In 2007 the highly acclaimed nature documentary "Planet Earth" highlighted the most spectacular animal behavior and wildest places on Earth. The 11-part series took the viewer all over the world to show the world’s rarest animals and impossible-to-reach locations.
Some of that wild beauty can be seen in the Missouri Ozarks. Like New Yorkers who have never seen the Statue of Liberty, you may be taking it for granted, not even realizing what is happening beneath your feet, literally. Let’s call it Planet Ozarks. You won’t see it on television; you will have to go see this spectacle in person.
One of the Planet Ozarks events is the spring bird migration. Starting in late February, millions of geese and ducks flew over the Ozarks. Other migrants, such as the purple martin, are just starting to arrive from South America. Soon the trees will be alive with the songs of Neotropical migrants. Some will stay while others are merely passing through on their way to breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada. The first weekend in May is generally the peak with 63 species observed in the area surrounding Twin Pines Conservation Education Center.
Next in our series is the emergence of the spring ephemeras. These are wildflowers that bloom in late winter and early spring before the trees have put on their leaves. The definition of ephemeral is an event that lasts a short time. These flowers have only a short time to bloom after the last freeze and before they are shaded out by the trees. Wildflowers can be found almost any time of the year, but the abundance of the spring ephemerals can be spectacular. Like the bird migration, the blooming of the spring ephemerals has started. Some of the species that can be seen now are Dutchman’s breeches, shooting star, wake robin, bloodroot, dogtooth violet and the aptly named harbinger of spring.
Third in our series of Planet Ozarks is the emergence of the periodical cicada, which should appear in May. Huge numbers of this insect emerge as adults after spending most of their life as larvae in the ground. One species emerges every 13 years and another species every 17 years. In 1998 their emergences coincided, which happens once every 221 years. So if you have done your math you realize that in 2011 there will be another re-emergence of the 13-year cicada.
Our counties have spectacular natural events every season of the year. Go out and see them. But be quick…some are ephemeral! In Ripley County checkout Mudpuppy Conservation Area for both birdwatching and flowers and Little Black Conservation Area for birdwatching. Also check out Rocky Creek Conservation Area and Sunklands Conservation Areas in Shannon County.