Summer 2017 Newsletter

In the latest Innsbrook Nature Newsletter learn about plans to celebrate the great American solar eclipse on Aug. 21, a guided “wet” hike along the Meadows Trail on July 29, updates on our bald eagle and red fox families, fireworks and the environment, the new Missouri Birding Trail, tips for living in harmony with nature, warmer climates and ticks, certified wildlife communities, results from the latest nature appreciation survey, and much more!

With all this news and information, especially on the eclipse, if you prefer to read or print it out as a PDF document, please click here: Innsbrook Nature Summer 2017 Newsletter.

Vote For Your Favorite IBK Nature Trail

Every weekend reminds us how lucky we are to have great hiking trails so close if not right outside our door. Over the years we have witnessed the increasing use of IBK trails which demonstrates that so many of us value our natural amenities in addition to the man-made ones. Tell us which IBK hiking trail is your favorite and we will report the results in our next newsletter:


If you need help remembering your footsteps, here’s a link to the Innsbrook Resort’s website for a guide of all the trails at IBK Hiking Guide.

Eclipse Watch Party on August 21

(For the latest updates to Eclipse watching information and our Festeclipse plans visit

Last summer the Nature Group hosted a nighttime star party with non-stop lines at telescopes kindly brought in by local volunteer amateur astronomers.*  This year our summer star party will be a daytime event where the stars and planets will come out and the sun will “disappear” due to a rare total solar eclipse visible along a 70 mile wide band running across Missouri and which IBK lies directly in the path!

NASA Illustration

Our eclipse watch party, or festeclipse, will be held at the Charrette Commons starting at 11:30 am on Monday, Aug. 21. We will have a presentation on eclipse watching basics presented by our very own subject matter expert who has volunteered to take training provided from NASA for community watch party leaders. Afterwards we will move outside where several hundred certified solar glasses will be available at no charge. Should the weather be overcast, the party will go on as we will also have live broadcasts from NASA being shown on the meeting room monitors.  NASA is live-streaming from multiple locations so we can see the eclipse before it actually gets to us.

The partial eclipse will start at 11:48 am.  To begin with, only a small part of the Sun is covered by the Moon.  We’ll use our glasses to watch as the Moon moves across the Sun.  It takes some time for the eclipse to reach totality, so I vote for a delicious picnic lunch or a great sandwich from the Summerhaus during this time! We also expect to have a batch of special dark side of the moon cocktails. Our subject matter expert will also be providing commentary and “factoids” with an eclipse trivia contest as it progresses.  As more and more of the Sun is covered by the Moon, you’ll see shadows getting sharper, temperatures getting lower, and the sky getting darker. Just before the Moon completely covers the Sun it will get significantly darker, and you may see “the diamond ring effect.”  For a  second you see the faint ring of the Sun’s  last crescent of light and then the bright  (diamond) flash of the last glimpse of the Sun. How will all the wildlife react?

The total eclipse at Innsbrook will be only 1 minute and 51 seconds long occurring between 1:15-1:17 pm. That is the ONLY TIME  that is safe to look at the sun’s corona with the naked eye.  Sometimes, you can see red  or pink “prominences”, small tongues of hot  material jutting outwards.   The world is dark,  but it’s a darkness that is not quite like night, and nothing like a cloudy day. You’ll notice the absence of sound as wind dies down and living things seem to  hold their breath.  The stars will come out.  The brightest light will be the sun reflecting off of Venus.

Diamond Ring Eclipse – NASA

At 1:17, you may see another diamond ring as the Sun emerges from behind the Moon. Then it’s time for the glasses again as the Moon slowly moves off the Sun.  It’ll all be over by 2:42. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event worth having a long weekend at IBK that extends into Monday.

We are creating a new page on the IBK nature website at Eclipse Website that will have more information about our eclipse party, the science of an eclipse, how to make pin-hole viewing devices if you don’t have certified eclipse glasses, eclipse games and art projects for kids, and links to other resources.  NASA’s Eclipse 2017 page is also a great place to start at NASA Eclipse.

*A footnote. We were ever so sad to learn that Doug Kniffen, a passionate amateur astronomer in Warren County who brought out his big telescope for us to enjoy last summer, recently passed away. We thank Doug for sharing with IBK his knowledge of the night skies as well as for his family members who showed us their love of the outdoors of Warren County as well.

Nature Photography Workshop

Thanks to the expertise of our guest instructor Gary Hesse and resident camera buff Cindy Bowers, the recent nature photography workshop – our first Nature Chautauqua event of the summer – was well received.  What a splendid venue to have the new Charrette Creek Commons meeting room to use for the presentations, then adjourn to the Tyrolean Trail for an outside hands-on lab. For those unable to attend we have posted some of Cindy’s photography tips at Nature Photo Tips.

At the workshop we pre-announced what is expected to be a year-long photo contest to see who can photograph the largest number of “critters” listed in the IBK wildlife inventory available at IBK Wildlife List. Get started this summer on our photo safari and look for more information in the Fall newsletter.

Nature Appreciation Survey Results

At the workshop we conducted our second annual nature appreciation survey which asks which elements of experiencing nature at IBK are most valued by property owners. The top six responses were not surprising:

  1. Clean air and blue skies
  2. Fauna (animal life)
  3. Silence, quiet, solitude in nature (this was #1 last year)
  4. Flora (plant life)
  5. Scenery, views, photography
  6. Forest, trees

Let us know at if you would like to add your responses to our survey, or to see the complete list which had 15 different elements.

A Cool “Wet” Hike This Hot Summer

Join us at 10 am on Saturday, July 29, for our second IBK Nature Chautauqua event of the summer: a wet hike along the Meadows Trail where along the way we will venture into the shallow waters of Charrette Creek. Master Naturalist and Missouri Stream Team volunteers Allison Volk and Leslie Limberg will literally get our feet wet to help us learn about local stream health, watershed protection, the impact of pollutants on macroinvertebrates, and how algae blooms happen.  Be sure to bring or wear your water sandals.

We will also learn what’s involved with creating a volunteer Stream Team within IBK to supplement the work of our Lakes of Missouri Monitoring volunteers. Let us know if you have a student in the family that would like to participate in an earth science project for extra credit or to add an eco-volunteer activity to their college application.

For more details and the latest information on the hike, visit

Charrette Creek Outside of Innsbrook

Charrette Creek In Southern Warren County

Later this year we hope to organize a field trip to follow the Charrette Creek outside of IBK as it flows south through Warren County and eventually into the Missouri River. It’s a trip worth taking for the scenic views, low water crossings, rock bluffs and natural springs….but you will need a rugged vehicle to do it. To see why check out Don Session’s blog with photos at Don Session Blog.


For those less adventurous you can try a short hike along the North Fork of the Charrette Creek in nearby Reifsnider State Forest just immediately to the west of IBK. Be sure to try the Lizard Rock Hiking Trail as it meanders along the creek and some amazing rock formations. More information with maps at: MDC Reifsnider State Forest.

Tip for Living in Harmony with Nature: Don’t Denude!

In our Spring tip for living in harmony with nature we wrote about wildlife-friendly landscaping. A reader reminded us that a better tip is to avoid having to make any decisions at all on what to plant by leaving as much of your property in its natural state as possible. We know this from lessons learned the hard way while building our own home. We did an ok job of leaving much of the back lot undisturbed, but after mindful removal of trees for construction and boulders from the foundation dig, there was so much damage to the front there was little else to do other than to establish a yard that we wish we could have kept native.

Is this IBK lot an example of rural naturescaping or urban landscaping?

Long time IBK property owners will tell you that our back lots are more important that the front as they provide the million dollar view of nature and often reach down to the water’s edge. Removing too many trees or the forest understory will create erosion and runoff into our lakes that will make them less enjoyable for recreation. Many would agree that clear cutting or denuding your property makes IBK appear to be more of an urban subdivision than a rural resort.

Our Living in Harmony With Nature Tip #2 – By leaving as much as possible of your property as is, naturescaping instead of landscaping, you will be rewarded by a bounty of nature that reminds you why you are here instead of in the city!

Bald Eagle Family News

Bald Eagle Chicks In Their Nest – C. Bowers

It was so exciting to see IBK’s very own bald eagle family grow once again over the spring with the addition of two new chicks.  But now it is heartbreaking to learn that they did not survive. It seems that around Easter weekend they were no longer alive in the nest. I was so distraught about the welfare of our big birds that when I came across a huge dead bird whose head had been decapitated somehow, I freaked out worried that it was an eagle without the benefit of seeing the whole body to know better it was a wild turkey. Since then I have learned that bald eagles don’t get a white head or white tail feathers until they are about 5 years old.

We can remember our eagle family by viewing some of these photos of their family at IBK Bald Eagles and by being careful not to use poisons for rodent control, leave hazardous materials outside or in the trash, use lead in hunting ammunition or fishing tackle, and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE avoid fireworks near their nests or above their watershed fishing grounds.

Personal Fireworks & the Environment

The Innsbrook Resort does a commendable job reminding property owners of all the good reasons not to shoot off personal fireworks on their property.  In addition to personal safety and fire hazard they reference, we add that fireworks disturbs domestic pets and terrorizes wildlife, especially birds. It is no surprise that animal welfare agencies report an increase in lost pets and spooked wildlife over the July 4th holiday.  A few years ago a whole flock of birds died in Arkansas after a fireworks display. While discharging fireworks over lakes helps to avoid brush fires, recent scientific studies report that fireworks can deposit toxic contaminants into watersheds and lakes. Because these contaminants can settle and accumulate into the sediment, some states have banned fireworks from being discharged above lakes that supply public water systems.  A final reason to avoid personal fireworks at IBK is that in the day afterwards we notice all across rural Missouri much worse air quality, exactly what we retreat out of the city over the summer to avoid!

Where are all the Red Foxes This Year?

Woodchuck Looking at Hidden Wildlife Camera

Last year we experienced a bounty of red foxes, with 6 kits in one fox den just off the Lake Konstanz trail.  Many of us remember watching them frolic with each other as they grew up and as was captured in photos by residents at Red Fox Photos. Unfortunately, we have not seen as many mature or young foxes this year. Have you?  Please let us know! The Konstanz fox den from last year is now inhabited by a family of woodchucks, which we think strange as woodchucks are normally prey for foxes.

Certified Wildlife Community Project

The 2017 Innsbrook Innsights magazine mentioned the Certified Wildlife Habitat program from the National Wildlife Federation that some lot owners already participate in.  While this program is designed for individual properties, the NWF has a new certification program for entire communities.  If we choose to participate as a community, we’d work together to create and maintain wildlife habitats for not only our individual properties but also across common areas.  Points are given for removing invasive species (we’re talking to you bush honeysuckle), using native plants and eliminating pesticides and toxic poisons (now we are talking to our bald eagle families).  There’s also an education and outreach component including native plant sales (kudos to the IBK Garden Club), organizing stream teams and hosting workshops on living in harmony with nature.  If this sounds familiar, it should be as we are already doing much of this! If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Habitat Team Supporter, visit NWF Certified Wildlife Communities and then let us know at

Nature Up High at Night

NASA image of International Space Station – no wonder it is so bright and night!

A few years ago we were riding our bikes over to an evening concert when we looked above and saw the brightest object we had ever seen in the night sky. It was the International Space Station (ISS) and at the time had the last Space Shuttle Mission docked up with it.  The dark skies of IBK provide great ISS viewing.  Even though it orbits every 90 minutes, opportunities for sightings are few.  It needs to pass high enough over the horizon to clear hills and trees,  and be within a few hours before or after sunrise or sunset when the sun still reflects off the station while we are in darkness on the ground.  The following website has an interactive map that allows you get viewing times and conditions for any location: NASA Spot the Station. You can also sign up for alerts of when conditions are best for a chance to see the ISS.

If you miss seeing the ISS this summer, you won’t be able to miss the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is high up and very bright in the southwest sky over the early summer. A good set of binoculars will reveal its disc shape and allow you to see one or more of the 4 big moons. Saturn rises at sunset early summer and for those with telescopes, its rings are about as wide open as they ever get. Another amateur astronomy site we find with helpful hints is Heavens Above.

Milkweed is Blooming & Butterflies are Dancing

A Whole Field of Blooming Milkweed at IBK

All over IBK common milkweed is blooming in more abundance than we can ever recall seeing, and that’s a good thing!  The Butterfly House in Chesterfield holds a contest each year among staff to see who can spot the first arriving monarch, and they were a good 6 weeks early this year!  Apparently, Texas had a bumper crop of milkweed this year and so the butterflies heading north were very well fed and made great time up to Missouri where they found more waiting.

There are over 20 varieties of milkweed in Missouri, but the majority of what we see at IBK is the common milkweed.   The purple flowers that we see need to be pollinated now in order to produce the silky seed pods that we see in the fall.  Because of their unusual biology, many flowers don’t mean lots of fruit.  For pollination, a milkweed flower must first be visited by a pollinator whose leg enters a slot in the flower and removes a pollen-bearing structure.  Then, second, it waits until another insect brings pollen from another milkweed.  Notice how many flowers you see on your lot now, then compare with the number of pods grow in the fall.

Great Missouri Birding Trail

Missouri Conservationist Magazine recently profiled a great new resource for birders.  It’s an interactive map of the state’s best places to see specific types of birds. Check out The Great Missouri Birding Trail map at Mo Birding Trail . In addition to information about the bird species, the trail map also talks about the diverse habitats that Missouri provides to help species survive and thrive.  Have a look at the birds that we can expect to see in the stream and wetland habitat that we will explore on our July 29 guided hike. We hope to see the IBK Blue Bird trail listed soon as one of the nearly 200 statewide trail sites.

Warmer Climates, Acorns, and Ticks

In last Fall’s nature newsletter we reported the over abundance of acorns falling from our trees. Since then we learned that there is a correlation between warmer wetter climates, acorns, and disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes. Apparently, abundant acorns also increases the number of rodents like mice which can transport tick-borne diseases. Mice are more to blame than deer for tick diseases, another reason not to kill snakes which help to keep rodent populations in check. We have written frequently about the importance of using tick spray and inspecting yourself for these unwanted hitchhikers when coming in from the outside. While the risks for a tick-borne disease are real, we don’t allow it to keep us from enjoying the Nature we love at IBK. The more I read and learn about ticks the less fearful I become. Here’s a recent article about the Powassan Virus transmitted by ticks and what you can do to avoid it at USA Today Powassan and Ticks.

 Watch for Wildlife on our Roads

We sadly observed that this Spring, for whatever reasons, was more deadly for critters crossing roads both in and out of IBK. We counted numerous deer, opossums, skunks, turtles, turkeys, armadillos, frogs, snakes, and squirrels along our roads. It’s not clear whether the road kill was due to more traffic, less attentive drivers, or just more plentiful wildlife after a mild winter.  Several times over the years we have asked the Village of Innsbrook to post community welcome signs that advise motorists to enjoy our bountiful wildlife by watching out for animals crossing the road. With these signs we wanted to protect not just our wildlife, but of course the safety of drivers and their occupants. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of our requests.  If you think something should be done please let our Village Trustees know on the Village comment form at Village of Innsbrook.

Nature Bookshelf

We close with a reference from a favorite recent read “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams. Among many subjects that should be of interest to nature lovers, the author writes about studies which show how being in nature, such as taking walks in the forest, decreases cortisol levels, blood pressure, heart rates, stress and anxiety levels, all while increasing immune boosting cells that can fight disease.  So tell your doctor to write you an Rx for spending more time at IBK! Here’s the book review at NYT Book Review that encouraged us to give it a read.

Rich & Kath for the Innsbrook Nature Group

P.S. To receive future IBK Nature Group newsletters and event announcements, join our mail list by entering your email list below.

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