Discover Nature | KBIA

Discover Nature

This week on Discover Nature, watch for white-tailed deer in rut, and celebrate 75 years of modern deer hunting in Missouri.

In the fall, fawns lose their white spots, adults’ coats take on a grayish-brown color, and bucks boast antlers to fight for territory and mating rights.  

Deer were essential to American Indians and early settlers, providing food, hides, sinews for bowstrings, and bones for tools. 

By the 1930s, habitat loss and unregulated hunting decimated Missouri’s deer numbers – mostly limited to small herds in the Ozarks. 

This week on Discover Nature, set up bird-feeding stations to help keep feathered friends fed through the cold season.

To keep warm in frigid weather, birds must feed almost constantly. A drop of twenty degrees can double their metabolic rate. So, keeping food available can be especially important, and rewarding for birdwatchers when the weather turns cold. 

This week on Discover Nature, get outside and enjoy a show of fall foliage, fruits, fungi, and flowers. 

 

Fall color in Missouri’s trees has been off to a slow start, with much green remaining on the landscape. But, with cooler temperatures and waning daylight hours, chlorophyll – the compound that makes leaves green – is breaking down, revealing pigments that have been hidden all summer.

   

 

This week on Discover Nature, listen for the clear, loud calls of ground-dwelling birds just before dawn.

 

Missouri’s native quail – Northern bobwhite live in groups of 5-30 birds, called coveys, from autumn to spring. 

 

Northern bobwhite are streaked or mottled reddish-brown and white, with a gray tail. Males have a distinctive dark brown cap and face. Their camouflaged colors help protect them from their many predators including foxes, coyotes, racoons, hawks, owls, and snakes. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, watch for American white pelicans flying south for the winter.

 

The white pelican is a large waterbird – often growing to more than five feet long, with a wingspan of up to nine feet.  

 

White pelicans migrate through Missouri in spring and fall between their summer breeding grounds in the northwest, and their winter territories to the south. Many more of them migrate through western Missouri than the eastern half of the state. 

 

As autumn begins in Missouri, one of the state’s most fragile and unique species is active beneath the surface of some streams.

   

Hellbenders are large aquatic salamanders, reaching lengths of more than a foot. Ozark and Eastern Hellbenders have a wide, flat head with tiny eyes and a broad, rudder-like tail. They breathe through their sensitive skin – usually grayish-brown in color, and covered in prominent folds. 

In late summer and early autumn, females lay as many as 200 – 700 eggs, which males fertilize and guard until they hatch. 

This week on discover nature keep your eyes peeled around dusk for groups of little brown bats.

 

Little brown myotises, or mouse-eared bats are only about three to four inches long, and weigh only a quarter of an ounce. They have yellowish- to olive-brown fur with a glossy sheen. 

 

In the fall, these bats gather at cave and mine entrances to mate before hibernation. However, fertilization of the ovum will not take place until spring, and mothers will bear a single offspring by mid-June. 

 

Celebrate the arrival of autumn this week, and watch for a variety of ripening tree nuts falling to the ground.

   

 

Many Missouri native trees produce this protein-rich food for wildlife and people, and aid in the trees’ reproductive process. 

 

Watch for walnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, horse chestnuts (buckeyes), acorns, and pecans, falling from above, and scattered on the ground. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, take a moment to enjoy the last golden blooms of summer. 

 

On roadsides, streambanks, pastures, prairies, and planted flower beds, Missouri’s many goldenrod species are putting on a show. 

 

23 species of goldenrod (Solidago spp.) are native to Missouri with slender stems, usually about 3-4 feet tall, and golden clusters of flowers spiraling or alternating along upper branchlets. Each yellow flower is actually a tiny composite flowerhead, structurally similar to a daisy or a sunflower. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, watch for a swift-flying migratory duck traveling through Missouri from the north.

   

 

Blue-winged teal breed all across North America, and they leave their summer homes early, from as far north as Alaska, to overwinter along the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Argentina. 

 

Adult males – called drakes – are small, each with a dark gray head and a white crescent between the eye and bill. A light blue patch adorns the forewing just above a greenish patch of feathers called a speculum. 

 

This week in the woods, or backyard garden, you’ll likely cross paths with the monarch butterfly.

 

In fact, you’ll find monarchs in a wide variety of habitats, including fields, roadsides, and landscape plantings. 

 

This large butterfly starts out as a white caterpillar with yellow and black bands, but transforms into a striking, flying insect, with distinct orange wings and black veins. 

 

This week along Missouri’s streams, ponds, swamps, wetlands, and ditches, watch for salamanders undergoing a life-changing transformation… 

 

Nearly 50-species and subspecies of salamanders live in Missouri.  With bodies that look like lizards, but skin like frogs, salamanders rely on clean, fresh water for the first stage of their lives as gilled, aquatic larvae. 

 

Discover nature this week, and watch for baby snapping turtles, hatching from eggs near Missouri’s streams, ponds, and wetlands.

 

Snapping turtles occur statewide – anywhere there’s permanent water. They prefer bodies of water with mud bottoms, abundant aquatic vegetation, and submerged logs. 

 

Females travel overland during egg-laying season – mostly in late spring and early summer – and are often killed by cars. 

 

Females dig nests in deep sand or loose soil and deposit up to two clutches of 20-30 eggs per season. 

 

Take a quiet float trip, or wade around a bend in a Missouri stream this week, and you’ll likely encounter a feathered fishing friend.

 

Green herons typically stand motionless or stalk intently for prey along the banks of streams and ponds.  These intelligent birds are known to use tools – dropping small objects such as twigs, feathers, or insects on to the water’s surface to lure curious fish within snatching distance. 

 

Green herons are sometimes confused with least bitterns, though their vocalizations are distinctly different. 

 

Discover nature this week, and keep an eye out for one of Missouri’s showiest native wildflowers blooming along roadsides and in tallgrass prairies.

 

Prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya) is a purple perennial wildflower.  Its tall, unbranched, hairy stalks blossom with spikes of dense purple floret clusters from July to October. 

 

If you’ve stepped out to enjoy the night air lately, you’ve likely noticed a loud newcomer to the chorus of night sounds.  This week on Discover Nature, listen for the nocturnal chorus of katydids.

 

Close relatives of grasshoppers, many species of katydids call Missouri home – each with very different characteristics. 

 

The northern, or common true katydid has long, slender legs, and large veined wings resembling green leaves, although a genetic mutation causes some specimens to appear pink. 

 

Discover nature this week along Missouri streams and bottomland woods, and listen for the low, harsh vocalizations of great blue herons.

    

 

Herons nest in colonies – or rookeries – near water. These rookeries can contain hundreds of bulky stick nests which may be used over multiple years. 

 

Herons are mostly monogamous during a season, and each pair incubates 3-to-6 eggs.  In mid-July, fledgling herons begin to leave the nest, learning to fly and feed themselves. 

 

As summer heat settles into Missouri, forage the forest floor for a culinary treat.

 

This week on Discover Nature, search for chantrelle mushrooms fruiting in the woods. 

 

Chantrelles are funnel- or trumpet-shaped and have wavy cap edges.  Usually orange or yellow in color, with a fruity fragrance when fresh. 

 

Chantrelles do not have true gills under the caps, such as those found on the poisonous, but similar-looking jack-o’-lantern mushrooms, which are sharp-edged and knifelike. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, take a trip to a stream or pond near you, and observe the colorful dance of mating dragonflies across the surface of the water.

    

 

Adult dragonflies have long, slender, often colorful abdomens with robust bodies, large compound eyes, and sometimes spotted patterns on horizontally-outstretched wings.  

 

They don’t start out this way, though.  In mid-summer, watch courting dragonflies fly low over water – often attached to their mates.  In-flight, females deposit eggs along the surface of the water.  

 

This week on Discover Nature, female coyotes wean their pups.

   

Keep an eye and an ear out, especially at dawn and dusk, for these canine scavengers. 

Coyotes are nocturnal but are also seen in daylight.  They live singly, in male-female pairs, or in family groups and use complex expressions and postures to communicate. 

They mate in early spring and birth litters of 5 to 7 pups in late April or May. 

By late June both parents begin teaching their young to hunt and behave as adults. 

Listen at the water’s edge this week, and you’ll likely hear Missouri’s largest frog, and official state amphibian.

Growing up to eight-inches long, the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) ranges from green to olive to brown, with small, dark blotches on its back, a large, round external eardrum (or tympanum) behind the eye, and distinct brown bars on its hind legs. 

Bullfrogs are ambush-style predators that will eat any live prey they can fit in their mouths, including insects, fish, mice, birds, and snakes.  

This week on Discover Nature, watch for an aerial hunter in Missouri, perched on fences, phone wires, and trees; flitting to catch insects and fend off avian intruders.

Eastern kingbirds have black on the head and dark gray on the back, with white underparts, a distinctive white band on the end of the tail, and a bright reddish-orange crown on its head – though this small patch can be hard to glimpse in the field. 

Bird nesting peaks in late spring, and paying close attention to this seasonal behavior can show us more about the birds we see around us every day.

   

 

While nesting behavior varies considerably among different birds, we can observe a typical nesting cycle in the American robin. In their case, both sexes share in building the nest, which is composed of a mixture of mud and grass. 

 

Wildflowers and warm weather signify the arrival of spring in Missouri… and one of the state’s largest, heaviest wild mammals enjoys the season as much as we do.

This week on Discover Nature, we recognize May as National Bear Awareness Month.  

Black bears mate now through June, but reproductive development pauses for 6-to-7 months, until bears enter hibernation.  Mother bears birth litters of two to three cubs in January and February, sometimes while the mother still sleeps.  

This week on Discover Nature, watch – and listen – for the northern cricket frog.

 

Commonly seen along the edges of ponds and streams, especially on mud flats and gravel bars, scientists are monitoring Missouri populations due to rapid declines in other states. 

 

The northern cricket frog can appear in a variety of colors from gray to tan to greenish-tan or brown, with a white belly. 

 

Their metallic calls resemble the sound of small pebbles being rapidly struck together. 

 

This week in Missouri’s woods, a native, thorny, locust tree displays clusters of fragrant white flowers.

 

The black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) grows in dry or rocky upland woods, along streams, and in pastures, and thickets. 

 

A pioneer tree species, black locust easily invades disturbed sites, and some consider it a nuisance species. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, a poisonous perennial wildflower shows off bright red- and yellow-blossoming spurs.

   

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is in full bloom in Missouri this week. Growing about two-feet tall, often in shaded areas in woodlands and hanging from rock cliffs, this hardy native wildflower is also a favorite among landscape gardeners. 

Slow and steady wins the race… but when it comes to crossing roads turtles often lose. This week, as you’re driving down the highway or backroads, keep your eyes peeled for turtles in your path.

 

Spring rains and warm weather trigger turtles to start wandering in search of food and mates, and they often need to cross roads that pass through their home areas. 

 

Box turtles commonly live to thirty years old, and can live as along as humans. They spend their quiet lives eating plants, earthworms and insects. 

 

This week on Discover Nature, crappie are spawning in shallow water across Missouri.

These popular panfish occur nearly statewide in open water or near submerged timber or other suitable cover in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and slow-flowing backwaters of large rivers. 

During the spring spawning season, these fish find vegetation and submerged woody structure in shallow water.  

Crappie are most active in evening and nighttime, but can be observed at all times of day. 

This week on Discover Nature, listen for wild turkeys gobbling in Missouri woods and grasslands.

This popular gamebird, once a contender for our national bird, makes many other vocal sounds, as well, often described as purring, yelping, and putting.  

Adult males, called Toms, are large and dark, with a bare, red, white, and blue head, long legs, and bronzy feathers. Males and some females have a tuft of hair-like bristles, called a beard, in the middle of the breast. Females are smaller and less iridescent than males. 

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