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From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2007

Hot Topic

Excellent article [Home Heating; January 2007]! We have a fire almost every night when the temperature dips below 40 degrees. We burn red oak, white oak and locust.

On page 15 in this article, you list elm under woods with the lowest energy content. In the chart on page 17, elm is listed as having the highest BTUs per cord. I’m confused. Could you straighten me out on which is correct?

Dick Thorsen, Bevier

Editor’s note: The chart of “Heat Values of Various Woods” from page 17 should have listed elm as producing 21.4 million BTUs per cord. We regret any confusion this may have caused our readers.

Thanks for all of the great articles and pictures! I was reading the recent firewood article. Question; we lost a couple of river birch trees to the ice storms. Are they good for campfires, or should I let the city take them away?

Keith E. Prokop, via Internet

Editor’s note: “River birch will burn OK if you let it season for about six months,” says John Tuttle, forest products program supervisor. “I would go ahead and cut it up this spring and then burn it next winter.”

Thanks so much for your fine article on home heating. We heat entirely with wood and have done so for many years. But when we built our small home a few years back, we also installed baseboard electric heat as well as central heat in the A-coil of our AC unit. By the way, neither alternative heat has ever been turned on, which seems like a waste, but at least I’ll have heat available when I’m too old to cut wood.

Heating with wood over the years has certainly saved us an enormous amount of money. We heat with an extremely efficient Country Flame wood stove.

I own and live on 400 acres of timber, which I refer to as an unlimited supply of utilities. I rarely cut a good quality live tree. On the contrary, I search through my forest for large trees which have recently died or good trees that have blown over at the roots from high winds. I have never been unsuccessful as yet to find a couple of these cull trees every year.

One final thought for your readers: always make sure to have the proper equipment such as, but not limited to, ear, eye and head protection, a good sharp chain saw and leather chaps. and if one feels uncomfortable in felling trees, especially large ones, it is best to contact a timber cutter or friend who is accomplished at cutting timber.

Robert Freund, via Internet

Regulations Update

The Web site for the Missouri Register listed on page 27 of the February issue, in Regulations Reflect Missourians’ Conservation Commitment, has been updated by the office of the secretary of state.


Lately I have been seeing robins in my backyard. I don’t remember that happening in the winter before. Last month I had several and today there’s one in my yard. Is this normal?

Janet L. Ehnen, Trimble

Editor’s note: “Robins spend the winter in Missouri every year,” says Brad Jacobs, Department of Conservation ornithologist. “They usually stay close to the cedars that blanket some areas of Missouri, where they feed on the blue fruits of the cedar trees. This winter, because the ground was not frozen until recently, many more robins than usual lingered in Missouri. They normally would have moved farther south. During the last weeks or so of cold, icy weather, many of the holly and other fruit-bearing shrubs and trees have been host to large flocks of robins. They devour the fruits in a few days before moving on to the next fruit tree. Most winters, if you visit some of the extensive overgrown pastures and glades where cedars have grown up, you will find robins. Sometimes, nighttime roosts may contain a million birds or more.”

The letters printed here reflect readers’ opinions about the Conservationist and its contents. Space limitations prevent us from printing all letters, but we welcome signed comments from our readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: What makes these piles of stones on the creek bottom? The piles are 1 1/2 to 2 feet in diameter and up to 2 or 3 inches high in the middle. The stones are mostly the same size. I’ve seen them while wading in Bryant Creek near our home.

A: According to a coworker in Fisheries, “It sounds like these nests were created by the hornyhead chub. Stonerollers also build a nest, but they dig a small trench in very shallow water during their spawning times.”

Different species of fish use a variety of spawning methods. Some nest in the open, some nest in cavities and others just broadcast their eggs in open water.

Other nesters don’t get as elaborate as the hornyhead chub or the stoneroller. Sunfish, bass and goggle-eye fan out bare spots in gravel for a simple nest site. Catfish are generally cavity nesters and prefer hollow logs, large rock rubble, root wads, etc. in which to lay eggs. Catfish (usually males) will guard their nests from predators and fan eggs laid in cavities to keep them oxygenated and free of sediment. White bass, paddlefish, walleye and suckers spawn in open water, usually where a riffle of moving water takes care of cleaning sediment from the eggs.

Another interesting point about fish spawning shared by Fisheries staff is that bluegill are multiple spawners—up to nine times each season under ideal conditions. Fish in the best condition tend to spawn more. This capability is the reason why bluegill are so important—their offspring are available throughout the growing season as forage for other fish. For more information on bluegill, visit online.

To learn more about local fish species, see Dr. William Pflieger’s Fishes of Missouri. This book is available for $17 plus shipping and handling, and sales tax (where applicable). To order, call toll free 877/521-8632 or visit online. It is also available from Department of Conservation regional offices and nature centers.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Circulation - Laura Scheuler