May is a great time to watch birds and identify wildflowers at this wooded area in Cedar County.
If you love to watch birds, identify wildflowers and photograph nature, grab your gear and spend a day at Bluff Springs Conservation Area (CA) near Stockton.
This mostly wooded 415-acre area features one of the best sandstone savanna/open woodland restorations in southwest Missouri. The area also includes a large, natural sandstone glade, and both savanna and glade are maintained through periodic prescribed burning. This treatment suppresses invasive plants and favors the native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and trees.
Bluff Springs CA is home to a multitude of wildlife species, including deer, turkey and squirrel. In particular, the native grasses that grow in the savanna’s understory provide important habitat for ground-nesting birds, such as quail and turkey. More than 15 species of native legumes (plants, such as partridge pea, that are in the bean family) growing in the understory provide important protein-rich seeds for wildlife. Scattered post, black, blackjack and white oaks along with hickories grow over a lush, native-plant ground cover. Here and there are snags—standing dead trees—that appeal to cavity-nesting wildlife. These different habitat components attract redheaded woodpeckers, summer tanagers, indigo buntings and blue-winged warblers.
Wildflowers will be blooming during your May visit, and you can expect to see some woodland, prairie and glade favorites, including lead plant, prairie coreopsis, goat’s rue, bird’s-foot violet and Sampson’s snakeroot.
While the area does have a couple of ponds, access is poor, and fishing is limited. But don’t overlook the value of these ponds for wildlife photography. If you set up early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you may catch images of deer and other wildlife coming to drink during the day’s “golden light” hours.
An overnight stay will give you an early start on morning birding and wildlife viewing. Primitive camping is available on the south edge of the property in a designated area located just north of the parking lot. The area has no privies or trash service, so plan to pack out all waste and trash.
If you enjoy squirrel hunting, mark your calendar to come back in September to take advantage of the area’s good squirrel population. Begin your visit with a trip to the area’s website (listed below) for the brochure, map and bird list.
—Bonnie Chasteen, photo by David Stonner
Recreation opportunities: Bird watching, camping, hunting in season, nature study and photography
Getting there: From Stockton, travel six miles north on Route J, then west a half mile on County Road 752, then north a quarter mile on County Road 1701, and west a quarter mile on County Road 724.
For More Information: Call 417-895-6880, or visit mdc.mo.gov/a9101.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler