Monday, February 18, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
As I got further from the birds their calls changed to be more recognizable and complicated.
A large hawk flew over. Red-tail. I noticed no change in the chickadees behavior- maybe they are not afraid because the larger hawks generally pose no threat to small birds. Dinner and a show!
The sun was low and I headed for the truck. In the woods a large man was pacing along the cement wall near the entrance. He was in sweat pants and a t- He followed me out of the park. I unfolded the knife in my pocket, but as I came closer to truck a read dodge charger pulled up. The man who had followed me out of the park spoke briefly to the charger and they both went back into the woods. Creepy.
GARLIC MUSTARD (above)- greening now and is growing in patches along the river. The plant was brought over from Eurasia for food and is now threatening our wild areas. It will bloom clusters of small white flowers in later April-
BUSH HONEYSUCKLE- Another nasty of Minor park. Its taken over several part of the park and is removed several times a year by KC WILDLANDS. The bush will begin to green in March and will bloom with the Garlic Mustard.
EUONYMUS- this too, is green now. From asia, the plant is a very invasive vine. It has a wax coating that makes herbicide useless. It is thick where it is along the bank and on the slopes above the first bank.
LITTER- A new raft has arrived! It is partially deflated and sits on the far side of the ripple closest to the entrance. A red car, too, has settled into the bank over the past few years just a few hundred yards upstream. Fishing line, tires, bottles and household trash are among the largest threats to Minor park. Besides the few who dump on the area, many people do not think to collect their waste from the river's banks. There is also a temporary camp-lookin set up on a lagre gravel bar now.
EROSION/WATER QUALITY- Construction of buildings and roads dump alot of silt into the river. the loose soil on the banks is carved violently when we get heavy rains by unnatural flooding. Because so much of it's watershed is now paved and impermeable, the blue river recieves a lot of water all at once instead of getting water over a longer period of time from that that is soaked by the earth. We have taken most of the marsh-type areas from the watershed. These areas are essential for filtering water for the river. They collect contaminants and silt, release water slowly and support many important and rare plants/animals that cannot otherwise survive. There are still a few marshes around and much of the Blue has been protected withing parks to create a greenway. However, the health of the river depends greatly on the water that it recieves from its tributaries and goundwater withtin it's watershed- these sources of water are not so clean.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
It was in the lower forties, but the wind made it feel much colder. ITs force never failed. My mother and I drove the first third of the refuge before we found anything exciting. Some eagles- juvi's and adults took turns flying against the wind. They did not make too much progress and most returned to a muskrat mound or the ice soon after taking flight.
We had come to see the swans! A waterfowl report told of 50 trumpeter swans and a small group of tundra swans that had accumulated on the refuge as of the end of last month. This was the first time this season that tundra swans had been found on the refuge. Being unfamiliar with the species, I asked one of the 'local experts', Linda Williams (lindawilliamsphotography.com), about them. She gave me some tips on how to tell them apart from the trumpeters.
I spotted the first group of swans far in the distance- 13 of them! They all appeared to be trumpeter swans. A bit further we spotted th rest of them on the ice and in the water. There were many and they were all the same distance from the road as the first group. Closer to the car- only about 100yrds- a smaller duck paced the perimeter of a tiny puddle of open water. His lake was 10 feet in diameter- an island in an ocean of ice- The bird was dark and oddly-shaped. It had a small white spot on his cheak and a white neck and breast. "A Bufflehead or Goldeneye" I identified, honestly not knowing the difference- When I gained access to a field guide I decided that the bird we saw was defenitaly a Common Goldeneye. The pattern of the wings and size were the difference. When my attention turned back to the swans in the distance, I noticed that they were standing and swimming amongst a thinck crown of smaller dark birds. Most of them were Canada Geese and Mallards. The swans were too many to count- but they were giant when they stood next to the geese. Several had the darker necks and two had green bands. I searched the group for the smaller Tundra Swan, but never noticed one.
A small goup of eagles stood on the bare ice behond the swarm of waterfowl. They stared, and probably dreweled, but I could not see any strings of saliva from their beaks.
My mother spotted a pair of great blue herons that I could not. She gave me the Nocs and directions. I found the birds, but they were not herons. The two were tall with a more round body- not much of a visible tail. I saw a hint of red and identified them as Sandhill Cranes. In disbalief, she took the binoculars from me and confirmed my id- she said that when one lifted its head she saw the distinct profile of a crane. I have never seen them this fas east, and never this far north this late in winter! I suspect that they had come in with the geese and stayed with the flock. EXCITING!!
Took the hike to the left of the center- at the far end of the parking lot. Followed it in the thick snow until it was no more. The surface of the snow had melted with the day and then froze again- it was about 4:30 and the sun was getting low. Each step was acompanied by a crack of the ice, a crunch of the snow, and another crack as my foot broke the surface upon exiting. My poor choice of footwear left me with some pain and the sensation of walking on my ankles.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Sunday, February 3, 2008
for a few hours over thursdays' lunch break. It was snowing and the park was empty. The lake was also empty and the surface was like glass- The few cedars in the parking lot held juncos, bluebirds and some sparrow-like birds. On the edge were cardinals, chickadees and an invisible one with a beautiful call!
A few large gulls flew above us.
The roads were clear and it was warm outside after the conference. Some sections of the park were closed from yesderdays storm, but we made our way in on foot from the Oak Savannah trail. My mother and I were the first ones to visit the glade since the snow had fallen- a real treat! It was about noon when we started the trail- took us ~ 2 hours. We visited the nature centre and I spent some time watching their bird feeders. A mess of chickadees and juncos, a few titmice and a couple of small woodpeckers. Near the Water tower we spotted some common hawks and a couple of Pileated woodpeckers. After our hike we again took off toward
Another Pileated flew above me- they seem LARGER every time I spot one! An adult Bald Eagle perched on a naked Sycamore on the other side of the river. Great Blue Herons spotted the blue sky and the orange sunset on their way to roost. Saturday morning we rose early. A couple of starlings perched on a branch created an assortment of songs and tunes before the moon had a chance to hit the horizon. My mother and I first visited Bennet Springs where we found Canada Geese and Herons on the Niangua, and all sorts of little birds in the bush. Mist smothered the five feet of anything above the water's surface and tapered off intil it was made unnoticable by a light, cold breeze. In the fog I found a small group of sparrows bouncing on the gravel bar and in the short shrub on shore. They were a bit larger and had a different shape than ours. I did not see the details on them, but took a blurred photo of one before I approached them in hopes of getting a sharper picture. They did not fly or even run, but fled by means of small groups of bounces or hops. Each bird jumped two or three times away before looking back at me and bouncing off again. I proceeded down the bank- driving a dozen or more sparrows to bounce to safety. WHITE-FRONTED SPARROWS?
I fished at the spring for a few hours while my mother took a hike in the park. I tied on a tiny copper caddis emerger thing and hooked several fish, though I only landed two. I switched to a scud and had more luck- I had the most strikes and caught the most fish of anybody around me. One man caught a large sunfish- the first I'd even seen from the park. A young girl hooked and landed a large Brown trout with some kind of green jig.
I sat on a disabled dock late in the morning. After a minute or so of watching the fish and letting my nymph drift in the slow current a large, round creature swam from the deeper side of the river. When it came quickly to only a few feet from my resting spot I identified it as a Muskrat- it held a long string of hornwort that streamed in the water over his back. A few minutes passed and another came with more plant and hid in a small cave in the cement dock. They looked like giant underwater rats and were cool to watch- I never saw them again.