Into The Wild: Big River Sandbar

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From Xplor: September/October 2018

What Happened Here?

A beaver removed this branch from a tree and then gnawed off its bark as a snack. When the tree-munching mammal tossed it away, the branch washed downstream and got stuck on this sandbar.

Take a Closer Look

Spiny softshell turtles often slide under the sand in shallow water, leaving just the tips of their snorkel-like snouts sticking up to breathe.


Keep your eyes peeled, and you may spot a tiny, shiny insect racing across the sand. Tiger beetles are harmless to humans, but bugs better beware. The six-legged predators use keen eyesight and amazing speed to find and catch prey.


Killdeer patrol sandbars along the water’s edge, hunting for insects to eat. When they take flight, they call out their name: a high-pitched, wailing kill-deer, kill-deer!
Tiger swallowtail


Puddle party! Swallowtails, sulphurs, and other butterflies often cluster together on wet sand. They do this to sip up minerals from the water that they aren’t able to get from nectar.

Did You Know?

Tiger beetles are among the fastest animals on Earth — for their size. When a beetle wants to boogie, it can move 125 body lengths per second. If its legs were as long as yours, it could dash around at nearly 240 mph!

Do More

If you find fishing line litter, pick it up! Animals can get tangled or strangled by discarded line.


Dense thickets of willows, cottonwoods, and sycamores often grow on sandbars. Here’s how to tell these water-loving trees apart by looking at their leaves.


  • Long, skinny, spear-shaped leaves
  • Upper surface of the leaf is green and shiny; under surface is pale


  • Heart-shaped leaves with toothlike outer edges
  • Long stems allow the leaf to flutter in the breeze
  • Upper surface of the leaf is green and shiny; under surface is pale


  • Large leaves with three to five pointy lobes (like a maple leaf)
  • Upper surface of leaf is bright green and smooth; under surface is white and fuzzy


Several kinds of herons can be found loafing on sandbars or stalking fish in the shallow water nearby. How many of these long-legged waders can you find?

Also In This Issue

Jumping spider
Get eyeball to eyeballs with these awesome arachnids, and you’ll spy lots to love.
illustration of crows feed their young
It’s 6 a.m. on a Tuesday, and the busybodies next door have already been snooping around. They’ve discovered that one of your neighbors forgot to put the lid on his trash can. They know that another left her cat outside all night. And they checked to see if the guy down the street refilled his bird feeder. Nope. It’s still empty.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White