Hello Innsbrook Nature Enthusiasts,
Having lived at Innsbrook full-time for over ten years we have come to enjoy the winter as much as any other season. Just a few things we love include: spying on Eagles perched in our tree tops, the singing of frozen lakes, being the first to walk a trail after a snowfall and spotting fresh animal tracks, dark skies at night with stars sparkling like diamonds, our pets frolicking in snow, birds of every color and size at our feeders, and different vistas now that our trees have no leaves. We encourage you to get out and enjoy all that Innsbrook has to offer this season. And if you haven’t been in awe of nature lately, check out photos of the new Innsbrook waterfalls and whitewater rapids from the recent rains at https://ibknature.com/waterfalls/.
Valentine’s Day Nature Lover’s Hike
Last year we still had a respectable turnout for our first Nature Lover’s Hike on Valentine’s Day, even though it was one of the coldest days of the winter. We have decided to make this an annual tradition as it sure beats out a polar plunge into one of our lakes, which was another suggestion! Please join us on Sunday, February 14, at 1 pm for a 1-2 hour hike around the Lake Konstanz Trail. We like this trail in the winter as it is largely protected from the wind and travels through several diverse micro-ecosystems that attract wildlife, including red foxes which we often observe. We will meet at the trailhead just inside the gates near the Stracks Church Road entrance. Dress appropriately for the weather and a hiking pole is recommended, especially with snow or ice on the trail. We will host hot refreshments and a fire pit at the halfway point on our property at 2210. The hike will be cancelled in case of severe winter weather so be sure to check our nature blog for the latest news. As this outing is not an Innsbrook sponsored event, the decision to hike or not is at your own discretion and risk. Hope to see you then!
Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)
Fill your feeder and find your bird identification guide anytime between February 12-15. The annual Audubon-sponsored event encourages bird watchers from across the country to identify and count the birds they see on their property or at their feeders. Just count your feathered visitors for as little as 15 minutes or as long as you want on any day of the count and then report your sightings online at www.birdcount.org. Last year, there were 138 species reported in Missouri, including 22 on our property alone.
Our favorite birds of the winter to watch, and hear, are the woodpeckers. We have such a variety of them at Innsbrook. It’s so comical to see a 15 inch Pileated Woodpecker trying to eat while hanging upside down from a feeder! During last year’s GBBC we reported 7 types of woodpeckers (in decreasing order of size): Pileated, Northern Flicker, Red-Bellied, Red-Headed, Hairy, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, and Downy. So just how do these jackhammering birds avoid concussions when NFL players cannot? They’ve adapted small, perfectly positioned brains to avoid injury and they also have eye and nostril protection from flying debris.
We are seeking volunteers to select any one of many Innsbrook trails to serve as a trail steward in 2016. The responsibilities are pretty minimal: hike and enjoy the trail once a season, photograph all that it has to offer, clean up any litter, note fallen trees that need attention, and mark invasive species like Bush Honeysuckle that need to be removed. Visit http://www.innsbrook-resort.com/recreation/nature-trails/ to view all the trails, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your selection so we can coordinate with the Innsbrook POA.
Winter Dark Sky Survey
One of our favorite constellations in the winter night sky is Orion, the hunter. Orion is high up in the southern sky mid-evenings in late January. While the dark skies of Innsbrook have been eroded by light pollution to the east, north, and west, thankfully our southern sky remains fairly dark. Each winter the Globe-at-Night organization at http://www.globeatnight.org/ sponsors a citizen scientist survey. By counting all the stars in Orion visible with the naked eye we can track the impact of light pollution. The survey needs to be taken during a time near new moon which this year is January 10 and February 8. Let’s put Innsbrook on this dark sky map in 2016.
Innsbrook property owner and Master Naturalist Allison Volk continues with Part 2 of her comments about Missouri wildlife corridors. “In my last article I spoke about Innsbrook acting as a type of corridor. Well after more reading I would like to say that I am not technically correct. I think we do act as a corridor because we have animals passing through but not staying full-time, like otters and trumpeter swans. But Innsbrook is so much more than just a corridor with over 8,000 acres of hardwoods, lakes, streams, creeks, glades, and savannas. Our neighbor to the west, Reifsnider State Forest, is only 1,388 acres and the other two conservation areas in Warren County are only 3,520 and 2,899 acres. Upon researching conservation articles about wildlife corridors I happened to revisit the Innsbrook Resort website. Here I found that our own Keith Thompson authored “The Village of Innsbrook Conservation Management Plan” in 2004. It’s a great plan worth reading. It is filled with information about our natural community and offers great insights for us to become better land stewards for ourselves and the other species that call Innsbrook home. In closing, I was just amazed that my little cabin in the woods is actually a part of a much grander natural ecosystem and I hope to do my part in keeping it healthy as I hope you do too!” Thanks, Allison, for your inspiration, and also to Keith for producing a great reference for property owners.
For several years after moving to Innsbrook we would have yard waste on our property, like fallen branches and leaves, hauled away just like we were still living in the city. It wasn’t until we looked at the requirements of having a wildlife-friendly lot that we discovered how brush piles provide a host of critters with protection from predators and shelter from weather. By providing food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young you not only help wildlife, but your property can also qualify to become an official Certified Wildlife Habitat. We’ve completed these steps and are now a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat! This was a fun family project and now we have a sign to prove that we’re a five-star resort property for wildlife too! The Xplor Magazine for Kids, available from the Missouri Dept of Conservation, had a fun “find the critters in the brush pile” game in the Jan/Feb issue. Here’s the link to download the magazine.
How Animals Survive the Cold Winter
We humans have figured out how to survive the cold: heated homes, down-filled coats and jetting off to warm, sunny locations. Animals may not have Gore-Tex, but they’ve got lots of tricks for dealing with winter. Here are some strategies used by our woodland neighbors, excerpted from a report in Science News.
Migrate to warmer environs. Many birds and Monarch butterflies do this. It is not an easy task however and not all survive their journeys.
Hide out under the snow. Whole ecosystems can be found living in the space between the snow and the ground, such as brush piles. This area is called the subnivium. Invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds hide out this way. They also can share body warmth.
Use antifreeze. Many frogs have high levels of sugar, urea (a waste product) and an unidentified third chemical that combine to act as an antifreeze, lowering the temperature at which they turn into frogsicles.
Stock up for the winter. We’ve all seen the busy squirrels this fall, hoarding nuts to help them through the dark and cold months. They don’t hibernate, so they must prepare.
Slow down. The key to hibernation isn’t sleep, it’s conservation of energy. We usually think of mammals doing this, but fresh water turtles do as well. They may not take a breath for weeks, but they’re conscious enough to notice when there are more hours of daylight and it’s time to come up for air. For these cold-blooded creatures, this is called brumation instead of hibernation.
We recently spotted a gathering of deer inside Innsbrook which didn’t quite look like the common white-tailed deer. We thought they could be rare mule deer that also exist in Missouri. Upon research we learned that while mule deer also have white tails, they have a black tip at the end and have much larger ears. As referenced in the recent Village Views, we too agree that it’s not a good idea to feed wild animals, including any type of deer, but perhaps for different reasons. We have trust in the healing power of Nature to provide checks and balances that mankind may not yet fully understand, even though at times it can be hard to witness. Conservation organizations are rightfully concerned that feeding deer can actually kill deer by spreading diseases like CWD which have entered Missouri through animals, like mule deer, imported for private big-game hunting preserves. But I am hopelessly confused. On one hand, experts state that there are so many deer in Missouri altering our forest ecosystems (which I definitely appreciate) that we must hunt and kill more of them. On the other hand, others argue that we don’t want deer to die due to natural causes, including diseases like CWD, because that would leave too few deer for man to hunt and kill. Which is right I am left to ponder?
Closing Nature Quote
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rich & Kath for the IBK’ng (Innsbrook Nature Group)
P.S. Just a reminder that we don’t send out this newsletter by email any longer but by announcing its availability in a post on our nature news journal. If you wish to receive that newsletter notice, then just type in your email address below “Follow” on the right-hand side of any page of our IBKnature.com website. You will then receive a short email advising you of the newsletter’s availability with a link to its location on our website.