You Discover

By Matt Seek | February 1, 2013
From Xplor: February/March 2013

With winter almost gone and spring just around the corner, there’s plenty for you to discover outside in February and March. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Coax a branch to bloom

Has winter left you in a funk? Then bring the bling of spring inside. Clip a few redbud, dogwood, or serviceberry branches. Smash the bottom inch or two of each one with a hammer, then place the branches in a jar of warm water. Set the jar in a cool, dimly lit room away from bright windows. Add fresh water every other day, and in a few weeks you’ll have the first sweet blooms of spring.

Prevent a crash landing

As many as a billion birds die each year when they crash into windows. Glass is invisible to birds, and it often reflects trees or clouds, causing birds to fly directly into it. Most collisions occur in spring when birds migrate, but it’s easy to prevent crashes. Just paint a picture on the outside of your windows. Use washable tempera paint, which is long-lasting but comes off with a damp sponge and some elbow grease. Just don’t forget to get a parent’s permission, first!

Grab a SUCKER.

Sucker-grabbing season opens March 15. To an Ozark angler, suckers are tasty fish with suction-cup mouths, and grabbing means snagging fish using an unbaited hook. If you’d like to give it a go, tie a heavy weight to your fishing line, then tie a large treble hook below that. Wrap the weight in bright duct tape so you can see it underwater. Cast the contraption into a school of suckers. When one swims between your weight and the hook, jerk the rod and hang on.

Make Wild Valentines

Nature abounds with heart-shaped objects: redbud leaves, a barn owl’s face, the wings of a butterfly held just so, a deer’s half-melted hoof print in the snow, a perfectly shaped cloud. So, grab a camera and hit the trail to see how many heart-shaped things you can photograph. When you get home, print your favorite photos, fold them into a Valentine’s Day card, and write on the inside, “I’m wild about you.”

Make a wind catcher

Whether March roars in like a lion or tiptoes in like a lamb, get ready for wind by making a wind catcher. Gather pine cones, rocks, mussel shells, turkey feathers, and other nature-y things. Tie two sticks together so they form an “X,” then use short lengths of yarn to tie your collected objects to the sticks. You may need to adjust the items so the cross balances. When you’re done, hang your wind catcher in a tree where you can watch it twirl.

Befriend a crow

  • Crows are some of nature’s brainiest birds. Biologists have found that crows recognize individual humans. (Most humans, on the other hand, can’t recognize individual crows.) The next time you see a crow in your yard, gently toss it a few shelled, unsalted peanuts. After doing this for few weeks, local crows will learn you’re a friendly meal ticket, and come see you whenever you’re outside.
  • Don't miss the chance to Discover Nature at these fun events.
  • Get nose to beak with America’s national emblem at eagle days. Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Puxico February 2, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. For info, visit node/16598.
  • Taste nature at its sweetest. Go maple sugaring. Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, Blue Springs March 2, 1–3 p.m. Register at 816-228-3766.
  • Bag a big buck? See how it stacks up at antler scoring. Jay Henges Shooting Range, High Ridge February 16, 9 a.m.–noon For info, call 636-938-9548.
  • Celebrate Missouri’s furriest weather forecaster at groundhog day. Runge Conservation Nature Center, Jefferson City February 2, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. For info, call 573-526-5544.
  • Learn about nature’s trash collectors at the vulture venture. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Branson February 16, noon–5 p.m. For info, call 417-334-4865, ext. 0.

Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at

What is it?

  1. I’m what you call a heavy sleeper.
  2. My ticker ticks slower when the weather turns colder.
  3. I’m Missouri’s furriest forecaster.
  4. Whistle if you know my name.

In winter, chubby groundhogs (also called woodchucks) curl up in burrows for a five-month power nap called hibernation. During hibernation, a groundhog’s heart beats only four times a minute. (If your heart beat that slowly, you’d never wake up.) Legend says if a groundhog sees its shadow on February 2, we’ll get six more weeks of winter. Many groundhogs, however, snooze right through Groundhog Day. Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs because of their shrill call.


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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White