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Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder. The answer is revealed below.

Least bittern

On the back cover and right is a juvenile least bittern by Noppadol Paothong. During the summer, least bitterns frequent cattail and river bulrush marshes. Nests are frequently constructed in cattails, river bulrushes, nutsedges and buttonbushes in deepwater sites. Detecting them is easily done at dawn and dusk by listening for their soft calls, coo-coo-coo-COO-COO-COO-coo-coo. Seeing them is a matter of patience, unless you can canoe or wade through the wetland area where you heard them. Usually if you wait and frequently scan above the cattails of a marsh, you will see one fly low over the marsh and disappear into the vegetation again. Public areas that are excellent places to watch for least bitterns are Eagle Bluffs, Schell-Osage, Fountain Grove, Ted Shanks and Marais Temps Clair conservation areas and Mingo, Squaw Creek, Swan Lake and Mark Twain national wildlife refuges. This juvenile was photographed on a June morning at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. To learn more about birding in Missouri, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/235. The Conservation Department also sells Birds In Missouri, a beautiful illustrated book featuring 354 birds. It includes range maps and seasonal abundance graphs. Seventeen two-page habitat scenes portray Missouri’s diverse natural and urban landscapes. It costs $30 plus sales tax and shipping and handling. To order, call toll free 877-521-8632 or visit www.mdcnatureshop.com.

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