduction for the whole year. 

Conservation efforts are underway to try to preserve Gray Bat populations, including maintaining and protecting wintering and nursery caves from disturbances, as well as reducing pesticide use in surrounding areas. 

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MDC Partners With Foundry Art Centre In St. Charles To Create Eco Art Native Garden

Foundry Art 2021 MDCPhoto: MDC

Art and nature unite to form an education experience for kids and native habitat for pollinators.

Please read below about the project from the MDC.

Nobody even seemed to notice temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit as they made short work of creating a haven for native pollinators at the entrance of the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles. A diversified group of 10 people gathered at the Foundry June 18 to plant Missouri native plants in the facility’s newly minted native garden.  The effort was given an assist from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

This team of assorted planters included four young members of the Foundry Summer Art Camp for kids age 6-14, City of St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer, Jenny Kettler, Head of Education and Programming at the Foundry Art Centre, Foundry Executive Director Sean FitzGibbons, MDC Conservation Educator Becky Robertson, Bill Mees of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative, and Tom Claus, Operations Assistant Manager at The Home Depot.

Leonardo DaVinci’s once said “the artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” Earlier this year Kettler, an artist herself, saw a potential native garden in a space beside the Foundry’s front entrance.  At the time it was choked by non-native plants.  But what if that space could be transformed into a flourishing plot of eco-friendly natives that would support pollinators?

Kettler reached out to MDC Conservation Educator, Becky Robertson, for help in making that vision a reality.

“It was exciting for them to reach out to us, and it was nice for us to partner with somebody who’s trying to make a difference in conservation and the environment,” Robertson said.  She helped Kettler organize a workday in April where MDC staff and members of the Confluence Chapter of the St. Charles County Master Gardeners joined Kettler to clear the ground of the less desirable non-native plants—the first step in making way for the conversion. MDC offered technical assistance to help determine good native replacements for the spot. 

Robertson also connected the Foundry Art Centre with other partners and funding to help bring the project to life.  Kettler said with Robertson’s assistance and her own efforts, the partnership soon blossomed into an impressive conservation coalition.

St. Louis Compost donated the mulch to prep the garden.  Native plants were sourced through donations from Missouri Wildflower Nursery.  Grants from the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative and the Missouri Prairie Foundation helped fund the entire project.  The Home Depot also stepped forward to supply shovels, concrete for creating garden stones, and wood to put birdhouses on.

Kettler wanted to go one step further though.  She envisioned creating an educational and inspirational connection for young people too, so she integrated the native garden project into the Foundry’s kids Summer Art Camp.

“It’s really Important now more than ever for children to learn about the natural world and to develop a close relationship with it because they will become the stewards of the Earth,” Kettler said.

Each weeklong session of the camp focuses on a different part of the natural world.  The theme for the week of the planting was “Monet’s Magical Monarchs”.  During the five days leading up to the planting event, the young campers created eco-art, including butterflies fashioned from plastic bottles, and watched real painted lady butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.  They also made decorative garden stones both to take home and to install in the Foundry Art Centre’s new garden.

The camp culminated in the Friday press event where the campers helped plant 16 native flower species in the new garden space.  These included gray, purple and yellow coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, shining blue star, milkweeds, St. John’s wort, and beauty berry.  Despite the heat, everyone involved seemed enthusiastic about the effort and the team of 10 was able to complete the task in short order.  The kids also released the newly emerged painted lady butterflies into the garden.

From a conservation perspective, Robertson emphasized that native plantings like these not only offer beauty, but they are important for the environment as well.  These plants provide a real boost to the wildlife and insect pollinators that rely on them.  Collectively, small native oases like this can add up to meaningful habitat in the big picture.

“I hope the kids will leave here with an understanding and appreciation for not only art but the natural world.  And that is priceless,” said Kettler.

Perhaps it’s this connection that 19th Century French artist Paul Cézanne realized when he observed, “Art is a harmony parallel with nature.

MDC Offering Up To $75,000 Grants To Help With Conservation Projects In St. Louis Area Parks

Back to Nature STL

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) works with and for communities to sustain healthy fish, forests and wildlife.  One of the ways in which it does this is by offering funding for conservation-friendly projects in St. Louis area parks through a unique partnership and funding opportunity: The Back to Nature StL Grant.

Applications for the grant should be relevant to the goals of MDC’s Community Conservation Program.  The Back to Nature StL grant supports terrestrial and aquatic habitat improvement in urban area parks, encouraging partnerships for supporting community conservation efforts, native habitat restoration and long-term natural landscape management, and engaging the public through conservation education and volunteer opportunities.

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