From Xplor for Kids
December 2013 Issue

You Discover

Publish Date

Dec 01, 2013

Don’t stay inside when the snow gets to blowing. Go outside to discover nature coming and going. Here are a few fun things to do in December and January.

Feed Birds a Bagel

Stale bagels are for the birds, but don’t toss them in the trash. Instead, use them to feed your feathered friends. Here’s how: Smear peanut butter on one side of a bagel. Roll the bagel in birdseed so seeds stick to the peanut butter. Poke a sharpened pencil through the bagel for a perch. Loop a piece of yarn through the bagel’s hole, and hang the bagel in a tree where you can watch birds come to eat.

Hook a Rainbow

If you love to fly fish but don’t like crowds, try Missouri’s trout parks in winter. From November 8 to February 10, the parks allow only fly fishing and you must release any fish you catch. Those rules — along with low temperatures — keep crowds thin. Maramec Spring Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bennett Springs, Montauk, and Roaring River state parks are open Friday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For all the details, cast your line to mdc.mo.gov/node/10808.

Belly Slide Like an Otter

River otters don’t need a sled to go sliding, and neither do you. When it’s snowy outside, just pull on a raincoat and pants over your warm clothes. If you don’t have rain gear, don’t fear. Cut holes in a heavy-duty trash bag for your head and arms, and slip on the bag. Then find a snow-covered hill, run down it a short distance to pick up speed, dive onto your belly, and sliiide.

Go Duck Hunting

Duck hunting is tons of fun. Why else would hunters get up before sunrise and brave cold weather to spend their mornings hiding in muddy marshes? If you’d like to see if duck hunting is all it’s quacked up to be, the best way to get your waders wet is to ask an experienced hunter to take you under his or her wing. For season dates, places to hunt, and rules to follow, flock to mdc.mo.gov/node/303.

Spot a Comet

For the past 10,000 years, Comet ISON, a mile-wide glob of rock and ice, has been streaking toward the sun. The sun’s heat and gravity could blow ISON apart, or the comet could make a U-turn and begin its journey out of our solar system, glowing spectacularly as it speeds by Earth. We’ll know in December if ISON will fizzle or sizzle, so check the sky each evening just after sunset. If ISON has survived its brush with the sun, you’ll see the comet’s tail fanned out just above the western horizon.

Make a Cedar Wreath

Cedar wreaths smell great and are easy to make. Just clip off the outermost branches of a cedar tree. You’ll need enough greenery to fill a grocery bag. Bend a wire coat hanger into a circle. Tie the branches to the hanger with twine or floral wire, making sure the green end of each new branch covers up the brown end of the last branch you tied. When your hanger is completely covered with cedar, tie on a red bow, and your wreath is ready to hang.

Don't miss the chance to Discover Nature at these fun events.

  • Meet our national emblem at Eagle Days. Springfield Conservation Nature Center; January 18 and 19; For info and times, call 417-888-4237.
  • Fish a river at night during Kids’ Gigging. Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, Winona; December 7, 4–10 p.m. Register at 573-325-1381.
  • Belly Slide Li ke an Otter River otters don’t need a sled to go sliding, and neither do you. When it’s snowy outside, just pull on a raincoat and pants over your warm clothes. If you don’t have rain gear, don’t fear. Cut holes in a heavy-duty trash bag for your head and arms, and slip on the bag. Then find a snow-covered hill, run down it a short distance to pick up speed, dive onto your belly, and sliiide.
  • Find out who’s hooting it up during an Owl Prowl. Rockwoods Reservation, Wildwood; December 6, 6:30–8 p.m. Register at 636-458-2236.
  • Find geocached treasure at Pirates of Columbia Bottom. Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, St. Louis; December 7, 1–3 p.m. Register at 314-877-6014.
  • Try out your new air rifle or .22 at Family Plinking. August A. Busch Shooting Range, Defiance; December 28, 7:30–9:30 a.m. Register at 636-441-4554.
  • Looking for more ways to have fun outside? Find out about Discover Nature programs in your area at xplormo.org/node/2616.

What is it?

  1. I’m dressed to impress from my crest to my chest.
  2. When I need to feed, I dabble for seed.
  3. I was born in a tree, but now I fly free.
  4. I don’t usually quack when I’m under attack.

With red eyes, rusty chests, and shiny green heads with crests, male wood ducks win the prize for Missouri’s most colorful ducks. Wood ducks feed by dabbling, which means they dip their heads underwater to strain out seeds and insects with their bills. Female woodies nest in holes in trees and man-made nest boxes. When startled, wood ducks give a squeaky whistle as they burst into flight.

Critter Corner

Brown Trout

How now brown trout? Brown trout originally were found only in Europe. They were brought to the U.S. in the 1880s because people liked to catch them. In Missouri, browns are grown in a hatchery and released into Lake Taneycomo and several spring-fed Ozark streams. These fish can reach enormous sizes. Conservation Department biologists have encountered browns that weigh more than 30 pounds!

Also in this issue

Predator Vs. Prey: Mink vs. Muskrat

The struggle to survive isn't always a fair fight. Here's what separates nature's winners from it's losers.

How To: Make a Snow Lantern

Just because the sun has gone down doesn’t mean you have to, too. Keep playing in the snow by building this lantern to light your way.

Otter Chaos

This mama river otter has her paws full raising five playful pups.

Shooting Star

Samantha Foppe is one of America's top trap shooters. And she's only 15.

Wild Jobs: Range Officer Kurt Otterstein

At Jay Henges Shooting Range, Kurt Otterstein teaches people to be straight shooters and safe shooters.

Strange But True

Critters don't make New Year's resolutions. But if they did, here's what a few might say.

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

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