With birds migrating south, leaves changing color and hunting seasons gearing up, there’s plenty for you to discover in October and November. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
What should you do with the leftover seeds from your jack-o’-lantern? You could roast them for a tasty treat or save them to plant in the spring. Or, you could turn them into a feast for hungry birds. To satisfy fall birds’ needs for seeds—and coax them closer to your window for viewing—stock your feeder with pumpkin innards. Once the pumpkin guts are gobbled up, restock your feeder with sunflower, millet and thistle seeds. If you’re feederless, head to www.xplormo.org/node/2901 to learn how to make one.
This Thanksgiving, get your goodies the way Pilgrims and Native Americans did it—by hunting and gathering. October and November are perfect months to scour the woods for pawpaws, pecans and edible fall mushrooms. (Some berries and mushrooms are poisonous. Check with an adult before eating anything you find in the woods.) Many hunting seasons, including those for rabbits, deer and waterfowl, open in the fall, too. For tips on identifying wild edibles, hunting season information and some lip-smacking recipes, check out www.xplormo.org/node/9738.
If you’ve been to the beach, you’ve probably seen brown pelicans nose dive into the surf after fish. Their larger cousin, the American white pelican, flaps through Missouri each fall and spring. White pelicans don’t dive for food, but they do something just as remarkable: Teams of pelicans flap and splash to herd fish into shallow water. There, the birds scoop up trapped fish by the billful. Pelicans can be found anywhere there’s lots of water, but prime viewing areas include Swan Lake and Squaw Creek national wildlife refuges and Eagle Bluffs, Schell- Osage and Upper Mississippi conservation areas. Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at www.xplormo.org/xplor/stuff-do/all-events.
Ahoy there matey! Geocaching (jee-o-cashing) is an activity in which a treasure hunter uses an electronic gadget called a GPS to find trinket-filled hidden containers. Visit www.geocaching.com to get the location of a container near you. Before you strike off to search for hidden booty, load a daypack with water, snacks and a compass— eyepatches and parrots are optional. If you don’t want to walk the plank, bring a trinket to exchange for the one you take.
Before winter’s whiteness drifts in, Missouri’s trees paint our state with a dazzling palette of color. The Show-Me State hits its showiest in mid-October when oaks and hickories reach their peak. Take a hike to collect a leaf of every color in the rainbow or grab an adult and head off on a fall-color road trip. For weekly color reports and a map of Missouri’s leafiest routes, visit www.xplormo.org/node/9739.
Forget “leaves of three, let it be.” Although poison ivy has leaflets in groups of three, so do many harmless plants. The best way to separate the safe from the irritating is to keep your eyes peeled this fall. Poison ivy turns bright red while most plants are still green. Find an early-turning vine or shrub—poison ivy comes in both forms—and look but don’t touch! Use the identification tips at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4686 to see if you’ve found Missouri’s most irritating plant.
How do bats catch insects in the dark? They “see” with their ears. As they fly, bats send out high-pitched squeaks. By listening to the squeaks echo off objects, bats create a mental image of their surroundings. To see this process, called echolocation (ek-o-lo-kay-shun), gently toss a pebble in front of a fluttering bat. The bat will swoop down to investigate. Once it figures out the pebble isn’t a tasty moth, the bat will angle up
Your guide to all the nasty, stinky, slimy and gross stuff that nature has to offer
These gooey pink spheres aren’t plucked-out eyeballs. They’re trout eggs. Female trout lay thousands of eggs, and it’s a good thing. Lots of animals like nothing better than trout eggs for breakfast—and lunch and dinner. Most trout in Missouri streams were grown in fish farms called hatcheries. To get the eggs, hatchery workers insert a skinny needle into a female trout’s belly, then pump in air. The gentle pressure causes eggs to squirt out without harming the mama fish.
Don’t let the cute, furry face fool you. Shrews have an attitude— and an appetite. Although they’re only as long as your index finger, shrews sometimes attack animals as big as rabbits! Night and day they tunnel through leaves and soil, hunting for earthworms, insects and anything else they can clobber. Their hyperactive lifestyle requires shrews to eat their weight in food each day. To accomplish the same feat, you’d have to snarf down nearly 300 cheeseburgers a day.
Longnose gar have skinny bodies protected by bony scales. Their long snouts are filled with teeth. Gar pretend to be a log until another fish swims by. CHOMP! Many anglers think gar eat too many fish. They call gar “trash fish.” In fact, gar keep lakes from getting too crowded. If oxygen gets scarce underwater, gar gulp air at the surface. The largest longnose gar caught in Missouri stretched 5 feet long. Now that’s gargantuan!
Call me when dinner’s ready. After this marbled orb weaver fixes its web, it will hide in a nearby tent made of leaves and silk. A signal thread connected to the web will vibrate when prey gets tangled, notifying the spider that dinner awaits.
Nichole LeClair Terrill