Hello Innsbrook Nature Enthusiasts,
Spring has come late to IBK, as has our Spring 2018 Newsletter! We started writing this on a Sunday evening after one of the most splendid weekends in many months. The daytime temperatures were in the 60’s, the air clean and soft, the winds gentle, humidity just right, the skies ever so blue, and the night sky so crisp that the moon casts shadows of us around the outdoor fire on a cool evening. It rarely gets better than this in Missouri, or anywhere in the Midwest this time of year.
The sights, sounds, and smells of Nature are approaching their peak of the spring season this week at IBK, some 7-10 days later than last year. The wise elder oaks in IBK forests have started to leaf out, towering above white dogwoods and magenta redbud trees that have already peaked in the understory. Wild daffodils which got an early start this year are still plentiful, and it has been a joy to see them spread all over IBK in the past decade. Read more about nature’s timeline in our Nature Group’s Phenology Log here.
In our latest IBK Nature Group newsletter you will learn about: the new Charrette Creek stream team, owl sightings, tips for living in harmony with nature, ring-necked snakes, a nature trail addition, turtles on the move, results of the winter backyard bird count and dark sky survey, beetle invasion, and a favorite guide on our nature bookshelf. We hope you find something that enlarges your appreciation of both Nature and IBK. If you do, please consider sharing this link https://ibknature.com/newsletters/spring-2018-newsletter with your IBK neighbors and friends who may not know about our informal nature lov’n group. If you prefer to view this newsletter as a document or to print it out, and take a break from Facebook tracking what you do, please download it at Innsbrook Nature Spring 2018 Newsletter.
New Trail Bridge
Thanks to Innsbrook Resort for the new trail bridge for hikers that crosses over the Alpine Dam overflow spillway. We were surprised to discover it during our first bike ride of the year. By climbing up the west end of the dam you can now cross over and connect with a loop that descends back to the waterfall along the northern end of the Tyrolean Trail. This allows you and your family or pets in tow to avoid vehicles crossing the dam on Alpine Lake Drive. What a great gift it is to have so many trails to enjoy. A reminder that you can find more trail information at Innsbrook Resort Nature Trails.
Charrette Creek Adopted by New Stream Team
Over the winter the IBK Nature Group established an official Missouri Volunteer Stream Team to help monitor and protect the health of Charrette Creek (CC) as it flows through the Village of Innsbrook. This stream starts above Lake Aspen, meanders west along the Meadows Trail, turns a corner near the Commons amenity complex, then crosses underneath Stracks Church Road where it enters the Tyrolean Valley. There it eventually connects up with waters out of Alpine Lake and later joins the North Fork CC coming out of Reifsnider State Forest. This stream covers an important watershed for Warren County that starts with us, and eventually flows into the Missouri River near Washington. You can view a map of Missouri watersheds here and zoom down to Warren County then IBK. Did you know (DYK) that there are over 120,000 miles of flowing water in Missouri alone?
Early this spring after receiving our designation as a stream team we (Kath and Rich) took a one-day workshop provided by the Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources at Babler State Park. We came away with so much more knowledge and useful references to help us see streams very differently than before this training. The most fun of the day was the several hours spent wading around a creek with over 40 other Missourians who value the streams and lakes of Missouri, including several recreational anglers. We learned firsthand that the health of a stream can be judged by counting and identifying all the tiny macro-invertebrates located on the stream bed hiding under the rocks and pebbles. See what some of these strange water creatures look like at Stream Macro-Invertebrates.
We also learned about the characteristics that make up a creek habitat and influence water quality. Important features include the land use in the surrounding habitat (for CC it is pasture and woods), the extent of the riparian cover (how much sunlight reaches the water surface), types of habitats in the creek (riffles, root wads, stumps, undercut banks and rock ledges), presence and type of algae, and composition of the stream bed itself (cobble, sand and bedrock for CC). DYK what a riffle is? It’s an area where the water breaks over rocks, indicating an elevation drop in the stream bed. They’re an excellent environment for our macro-invertebrates.
A few weeks ago we started to put our new knowledge to work in the first step of locating a monitoring site. Here’s a photo of us preparing to measure the discharge volume of CC just downstream of where the intermittent Farm House Field Creek joins up with CC. While we have not yet begun a biological survey, which will come later this year, we were happy to witness, after last year’s sewage accident and fish kill, clear running water with no visible foul odor or signs of pollution.
We are looking for volunteers young and old who would like to join us this summer as we take more measurements and look for the dozens of little water critters that call CC their home. Until then you can learn more about stream teams at Missouri Stream Team or by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips For Living in Harmony With Nature
Do others worry that the IBK community (i.e. property owners, visitors, the Resort, and the Village) are losing the founding emphasis and ethos of living in harmony with nature? Without biasing your answer by sharing what we have witnessed over recent years, let us know what you think by taking our anonymous poll now. We will share the results in a future newsletter.
Change is to be expected as our community has grown. Many changes have been outstanding, such as seeing so many more families out enjoying the miles of nature trails within IBK that we are ever so thankful to IBK Resort for developing. Other changes and disruptions are perhaps not so positive as this photo illustrates.
One of the best decisions the founders of IBK made was to limit the type and size of motors for recreational watercraft to ensure more relaxing and harmonious experiences in nature on the water. If you have ever been on the Lake of the Ozarks you know why this was so very wise. Unfortunately, the roads within IBK have not been equally protected as our lakes, despite having so many walkers, hikers, joggers, bikers, equestrians, pets on leashes and wildlife off leash all sharing the roads.
A trend of recent years is for UTVs getting bigger, faster, noisier, and fouler smelling. You can hear them coming and smell them going for some distance. With the engines so noisy the occupants are often shouting to be heard. While they do look to be fun when they pass us on our bikes struggling to get up a hill, we wonder how environmental friendly they really are. We also worry about the safety of occupants after seeing how some are driven and hearing about several accidents over recent years.
Our tip for this season to live more in harmony with nature and neighbors, assuming the Resort or Village is not going to do anything, is please consider upgrading your muffler and exhaust to be more quiet and less polluting. They may sell these vehicles as if you will operate them on a farm, and thus avoid property taxes, but please remember we are a resort that prides itself on clean air and quite enjoyment of nature.
Winter Great Backyard Bird Count Results
This year’s GBBC was on a cold February day with a trace of snow swirling around. We filled our feeder and settled down inside to watch the nature show through our great room windows. We counted 23 bird species that day from the feeder and from a hike with Kyp around Lake Konstanz. This was significantly less than last year’s 31 species for reasons we don’t know. Other Warren County “counters” tallied 29 total species. By quantity, the Canada Goose, surprise, was the most prevalent, with tufted titmouse, song sparrow, American crow and northern cardinal following close behind. We sadly did not see any bald eagles this day but know they still call IBK home from other sightings and from these nature gallery photographs. Missouri showed good diversity with a total of 141 species sighted, almost identical to last year. You can explore reported data from any county in the US and from any country at GBBC Website. There was a rare cedar waxwing that didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be counted in February. It made an appearance at a nature group follower’s chalet last month. These birds migrate through the IBK area in the fall and spring and are rarely seen in the winter.
A bit later than last year, the IBK bluebirds have started their nesting season so that means that the IBK Bluebird Monitors have started peeping! Watching the process, from nest to eggs to chicks to BIG chicks to fledging, is a humbling experience. It takes a little more than a month from start to finish and a pair may have 1-3 clutches during a summer. The newborn chicks seem so tiny and fragile that you wonder how they’ll ever learn to fly. DYK that the female will lay one egg per day, but that once she starts sitting on the nest the chicks will all hatch within a few hours of each other? Last year the monitors reported that over 600 bluebird chicks fledged from nearly 100 boxes located around IBK. Thank you monitors and Shirley their volunteer coordinator!
One of the newer joys of nature we have experienced at IBK in recent years is the increase in the local owl population, as well as watching other birds of prey like hawks. We think most of the IBK owls are barred owls, but we’ve also seen great horned owls and heard eastern screech owls. Other IBK nature lovers over the winter reported more snowy owls. We are excited to see more owls as we were concerned that the lack of snow over recent winters made their hunting and survival more challenging.
This time of year you can hear owls screeching in the trees, flying effortlessly and silently in the warming air, and literally mating up a hoot in the evenings. I can still remember the first time we heard them at IBK where I thought they sounded like a bunch of wild chimpanzees in our trees! Listen to this recording of barred owls from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell All About Birds or learn about the eastern screech owl in this recent MDC article in Missouri Conservationist Feb. 2018.
Owls are not picky eaters and will eat everything from beetles to frogs to mice. As you hike, keep an eye out for “owl pellets”. They swallow their prey whole and regurgitate what they can’t digest (bones, feathers, teeth, etc.) into furry looking globs. As field mice are a big part of their diet, please avoid using a toxic rodenticide that could harm the mouse’s predator, the owl. DYK that many owls mate for life? What a loss it would be for one of them to lose its mate due to our poisoning. To see more birds of prey from when the World Bird Sanctuary visited IBK for our Nature Chautauqua visit 2016 Nature Chautauqua .
One of the earliest snakes we saw this spring was an unusual one making its way across our lower level patio. This juvenile snake was only 5 inches long and had an unusual yellowish-white ring around its neck. Having never seen a snake before with such a bright collar band, I visited the MDC Nature Field Guide and found this snake to be called a Prairie Ring-Necked Snake, or more correctly diadophis punctatus arnyi. It is non-venomous, as are the great majority of Missouri snakes, and will grow to be about a foot long while feeding on worms, slugs, and insects. Remember that if you find snakes on your IBK property, try to just let them be as they have an important role in our ecosystem by helping to keep in check rodents that can carry infectious tick diseases.
Watch for Turtles on the Move
DYK that Missouri is home to 18 different species of turtles out of over 300 known species of turtles and tortoises? There are hard-shelled land turtles, soft- shelled aquatic turtles, and hard-shelled aquatic turtles. Many of them can be found in IBK forests, lakes, and streams. Within the next few weeks we will start seeing more land turtles on the move and attempting to cross roads inside of IBK as well as those in Warren County. Years ago after moving to IBK we learned to keep a pair of gloves and small scoop in our car trunk to have available to help wildlife like turtles get across roads for a happy ending, as well as to move the remains of those animals who were not so lucky.
More recently across Missouri turtles have been under threat from being over-harvested by commercial interests, loss of habitat, poaching, target shooting, and vehicle roadkill. New protections have now been put into place by the MDC. IBK has become a bit more dangerous with more miles of asphalt roads that have gotten taller with each new layer. Climbing up and then sliding down the steep sides without rolling over is not always an easy task for these reptiles. When I stop to help a turtle get across I always take it airborne in the direction it was going, and place if safely off the road some distance. In doing so I am always delighted to inspect the brightly colored neck tattoos of three-toed box turtles or the shells of ornate box turtles.
One of the best reasons to take it slow at 23 mph on our roads is to enjoy watching roadside wildlife instead of hitting them, especially in June when newborn spotted fawns stumble out onto our roads for the first time. They seem totally oblivious to oncoming vehicles, usually as momma deer watches from the shoulder.
Nature Discoveries While Walking Your Dog
Nearly every morning in the spring we discover something new on our walks around Lake Konstanz with Kyp, as you can too with or without a pet in tow. On the last day of April it was an army of May Beetles crawling out of the woods to cross the road, unable to fly. We had not seen a single beetle yet this season then all of a sudden our road was covered with them. These beetles, genus name Phyllophaga, emerge out of the forest soil and leaf mulch beds fully grown. They will soon be flying around clumsily, looking for mates, and undoubtedly providing nourishment for birds. These beetles appear to be more plentiful at IBK than recent years. DYK there are over 400 types of just this beetle in North America? No wonder they are all so tough for the amateur naturalist to identify. We use the laminated “Bugs & Slugs” pocket guide from Waterford Press that is easy to carry on our hikes.
Summer Star Party
One of our favorite events from a few years ago was hosting a summer star party at the old farmhouse field. We had over a hundred property owners and guests come by that evening to have a look through several telescopes of various sizes set up to see “stars from the stage”. We were ever so grateful for a local Warren County family who shared their expertise, equipment, and love of astronomy with us. We are seeking IBK sky watchers, amateur astronomers, and property owners with telescopes and binoculars to help out with another star party this summer. If you can assist, or want to take the lead in organizing a formal or informal astronomy group, let us know at email@example.com.
Dark Sky Results
One of our concerns about living in harmony with nature is the loss of our dark night skies, which many part and full-timers value at IBK. We have participated in a Winter Dark Sky survey each of the past three years. The Globe at Night organization sponsors this annual citizen scientist activity. This year on a clear, moonless winter night we were able to see stars down to a magnitude of 4.5 in the constellation Orion. While that is better than what you might see in the suburbs of St. Louis, it is slightly worse than in previous years.
DYK that satellite data has documented that the surface lit brightness of many locations on our planet has increased by 10% in less than a decade? Scientists have also found that the health of nocturnal species, including nighttime pollinators, is being impacted by light pollution. Another kind reminder that if you are not at your IBK property for days at a time, please be considerate of those of us who are and don’t leave your exterior lights on manually or on a dusk-to-dawn timer. If you are building at IBK, check out guides to exterior lighting such as that provided by the Dark Sky Association where you will learn that LEDs are not always the most environmentally friendly choice.
On the IBK Nature Bookshelf
Our favorite field guide to identify all of our creepy crawly slimy neighbors of IBK is “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri” by herpetologist Tom Johnson. The second edition which we have has over 400 pages covering toads and frogs, newts, salamanders, snakes, turtles and more. DYK that Missouri has over 40 different amphibians and 70 plus different types of reptiles? This book is a publication of the MDC that can be found at local nature shops like Wild Birds Unlimited stores and the Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood, as well as online at MDC Nature Shop Book. Check out our bibliography of other nature books on this website page here.
Closing Nature Quote
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” by William Shakespeare.
Rich & Kath
P.S. As we finish this newsletter on a Wednesday late afternoon, with temps approaching 90 and forest foliage expanding so rapidly, it seems we have gone from winter snowflakes to summer heat in about two weeks! A reminder if you have received this newsletter from a friend or neighbor, you can sign up to receive it directly once a quarter by entering your email address where prompted at the top right of this page.