In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: December 2018

News and updates from MDC

What Is It?

What is it

Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?

Discover Nature with Eagle Days Local Events Hosted to Celebrate the Return of Our National Bird

With our big rivers, many lakes, and abundant wetlands, Missouri is one of the leading lower 48 states for eagle viewing. Get out this December through February and enjoy these magnificent birds on your own or at one of MDC’s Eagle Days events, located around the state.

Each fall, thousands of eagles migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in the Show-Me State. Eagles take up residence wherever they find open water and plentiful food. More than 2,000 bald eagles are typically reported in Missouri during winter. MDC Eagle Days events are listed below. Events include live captive-eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos, and guides with spotting scopes. Watch for eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. View them early in the morning to see eagles flying and fishing. Be sure to dress for winter weather and don’t forget cameras and binoculars.

  • Mound City: Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City. Call 816-271-3100 for more information.
  • Kansas City: Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Jan. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Smithville Lake Paradise Pointe Golf Course Clubhouse, north of Kansas City. Call 816-532-0174 for more information.
  • St. Louis: Jan. 19 and 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, south of I-270 off Riverview Drive. Call 314-301- 1500 for more information.
  • Springfield: Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 20 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Call 417-888-4237 for more information
  • Clarksville: Jan. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lock and Dam 24 and Apple Shed Theater. Call 660-785-2424 for more information.
  • Jefferson City: Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Runge Conservation Nature Center. Call 573-526-5544 for more information.
  • Puxico: Feb. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. Call 573-222-3589 for more information. Can’t make an Eagle Days event? Here are some hot spots for winter eagle viewing on your own:
  • Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnell Dam Access, east of Bagnell
  • Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Route K, southwest of Columbia
  • Lock & Dam 20, Canton
  • Lock & Dam 24 at Clarksville
  • Lock & Dam 25, east of Winfield
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Puxico
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, south of I-270, off of Riverview Drive, St. Louis
  • Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area, east of West Alton
  • Schell-Osage Conservation Area, north of El Dorado Springs
  • Smithville Lake, north of Kansas City
  • Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, south of Mound City
  • Stella at Moses Eagle Park
  • Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, south of Sumner
  • Table Rock Lake and Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, southwest of Branson
  • Truman Reservoir, west of Warsaw For more information on bald eagles, visit the MDC online Field Guide at For more information on Eagle Days, visit

Wild Webcast

Mark your calendar for Wild Webcast: Bald Eagles
and Eagle Days Dec. 4 from noon to 1 p.m. Join MDC
Resource Scientist Janet Haslerig and Media Specialist
Dan Zarlenga as they discuss bald eagles and the perennially
popular MDC Eagle Days events. To register, visit


Got a Question for Ask MDC?  Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: Hawks can be challenging to identify. How can I tell the difference between Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks?

A. With their steely blue-gray coloring above and reddish bars below, adult Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii) and sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) not only resemble one another, they also have similar habits. Even expert birders don’t always have a definite answer. But with a careful eye, it’s possible to notice some differences.

Here are a few clues:

  • Cooper’s hawks are slightly larger than sharp-shinned hawks, both in length and wingspan. Cooper’s hawks are about the size of a crow, while sharpies are the size of a blue jay.
  • Both birds have long tails they use as rudders to navigate through dense woodlands. But a Cooper’s hawk’s tail is slightly rounded and a sharp-shinned hawk’s is squared off at the tip and sometimes notched.
  • Cooper’s hawks have big, blocky heads, compared with sharp-shinned hawks’ petite, rounded pates. Also, Cooper’s have black caps of feathers, but their nape (back of the neck) feathers are lighter. Sharpies’ heads and napes are slate blue-gray. Additionally, when in flight, a sharp-shinned hawk’s small head does not always project beyond the “wrists” of the wings.
  • Sharp-shinned hawks are daring, acrobatic aerial divers capable of surprising prey with a rush of speed. Cooper’s hawks are similarly powerful, quick and agile, but their flight tends to be more direct. Both follow a flap-flap-glide pattern.
  • Both birds occupy the same kind of habitat: dense forests, forest edges, and even leafy subdivisions. Because they prey on songbirds, it’s not uncommon to see them near backyard feeders. However, Cooper’s hawks are found in Missouri year-round. Sharpies are most often seen here during migration and in winter.

Q: I’ve noticed many severed branches under some of the cedar trees on my property. Can you tell me what animal is causing this?

A.  It’s likely a squirrel. Late winter is the most critical time for squirrels because much of the nut crop has been depleted and new spring growth has made little progress. Bark, immature buds, juniper berries, and even twigs are taken as emergency foods.

A closer look at the buds may reveal the centers have been eaten out. Rather than just eating the buds, these rodents prefer to first prune the branch tip from the tree, eat the bud, then discard the branch. As the squirrel continues to dine, the branch tips pile up on the ground below.

What Is it?

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Present in Missouri from October through April, purple finches (Haemorhous purpureus) are common in cities and towns, around farms, and in suburban areas, foraging on the ground or in trees. They frequent bird feeders in large flocks, especially in winter, in search of sunflower and millet seeds. Males are raspberry red, with brown-streaked wings, while females are heavily streaked with brown feathers.

Agent Advice from Tyler Mason Howard County Conservation Agent

If you’re looking for a way to stay afield as deer season winds down, try trapping. Furbearer numbers are high in Missouri, and trapping is one way to help manage those populations.
Trappers need a permit, available through local vendors, online at, or through MDC’s free MO Hunting app. Trappers are required to affix their name, address, or conservation ID number permanently to each trap set. Traps should be checked within a 24- to 48-hour window, depending on species. If you harvest an otter or bobcat, it must be tagged by an agent no later than April 10. For more information, consult A Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet or visit

Christmas Cookies

The holidays usher in a season of family, friends, and lots of food. Baked goods — particularly cookies — make it to the top of the list.

Here we feature two different kinds of cookies that incorporate Missouri’s wholesome, hearty nuts. These are sure to be crowd pleasers!

Zimmerschied (German Brown Sugar Cookies)

Makes about 10 dozen cookies.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup Missouri black walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter, vanilla, and sugar thoroughly.

In another bowl, mix flour, soda, and salt.

Combine dry and wet ingredients, adding walnuts last.

Shape* into rolls, seal tightly, and refrigerate overnight.

Slice about ¹⁄3-inch thick and bake on ungreased baking sheets 15 to 20 minutes or until bottoms are nicely browned.

*A Note About Size and Number…

Four rolls yield smaller cookies — about an inch across. You could make fewer rolls and, consequently, larger cookies; however, they are very rich and the one-bite
size seems perfect.

Date and Nut Bars

Makes 2 to 3 dozen bars.


  • ½ cup coarsely chopped black walnuts
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • ¾ cup sifted flour, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • A bit of butter for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- by 12- inch pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Combine nuts and dates in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon flour and mix with fingers until dates are coated and mixed with nuts. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat eggs, add sugar gradually, and continue beating until fluffy. Sift together remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add to egg mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir dates and nuts into the batter.

Spread over parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes or until cake rebounds to the touch when pressed gently in the center.

Cool slightly, turn gently out of pan, and cut the longer dimension into 1-inch-wide
strips. Then cut each strip into thirds or fourths. Gently dab bars in powdered sugar
while they are still warm.

Give the Gift of Nature

MDC’s online Nature Shop makes holiday shopping a breeze for anyone interested in nature-themed gifts. Or skip retail stores and visit one of our nature centers in Kirkwood, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Kansas City, Blue Springs, and Jefferson City for a surprising array of reasonably priced holiday gifts.

Discover nature every day, all year long, with our 2019 Natural Events Calendar, on sale now for $9 plus tax. The annual offering features stunning nature photography and daily notes about wild happenings — and makes a fun and informative holiday gift. The perennially popular calendar measures 10 by 14 inches folded and 20 by 14 open. Along with amazing images of native animals, plants, and places, it also includes phases of the moon, numerous holidays and days of recognition, daily notes about natural events, and more.

The 2019 Natural Events Calendar and other offerings are available at MDC nature centers and regional offices, through our online Nature Shop at, or by calling 877-521-8632. Customers can get a 15 percent discount using their MDC Heritage Card or Permit Card.

Citizen Scientists Needed: Get Involved in the Christmas Bird Count

MDC encourages experienced birders to become citizen scientists by helping with the National Audubon Society’s 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, which includes about 20 counts in Missouri.

The CBC is an early-winter bird census where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds. Christmas Bird Counts are held annually to gather data on winter bird populations and to track the longterm status of species and large-scale trends. Each CBC has a coordinator that assigns portions of a 15-mile diameter count circle to participants to count all birds seen and heard.

For more information, visit

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler