Into The Wild - Field Edge

Publish Date

Nov 02, 2015

Late fall is the perfect time to explore the edges of a brushy field.

Touch

Plants came up with Velcro long before humans. For proof, hike through a brushy field then look at your pants. Chances are they’ll be coated with sticktights, small seedpods covered with dense hairs. The hairs stick to fur (and clothing), which helps the seeds hitch a ride to a new place to grow.

Look

If you see a tangle of tunnels in the grass, you’re likely seeing the work of a vole. Voles are mouse- like rodents with stubby tails. They use sharp teeth to snip grass to eat, building — mouthful by mouthful — tunnels through the vegetation. Mice use the tunnels to search for seeds. Predators, such as weasels and shrews, slink in the shadows, waiting for warm meat.

Take A Closer Look

If canine tracks have you confused, use these clues to tell them apart.

Fox

  • About 2 inches long
  • Oval-shaped
  • Sharp, narrow claws

Coyote

  • 2½ to 3 inches long
  • Oval-shaped
  • Sharp, narrow claws

Large Dog

  • 3 to 4 inches long
  • Round-shaped
  • Blunt, wide claw

Look

Sparrows are tough to identify, which leads many beginning birdwatchers to label them LBBs: little brown birds. To bone up on sparrow ID, grab binoculars and head to a weedy field in winter. Stand near a brush pile and study the sparrows as they gather seeds. You’ll soon spot differences in the birds’ colors and patterns that will help you tell them apart.

Heads Up!

Wild rose, blackberry, and many other thorny plants grow along field edges. To avoid becoming a human pincushion, watch where you walk and wear thick pants.

Taste

Smooth sumac’s rusty red berries can be used to make a refreshing drink that tastes like lemonade. Have an adult help you collect a dozen berry clusters and shake out the bugs. Submerge the berries in water, and rub them until the water turns pink. Strain the water through a clean towel into a pitcher, add sugar and ice, and drink up.

Do More

Brush piles offer rabbits, quail, and other animals places to escape from predators and shelter from cold, wet weather. To build a brush pile , pick an out-of-the-way location at the edge of a field. Have an adult cut branches and small trees with a chainsaw, then stack them in a tangly pile about head high and 20 feet wide.

Did You Know?

In fall and winter, northern bobwhites huddle together in a tight circle with their tails touching and their heads facing outward. This is called a covey, and it helps the birds stay warm and watch for predators.

Also in this issue

Get Out

There’s plenty to discover outdoors in late fall and early winter.

Alien Invaders

We're surrounded! The fate of Missouri's outdoors is in your hands.

Small Game Hunting

Deer and turkeys are fun to hunt, but if you’ve never shouldered a gun, why not start with something smaller? 

Strange but True!

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

How To Start a One-Match Fire

What if you were lost in the winter woods and the only thing keeping you from turning into a yousicle was one wooden match? You’d better make it count.

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