Hello Innsbrook Nature Enthusiasts,
In our latest Innsbrook Nature Group “IBK’ng” Newsletter we share: our favorite seasons at IBK, peak autumn colors, solar eclipse photos, what IBK’ers enjoy the most about Nature, the recent Charrette Creek hike and sewage spill, tips for living in harmony with nature, fall mushrooming, favorite nature trails, critter of the season, Japanese Beetles, blue bird results, firewood insects, and time to bless the animals! Thanks for sharing this link to our Fall Newsletter with an IBK neighbor who may not know of our group or newsletter. To print or save a version for reading later on, download a PDF document at Innsbrook Nature Fall 2017 Newsletter
Our Favorite Season at Innsbrook
If you believe that autumn is the best season to enjoy Innsbrook, you are not alone. In our 2015 survey of most favorite season, the fall was nearly tied with summer for IBK’ers. Cool weather where windows and doors can be left open night and day allow us to connect with nature around the clock. We hear the birds chirping at the feeder, barred owls hooting love songs, turkeys gobbling in the back, fish breaching the lake’s surface, squirrels chasing one another in dry leaves sounding more like elephants, all while deer move ever so silently with their growing fawns in tow, now missing the freckled spots of their first innocent summer.
Darkness falls early enough where my favorite summer constellations still glow in crisper skies with the lights and humidity of summer gone. The moon shines through bedroom windows overnight while the warmth of the sun during the day still does not trigger noisy air conditioners. Dreams even seem more sweet when falling asleep to evening air that is so fresh to breathe in and more relaxing than any man-made libation. Thank you Planet Earth and Creation for all these autumn gifts of Nature for us to enjoy at IBK!
Peak Autumn Color
Every year we anxiously await seeing peak fall foliage colors in October. There is much variance in timing due to temperatures and rainfall, along with wind and storms that can strip the most colorful leaves off just before they peak. Don’t fret if you miss a few weekends at IBK this October. There are often two surges of forest color in our part of Missouri when different varieties of trees are at their maximum. The first one is around the second week of October, and the second one near the last week of the month. Maples, dogwoods, sumac, and sycamores turn their reds and yellows early, while the wise old oaks turn gold and bronze later, keeping their leaves over the winter. The last greenery of the forest in the fall is often from the leaves of invasive bush honeysuckle, which makes it an easy time to spot for cutting down.
Because of the record heat and drought conditions of late September, leaves are expected to turn later, but more quickly and drop faster. There are pockets around IBK where many trees distressed by jumping oak gall disease, oak wilt, or Japanese Beetles have already lost their foliage. Here’s a link for a fall leaf identification chart from the Mo. DNR website at Fall Leaf ID Guide. For near real-time monitoring of the fall colors across Missouri visit the MDC website MO Leaf Color Monitoring.
Few Nature Acts Will Eclipse the Great American Eclipse of 2017
We summarized the Nature Group’s FestEclipse watch party in an earlier post and shared great photos submitted by attendees at IBK Nature Solar Eclipse Gallery. Witnessing natural events with family and friends, like traveling around the world, often yields another story with the passing of some time. Seeing over a hundred IBK’ers packed into a meeting room curious to learn about the mechanics of an eclipse that make such a magical thing possible, then hearing all their exclamations when the moon finally blotted out the last of the sun’s disk, were both awe-inspiring. For those who were not lucky enough to witness totality, we can attest that photographs do not do justice to live viewing of the huge luminescent corona around the sun with every color imaginable of the sky trailing down like gentle showers to the horizon in all directions. Perhaps like you, this eclipse has made me an eclipse chaser. The next total solar eclipse is in 2024, and not that far away in location, with more information at 2024 Eclipse Information.
IBK Nature Lovers Survey Results
During our eclipse watch party we continued with our survey of what elements of Nature do IBK’ers enjoy and value the most. It’s always so encouraging to read all the responses from over the past two years we have taken this survey. Drum roll please; here are the August 2017 results in order:
- Silence, quiet, solitude in nature
- Fauna, animals, wildlife
- Lakes, streams, clean water, boating
- Forests, trees, undeveloped areas
- Dark starry skies at night
- Clean air & blue skies
- Community to enjoy nature with, learn from
- Scenery, visual, photography
- Flora, plants, flowers
- Family, kids and pets in nature
- Walking, hiking, trails
- Seasons and weather diversity
- Sports, fishing, open water swimming
- Exercising, jogging, cycling, running
Just a note that there was not much separation between ranking of the picks as more than half of responders gave the highest rating of a “10” to many of their picks! Yet, each time we have taken this survey the top results always included the following: silence and quiet, fauna and animals, forests and trees, clean air and skies, and recreational waters of our lakes and streams. We hope Innsbrook Resort is reading this too, and we thank their employees for preserving and maintaining all that we have to enjoy.
Meadows Trail and Charrette Creek Stream Hike
Little did we know that our long-planned wet hike along the Meadows Trail and in Charrette Creek on July 29th would be so timely. This trail is one of the most popular at IBK due to its rock outcroppings, wildflowers and easy access to splash in the shallow waters of Charrette Creek. The July 4th sewage spill incident (see below) focused our attention on what an important ecosystem this creek is for Nature inside of IBK as well as downstream in Warren County. Missouri Master Naturalists Leslie Limberg and Allison Volk led a group of over 40 along the creek and explained what to look for to assess the health of a stream and the surrounding watershed. This creek did not appear to be in very good health with only a few minnows and no larger fish, amphibians or reptiles sighted. There was substantial cloudiness, sediment, algae, and blackened cobble. The smell of manure was present, perhaps due to runoff due from nearby stables. We’ll watch for the hopeful return of aquatic life on subsequent hikes as they are an important part of the food web for the rest of Nature at IBK. Let us know what you observe, or don’t, as you hike the Meadows Trail this fall.
Charrette Creek Sewage Spill
As widely reported in the news media, including in this local newspaper Warren County Record Article, there was a significant spill of sewage into Charrette Creek over the July 4 holiday week. The spill, which was investigated by the Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources, caused high levels of coliform bacteria (e.g. E. coli) in the creek. This type of contamination can pose a hazard to both a stream’s ecosystem as well to public health. After the incident, Innsbrook Resort communicated to property owners that a busy holiday resulted in the resort’s wastewater treatment plant being overtaxed and failing. As a result of this failure, untreated sewage was discharged into Charrette Creek downstream of the Lake Aspen Dam which polluted the creek to the extent that there was a fish kill. I can attest to the extent of the pollution when we hiked the Meadows Trail a few days after the holiday to prepare for the Nature Group event and smelled the foul water with few sightings of aquatic life. After reading MoDNR reports and speaking with their representatives, we erred on the side of precaution and changed our plans from a fun wet stream hike to an educational dry walk and talk to avoid any risks.
If you have questions or opinions about the importance of protecting the quality of our streams, lakes, and watersheds please do contact Innsbrook Resort and especially our elected Village of Innsbrook Trustees at www.villageofinnsbrook.com. This unfortunate accident, which we know Innsbrook Resort sincerely regretted, has already motivated a few property owners within IBK to pursue training as Missouri Stream Team Volunteer Monitors. If you like to learn more or join us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tip for Living in Harmony With Nature: Don’t Denude Redo
Our tip from the past Summer Newsletter for “living in harmony with nature” – the original motto of IBK that is slowly disappearing – was don’t denude your property to make it look like a suburban subdivision. We encouraged owners of new chalets and homes being built to leave as much of their lots undisturbed as possible as, after all, this is not the city. We promised they would be rewarded with a bounty of nature viewing on their own property while preserving wildlife habitat and protecting watersheds and recreational lake quality.
However, we erred in that we should have also mentioned buyers of existing properties who may be first-time IBK’ers and not yet understand nor appreciate some of the reasons so many of their neighbors love Nature at IBK and are so protective of it. You can tell who these long time property owners are as we are the ones who don’t have blinds on all of our windows nor do we have exterior lights always turned on as if we are scared of peeping deer or rural darkness!
This summer we watched in sadness as several lots stretching down to the water’s edge on our most scenic lakes were stripped of many trees and wildlife cover to create more urban-looking landscapes that will be harder to maintain naturally. When we moved to IBK it required special authorization from the POA after construction was completed to take down even small trees. I worry that is no longer the case and anything goes; does anyone know?
Mushrooming in the Fall
We recently spied two huge puffball mushrooms alongside the Tyrolean Trail that were larger than a soccer ball. Giant Puffballs are white round balls, filled with light green spores, that turn yellow or brown as they age. They are edible while young and fresh. The Missouri Conservationist Magazine recommends that you peel off the skins then sauté them in olive oil or batter and deep fry them. Be sure to cut them open before you eat them as there are poisonous puffballs which are smaller and more yellow, but have spores on the inside that are black instead of light-colored. Both types thrive in grassy, open areas along the perimeter of woods. Always consult a good field guide such as the MDC Mushroom Field Guide before eating wild ‘shrooms.
Japanese Beetles & Invasive Lespedeza
A month ago we fielded a question about Japanese Beetles, not to be confused with Asian Ladybug Beetles which later this month will emerge in mass on sunny exterior sidings and windows seeking winter abodes. This year IBK has seen an increase in Japanese Beetles because their diet includes the invasive plant lespedeza which has become far more abundant across IBK in just the past two years. Lespedeza is a legume, like soybeans, but has now been classified across much of the Midwest as a noxious weed. You may have seen this invasive bush alongside many IBK roads and trails but here’s what it looks like at Lespedeza Info. These plants attract the Japanese Beetles which in turn also feed on the leaves of many trees. The MDC issued a forest health alert was issued about this growing problem at Forest Health Alert – Japanese Beetles. Recent mild winters without cold soil temperatures could be another reason we are seeing more of these leaf-eating pests.
IBK Critter of the Season: Wild Turkey
This past summer we witnessed one of the largest gangs of wild turkeys around our part of IBK consisting of 10 poults, which is what young wild turkeys are called. We suspect it is because the nuts and acorns from last year’s unusual tree fruit masting event were so abundant as a food source. We have since learned that a hen turkey may lay up to 14 eggs, but we are not sure why we have rarely seen such a large flock. While we enjoy watching the turkey family making their way across our property, we wonder if other mammal populations within IBK are missing that would feed on the young turkeys. As example, the red foxes that we saw so frequently in 2016 have been ever so scarce this past year. DYN turkeys prefer to sleep in trees? With adults weighing between 30-40 lbs you’d think they’d keep to the ground, but they prefer the tree tops where they’re safe from predators. I am always astonished when I see these big birds flap their wings and take off almost vertically into a tree.
Blue Birds & Extreme Weather Events
The blue bird nesting season got off to a slow start earlier this year due to the late spring freeze which provided some of the coldest days of an otherwise very mild winter that had very little snowfall. Many early blue bird chicks died in the nest during this freeze. It was absolutely devastating to go check on a nest to find dead, desiccated hatchlings. They did rebound spectacularly however. This year IBK fledged 643 bluebird chicks, ahead of the 593 from last season. Kudos to Shirley Ritsema and her team of volunteers who monitor over 100 boxes around IBK in all-weather conditions.
It’s heartwarming to see that some species are able to rebound from extreme weather events. However, others may not be so lucky. It’s possible that the lack of snow last year hurt some mammals, like foxes, who depend on other critter trails in the snow like those of rodents and rabbits, to find their next meal. DYN that fewer foxes often mean more field mice which creates more opportunities for tick-borne diseases to be carried onto deer, then grasses, and then humans? This is a good example of how interconnected the wildlife chain is and the law of unintended consequences when we trap or kill a species without thinking it through.
Milkweed and Wildflowers
Reading about bee populations crashing and monarch butterflies threatened by the extreme weather events encouraged us to plant more bee-friendly wildflowers and butterfly-nourishing milkweed around and near our property. Over the years we have spread lots of seeds alongside the Konstanz Trail, especially where invasive lespesdeza was outcompeting native plants. In our Summer Newsletter we reported how exciting it was to see so many patches of tall milkweed blooming along the trail and all over IBK.
While milkweed blooms in the summer, the pollinated plants grow pods that don’t spill their seeds until the fall. A week ago our stand of milkweed along the trail was just days before their silky pods would open to shower seeds when it was inadvertently mowed down by Innsbrook. The good news is that they also mowed down the nuisance lespesdeza, and we were still able to find a few milkweed pods on the ground, crack them open and spread their seeds to the wind. Late fall and early winter are the best times to spread the seeds with more useful tips at Wildflower Tips . Most wildflower seeds need to stay developing on the plant until a frost. Then their seeds drop and lie dormant in the soil until spring to produce the next generation of plants. A great resource for finding wildflower seeds is Grow Native www.grownative.org and Missouri Wildlife Nursery www.mowildflowers.net.
Favorite Innsbrook Nature Trails
Every time I venture out onto one of our many Nature trails I am so thankful of the Innsbrook Resort community we live in which has provided these trails for us to enjoy. Many of you must feel the same way from watching the much greater use our trails now experience than from just a few years ago. In our Summer Newsletter we took a poll of your favorite trails and the results are not too surprising; #1 was the Lake Konstanz Trail followed by #2 the Meadows Trail and a close #3 the Tyrolean Trail. We expect Konstanz is so enjoyed because you can experience several different forest habitat types in under an hour’s time with great views along the way. This fall we have vowed to spend more time on the less traveled trails of Grendel, Sonnenblick, and Wynnbrook. And with relatively unused snow shoes we hope to do more winter hiking when the forest looks so different and the animal tracks in snow are abundant. Don’t forget you can find trail guides from Innsbrook Resort at IBK Trail Guide.
Reminder to Buy Firewood Locally
Firewood brought in from outside of the immediate IBK area could carry the emerald ash borer (EAB). The MDC encourages the purchase of wood from local sources within 50 miles. But since both St. Charles County to our east and Franklin County to our south have reported EAB infestations, the safest bet is to always insist that the wood be from Warren County. If you find small D shaped holes in your firewood or trees, or see a ½ inch long green insect you don’t recognize, visit EAB Identification to confirm it is EAB then http://eab.missouri.edu for learning what to do. DYN that woodpeckers love eating the larvae of the EAB, but that damage to bark by these birds can also hurt a tree?
Blessing of the Animals and Saint Francis Feast Day
Don’t forget that blessing of the animals is this Wednesday, Oct. 4. This day is a custom that was created in remembrance of Saint Francis’ love for all creatures and creation. A few years ago we attended an IBK neighborhood blessing of the numerous canine members of our families who enjoy IBK with us. Lacking a community-wide event this year, here’s a prayer we found on the web which you can recite in front of your domesticated pets or wilder animals that also call IBK home.
“O God, we pray for all the animals of the earth today:
Watch over our pets, and those waiting to be adopted,
Watch over the wild animals, and the habitats they call home,
and help us to be good stewards of the gifts of creation.”
Rich & Kath for the Innsbrook Nature Group
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