From Xplor for Kids
February 2014 Issue

You Discover

Publish Date

Feb 02, 2014

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

Be a BLUEBIRD’s Best Buddy

If you want to enjoy bluebirds, Missouri’s state bird, all summer long, build them a birdhouse they’ll be proud to call home. Download easy-to-build plans at xplormo.org/node/2937. Bluebirds begin nesting in early March so be sure to set it up by late February.

Scout for Spring’s First Sprouts

Spring beauty is Missouri’s most widespread spring flower. You might have to look hard to find this beauty, though. It’s only about 5 inches tall. You can find it blooming from February through May nearly anywhere the soil is moist — fields, woods, even lawns. Native Americans ate the roots of spring beauty. Its leaves are also edible, and have a fresh, tangy taste. Just be sure to check with an adult before tasting spring beauty or any wild plant.

SPRING IS Aflutter

Near wooded areas, look for newly emerged zebra swallowtail butterflies fluttering about in search of flower nectar. You may also find them grouped up near puddles, “puddling” up moisture and minerals with their feeding tube, or proboscis. Butterflies can even add a few drops of water from their own bodies to dissolve food so it’s easier to suck up.

TRAVEL TO GRAVEL

On your next hike, explore a gravel bar along a stream or creek. They’re a great place to look for cool rocks, bones, and other interesting keepers. You might find a deer antler, a snake backbone, petrified wood, several mussel shells, and an arrowhead.

ROCK OUT to Nature's Wildest Drummer

Keep your ears peeled for the early spring sounds of pileated woodpeckers drumming on wood. Rat-a-tat-tat! Sometimes they peck away for hours on tin roofs and even metal church steeples. All that racket establishes their territories and helps attract mates. Between the drumming, the fiery red mohawk, and a loud, rapid-fire call that sounds like crazed laughter, the pileated woodpecker truly is one of nature’s rock stars. Listen in at mdc.mo.gov/node/981.

Snag a Prehistoric PADDLEFISH

Paddlefish, also known as spoonbill, are unlike anything else you’ll see on the end of your fishing line. Like a small shark, the paddlefish lacks scales and bones. Like a baleen whale, it filters its dinner from the water — and no other fish on our continent has a paddle for a snout! Once you reel one in, you’ll be hooked for life — fishing for one of our oldest and most unusual species. Missouri’s paddlefish snagging season kicks off March 15. Watch a 2-minute video at mdc.mo.gov/ node/15884.

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

  • Outsmart your feathered foe with Turkey Hunting Basics. Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, Ash Grove; March 29, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Register at 417-742-4361.
  • Score your big buck’s rack at Antler Scoring. Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center; February 22, 9 a.m.–noon. For info, call 573-290-5218. Any rack can be scored.
  • Eagle-eye an eagle fly-by at Schell-Osage Eagle Days. Schell City; February 8, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. 417-876-5226.
  • Beat the rush and become Missouri Hunter Education Certified. Improve your hunting skills and knowledge with a solid foundation in hunting safety and ethics. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/node/3722.
  • Learn how to safely handle a rifle at Youth .22-caliber Rifle Clinic. Jay Henges Shooting Range, High Ridge; February 22, 8–9:30 a.m. Register at 636-938-9548. Ages 9–15.
  • 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. It looks like my wings were dipped in wax.
  2. Upon my face I wear a mask.
  3. I’m often in gangs but commit no crime.
  4. I eat nothing but fruit for months at a time.

Cedar waxwings are named for the waxy red nubs on their wing feathers. Biologists aren’t sure what the nubs are for, but they may help attract mates. In winter, waxwings form noisy flocks and feast on cedar berries and wild fruits. The birds can survive on berries alone for more than two months, but their fondness for fruit sometimes gets them in trouble. Waxwings occasionally become drunk from eating overripe berries.

Also in this issue

Predator Vs. Prey: Hooded Merganser vs. Bluntnose Minnow

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

How To: Find North Without a Compass

Being able to find north without a compass is a handy skill to master.

Large and in Charge

Missouri's giants rule the outdoors.

Little Owl, Big Attitude

The only thing small about an eastern screech-owl is its size.

Wild Jobs: Turkey Trapper

Biologist Jason Isabelle catches wild turkeys — with a rocket-net.

Strange But True

Your guide to all the unusual, unique, and unbelievable stuff that goes on in nature.

This Issue's Staff:

David Besenger
Brett Dufur
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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