Columbia (COMO): Great Place For Nature Sites & More

Images: E.J. Thias / Show Me … Natural Wonders

By Don Corrigan

If you’ve spent any time in Columbia, Mo., you know it can be a base for visiting nature sites and more. Like many J-school grads, this writer took advantage of many opportunities while living in COMO.

Stephen Paul Sayers, a Mizzou research professor, recently authored, 100 Things To Do In Columbia Before You Die, by Reedy Press.

No doubt, many Mizzou grads thank their lucky stars that they can already check off some of his bucket list items. However, Sayers also has “to-do” ideas that alumni may have missed on their COMO stays.

Sayers’ book will undoubtedly inspire some return trips for the former residents of Missouri’s premier university town.

Among the Sayers’ outdoor/nature sites that this writer also would heartily recommend:

Eagle Bluffs – a perfect spot for hiking and bird watching. You can watch bald eagles gliding on the breezes below you.

Three Creeks – there’s so much to take in here. Don’t be shy about getting off the trail and examining sinkholes, caves, and rocky bluffs.

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Powder Valley Nature Center Presents An Evening with Raptors Friday, Jan. 27

Meagan Duffee-Yeates trains her Merlin to hunt for blackbird during a winter months in Missouri.

Bird buffs, falcon fanciers, and anyone enraptured by raptors is invited to meet the objects of their admiration during this year’s An Evening with Raptors event—and explore a collaboration between humans and animals first forged thousands of years ago.

The annual An Evening with Raptors hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center will be held on Friday, Jan. 27 from 7-9 p.m.  The event is free and is open to all ages.

Falconry is the ultimate partnership between human and bird.  The sport goes back thousands of years, and you can learn about it at An Evening with Raptors event.  “Several area falconers will gather to offer the rare chance to observe and learn about these fascinating feathered hunters,” said MDC Assistant Nature Center Manager, Robyn Parker.  “They will also explain how viewers can get started in this age-old sport themselves,” she added.

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MDC Announces Opening of Howard Wood Urban Outreach Office in the City of St. Louis

The new Howard Wood Urban Outreach office will be available for walk-in service and connect urban residents directly with conservation resources.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has opened a public outreach office in the City of St. Louis.  The MDC Howard Wood Urban Outreach Office at 4640 Shenandoah Ave, St. Louis MO 63110, just east of the Vandeventer Ave./South Kingshighway Blvd. intersection, is now open to the public. The office can be reached by phone at: 314-301-1504. The new facility is in the Brightside-St. Louis Building.

“The Howard Wood Urban Outreach Office is a collaboration space that will serve as a central hub for MDC staff with expertise in urban wildlife, fish, forestry, and conservation education. We want to provide opportunities for urban residents to enjoy and conserve nature close to where they live, including access to new communities who may not have a lot of conservation exposure or a connection to nature,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley.

The new MDC Howard Wood Urban Outreach Office will provide a staffed facility and walk-in service for the public, along with conservation-related information and free publications.  The office will also offer hunting and fishing permits for sale, as well as MDC Natural Events Calendars.  It will not carry other MDC Nature Shop items.

The new facility will be open to the public ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday 4 p.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and closed Sunday and Monday.

“We are very excited to be returning to the City of St. Louis after eight years.  The new office will make it easier to bring urban community conservation best practices, resources, and information to City and inner-ring St. Louis County residents, schools, and partner organizations,” said Julianne Stone, MDC St. Louis Regional Administrator.

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Environmentalists Blast Sand Mining Plan In Ste. Genevieve Area

By Don Corrigan
Not since the Holcim Cement Kiln proposal in 2006 have environmentalists in Eastern Missouri been as concerned about a proposal for industrial land use in St. Genevieve.  At issue now: A NexGen Silica mining plan.
On March 4, 2022, Nexgen Silica submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Land Reclamation Program, an application for a permit for a sandstone mine in Ste. Genevieve County along Highway 32 for 249 acres.

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Branson Celebrates Turkey Vultures: Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery Hosts Vulture Ventures

By Don Corrigan

In mid-March, Californians welcome their famous cliff swallows back to Capistrano. In late February, Missourians welcome their infamous turkey vultures to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery with an annual Vulture Venture.

Missouri’s turkey vultures are infamous because they are considered ugly and repulsive by many. However, the dark-colored birds deserve a better reputation because these large birds perform an invaluable service in nature.

Turkey vultures do valuable clean-up duties by ridding the landscape of dead animals. They thoroughly enjoy a meal of rotting flesh and odorous carcass. Where others fear to tread, the turkey vultures are always ready to chow down.

Technically, the vultures do not actually return to the Branson area in late February. They are present in great numbers in the vicinity of the hatchery all winter. However, they become more visible as the winter cold recedes in late February and the air gets warmer.

The increased sunlight as spring approaches will prompt the turkey vultures to begin stirring. As the air warms, the birds are once again able to ride the thermals and scout the ground below for potential breakfast, lunch and dinner as they fly.

Vultures can be viewed around Lake Taneycomo throughout the year, but in winter the trout-fishing spot attracts these birds by the hundreds. Resident and migrating vultures love the canyon-like topography that can give the birds protection from cold winds. Plenty of large shoreline trees also offer vultures sturdy roosting sites.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) invites people to view these misunderstood birds at its annual Vulture Venture program. The program is always located at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery on the west end of Lake Taneycomo, just below Table Rock Dam.

Vulture Ventures have been happening since 1994 and can include a number of activities, such as displays of a captive vulture with a handler, usually from Wonders of Wildlife in Springfield; children’s activities with spotting scopes for viewing vultures in the wild; and, a children’s vulture roadkill game.

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Top 10 Nutty Christmas Squirrels!

Pictured: Don Corrigan with his book “Nuts About Squirrels”

This topic never gets old! Squirrels!

Enjoy this re-posted Christmas squirrel special! (from 2020)

That holiday favorite about “acorns roasting on an open fire” brings to mind Top 10 Christmas Squirrels & why we love them!

By Don Corrigan

It’s impossible to enjoy the outdoors anywhere in North America without a squirrel scolding you from a tree limb, or a squirrel scampering across your path, or a squirrel playing “chicken” with you on the roadway when you’re driving. Squirrels are not just confined to the outdoors. They are in all the mass media that we consume and enjoy in the indoors. With that in mind, Environmental Echo offers a Top Ten of mass-mediated squirrels that we encounter in print and on our electronic devices. We humans must love them. We have made them the top virtual critters in our popular culture.

1.)  Christmas Vacation Squirrel

Remember Chevy Chase’s movie when Aunt Bethany asks: “What’s that sound? You hear it? It’s a funny squeaky sound.” Uncle Lewis then responds: “You couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.” The squeak was worse than a noisy dump truck. It was from the Christmas Vacation Squirrel. The production originally had a trained squirrel ready to wreak havoc on the Griswold holiday home, but it died the day before the scene was to be shot. An untrained squirrel was brought in to be chased by Uncle Eddy’s dog, Snot, which caused unanticipated mayhem. Today several online sites sell a “Christmas Vacation Attacking Squirrel” with motion sensor and sound!

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St. Louis Suburbs Hit Hard: One-in-1,000 Year Rains Make 2022 “Year of Flash Floods”

Flooding from 2019. City of St. Charles’ Frontier Park. Photos by Holly Shanks.

by Don Corrigan

St. Louis and its suburbs have experienced drought, but also extreme precipitation events. That includes record-shattering rains this summer that delivered a “Year of Flash Floods” for 2022.

Thunderstorms in July delivered devastating flooding, including one on July 26 and another on July 28. The storms hit especially hard in Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Rock Hill, Brentwood and University City.

Area waterways such as the River Des Peres, Shady Creek, Deer Creek and Gravois Creek “flashed” out of their banks. The water receded in a matter of hours, but left mud, trees, home debris and thousands of dollars in damage.

The one-in-1,000 year rain events prompted national news coverage. Sean Hadley, spokesman for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD), summed it up for the Washington Post: “It was just too much water.”

“What happened was way more than the system – any system – can handle,” said MSD’s Hadley. He said one storm dumped more than 9 inches of rain in a matter of hours, shattering the previous daily record in St. Louis from 1915.

Fire fighters rescued more than a dozen people trapped in their homes by floodwaters in north Webster Groves. On North Forest Avenue, 11 people were rescued from five residences. One East Pacific Avenue, more stranded residents were rescued.

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Missouri Department of Conservation Forester Says Live Christmas Trees Offer Gifts Both During and After the Holidays

Domien and Eileen Meert at their Christmas tree farm near Festus, Mo. Domien holds the first tree dibble he ever used when he started his tree farm.

A living Christmas tree can be wonderful holiday gift for your home.  It’s also the perfect gift for nature long after the holidays are over, according to Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Community Forester, Mark Grueber.

Living Christmas trees bring a feel to the holidays that no artificial tree can duplicate.  The natural scent of fir or pine can set the Christmas mood as sure as colorful lights or a favorite Christmas carol.  Live trees are also a renewable resource, unlike artificial ones which are made of non-recyclable metal and petroleum-based products.

For those still in the market for a Christmas tree, now is still a good time to pick one up.  Buyers have two choices.  The first is selecting a cut tree, available in many locally owned tree lots in the area.

Grueber offered advice on checking the freshness of a cut tree.  “You want to make sure the needles are fairly tight.  The best thing is to just take it and bang it up and down on a nice, solid piece of ground and check to see how many needles are coming off,” he said.  “And you can kind of tell by touch.  Brush your hand along some of the needles, and if quite a few are dropping off, that’s probably a tree you want to avoid.”

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Squirrels May Save The Planet

Squirrels are pop culture icons, and the furry critters may actually save the planet.
That’s what author Don Corrigan told the ACORN Newspapers group of California when he was recently interviewed about his book, “Nuts About Squirrels.”

Environmental Echo is happy to share the ACORN squirrel article here.

Note Corrigan’s ACORN quote: “As we realize how much methane livestock is putting into the atmosphere, we will give up our hamburgers and Texas Roadhouse steaks,” he said. “We will be eating the new Chicken of the Trees—squirrels.

“The blessed squirrels are much easier to produce naturally, and Sammy the Squirrel does not fart methane near as much as Bessy the Cow!”

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Holiday Road Safety Coloring Book News!!!

Terry Says: “Let’s All Be Safe on Roadways”

Q & A: Session with author Don Corrigan

Q: Why a coloring book for kids with a main character that’s a turkey vulture?

A. Turkey vultures are the “Eagles of the Ozarks.” I learned this from my Ozarks expert and book producer, Jo Schaper. She said turkeys can be a dimwits and  vultures can be scoundrels, but combined you get Missouri’s Ozark Eagle.

Q: That’s a stretch. But why an Ozark Eagle to talk road safety?

A. No creature keeps its eyes on the road like turkey vultures. They witness car collisions with squirrels and raccoons, with possums and armadillos, with pet dogs and cats. Turkey vultures are scavengers wanting an easy meal – roadkill. They’re always in search of highway fast food. Unfortunately, Ozark Eagles get run over, because they don’t pay attention to oncoming traffic when dining.

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