Episode 46: Q&A with a Naturalist Transcript


Nature Boost Podcast  
Episode 46 - Fall Q&A  

[Music playing.]    

>>   Hey there and welcome back to Nature Boost.   I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation.   I'm very excited to welcome back our lovely Runge Naturalist, Sarah Easton.   She is joining us again.    

If you remember, we did a really fun summer Q&A episode with her a few months ago about common questions and concerns that she gets from the public.   It was cool because we got her side.   She deals with the public in person, all the people who come to Runge Nature Center.   And my side, I have dealt with public questions we get from people on our social media pages.    

I thought it would be awesome to bring her back and we could talk about some common topics that people are always curious about in the fall and winter time.    

So Sarah, I am really happy to see you today!   Thank you so much for coming.    

>>   Thank you.   I'm excited to be back.    

>>   To give a little background for people.   We are recording this in the middle of October, but will drop in the middle of November.   This is kind of a little bit   . . . I feel like it is always a little bit of a calm before the storm this time of year.   Before things kind of kick off.   Obviously, a lot of staff get super super busy when deer season kicks off.   So, when this episode will drop there will only be a few days left of the firearms deer season in November, right, Sarah?    

>>   Correct, right.   Firearms deer season goes November 11 through November 21st.    

>>   We actually have a few new seasons this year.   We've got the new firearms CWD portions that run November 22nd through the 26th in select counties.   They did an early antler list season which fun fact backstory I actually hunted for the first time.    


>>   What??!!    

>>   I did.    

>>   Quick experience.   Let's hear about it.    

>>   Quick sidebar on this.   Okay, so, I have never deer hunted before.   I have only gone pheasant hunting.   And my funny story with that is that I was too scared I was going to shoot one of the hunting dogs.   It wasn't like the best pheasant hunt.    

>>   Hey, know your limits.    

>>   Exactly.   I signed up this past October for the early antlers list portion.   It was the Governor's Inaugural Mentor Deer Hunt.   It was specifically for people who had never deer hunted before or had never harvested a deer.   So I have always been curious about deer hunting.   Have you gone deer hunting?    

>>   I have, yeah.    

>>   Okay, so I thought this would be good for me to experience.   I did think about bringing the recorder along to make it a podcast episode.   But I was like, you know what, there are so many moving parts to this that maybe   . . . maybe next time.   Yeah.    

But no, I went into it thinking, "Jill, you are not going to get anything.   You're not."   I got a deer.   I did.    

>>   I'm so proud of you.    

>>   Thank you!    

I was very proud of myself.   I was a little anxious going into something like that.   It was definitely out of the box for me.   But it was, I feel like it will help me with this job.    

>>   Oh, yeah, 100%.    

>>   Now I know exactly what it is like.   I was in a really cool deer stand  

>>   Yeah!    

>>   Yeah, it was cool.   I enjoyed it.   Anyway, thank you for asking.    

Basically we are coming up on a lot of deer season, different methods and archery season.   Something that I think is important for people if you don't hunt, it is great to be aware of these seasons, right?    

>>   Abstly.   And important to be aware of these seasons.    

>>   Yes, from a safety perspective.    


>>   Yes, absolutely.    

>>   Being in conservation areas.   You were saying earlier that people use our conservation areas for a laouto of different things.    

>>   Yes, and if you are not familiar, hunting can take place on private or public land.   Right?   So if someone is hunting on private property or their own property, that makes more sense because you probably aren't going to be walking on to someone else's property.   But there are a lot of hunters who use public land for hunting and that includes our conservation areas.    

I think it is kind of a beautiful thing to think about our conservation areas being used for so many different uses.   They mean something different to different people.   But, we have to respect the ways that different people use those areas.   Part of that is understanding that some people might be using it for hunting, birdwatching, or hiking.    

Just know that if you fall into that later category, part of being safe and being respectful to the people who are using that land for hunting is being cautious and being aware.    And primarily wearing orange when you are out on our conservation areas kind of from now until all the way through January, our archery season goes all the way into January 15th.    

Just be aware that if you are going to be taking your winter hikes.   Which is a wonderful thing to do and we will talk more about that here in a minute.   But, being cautious and wearing orange is a really big one.    

>>   Maybe being aware that you shouldn't wear tan or white.   That is exactly what the deer wear.    

>>   Don't wear your deer Halloween costume out in the woods.    

>>   Let's save that for Halloween.    

So lots of seasons.   Well, archery season is going through January.   It is ongoing and very important to be aware of those seasons and dress appropriately.


>>   Yeah and even if you are not a hunter, I think it is a good idea to either pick up or look online.   We have a specific fall deer and turkey regulation booklet.   Which basically takes the big wildlife code and pulls out everything you need to know specifically for fall and deer turkey hunting.  

But even if you are not a hunter, having that or looking at it online is important because it does have all those dates.   It lists all of the specific conservation areas around the state and what hunting is allowed there and what's not.   If you are using public land for something other than hunting, being aware is part of that, being cautious and knowing what is going on in that area.        

>>   Where are those available?    

>>   All Nature Centers have them, most places that you would buy a hunting permit.   Which if you don't hunt, you are like, "where is that?"   But Walmart, bait shops, sporting goods stores, they are everywhere.   If you start looking and you know what they look like, they are everywhere.   Or online.    

>>   It's online and then yeah, once you kind of know what they look like you do start seeing them everywhere.    

>>   There is a big picture of a deer in front.    

>>   Yes, you can't miss it.   Okay, so speaking of deer.   Busy time for them, too!   They are very active.    

>>   They have a full schedule.    

>>   They do, gosh, yeah.   This is always a great time of the year, well an important part of the year because they are more active to encourage people to be more cautious on the road.    

>>   Absolutely.   They are moving around a little bit more.   They are looking for food that is starting to be a little more scarce.   They are also in that rut, or the mating season, so the males are maybe not thinking clearly all the time.    

>>   They are lovesick, baby!    


>>   They have tunnel vision.   But that might result in them jumping out in front of your car or something like that.   That is a good note to make for this time of year.   They are much more active, so be cautious on the roadways.    

>>   And if there happens to be a deer in the roadway that was unfortunately hit by a car you can call law enforcement if it is a hazard.    

>>   Yeah, yeah.   So, we see a lot of roadkill, unfortunately on the side of the road.   If there is a deer in the road where it is a hazard, you can call your local agent or local law enforcement and they will remove it as a hazard from the roadway.    

>>   A big question that we've gotten on social media and I'm sure you have received in public at Runge.   It is about a deer that has been hit and it is on the side of the road, and it has a nice rack.   How do I get them?   I want it.    

>>   Unfortunately, it is not just a free for all that you can just go grab it.   You need to contact your local agent in your county.   Every county has at least one agent, and some counties have two.   Contact your local county conservation agent.   They will talk to you and ask you a few questions.    Hopefully you can get a disposition from or basically paperwork that you would need to keep with those antlers. In case in the future they came back and asked where you got those antlers from.   You have that record.    

>>   Alright, good to know.   So if there is one that you see, you need to call before you take it.    

>>   Yes.    

>>   So as we were saying earlier, it is getting colder, the days are getting shorter.   But that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't get outside and enjoy the outdoors.    


You know, one big thing a lot of people like to do, myself included, is watching the birds in the winter months.   After it snowed, and then you see a cardinal.   You haven't lived until you have watched a cardinal with snow in the backdrop.   It's magical.   It's beautiful.    

>>   Yes, absolutely.   Funny story.   I had a program just last week I guess.   Last week.   And we were talking a little bit about birds and stuff.   After the program I was talking with one of the visitors and she was like, "Oh my gosh, I love your cardinals."   And I was like, "Really?   A cardinal?"   Then the fact that she said "I love your cardinals" kind of tipped me off.   And I was like, "Where are you from?"   And come to find out, she and her husband had just moved from california.   Which if you are not aware, the northern cardinal's range does not extend to the west coast.   There are no cardinals on the west coast.   She was flabbergasted by a bird that at least I often overlook.    

>>   Yeah, we are used to it.    

>>   Yeah, it it is like, oh another cardinal.   It is a good reminder that even though these may be birds that we see all the time they are still really cool and deserve some awe and respect.    

>>   Oh my gosh.   Yeah.    

>>   A good reminder for me.    

>>   Absolutely, don't take them for granted!   We always get questions.   Is it important to feed birds after it has snowed or in winter in general?    

Tell us about that.    

>>   Absolutely.   Birds need food in the winter, right?   They have a couple adaptations to help them stay warm.   But part of that is their high metabolism.   They shiver to stay warm, kind of like we do.   Which helps keep their body temperature higher but burns a lot of energy.   They need a study supply of food as one of the ways to keep them warm.    


The other piece of it is the benefit it brings for you.   It is I think a lot easier at least in my personal opinion, it is so much easier to start to learn birds and bird watch in the winter because they will come to you.   Right?    

>>   Oh, that's true.   Yeah!    

>>   They are much more likely to come to you.   You can obviously feed in the summer and stuff, too.   But in the winter when food is so scarce, if you put out a little bit of bird seed or bird food, you will have a lot of birds in your backyard.   Versus you traipsing all over the woods trying to see one.    

>>   Right, right.   That 's a really good point.    

>>   Yeah, I think it is a good time if you are interested in bird watching or have dabbled in it but not sure where to start.   I encourage people to start in the winter.   They come to you so it is easier to see them.    

Also, if you are overwhelmed with the number of birds we have in Missouri, winter is more manageable because a lot of the migrants have gone.   You get the resident birds which gives you a good base then when you get a little more advanced and want to learn from some of our migrants.   You already have that good base of yes, that is a cardinal.    

>>   Absolutely.    

>>   I encourage people to start in the winter if they are interested in birdwatching.   We actually have a couple of bird programs coming up this winter at Runge.   So if you have a local Nature Center nearby, check that out.   They may have some winter bird watching opportunities, too.    

>>   Alright, good to know!   I was looking at a blue jay the other day.   I thought to myself, do female blue jays have similar coloring?   Because you know how usually females are not as colorful as the males, right?   They have to be near the nest and they want to be incognito.   I have never seen a female blue jay that looks brown.    

>>   What you are referring to is sexual dimorphism meaning that males and females look different.    


>>   Right.   Okay.    

>>   That is true for most birds.   Like what you were saying, the females look duller and the males have the brighter colors and that kind of thing.   That is not true for blue jays.    

>>   Okay, that is what I was wondering.   The females are blue, too.   I know that sounds silly.    

>>   They are actually not blue.   There are no blue birds, actually.    

>>   What are you talking about?    

>>   Do you want to know the secret?    

>>   Yes.    

>>   So, there are no actual blue birds.   Bird feathers get their color through one of two ways.   They get it through the pigment which is usually determined by what they eat or their diet.  

A blue feather, whether it is from a blue jay or a blue bird or whatever.   It is not the color of the feather.   It looks blue to us because of the structure of the feather.   On a molecular level, the structure reflects light that appears blue to us.   If you hold it   . . . I got to give   . . . my coworker Austin will be so mad because this is totally his thing.   He likes to use this as a magic trick.   So if I don't give him credit, he will be mad.   But if you hold it in a different light, the feather just looks gray or kind of dull black.    


Then you bring it down where it is refracting into our eyes, it appears blue again.    

>>   Oh, wow!   Interesting!   We all learned something right now!    

>>   Yeah, the more you know.    

>>   Definitely worth mentioning.   Wow.   I am going to remember that the next time I see a blue jay in my backyard now.    

Okay, so on the topic of birds.   Something that is really really fun and very popular in the winter months that MDC offers is Eagle Days.    

>>   I love Eagle Days!    

>>   Yeah?   Tell us more!    

>>   It is just such a cool story to begin with, right?   One, it is just a great time of year to see eagles.   That is probably the main reason.   But I think it is also just cool that we have taken the time to celebrate not only our national symbol.   But such a cool conservation success story.   There was a time we didn't see eagles.   Seeing a bald eagle was newsworthy.   Now it is pretty common, luckily.    

>>    As common as cardinals.    

>>   Yeah.   Just like our cardinals.    

It is pretty easy to see one.   What a cool success story that we can point to for conservation.
But back to that, the first thing I mentioned.   It is a great time of year to see eagles.    

>>   Why is it a great time of year to see eagles?    

>>   Let me tell you.    

>>   Let me hear it!    

>>   So one thing that people don't necessarily know.   We do have resident bald eagles in Missouri.   Right?   We have eagles that live here all year round.   We also have migrant eagles who come, believe it or not, you might not feel this way in the middle of a Missouri winter, but for some of those eagles this is like the balmy tropics.   Their range can extend all the way up to the Boreal Forest and pretty far north.   So if those eagles are spending time up there, you know, they come down here for a warm winter.    


In a Missouri winter, having our residents and our migrants here, they need open water to eat.   They are fish eating eagles.   Usually we are kind of good . . . oh boy.   Longitude?   Latitude?    

>>   Latitude fatitude, longitude like length.   Right?   I think that's right.   That is how I remember it.    

>>   I hope so.    

>>   So . . . latitude?    

>>   Latitude fatitude.    

>>   Latitude fatitude, yeah.    

>>   We are at a pretty good latitude where we still have some open water.   We are kind of at the northern part of where they would migrate down.   Is that making sense?    

>>   No, it does.   Yeah.   It does.    

>>   How do I say that?    

>>   Of their   . . . the northernmost point of their   . . .  

>>   Winter range.    

>>   Winter range, yeah.    

>>   Yeah so our latitude usually allows for some open water which kind of puts us at the northern part of their winter range.   So they are still able to eat and have plenty of open water to fish on.   And that mixture of our residents with those extra added migrants, just makes it seem like you see bald eagles all over the place.    

>>   That is so interesting.   The next time I complain about our cold winter, I am going to remember the eagles.   This is summer for them down here.   This is their little tropical vacation.    

We hold Eagle Day events all across the state, correct?   Usually it kicks off   . . . does it start in December or more in January?    

>>   I think a lot of them are in January.   Most, I think, pretty much all the Nature Centers have some type of Eagle Day and a lot of other conservation areas as well.    


You know, they are usually kind of centered around places with running water and moving water.   Like we mentioned, eagles primarily eat fish although they can eat a lot of other things as well.   They primarily eat fish.    So if you are out looking for a bald eagle in the winter, kind of head towards rivers and bigger lakes and things like that where there is still open water.   You will be more likely to see one.    

>>   Be sure to keep an eye on Eagle Day events near you.   Or you know, if you want to go out and do your own Eagle Day go to some water.    

By the time this airs, it will be the third Thursday in November.   Thanksgiving is coming up which is basically your free for all to binge on a bunch of food.   But I want to mention that there are some really fun programs that some of our Nature Centers offer, like Walk Off the Turkey Programs.    It is nice to get outside and enjoy nature and get some extra steps in.   All the trails outside of all the Nature Centers are really nice and so scenic.   It's good.      

Don't get me wrong, I love to take a nap after my turkey coma.   But you know, sometimes I gotta get this body moving.    

>>   You know, some physical movement after a meal can really help with digestion.    

>>   Very good.    

>>   Wrangle up the family and head to your conservation area or nature center.    

>>   Yeah, either or!    

Let's move on to some common questions you get about wildlife in the winter.   I am sure you will get some fun ones.   One you mentioned is one I am very curious about.   Some people want to know how fish survive when the lake freezes or a pond freezes.   What happens?    

>>   Yeah!   Poor fish.   No, they are alright.    


I want to put that out there as a blanket statement.   They are doing okay.   They are going to make it through the winter.   Like we mentioned with eagle days, we are at a sweet spot where our lakes will get ice sometimes.   I have a vivid memory of growing up in Columbia and Stephens Lake Park.   I want to put a caveat on this because I'm not sure you are supposed to do this anymore.   But one winter when I was younger, it was really cold and Stephens Lake froze over.   We were out walking on it and my dad slipped and fell!    

>>   Oh, no, did the ice break?    

>>   No, the ice didn't break.    

>>   Oh gosh, I thought it was going to be a rescue story.    

>>   I guess in hindsight, my story was not as exciting as I thought it was.    


>>   Okay, okay, but it was solid.    

>>   It is a little anticlimactic.   No, he didn't fall through.   He just fell and hit his head really hard and we went home after that.    

But I will tie it back in.   Even though the ice on Stephens Lake was thick enough for us to walk on and it didn't break when my dad fell.   I would bet lots of money that the lake was not frozen completely through all the way down to the bottom.   Right?   That is what I am getting at.   Even if we get a really cold winter where a lot of our lakes will have ice on top, we are not at a climate where our lakes are freezing completely through.   A lot of lakes don't even do that, even further north from here.    

There always is some amount of water below that ice, even if the ice is pretty thick.   That is where you will find the fish.    


Fish are a cold blooded animal.   So, like a lot of other reptiles and things like that, their metabolism slows down in the winter.   Their needs are not as much in the winter because of that.   They are able to kind of go not dormant, but kind of power down.   They just hang out.    

>>   Yeah.   Good to know.   And also, I hope your dad is okay.    

>>   He has never been the same.   [Laughing.]   In the best way, love you, dad.   He listens to this podcast.    

>>   I love it!    

>>   I was actually just telling somebody else after my last episode aired, without my knowledge he was coming down to visit me and he showed up in a Nature Boost t-shirt.    

>>   Aw, I love it!   He's a fan!   What's his name?    

>>   Clint.    

>>   Oh, hi Clint!   Thanks for being a friend.   I appreciate it.    

>>   Um so, some fish species will actually kind of burrow into the sediment of a pond at the bottom of the pond into all the mud and stuff.    

>>   Oh really?    

>>   They kind of do go dormant.   That is also true of our turtles and frogs.   They will bury down into the sediment and that is how they spend the winter.    

>>   See and that was something I was very curious about.   Earlier this year I interviewed Jeff Brigler about what happens.   Where are they?   Where are the reptiles?   What's happening?   Whenever he said that it made sense.   So fish can kind of do that too, then?    

>>   Some species, yeah.    

>>   Interesting.    

>>   They kind of burrow into the soil.    

>>   Weird.   Okay.   Keeping on this theme.   So birds have a high metabolism and they are warm blooded, if you didn't know.    

Who knew?    

So how do they stay warm?    


>>   Birds do not hang out in the water for the winter.   They have a couple different ways that they adapt to the cold.   The first being that they get out of here.    

>>   They just leave.      

>>   There are, of course, a lot of birds who have decided they would rather take the risk of traveling hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to stay warm rather than adjust to the cold.   That is kind of a cheap answer.   But that is one way that some birds deal with the winter.   Right?    

>>   I'm glad that you mentioned it, though.    

>>   They just get out of here.    

Now for the birds who hang around it is a trade off.   They have to decide what is worth it.   For the birds who are hanging around, there are a couple ways that they can stay warm.   They will shiver, for the same reason we do.   We are trying to use that energy and work our muscles and things like that.   They shiver to stay warm.   However, that takes a lot of energy.   Which is why they will be frequent flyers at your bird feeder.   So they can shiver to increase that metabolic rate and burn energy.    

But, another very common thing that they will do is to fluff up their feathers.   Fluff.   Yeah.   If you've ever seen after it snows you see that little cardinal sitting on a branch and he just looks plump.   He is sitting on that branch and he is like a plump little cardinal.    

>>   I know what you are talking about.    

>>   Yeah, you can picture it because you have seen it before.    

>>   I have.    

>>   He is not actually that plump.   He is actually probably perfect in his own way.   Everyone has different bodies.    

>>   I love that.    

>>   If you removed his feathers, he would be much much smaller.   He is fluffing up those feathers and filling them with air as a way to insulate himself.   So he is trapping lots of air in his feathers like a blanket.    

>>   Oh, I love that!    


Do they stay like that for a while?   Is it just like a momentary thing that they do it?    

>>    Yeah, they will stay like that for a while until they get warmer.    

>>   Until they get warm.   Okay, I got ya.    

>>   However, the caveat to that is that their feathers need to be clean and dry when they do that.   Right?   If you are trying to do that with wet feathers it won't work very well.   If we get snow, that's probably better for them than freezing rain.   It is hard to keep your feathers dry in freezing rain, rather than a nice fluffy snow.    

>>   What I love learning about all of this is how cool it is that they have adapted and evolved so much to survive.    

>>   It's crazy.   How do they know to do all these things?    

>>   It's just that intrinsic animal instinct.    

>>   If I was trapped outside in the cold, I would die.    

>>   Absolutely.    

>>   An animal's ability to survive not only in the winter, but anytime, blows my mind.    

>>   Yeah, it's really cool.   I hope that people listening to this feel the same way.   Talking about fish and then birds, if you bring them together you get waterfowl right?    

>>   Oh, is that how that works?   Fish + birds equals waterfowl.    

>>   Call them A, call them B.   How do they stay warm in that freezing water that they are wading in?    

>>   Okay, this one blows my mind.   So waterfowl, either they are floating in ice cold water, or they are standing on ice.   Right?    

>>   They're animals.    

>>   It just looks miserable.   But, they have adapted this really cool way to stay warm.    


It has to do with the countercurrent heat exchange in their legs.    

>>   What??    

>>   So, the artery and the vein in water fowl feet are positioned right next to each other.    

>>   Okay.    

>>   So that when the blood coming away from the heart and away from the main cavity of the body is nice and warm, it passes next to the cold blood coming back from their foot.    

>>   Oh so it warms it as it goes?    

>>   Not only does it warm the blood coming back into the body, but because it's losing heat then when that blood gets down into the foot, the temperature difference between the foot and the ice is not so drastic.   When you have a big temperature difference, that is when you lose a lot of heat.   Having the foot and the ice be much closer in temperature reduces the total amount of heat loss.   Isn't that crazy?    

>>   Again, that is just so cool that their bodies have evolved that way for them to survive in that type of environment.    

>>   Isn't that cool?    

>>   I don't think you can beat that.   What beats that?   Maybe the frog whose heart stops beating.    

>>   That one's pretty cool, too, yeah.    

>>   That one's crazy, yeah.   Kind of going back to ways to enjoy nature in the colder months, it is a big season for people who like to go trout fishing in the wintertime.   We do winter trout stocking. I believe in the first week in November they start going out and stocking the light for the urban fishing program.    

>>   Yeah, all across Missouri, usually in more urban areas trout that are raised at MDC's cold water hatcheries are sent across the state and stocked into ponds.   MDC will create partnerships with city and county ponds and things like that and stock them with trout for the winter.    

>>   I believe it is a catch and release.    


>>   Oh oh oh!    

>>   Am I wrong?    

>>   Only because I had to look this up before I came.   It depends on where you are.   Around here in central Missouri at least, this is why I got confused.   Our stock lakes in Columbia and Jeff City, we always say February 1st.   After February 1st is when you can catch it and keep it.   Up until then, it is catch and release.    

However, when I got to look, there are lakes in St. Louis and Kansas City where those dates are different.   I have that specific note to tell anyone interested.   Make sure you double check the specific rules for the lakes in your area.   Again, like we mentioned with the fall, deer and turkey booklet, we have a specific Missouri Fishing Regulations booklet you can find at all those same places.    

I am looking at it right now.   It has a specific table with all of the lakes that are stocked.   It has a column specifically to tell you when you can catch and keep those trout.    

>>   I love how comprehensive those booklets are.   That information is so nice to have in that booklet or all of this is also available online on the website as well.    

I am glad you mentioned that.   It really just depends on where you are at.    

>>   Yes.   In St. Louis, they try to stagger a couple lakes where catch and keep is November 1st to January 31st.   And some lakes are from February 1st to the next October.   They try to stagger that so that not all the trout are gone immediately.    

>>   That's smart.    

>>   The trout stocking program is a really cool opportunity because they specifically stock lakes kind of in cities and things like that.    For people who if it is not possible to get to some of our trout parks, we have trout parks around the state.  


Although depending on where you are, they can be a little bit harder to get to.   It brings that unique fishing opportunity.   Trout fishing is a cool thing to fish for.   It brings that unique opportunity to people.    

But that being said, I want to make sure everyone is prepared.   If you are trout fishing with the intention of keeping those trout to eat, you need not only your fishing permit but also you need an additional trout tag.    

>>   I'm glad that you mentioned that because that is a big question that we have received on our social media pages.   I think a lot of time people forget about that daily trout tag.    

>>   We think about it a lot more if you are going to a trout park.   But even if you are fishing in one of those stocked trout lakes, you need your fishing permit if you are over 16, and a trout tag no matter what age you are.   That is a little caveat, too.   Under 16, you do not need your fishing license.   But if you are under 16 and trout fishing, you still need a daily trout tag.    

>>   You need the tag no matter how old you are.   You can get the tag on the MO fishing app, correct?    

>>   Yes.    

>>   Love that!   So convenient.    

Okay, just a few things left that I would like to discuss with you.    

Let's talk about the leaves after they have fallen.   Do we rake?   Or do we not rake?   That is the question.    

>>   You know what my answer is going to be.    

>>   Let me hear it.    

>>   No!    

>>   Okay why should we not rake our leaves?    

>>   Because I am lazy.    

>>   Girl, same  
>>   No, this is a win/win.   You don't have to rake your leaves and you can help the environment.   Why would you not?    

>>   Why does leaving the leaves help the environment?    

>>   So many reasons.   It is a chain reaction.    


Primarily we want to leave those leaves because there are tons of invertebrates.   Spiders, insects and snails and all these types of things that use these leaves as their primary habitat.   Talking about how wildlife survive winter.   That is how these guys survive winter.   They need that blanket and insulation to survive the winter.   Then going on from there, it is a catalyst effect.   Small mammals and birds and reptiles are feeding on all of these things that are staying in the leaves.   It cascades out from there.   It has such a bigger impact than you really think about.    

>>   I've got two big oak trees in my backyard.   The leaves have not even begun to fall.   They always fall super late.   So you're telling me that I can leave those leaves all winter?   All winter?   And then just   . . . I can mow in the spring?    

>>   So sometimes you can consider mulching the leaves up a little bit.   But really you don't have to do anything if you don't want to.    

>>   I don't want to.   Don't make me, Sara.    

>>   And when your neighbor comes over and knocks on your door, you can be like, "Dude, I am helping the world."    

>>   That is exactly what I am going to say.   What are you doing?    

>>   Yeah, what are you doing?    

>>   Not helping, obviously.    

>>   Just for context, I don't pick up any of my leaves.   And my neighbor does.   There is a big juxtaposition between my yard and the yard next to me.   But, you know what?   That's not going to change me.    

>>   Exactly.   Exactly.    


Okay.   Alright so we should all leave the leaves and then we would be helping the wildlife.    

>>   Yeah absolutely it is kind of a cascading effect.   But there actually are some larger animals that use the leaves too.   Box turtles and snakes, a lot of species of salamanders overwinter in those leaves, too.   You are helping probably more invertebrates that you can even count, but there are larger animals as well that rely on that blanket of leaves.    

There is also a benefit to your plants.   Those leaves are an excellent source of nitrogen and organic matter that can give back important nutrients to the soil.   But they can also kind of protect the root system like a tree over the winter.   They can hold in soil moisture which I think if you are anything like me, you know how dry and cracked your hands get in the winter.   We know how dry it can be.   So you know, that is a harsh time for plants as well.   Having those leaves can hold in that moisture.   That is another way to benefit the tree, which again, benefits other insects and benefits our birds.    

>>    Okay, alright.   So let's leave the leaves, people!    

Last thing I would like to talk about.   Obviously, we are getting into the holiday season.   Do you use a real Christmas tree?   Personally?   I don't.   I have a pink Christmas tree.    

>>   I don't.   I don't.   I have heard mixed things about which one is better or not.   And I don't know.    

>>   Well, I can remember, my family used to get a real Christmas tree.   I have fond memories of like   . . . did you ever do this as a kid?   Did you ever just crawl under the Christmas tree and look up at the branches?    

>>   Aw, so cute.    

>>   Well not whenever it drips sap on your hands.    

>>   Ohh.   Yeah.   That's probably stuck in there for a while.    

>>   I remember that.    


>>   I also remember one of our dogs drinking the water from the   . . .  

>>   Oh, look, a new water bowl!    

>>   But then we slowly started kind of morphed into just getting the artificial tree.   But for those people who still do get live Christmas trees, you can recycle.   You can use that again whenever you are done with it for the season.   For wildlife.   Tell us about that.    

>>   You can't use it again.    

>>   No, I cannot.    

>>   Like that wouldn't work.   You can't use it next year.   But it has a second use.   It has a second purpose.    

>>   Reuse it for something else, yes, sorry if I misspoke.    

>>   We are not encouraging you to keep a dead tree in your house.    

>>   They are highly flammable and very brittle.    

>>   That tree, after being a wonderful symbol in your living room for Christmas, can have a second life at the bottom of a lake.   That tree actually can provide crucial habitat for fish in Missouri lakes and ponds.    

>>   Because fish like to hide out.    

>>   Because they celebrate Christmas, too, Jill.   Geez.    

No, you are absolutely right.   It provides habitat for them.   Fish like to feel secure like we do.   They need a shelter and a place to "live."   Most lakes, I would say 99.9% of lakes are man made lakes.   Right?   So at some point, something has come in there and dug it out.   Through that process you remove most of the natural structure of a lake, right?   So if we were to die cut a lake, it would look like a big bowl.    

>>   Right.    


>>   If you are a fish, there are not a lot of places for you to go.   So putting those trees in there gives them a place to hide, gives them a place to rest.   It's a huge place for aquatic invertebrates to cling on to and grow.   Which in turn, is food for the fish.   It has, again, kind of like our leaves, has a cascading amount of benefits by putting those trees in there.    

>>   So remember that if you get a live Christmas tree this year and you're not sure what to do with it after the season, you could give the gift to the fish.   Let the gift keep on giving.   Can you put trees in your backyard?   Could you do that as well?    

>>   Yes, you can.   It is kind of the same thing, providing that shelter or habitat for a lot of birds or small mammals to have that brush pile to hide out in or to insulate themselves if it is really cold.   That is also an option as well if you have a place to put that out there.    

>>   Very cool.   Alright.   I want to ask you one final question before you leave today.    

What is your favorite thing to do in nature in the fall and winter time?   Do you have anything that you like to do?   Any fun things that you look forward to doing at this time of year?    

>>   I always love to be outside, right?   So my initial thought when you said that was hiking.   I think being outside is a magical time.   It seems usually kind of quiet.   Especially if it snows.   If it snows, I am for sure going to be outside somewhere.   But even if not, there is kind of a hush.   Everything slows down, you know?   I like to be outside.    

One thing that I was excited to come on this episode and be able to talk so much about winter is the idea of promoting that we can still go outside in the winter!   You know?    


One of my biggest pet peeves, I pörböly have several.   But one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, "oh, the bad winter weather is here."   And it's not bad.   It's what we expect in winter.   We just need to be adequately prepared for it.   You can still go outside.   It's not a bad time to go outside.   You just need to make sure you are dressed appropriately and prepared.   You can still have a wonderful experience with nature outside.    

>>   You know I love going outside whenever it rains.    

>>   Oooooh!   Like listening to the rain?    

>>   I love listening to the rain.   I love the smell of rain.   I love that smell.   Again, it is one of those times that you don't really encounter people out because they don't like to be out in the rain.    

>>   I did make that note about going outside in winter.   I said, less people, less insects.    

>>   Yeah!   That's true.   Those are good things.    

>>   I love insects but I can understand why that might be a cause for concern.    

>>   Yeah, I love that about the snow, too.   Especially the snow on a sunny day.   It is so beautiful and bright.   Just because the white snow kind of reflects the sunlight.   Then it almost just looks like it is glittering.    

>>   Yes!    

>>   I love the sound of boots walking in snow.   Just everything.   It is a feast for the senses in general.    

>>   Yes, absolutely!   As long as the core part of your body is warm and dressed appropriately, I love a little chill on my nose and cheeks.   I love when my cheeks get kind of cold.    

>>   A little windblown a little bit.   Yeah.   Yeah.   Then I feel like it just makes you appreciate the warm house.    

>>   Yes, you have to follow it up by going inside and drinking hot chocolate.   It is all part of it, right?    

>>   It is part of the experience.    


That's so true.   We know winter is coming.   It's not like it is coming out of nowhere.   This happens every year.   But yeah, just making sure you are prepared for it.   There is a time and a season.   There is just something magical about the winter season.    

>>   Yes, I mean, I really think nature teaches us everything we need to know and just the benefit of taking time to rest.    

>>   Yes!    

>>   To reset.   Nature has to reset itself.   That is kind of what is happening in the winter.   I think there is a lot of beauty in the symbolism of winter.    

>>   I love that.   A lesson to be learned for every season.   Very good.   I think we will end on that note.   I don't think we can get better than that right now.    

>>   Sara, thank you so much again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit with me and talk about all things nature and outdoors.   I hope that we can do this again in the future.    

>>   Absolutely.    

>>   Our online field guide on missouriconservation.org is such a great resource.   You can type in the species that you are wanting to learn more about and it will pop up.   You can learn more about any wildlife or plant life in Missouri.   There are a lot of events we have posted on the website.  

Just go online missouriconservation.org/events and you can find anything or everything you need to know about Eagle Days or the Walk Off the Turkey programs.   You can find more about trout fishing in Missouri.    Anything coming up this winter you can find on our website.   I hope that you do that!    

I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to get your daily dose of the outdoors.    

[Music playing.]      


Yeah, Sara is the best and she's so   . . . I'm going to edit that out.   Do you ever start a sentence and you don't know where it is going?    

>>   You can keep going, I love to hear it.    

>>   Pay me that compliment.    

>>   Gas me up.    


[End podcast.]