Q: What is the aerial swarming behavior of birds that you see in the fall? What kind of birds swarm, and what is the reason for it?
A: Those tight flocks or swarms of birds are called crèches. In Missouri, they are primarily composed of European starling or red-winged blackbird juveniles. The birds will move across the sky in synchronized flight, with twisting and turning movements that make them appear to be a single large organism. Crèches have been described as day-care systems for young birds. Aerial predators, such as hawks, are unlikely to attack birds that are surrounded by hundreds of other birds. Food resources can be used more efficiently when the whole crèche moves into a feeding area. With the juvenile birds in the crèche, adult birds no longer need to care for their young. For some amazing videos of this behavior, search YouTube for “starling swarm.”
Q: Why are there few weed beds in the Lake of the Ozarks?
A: Areas of the lake where banks are steep and the water is deep do not support aquatic plants that could grow in shallow water, where more light can reach the plants for photosynthesis. The abundance of common carp in the Lake of the Ozarks, and in Missouri’s other large reservoirs, also restricts the growth of aquatic plants. Carp feed by rooting in the bottom sediments of lakes in search of aquatic worms, insects and other prey. They effectively uproot any plants that might otherwise become established. Exclosures constructed at some reservoirs have brought only limited success in keeping carp and aquatic turtles away from plants.
Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at 573-522-4115, ext. 3848, or email him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.
Often during routine contact with hunters I hear the comment, “This is the first time I have ever been checked.” Most counties in the state have just one conservation agent assigned to it, so this is not surprising.
A lot of these contacts occur in the field while the hunter is still in possession of a firearm. Please remember to always keep the muzzle of your firearm pointed in a safe direction and follow the instructions given by the agent. An accidental discharge can occur while unloading, especially those firearms with external hammers. Don’t unload your firearm unless asked to do so. During these checks the agent may ask to inspect your hunting permit and photo identification, firearms, ammunition, coolers and any game you may have. Hunters are required by law to allow such inspection by a conservation agent or other law enforcement officer in their jurisdiction. Just because you are getting checked does not mean you have done anything wrong. Most hunters checked are not in violation and are happy to see the conservation agent patrolling the area they hunt.
Agents work long hours during the deer seasons on routine patrol and responding to the public’s needs. Agents also assist landowners with trespass and other violations that occur on their property. If you call an agent with a question or to report a violation and get their voice mail, be patient. The agent will call you back as soon as possible. You may also call any of the regional offices with general questions (see Page 3 for phone numbers) or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111 to report violations. With more than 500,000 deer hunters in the field and 168 agents on patrol, public cooperation is critical. Conservation agents ensure compliance with the Wildlife Code of Missouri and other state laws, helping to provide citizens safe opportunities to enjoy Missouri’s outdoors.
To view fishing and hunting seasons, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/seasons
For complete information about seasons, limits, methods and restrictions, consult the Wildlife Code and the current summaries of “Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations” and “Missouri Fishing Regulations,” the “Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information,” the “Waterfowl Hunting Digest” and the “Migratory Bird Hunting Digest.” This information is on our Web site at http://mdc.mo.gov/about-us/about-regulations and at permit vendors.
The Conservation Department’s computerized point-of-sale system allows you to purchase or replace your permits through local vendors or by phone. The toll-free number is 800/392-4115. Allow 10 days for delivery of telephone purchases. To purchase permits online go to https://www2.mo.wildlifelicense.com/start.php.
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