In this issue of the Innsbrook Nature Group (IBK’ng) newsletter we span the topics of: the first Nature Chautauqua, Wildlife Spotting Checklist, Nature Value Survey Results, Fox Family Update, Guided Nature Hikes, Trail Improvements, Black Bear News, Chiggers, Nature at Night, Activities & Volunteers, Butterfly Friendly Milkweed, Mosquitoes & Zika, Forest Bathing, Water Snakes, and a new feature “Ask a Missouri Naturalist.” To help you easily scan for items of interest to you and your family we have organized it by short nature nibbles and longer nature features. If you are a visitor to this website and would like to receive our quarterly newsletters in the future just enter your email address in the field on the right hand side of this page.
Thanks to all those who presented or attended to make our first Innsbrook Nature Chautauqua event a success with standing-room only. If you couldn’t be there we have photos, including the magnificent raptors visiting us from the World Bird Sanctuary, as well as news of the Nature Lover’s Gift Box raffle winner at https://ibknature.com/nature-chautauqua/first-nature-chautauqua/. Send us your suggestions of topics or speakers for future events by leaving a comment at the bottom of that page.
Wildlife Spotting Checklist
One of the several handy resources we distributed at our last event was a checklist of all the different wildlife that has been spotted at Innsbrook over the years. Thanks to Innsbrook Corp. and our resident horticulturist Keith Thompson you can find this reference for printing out your own copy at http://www.innsbrook-resort.com/pdf/Wildlife%20Inventory%20List.pdf. But before you look, take a guess at how many different mammals you think are on this list.
Nature Value Survey
At the Chautauqua we circulated a survey asking people to rate the importance and value of different ways of experiencing Nature at Innsbrook. And the winner is – somewhat surprising to those of us who may take it for granted from living at Innsbrook – solitude, quiet, and silence! Amid our busy urban lives that are always digitally connected and noisy, the quiet of nature is a most valuable asset it seems. The responses in order after silence were: forests, clean air, dark skies, fauna (animal life), lakes, flora (plant life), scenery, community, seasons, walking, hiking, and family. However, since so many items were rated very high, there was little statistical difference between many of them. Later this year we will post the survey on-line to solicit a larger response and present to Innsbrook to help with planning.
Fox Family Update
There has been great interest in following the family of red foxes and their kits this spring that lived in a brush pile just off one of the nature trails. Since our last newsletter several new photos and videos have been added to the gallery pages at https://ibknature.com/gallery/wonderland-of-wildlife/. Just today we witnessed a “this is nature too” moment when one of the kits chased down a squirrel that had just finished lunch at our birdfeeder! A reminder that young wildlife, and their protective parents, are the best reason to keep pets on a leash and children nearby while hiking our trails. A special thanks goes out to the Innsbrook homeowners who decided to leave the brush pile and fox home as-is for the season, even though their property was for sale.
Guided Nature Hikes
Master Naturalists Leslie Limberg and Allison Volk report that the first two guided nature hikes of the season along the Grendel and Sonnenblick trails were well attended. A special sighting by hiker Jim Teeple was a beautiful rare Haploa Clymene Moth as shown in this photo courtesy of Cindy Bowers. The next hikes in the summer series, which is organized by the Innsbrook Property Owners Association, are at the Tyrolean Trail on July 17 and Wynnbrook Trail on Aug. 6. Hope to see you there!
Nature Trail Improvements
Have you seen the many new trail markers and trail head signs that were recently installed by the Innsbrook POA? They are a welcomed addition as we have definitely noticed how many more people there are out walking and hiking around Innsbrook than even just a few short years ago. We should all feel fortunate to be so close to at least one nature trail from almost any location in Innsbrook. To do our part in maintaining the trails with increased usage the IBK’ng is seeking volunteers to adopt-a-trail by walking it once a season to pick up any litter, report fallen trees, photograph special discoveries, and mark invasive species that need removal. Send us an email to email@example.com with the trail you would like to monitor.
Warren the Bear (Corrected)
Yes, we did have our very own black bear roaming around Warren County the past year who we called Warren but other locals nicknamed Gummy. The MDC reports that this was the same bear tagged a few years ago over two hundred miles away in rural Southwest Missouri. He sure must have been an expert swimmer or cunning hitchhiker to make it across the Missouri River! We were worried about Warren’s future in our county, so it was happy news, not sad, when we thought we first heard that Warren had been captured, evaluated, and relocated back to the wild, meaning the rural Ozarks. (Correction) Subsequent news reports say this relocation to the wild of the Ozarks did not happen, but was into the wild of Warren County that he was released. To see a picture of Warren, seemingly sticking his tongue out at the camera in defiance of his capture, visit St. Louis Today Bear Article. Did you know that there are an estimated 300-400 bears now in Missouri? For more info visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/american-black-bear.
Not Digg’n the Chiggers ?
Innsbrook resident Don Sessions has a great blog of his own profiling his love of nature, especially by photographing flowers and plants. In a spring post on chiggers he shared useful tips of what to do when you have been attacked as well as what chiggers actually are. See http://donsessions.blogspot.com/2016/05/dons-blog-chiggers-5-4-16.html . Thanks Don and we love all those photos!
Nature at Night is Above Us Too
Before the summer is out we hope to organize a star party with telescopes and expertise contributed by one of the regional amateur astronomy clubs. We plan to set up in the field next to the amenity center some Saturday evening to encourage families to come over and have a look at the music of the universe while listening to music of the earth. During the first concert of the year we looked up at the sky to star gaze and witnessed one of the longest transits of the sparkling International Space Station which lasted for over 6 minutes passing nearly overhead, a rare event for St. Louis. NASA’s ‘Spot the Station’ website can help you to find when and where to look next time at https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ . All this summer long the planets Saturn and Mars will be visible above the southern horizon near the constellation Scorpio. They will form an impressive triangle with the red supergiant star Antares that sits at the head of the mythical Scorpion.
Milkweed Blooming Across Innsbrook
For those not familiar with what butterfly friendly milkweed looks like, here’s a photo from the Lake Konstanz dam to inspire you to plant some around your own property. Remember that milkweed likes full sun and plenty of open space where butterflies can find them. For tips on planting milkweed visit http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/prop.htm and on making your property monarch friendly at http://mdc.mo.gov/wildlife/attracting-wildlife/backyard-habitat-monarch-butterflies .
Activities and Volunteers in Nature
We recently added a new page https://ibknature.com/activities/on our website referencing all the activities that can be enjoyed out in nature at Innsbrook. While these are not organized activities of our group, should you have expertise, skill, or just interest in one of these subject areas please think about sharing it with others by volunteering to help our with other nature loving enthusiasts. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Concerned About Mosquitoes & Zika?
While there have been reports of a few Missouri residents with the Zika virus, it is important to note that they got it while travelling outside of the US and not from being bit by a mosquito in Missouri. No Zika carrying mosquitoes have been reported in Missouri, and we hope it stays that way. There are over 3,000 different types of mosquitoes in the world, with over 150 varieties in the US and about half that number found in Missouri. Thankfully, only two types of mosquitoes that have the potential to transmit Zika can be found in Missouri; aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus. You can find help in identifying them in the recent NYT article at NY Times Mosquito Article.
The most effective control of mosquitoes is to eliminate places where they breed on your property, typically standing stagnant water. They can’t breed in flowing water nor do they like healthy lakes where fish, frogs and other predators have established residence. They prefer temporary shallow water like that found in a gutter, ditch, tire rut, bird bath, and anything else that does not drain.
Another strategy to rid mosquitoes is making your property friendly to bats, lizards, dragonflies, frogs, purple martins, and a host of others that will eat them voraciously. Some bats can devour 500-1,000 insects (including mosquitoes) in an hour! Check out the NYT article on the role of bats in fighting Zika at NYT Bats Help Fight Zika. Consider placing a bat house on your property of the type shown here in our Nature Lover’s Gift Box which was purchased at a local Wild Birds Unlimited store. The worst thing you can do is to wildly spray insecticides or fogging pesticides which will harm beneficial insects such as butterflies and pollinating bees and throw the ecosystem out of whack.
Finally, we can also protect ourselves with wearing long sleeves and pants then using good repellents. According to Consumer Reports, lemon eucalyptus is the only plant-oil-based repellent that does a good job. Of the conventional chemicals, deet and picaridin (which resembles a chemical in the black pepper plant) performed the best.
Ask a Missouri Master Naturalist: How can we live in harmony with Nature? A guest article by Allison Volk
“Living in harmony with nature is one of the reasons we purchased our property at Innsbrook. It was printed all over the resort brochures at the time and I thought it was just fantastic. I still do, but over the years of owning property here I have witnessed changes with the Nature around us that got me thinking about our ecological community and what I might be able to do differently to help keep our Nature in balance.
Three things come to mind that I shared at the recent Chautauqua. The first is to decide how much of your property you would like to share with our native residents. Make some brush piles and plant native flowers and you are on your way to providing what our wild neighbors need. Bird feeders will not only attract birds but many mammals and reptiles that also will enjoy the birds, their eggs, or the seed. If you would like to reduce the mess that some visitors like raccoons make around the feeders, try to reduce the spillage factor onto the ground and take feeders in at night. Having pets mark their territory can also help. If you have a nuisance mammal that is bold and persistent you may want to suspend feeding the birds for a while until that mammal has moved on to a different food source.
Next I suggest limiting the use of pesticides and rodenticides on the outside of your property. The birds, including our prized Innsbrook Eagles along with other mammals and reptiles that eat rodents need a food chain that is not loaded with hazardous and often deadly chemicals. If rodents and bugs are non-toxic their food chain predators will be healthier which should help to balance out the pest populations. If you have a pest problem inside your home or chalet please only treat the inside. If you have an outside baited rodent station you could be advertising a free meal to passing pests that would normally prefer to stay away from our human habitat.
Lastly, to help maintain our forest ecosystem, please walk your property each spring and fall to eradicate invasive species. Asian Bush Honeysuckle is starting to show up in our local woods and it will most definitely change for the worse our forest and wildlife as we know it. It spreads quickly from the red berries in the fall that are eaten by the birds then distributed thru their elimination. Bush Honeysuckle leafs out first in the spring shading out native plants and trees which our pollinators, birds and mammals all need. Honeysuckle also prevents Hickory and Oak seedlings from growing, so when the older canopy starts to die off as is natural, the seedlings will not be ready to replace them and our entire woods will change as will the view from your deck. Finally, this will reduce our songbird population that relies on the top canopy of the trees for their habitat.”
Thanks, Allison, and we will use this to start a new page on our website “Ask a Missouri Naturalist.” Send us your questions for future editions to email@example.com.
Scared of Snakes in the Lakes?
Yes, there are snakes in the lakes of Innsbrook, just like all over the rest of Missouri, but they too serve a useful purpose to balance the ecosystem. The most common water snakes in Missouri are the Northern, Midland, and Diamondback, all which are harmless to humans. However, they are often confused with Cottonmouth or Copperhead snakes that are venomous and can be dangerous if provoked. A quick way to tell is that safe water snakes have rounded heads and venomous snakes have more diamond-shaped heads with facial pits between the eyes. Also, Missouri’s venomous snakes have eyes with vertical pupils, while harmless snakes have round pupils. It has been reported that harmless native water snakes, like in this photo, swim with their body submerged and only their head sticking up out of the water. Snakes that spend most of their time on land and who may just be in the water swim with their bodies on top of the water’s surface, almost as if floating. The best advice is to simply avoid any snake you cannot identify with confidence, but don’t kill them needlessly.
Help in identifying the many snakes of Missouri can be found on-line at at http://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/general-species-information/amphibian-and-reptile-facts/snake-facts . Another great reference book to keep handy at your Innsbrook property is “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri” book by herpetologist Tom Johnson. We learned from these references that some snakes reproduce by laying eggs while others give live birth to their young. We recently witnessed another “this is nature too (tint)” moment of bass hoping to feed on a water snake giving birth.
As the photo here shows, we use a decoy predator owl mounted on a post on our beach to dissuade snakes from hanging out where we like to relax.
Forest Bathing: This Latest Fitness Trend is Not What You Think!
There’s been much press lately about the “indoor epidemic” in the US. We’ve increasingly become an indoor species, missing out on the lower stress levels, improved memory and other healthful benefits that have been linked to spending time in Nature. Enter “Shinrin-Yoku”, a Japanese practice that translates as Forest Bathing. While a hiker’s objective is to reach a destination, a Shinrin-Yoku walker’s goal is to slow down, appreciate things that can only be experienced while moving slowly and to take a break from daily activities. It’s just like taking a warm soothing bath, but in the comfort of trees. Some researchers attribute Forest Bathing’s health benefits to antimicrobial organic compounds given off by plant life. It is thought inhaling these chemicals can cause relaxation. So, the next time you go for a rapid walk, take a Forest Bath instead. Take your time, breathe deeply, and feel that sense of awe you get from the embrace of Nature. For more info visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_bathing .
Silence in Nature Quote
To observe the results of the recent Nature Value Survey, our closing quote comes from Mother Teresa. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”