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From Missouri Conservationist: Apr 2013

What is it?

Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of the Missouri outdoors. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.

what is it 04-2013

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: When can we expect the hummingbirds to appear this spring?

A: An average arrival date for central Missouri is mid-April and late March is typical for our southernmost counties. The ruby-throated hummingbirds will become more numerous in May and decline somewhat by late May, when some of the birds will have moved further north to nest. There is an online website (hummingbirds.net/map.html) that maps the annual migration, but I usually don’t see the birds until a couple of weeks after the first arrivals are reported for my area on the map. Often I’ll see my first hummingbird when my red buckeye tree and the native columbine plants are in bloom. That didn’t work last year, however, because the unusually early spring weather caused the plants to flower well before the birds arrived.

Q: What is meant when someone says that a pond has turned over?

A: During much of the year, pond and lake water is stratified into different layers due to the differing densities of water at various temperatures. Seasonal air temperature influences the surface water temperature. Water is most dense, and therefore heaviest, at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. As it gets colder or warmer, it becomes less dense. Water at 32 degrees or lower (ice) is less dense than 39-degree water, which is why ice floats and is formed at the surface. In the spring and the fall, the upper layers of water in ponds can approach 39 degrees while the deeper water is not that cold. Twice a year the cooler, heavier upper layers of water sink and mix with the warmer water below, resulting in turnover. Turnover is the relatively short-term, gentle, natural mixing of these layers of water. The color, taste, and smell of the water can change as decaying organic matter and trapped gases found in the lower depths become mixed throughout the water column. Most Missouri ponds and lakes turn over in the spring and again in the fall. For more information, visit: go.usa.gov/gEbA.

Q: Why are we limited to three shotgun shells when hunting small game but rifles can have more than three bullets?

A: Shotguns are often used to harvest birds that can be present in flocks (waterfowl, doves) or coveys (quail). With a gun holding three or fewer shells, the hunter is more likely to be selective and make each shot count. Federal regulations require that shotguns be plugged for hunting most waterfowl and other migratory birds. With Missouri regulations, we have tried to keep the plugging requirement consistent for most species so that hunters are not frequently removing and reinserting plugs. That can easily lead to hunters receiving citations because they forgot to insert the plug for a particular species for which it is required.

Ombudsman Tim Smith will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Department of Conservation programs. Write him at PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at 573-522-4115, ext. 3848, or email him at Ombudsman@mdc.mo.gov.

cartoon 04-2013

Agent Notes


One of my favorite things to do in late spring is to set lines for large catfish.Abundant opportunity, liberal creel limits, and great table fare make catfish one of Missouri’s most popular sport fish.When setting trotlines, limb lines, or bank lines in public waters, there are several regulations that need to be followed:

  • Anyone over the age of 15 must possess a valid fishing permit, except Missouri residents 65 years or older (some exemptions may apply, see the Wildlife Code for a full list).
  • Each line must be labeled with the angler’s full name and address or conservation number.
  • Lines may not be left unattended for more than 24 hours or must be completely removed.
  • No more than 33 hooks in the aggregate, for any or all methods, may be used by any person at one time, except in the Mississippi River where not more than 50 hooks in the aggregate may be used by any person at one time.
  • Length and possession limits vary across the state. Make sure that you know the regulations for each species in the water you are fishing.

Try your hand at this popular method. Remember to follow the laws and be safe while enjoying Missouri’s outdoors. Pick up a copy of A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations at your local permit vendor or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3104.

Matt Spurgeon is the conservation agent in Montgomery County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, call your regional conservation office.

What is it?

what is it 04-2013

Aquilegia canadensis

Pictured is the perennial columbine of woodlands found statewide, except in the southeast lowlands. It blooms from April through July and reaches about 2 feet tall. They grow on rock ledges, on rocky slopes in woods, in ravines, and on bluffs, often in shaded locations. Easy to propagate from its many seeds, this columbine is a long-lived garden plant that naturalizes and can even become weedy if you do not deadhead spent flowers. Flowers with such deep nectaries need pollinators with long tongues such as hummingbirds. Columbines begin blooming about the same time that hummingbirds migrate back to our state in spring. Other pollinators include butterflies and moths, particularly the hummingbird moth.—Noppadol Paothong

This Issue's Staff

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