Get Outside

By MDC | February 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: February 2021
Body

In February

Ways to connect with nature

Come On, Get Sappy

Sap starts flowing in Missouri forests in February. Missourians can tap sugar maple trees and make their own maple syrup. For more information on this fun family activity, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJe.

You can also watch animals as they enjoy sap season. Squirrels nip off the buds of red and sugar maples as they swell with the sweet nectar and enjoy the sap that oozes out of the twigs. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers also feed on sap, but they use their beaks to drill small holes through the tree’s bark and drink the sap that flows. They fiercely defend their sap wells from other animals, but are not always successful.

Did He See His Shadow

Woodchucks — also known as groundhogs — start to emerge from hibernation in Missouri as early as the first week of February, but severe cold weather may delay them. At first, they come out only for short periods because little food is available, but as the daily temperatures rise and green growth increases, they spend more time aboveground. Adult males tend to emerge from hibernation first. Today’s legend says if the groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, we’ll have six more weeks of winter. No shadow means an early spring. The gist of this is, if it’s sunny on this day, we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Old time Ozarkers had Feb. 14 as the magical day, not Feb. 2.

Sounds of Spring

Nature is alive with sounds as spring approaches. These animals are part of the chorus. Can you pick them out?

  • Snow geese flying overhead make distant-sounding chorus of squawking yips that can be mistaken for coyotes. Their white plumage reflects lights from cities and makes their V-shaped flocks look silvery against the night sky. They overwinter in Missouri and migrate northward February through April.
  • Coyotes’ mating season peaks in late February or early March — and so does their howling. At night, listen for group yip-howls of coyotes: short howls that often rise and fall in pitch, punctuated with staccato yips, yaps, and barks. It can create quite a ruckus.
  • Spring peepers are one of the first species to begin calling in the spring. This amphibian’s peeping, jingling choruses are greeted as a true harbinger for the new season. Find them in fishless woodland ponds, ditches, and fishless wetlands.
  • Red fox mating season peaks in January and February. Its onset is indicated by an increased amount of nocturnal barking. Listen for howls, barks, squeals, and screams.

Take a winter snow walk!

Spending time outside in winter boosts your mood, makes you happier, and can reduce stress. Plus, a winter walk just might help you combat the winter blues.

Be Prepared
  • Review weather conditions before heading out
  • Dress in layers
  • Wear wool socks and waterproof, sturdy footwear
Be Sure to Bring:
  • Insulated gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Neck gaiter or scarf
  • Sunglasses for wind and sun protection
  • A warm drink, water, and snack

As with any walk, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you should be back.

Need a place to go? Visit mdc.mo.gov/places-go

Natural Events to See This Month

Here’s what’s going on in the natural world.

  • Pintails and mallards migrate north
  • Look for animals tracks in new snow
  • Chipmunks come out of hibernation
  • Large flocks of robins return
  • White-tailed deer feed in groups

 

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler