DISCOVER NATURE NOTES: Want to bring butterflies to your backyard? Planting native plants will help feed our native, hungry flyers. Planting the right greenery to feed their hungry, hungry caterpillars is an easy way to bring them in. Native plants help native species and will make any garden pop with color throughout the season. Learn tips to attract butterflies and watch a video on native gardening in this week's Discover Nature Note.
Everyone likes to root for a champion. And when that champion is rooted in the ground, it’s an award-winning affair. For 50 years, Missouri has registered champion trees with state records in over 100 species around the state. A record tree is decided on a point system that includes height, crown, spread, and trunk size. The largest tree on record is a bald cypress tree in southeast Missouri. Trees are the largest and oldest living organisms and often mark milestones in our lives and communities. Learn more about champion trees, how you can view and nominate them, and watch a video of a special champion with its own Facebook page and caretaker family in this week's Discover Nature Note.
ARBOR DAY: It's been said that in the time of Columbus, squirrels could travel from tree to tree without touching the ground, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. Most of our ancient forests are long gone. Arbor Day offers an opportunity to plant new seedlings across the country and state. School children and adults participate in Arbor Day, which is dedicated to planting, celebrating and caring for trees, our largest living organisms. Missouri celebrates Arbor Day the first Friday in April, and National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April. Learn more about Arbor Day and how you can help trees in this week's Discover Nature Note.
MOREL HUNTING: They can be harder to find than an Easter egg, but morel mushrooms are worth the time and effort to find. They seem to pop up overnight in late spring. Morels can be found in moist woods, river bottoms and on south-facing slopes. Try searching near dead elm trees, in old orchards or burned areas. Remember to properly identify morels, like any wild edible, before consuming. Learn about morel mushrooms, what makes mushrooms edible, and watch a recipe for morel polenta in this week's Discover Nature Note.
The Creature with a Mobile Home: It's always on the move and brings it's home along too! It is both common and unusual. Its mouth is on the bottom of its foot. It has a foot but no leg. It leaves a trail wherever it goes. This mobile critter has a lot of mechanical features with special attachments. See if you can guess the identity of this ancient creature found all over the world in this week's Discover Nature Note.
FROG CHORUS: You can hear their chorus rising up on warm, rainy spring nights. From backyards to wetlands, frogs create a symphony of spring sound. Learn the notes of the spring peeper and western chorus frog in this week's Discover Nature Note. Frogs are also quite tasty and fishable. Learn some basics to Frogging 101 and about the adventure of fishing for frogs.
You've likely seen them along the water, perching perfectly still with long legs and an "S" shaped neck. You may have seen them quickly snag a fish. Few people have seen where they nest and have young. Herons build nests in colonies, usually high up in mature sycamore trees along streams. Look for several large nests grouped in a single tree. This time of year, you will see them flying around as they build, repair, and protect the nests. Learn more about herons and their hood, called "rookeries" in this week's Discover Nature Note.
SPRINGING TO LIFE: Robin Williams joked that "Spring is nature's way of saying, Let's party!" It's definitely a moveable feast for the ears and eyes. Songs fill the air from backyard trees to prairies, forests, and ponds. Flashes of color pop here and there. Animals are moving around and competing for mates, even on those March days where poet Robert Frost notes, "The sun was warm but the wind was chill." You can't help but be inspired and entertained by the sights and sounds of spring courtship. See who you might observe dancing and singing this March in this week's Discover Nature Note.
Only birds have feathers, and every bird has them. They are a natural engineering marvel that provide many functions like insulation from the heat and cold, displaying for courtship, and most impressively, lift and drag for flight. See a variety of bird feathers up close in the video and learn more fun facts in this week's Discover Nature Note.
SALAMANDER SWAY FOR VALENTINES DAY: The song "Sway", first made popular by Dean Martin, would choreograph well with the ritual water dance of spotted salamanders. Shortly after Valentine's Day, on the first warm rains of late winter/early spring, hundreds will gather in ponds and sway and swim with a marimba type rhythm. It can look like a flash mob during this brief window of their breeding season. Learn more about spotted and other salamanders in this week's Discover Nature Note.-- Peg@MDC
WINTER WILDLIFE GAMES: While humans compete for sport and honor at the Olympics, Missouri's wildlife are busy hunting, playing and competing for survival. They can be seen performing feats of strength, speed and endurance throughout the Show Me State. Learn more about the competitive skills of Missouri wildlife and see a video of them in action in this week's Discover Nature Notes.
With their own holiday and the most watched weather forecast of the year, groundhogs have reigned through folklore as a predictor of how much winter is left in the season. In some places, people gather to see if they will see their shadow on February 2. A lesser known fact about groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, is that they are also excellent home builders. Learn more about groundhogs as well as the answer to the age old question of "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" in this week's Discover Nature Note.
They might hoot or holler, make a soft whinny, or even repeat your call. Owls are fascinating creatures of the night and their calls can help you identify them. Winter is the best time to hear and see owls which are usually active after dark. Learn more about these nocturnal predators and their environmental benefit in this week's Discover Nature Note.
OUTDOOR WINTER ADVENTURES: If you're having cabin fever, looking for ways to get fit, or spend time with family and friends, consider heading outdoors this season. There's a lot to see and do during the winter in the Show Me state. You can find out how and where to try out three different outdoor adventures in this week's Discover Nature Note.
They are stealthy, savvy and hard to outsmart. Campsites and backyards are common scenes for their night raids. Raccoons are furbearers with an amazing ability to break into containers and garbage cans. Their long fingers on their front paws are perfect for picking locks and latches. They also have an uncanny ability to remember these feats and mimic them from watching each other. Learn more about raccoons and their special skills and value in this week's Discover Nature Note.
With a piercing call, talons, and yellow eyes, bald eagles are fierce predators. Adults have large white-feathered heads that make them easy to spot in flight. Bald eagles fly high in Missouri skies and low along big waterways. These birds of prey can see farther and perceive more colors than the human eye. Bald eagles can spot a fish, their favored food, a mile away. They soar along warm air currents with wings spanning seven feet. Winter is a great time to start a New Year's tradition watching bald eagles in action. Learn more about our nation's symbol, the best places to view them, and where you can catch them up close at an Eagle Days event in this week's Discover Nature Note.