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From Missouri Conservationist: August 2016

What Is It?

What is it 01-08-2016

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


  • Address: PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180
  • Phone: 573-522-4115, ext. 3848 Email: AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov

Q. What bird is this?

It’s a green heron, one of the few birds that have mastered the art of floating things like feathers, twigs, and insects to attract the curiosity of hungry fish. Once the fish’s attention is captured, this patient bird will snatch it from the water with a quick jab of its dagger-like beak.

You can expect to see these summer breeding residents of Missouri near ponds, marshes, rivers, and reservoirs. For more information visit allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id.

Q. I have a healthy population of western painted turtles around my pond. Although a few of their nesting attempts appear successful this year, most have been pillaged, as evidenced by the egg shells strewn around my yard. Recently I found another old girl in the later stages of making her nest. Should I try to protect this nest from predators? Also, how can I tell if a nest hatched successfully or was pillaged?

A. It’s best to let nature take its course. However, some people will protect nests by placing a wire mesh frame over the top of the nest, especially in areas with overpopulated predators.

Each living thing in an ecosystem is part of multiple food chains, and western painted turtles are no exception. This omnivorous generalist turtle survives by eating aquatic plants, snails, crayfish, many insects, and occasionally fish. But their eggs also serve as a source of nutrition for animals higher on the food chain, such as coyotes, foxes, and raccoons.

The animals that prey upon the nests near your pond most likely have young, too, so they are simply trying to survive.

It sounds as if you do, indeed, have predators in the vicinity. Typically, when the hatchlings dig out, they leave their shells behind underground. If you see scattered bits of eggshell on the surface, it’s a sign the eggs were dug up and predated.

Q. We bought a wood-burning stove. It hasn’t been used recently, and when I opened the door, I found four dead bluebirds. They had flown down the chimney and couldn’t find their way out. How can I prevent this from happening again?

A. Chimneys can become nesting places for several cavity-dwelling species, including chimney swifts and eastern bluebirds. Unfortunately, this can become a big problem for both humans and birds alike, especially when an abandoned nest provides unwanted fuel for a flue fire or a bird dies after becoming disoriented in the dark.

Fortunately, it is very easy to bird-proof your chimney with a chimney cap.

A metal mesh cap — often made of galvanized or stainless steel — won’t hinder smoke from escaping, but will prevent small birds and rodents from entering. Chimney caps typically are boxes with solid tops and mesh sides. Various types of caps — some with mesh screening and other with metal bands — are available and can save birds’ lives.

For an open fireplace, lock-top dampers are the best because they effectively block not only birds, but also insects, rodents, and moisture. They also improve a home’s energy efficiency.

It’s important to schedule the installation of a chimney cap when birds are not nesting because it is illegal to remove the nests and eggs of migratory birds.

Chimneys aren’t the only man-made structures that pose challenges for birds. Any vertical cavity — fence posts, dryer vents, clothing lines — also can trap unsuspecting birds.

cartoon 08-2016

Agent Notes

Leaving a Legacy

Most of us were introduced to the sport of hunting by a family member or friend. My dad introduced me to duck hunting when I was 6 years old. The experience from those early hunting trips is the reason I hunt today. It’s also why I make it a priority to share the hunting experience with new hunters.

Somebody once told me it takes a hunter to make a hunter. Hunter recruitment is a responsibility of all sportspeople. With the fall hunting seasons quickly approaching, consider taking a friend, neighbor, or a family member with you. By mentoring a new hunter, you will create memories, help them put food on their table, and build a legacy that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Hunting is part of our national heritage. It’s an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, put food on the table, and build lasting memories. Good luck this hunting season!

Marc Bagley is the conservation agent for Carroll County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.

Operation Game Thief

Help put game thieves out of business. If you see a possible violation in progress, call your county conservation agent immediately or dial the toll-free number below: 1-800-392-1111.

All information is kept in strict confidence. Desirable information includes names of violators, vehicle description, and license number, as well as the violation location.

What Is It?

What is it-02-08-2016

Differential Grasshopper

Melanoplus differentialis
The differential grasshopper is relatively large, growing up to 2 inches, and may be green, brownish-green, or olive green. The femurs of the hind legs have a black herringbone pattern, and the tibias are usually yellow with black saw-toothed spikes. It’s found statewide in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, gardens, grasslands, meadows, prairies, roadsides, and land along ponds and streams. It has become a pest of many food crops, including corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, vegetables, small grains, and the leaves of fruit trees. Adults can travel up to 10 miles in a day in search of food. Mating takes place late in the summer or early fall. Females are capable of laying up to eight egg masses, containing 25 eggs each. The eggs overwinter, and the nymphs emerge the following spring. It takes the nymphs two months to reach adulthood. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler