News and updates from MDC
Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?
Annual permits to expire at the end of February.
MDC reminds Missouri hunters and anglers that annual permits expire at the end of February. These include 2017 permits for small game, fishing, trout fishing, and combination hunting and fishing.
Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from vendors around the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, or through MDC’s free mobile apps, MO Hunting and MO Fishing. These are available for download through Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for Apple devices. Save time by buying hunting and fishing permits for multiple people in a single transaction. Select the “Additional Customer” option during the permit purchase.
Commercial permits and lifetime permits can be purchased only through the MDC Permit Services Unit by calling 573-522-0107 for an application.
Forestry staff reminds you not to throw out your cut Christmas tree after the holidays. Recycle it! Many communities have Christmas tree recycling programs. If not, there are several creative ways to make further use of your tree.
Place the undecorated tree in the backyard near your bird feeder to provide refuge for birds or along a shrubby edge to offer cover for other wildlife or springtime nesting opportunities. Add some post-holiday treats as ornaments by coating pinecones with peanut butter and sprinkling them with birdseed.
Have your tree shredded or chipped for mulch, or place cut branches over dormant plants to provide a bit of insulation during the winter and to add organic matter as the needles fall.
You can also sink the tree in a pond to provide fish a place to rest, nest, and escape predators. Multiple live trees make the best cover so work with friends, family, and neighbors to combine efforts. Anchor the trees with concrete blocks and sink them at a depth of about 8 feet with the trees placed in a row.
If you used a balled-and-burlapped live evergreen this holiday season and the ground is still soft enough to dig, add it to your home landscape for years of enjoyment and wildlife cover.
Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.
Q: We’ve had a cardinal flying into our windows for several years. We’ve put chimes in the trees and hung silver strings of beads. Nothing works and he’s banging the heck out of his head. How can we get him to go somewhere else?
A. It sounds like you are seeing some combative behavior, which happens when male Northern cardinals defend their turf from other males. The bird perceives his mirror image as another male and works to remove the offender from the area. Females do this, too, to defend nesting sites in the breeding season.
The best way to prevent this behavior is to break up the window’s reflection, or shroud it, until the bird moves on. Shiny things aren’t scaring the bird away; he can still see his “competitor’s” reflection. Instead, try to make the window opaque with soap streaks, tape, screens, fabric, decals, netting, newspaper, one way transparent film, etc. For more advice on how to limit this behavior, visit allaboutbirds.org/ why-birds-hit-windows-and-howyou- can-help-prevent-it.
Q: What butterfly is this?
A. This butterfly is the species Polygonia interrogationis, commonly known as the question mark butterfly. It is a close relative of the eastern comma and gray comma butterflies (Polygonia comma and Polygonia progne).
While many butterflies overwinter as larvae or pupae, these Polygonia species spend the winter as adults. Watch for these beauties flying on warm winter afternoons. Question mark and comma butterflies have similar life cycles, featuring two broods per year. Notably, the butterflies are much darker in the summer than in the winter, when their brighter colors enliven winter’s dull landscape.
All three of these Polygonia species are brownish-orange with dark spots. One way to tell the difference between question mark butterflies (also known as violet tips) and comma butterflies (sometimes called hop merchants) is to count the spots on their front wings. Comma butterflies have a row of three spots on their upper wings, while question mark butterflies have a fourth spot.
Another way to identify the species is to examine the undersides of their hind wings. Each question mark butterfly has a tiny, silver, sideways question mark. Comma butterflies are punctuated by a C-shape. Gray commas are named for the dark gray bark-like striations on their undersides.
Folded up, all three butterflies blend into the leaf litter of the woodland floor. Question mark and comma butterflies are drawn to tree sap, decaying fruit, animal droppings, carrion, and mud puddles. Only occasionally do these species seek out flower nectar.
Q: I recently saw several of these ice flowers on a hike. What are they called and how do they form?
A. You came across some delightful examples of frost flowers. This happens when water freezes in the stem of a plant, such as crownbeard or dittany. Because water expands when it freezes, it is extruded from the stem in these beautiful, curled ribbons.
A member of the woodpecker family, the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) delights bird-watchers at feeders, particularly when suet is on the menu. Flickers excavate the ground for insects, especially ants. In fact, northern flickers consume more ants than any other bird. They need dead wood — standing or on the ground — for nesting and foraging. Without it, their population declines significantly.
With the new year often comes new year’s resolutions — promises to get more exercise or take up a new hobby. Hunting antler sheds combines both and helps you discover nature in the process. It’s a great activity for the whole family, and all you need is the power of keen observation. You don’t need a permit to participate or keep your harvest. But if you find antlers still attached to a skull, you must report your discovery within 24 hours and obtain a wildlife disposition from your local conservation agent. Be sure and have your agent’s phone number handy for just such instances. You can find it at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZoF.
Jim Wiggs enjoys working with MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Blake Stephens to offer fish gigging clinics for youth on his property, which lies along the Warm Fork of the Spring River in Oregon County.
“Jim invests a lot of time each year in getting his property ready to receive first-time giggers and their families,” Stephens said. “He is a great ambassador for conservation.” Over the last two years, Wiggs has hosted nearly 100 people, including kids, families, and volunteers, some from as far away as Kansas City. Wiggs and Stephens plan to offer another clinic in 2018.
“We’ve got to pass it on. If we don’t pass it on, it’s going to be lost,” he said. “The kids that come, a lot of them have never done anything like this. One little girl who gigged her first fish, she just came unglued. The kids have a blast.”
MDC and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) invite Missouri public, private, and home-school students in grades K–8 to participate in the 2018 ”Yes You CAN Make Missouri Litter-Free” trash can decorating contest. The annual contest is sponsored by MDC and MoDOT as part of the state’s ”No MOre Trash!” statewide litter campaign.
The contest encourages school classes and groups to join in the fight against litter by decorating and displaying a large trash can with the ”No MOre Trash!” logo and a litter-prevention message using a variety of creative media. Schools may submit one entry in each competition category: K–2, 3–5, and 6–8. Entries are judged based on creativity, adherence to contest rules, and effective use of theme and logo.
First-place winners from each competition category receive $200 awarded to the sponsoring schools. All first-place winners are then eligible for a grand prize of a trophy and $600 awarded to the sponsoring school.
There is no entry fee for the contest. Participating school groups must submit a completed entry form online with up to three photos to nomoretrash.org by March 16. Contest rules, entry forms, logo, past contest entries and winners, and educational information can also be found at nomoretrash.org.
Missouri’s winter eagle watching is spectacular, and there are still plenty of opportunities to discover nature through Eagle Days events around the state.
MDC Eagle Days events include live captive-eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos, and guides with spotting scopes. Watch for eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. View them early in the morning to see eagles flying and fishing. Be sure to dress for winter weather and don’t forget cameras and binoculars.
Can’t make an Eagle Days event? Other hot spots for winter eagle viewing on your own include the following:
For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/EagleDays.
Beginning last November, MDC fisheries staff stocked more than 75,000 rainbow trout in more than 32 urban area lakes around the state for winter trout fishing. Many of these areas allow anglers to harvest trout as soon as they are stocked, while other areas are catch-and-release until Feb. 1. To find locations near you, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZoH.
Beginning Feb. 1, all urban area lakes allow the harvest of trout. The daily limit is four trout with no length limit. All Missouri residents older than 15 and younger than 65 must have a fishing permit. All nonresidents over 15 must have a fishing permit. To keep trout, all anglers regardless of age must have a Missouri trout permit. Learn more about trout fishing at short.mdc.mo.gov/Z5r.
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