In Brief

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From Missouri Conservationist: December 2019

What Is It?

Can you guess this month’s natural wonder?

What is it?

News and updates from MDC

Discover Nature with MDC Eagle Days

Eagle Days events are held around the state.

From December through February, Missouri’s winter eagle watching is spectacular. Discover nature with MDC through Eagle Days events around the state or enjoy watching bald eagles on your own.

Because of Missouri’s big rivers, many lakes, and abundant wetlands, the Show-Me state is one of the leading lower 48 states for bald eagle viewing. Each fall, thousands of these great birds migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in Missouri. 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. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City. Call 816-271-3111, ext. 1431, or 816-271-3100 for more information.
  • Kansas City: Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Jan. 5 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. 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, south of I-270 off Riverview Drive in St. Louis. Call 314- 877-6014 for more information.
  • Springfield: Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 19 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Call 417-888- 4237, ext. 1708 for more information.
  • Clarksville: Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lock and Dam 24 and Apple Shed Theater in Clarksville. Call 660-785-2424, ext. 6506, or 660-785-2420 for more information.
  • Stella: Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in Stella. Call 417-629-3423 for more information.
  • Jefferson City: Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Runge Conservation Nature Center. Call 573-526-5544, ext. 3407 for more information.

Eagle Watching on Your Own

Can’t make an Eagle Days event? Other hot spots for winter eagle viewing include:

  • Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnell Dam Access, east of Bagnell
  • Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (CA) on Route K, southwest of Columbia
  • Harry S. Truman Visitor Center, Warsaw
  • Lock & Dam 20, Canton
  • Lock & Dam 24 at Clarksville
  • Lock & Dam 25, east of Winfield
  • Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, south of Mound City
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Puxico
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, south of I-270 off Riverview Drive, St. Louis
  • Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, east of Alton
  • Schell-Osage CA, north of El Dorado Springs
  • Smithville Lake, north of Kansas City
  • Stella at Moses Eagle Park
  • Stockton Lake, Stockton
  • Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, south of Sumner
  • Table Rock Lake, 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

Need Holiday Gifts?

MDC’s online Nature Shop makes holiday shopping a breeze for anyone interested in nature-themed gifts. Offerings include the ever-popular Natural Events Calendar, plus a variety of books and more for all ages.

Holiday shoppers can also skip retail stores and visit one of MDC’s nature centers — located in Kirkwood, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Kansas City, Blue Springs, and Jefferson City — for an array of reasonably priced, nature-themed holiday gifts.

The 2020 Natural Events Calendar ($9 plus tax) is available at our nature centers and regional offices, and through our online Nature Shop at or by calling 877-521-8632. Customers using their MDC Heritage Card or Permit Card can get a 15 percent discount.

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish, so give the gift of hunting and fishing permits. Buy them from vendors around the state, online at, or through our free mobile apps, MO Hunting and MO Fishing, available for download through Google Play for Android devices or the App Store for Apple devices.

Black-Walnut Chocolate Biscotti

Missouri’s robust black walnut is the perfect complement to the zesty fresh ginger in this dipping cookie. When you dunk one in your morning coffee or tea, you’ll be so happy you made them — and so will those with whom you share a few.

Makes about three dozen cookies.


  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root (peeled)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup black walnuts (toasted lightly; skins removed as much as possible* and chopped coarsely)
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted lightly and coarsely chopped

Removing Walnut Skins

While the nuts are still hot from toasting, wrap them in a tea towel and rub them lightly against each other to remove as much skin as possible. Then proceed with chopping.

Batter can be mixed in a large bowl by hand, but is much easier with a food processor or large electric mixer. Blend dry ingredients (flour through cocoa powder) until mixture is well combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger root, vanilla, and eggs; add to the dry ingredients, beating until a dough is formed. Stir nuts in by hand.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead several times. Divide into thirds. Butter and flour baking sheet. With floured hands, form each piece of dough into a 10- by 2½-inch log. Flatten lightly with hands. Arrange logs on sheet 4 inches apart.

Bake for 25 minutes. Place baking sheet on a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove logs from sheet and cut each crosswise on a diagonal into ¾-inch-thick slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on two baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer biscotti to racks to cool. Store in airtight containers. Will keep for two weeks.

Optional Glaze

To dress up your biscotti, dip the ends in chocolate or zigzag chocolate on them. Here’s how:

Melt 3 ounces of high quality dark chocolate and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter together over low heat. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons corn syrup (and just a touch of your favorite liqueur, if desired). Stir well and fill a pastry bag fitted with a small, round tip.

After cookies are cooled, squeeze chocolate through the pastry bag’s tip in thin ribbons down the length of the cookie. Alternatively, dip end in the warm chocolate and shake gently to remove excess. Dry thoroughly on racks before cooling.

Recipe taken from “Cooking Wild in Missouri” by Bernadette Dryden

Provide Input on Upcoming Waterfowl Seasons

MDC invites waterfowl hunters to a series of public workshops around the state to gather input about duck season dates and zone boundary locations for the 2021–2025 seasons.

Participants will have the opportunity to review long-term waterfowl data about weather, migration, habitat use, harvest, and hunter opinions, and discuss their season date and zone preferences with other hunters and MDC staff. MDC will use hunter input gathered through the workshops, combined with hunter opinion surveys, to establish Missouri’s 2021–2025 duck season dates and zones.

The following 2020 waterfowl workshops will be held from 7–9 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Call the related phone number for more information.

  • Jan. 28, Harrisonville: Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 2501 W. Mechanic, 660-885-6981 or 816-622-0900
  • Jan. 29, Excelsior Springs: Lake Doniphan Conference and Retreat Center, 12856 Doniphan Lake Road, 816-622-0900
  • Jan. 30, Columbia: Riechmann Indoor Pavilion at Stephen’s Lake Park, 2300 E. Walnut St., 573-815-7900
  • Feb. 4, Joplin: MDC Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, 201 W. Riviera Drive, 417-895-6880
  • Feb. 5, Springfield: MDC Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 4600 S. Chrisman, 417-895-6880
  • Feb. 11, Dexter: National Guard Armory, 1702 Missouri Hwy 114, 573-290-5730
  • Feb. 12, Cape Girardeau: Drury Plaza Hotel Cape Girardeau Conference Center, 3351 Percy Drive, 573-290-5730
  • Feb. 13, Portageville: Fisher Delta Research Center, 147 State Hwy T, 573-290-5730
  • Feb. 18, St. Joseph: MDC Northwest Regional Office, 701 James McCarthy Drive, 816-271-3100
  • Feb. 19, Chillicothe: Comfort Inn and Suites, 250 E. Business 36, 816-271-3100
  • Feb. 20, Kirksville: MDC Northeast Regional Office, 3500 S. Baltimore St., 660-785-2420
  • March 3, Elsberry: American Legion, 111 Legion Drive, 636-441-4554
  • March 4, St. Charles: Wapelhorst Park Gould Upper Level, 1875 Muegge Road, 636-441-4554

For more information, visit


Got a Question for Ask MDC?

Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: Is this a merlin? We saw it on Christmas Day near our home west of Eolia.

A. No, this is an immature sharp-shinned hawk. Many people ask about the identification of raptors with brown streaking in the breast like this bird. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks look similar in both immature and adult plumages, which look quite different. Immature Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks both have vertical brown streaking on the breast and varying degrees of brown and white mottling on the head and back. General features to differentiate these two species in either plumage are a large, blocky head and a rounded, graduated tail in the Cooper’s hawk, as opposed to a smaller, rounder head and squared-off tail in a sharp-shinned hawk. While a merlin has brown streaks on the breast, they are a much smaller and stockier bird with a noticeable white eyebrow line, a dark moustachial mark on the face, a dark or black tail, and narrow light bands, and big feet.

Q: While walking through the woods, I had found a mature buck with his head to the ground and his antlers attached to those of a dead foe. Does this happen often?

A. It happens, but rarely.

To assess one another’s rank in the social hierarchy, bucks frequently engage in acts of sparring before and throughout breeding season. Normally mild, these episodes can escalate into intense fights if two males of equal size and dominance meet.

Unlike bighorn sheep, bucks do not repeatedly charge one another. Instead, opponents approach one another slowly with heads lowered. They may lock antlers violently at close range. They then push and thrash, attempting to injure their rival or cause him to retreat.

Once their antlers meet, they push and shove without making new contacts. Only rarely do the antlers become permanently entangled. When this happens, the bucks sometimes exhaust themselves and one — or both — can die of weakness, thirst, and starvation. While entangled, they are also susceptible to predation since they cannot flee or ward off predators.

Q: How can I distinguish plains pocket gopher tunnels from more-common mole tunnels?

A. Parts of north Missouri are within the range of the plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius), a stocky rodent well adapted for subterranean life.

Pocket gophers create an extensive system of tunnels marked on the surface by numerous mounds of excavated earth. One animal’s tunnel system may cover an acre or more. As the gopher excavates, he pushes dirt to the surface, forming flat, fan-shaped mounds. Gopher mounds can develop vegetation, but only after seeds germinate and grow.

In contrast, eastern moles (Scalopus aquaticus) push up sod by digging shallow runways. These types of tunnels are often dug by moles searching for food after it rains. They’re usually not reused. Like gophers, moles live underground in permanent chambers below the frostline and make “molehills,” or piles of loose soil pushed to the surface through vertical tunnels.

Molehills are sometimes confused with pocket gopher mounds. If you see fan-shaped mounds, you may have pocket gophers. If you see shallow runways, you likely have moles.

What Is It?

Blue Bird

As the name suggests, blue jays are known for their blue feathers. But take a closer look and there are more hues than just blues. While the bird’s crest and upperparts are mainly blue, its wings and tail have black bars and white highlights. Its back is quite lavender and chest is white. Its bill and feet are black, and the bird’s face is white and neck is surrounded by a black collar.

Agent Advice

Matt Smith, Morgan County Conservation Agent

Missouri hunters have ample opportunities to harvest a deer. If so desired, you could chase whitetails through the woods from Sept. 15 through Jan. 15. Oftentimes, hunters are so focused on November firearms season that I remind them of the success that awaits in late deer season. It kicks off Nov. 29–Dec. 1 with the late youth season, followed by the antlerless portion, Dec. 6–8. Late season rounds out with the alternative methods portion, Dec. 28– Jan. 7, when hunters are encouraged to try different means of harvest like muzzleloaders, atlatls, longbows, and more.

5 Reasons to Call Before You Cut

Learn if harvesting is right for you and your woods:

  1. Harvest the proper trees to ensure a healthy forest
  2. Find a trained logger for the job
  3. Maximize timber sale income and save $$$ on taxes
  4. Ensure your overall satisfaction with the timber harvest
  5. Request a free informational packet about working with a professional forester to take care of your woods. 877–564–7483

Also In This Issue

Ben Yeargan's Drake
Collectors find joy in unraveling the mysteries of Missouri’s duck decoys.
Brad Jacob
"The truth is that everyone has obsessions. Most people manage them. Birders, however, indulge them.” —Mark Obmascik in The Big Year

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

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

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler