Get Outside in December

By MDC | December 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: December 2021

Native Plants

Thursday, Dec. 16, 12–1 p.m. Virtual event at Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO 64110. Registration required at the Deep Roots website at

Virtually tour the native landscape at MDC’s Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center. Guided by native landscape specialists Alix Daniel and Cydney Ross, this monthly series features a live look at native plants of interest throughout the year. This program is a partnership with Deep Roots.

Shivering Butterfly

Adult mourning cloak butterflies overwinter and may be seen flying on warm winter days. They need a body temperature of about 65 degrees to be able to fly, and most butterflies bask in the sunlight to raise their body temperature. But mourning cloaks can truly shiver, rapidly contracting muscles with only minimal wing movement. This can raise their temperature 15–20 degrees in just a few minutes.

Deck Out Nature

If the holiday season has you in the mood to decorate, why not spread some of that holiday cheer in nature? For outdoor holiday decorating, eastern red cedar is a great choice. It is abundant, it has a beautiful natural juniper scent, and boughs of female trees are naturally adorned with blue, berrylike fruits. For more information about this cedar, visit the online Field Guide at

Unwelcome Visitor

Accipiters, including the Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks, are hawks that specialize in hunting other birds. Their slender bodies, long tails and legs, and short broad wings give them breathtaking speed and maneuverability in catching birds among leaves and tree branches. They are naturally drawn to areas where their prey abound, so they often learn to hunt birds attracted to backyard bird feeders. If a hawk is hunting birds drawn to your bird feeder, and you don’t like it, take down your feeders for a few days and the hawk will move somewhere else. For more backyard bird feeding tips, visit

Uncommon Visitor

Snowy owls occasionally visit Missouri in the winter, generally in years when food runs low in their arctic range. Thus, most of the snowy owls seen are immature, forced south for lack of food. Peak numbers in Missouri occur about every four years in response to lemming population crashes in far north.

Join the Christmas Bird Count

Do you know your birds by sight and sound? Do you own lots of warm clothes? Join the Christmas Bird Count and add to a nationwide citizen science project! There are over 20 Christmas Bird Counts in Missouri alone. If you know your birds well, consider participating.

Dress warmly! Take snacks! Birds are awesome!

To learn more, visit

Natural Events to See This Month

Here’s what’s going on in the natural world.

  • Eastern gray squirrels start mating.
  • American beavers swim under water.
  • On warm winter days, raccoons sun on limbs and other high spots.

This Issue's Staff

Stephanie Thurber

Angie Daly Morfeld

Larry Archer

Cliff White

Dianne Van Dien
Kristie Hilgedick
Joe Jerek

Shawn Carey
Marci Porter

Noppadol Paothong
David Stonner

Laura Scheuler