Hello Innsbrook Nature Enthusiasts,
As we pull this newsletter together on a wintry afternoon, outside our windows a bald eagle is flying over frozen Lake Konstanz, the lake is strumming and vibrating from the sounds of expanding ice, an opossum is chowing down spilt bird seed under our deck, a brilliant red male cardinal patiently waits to feed his mate at the feeder, and wildlife trails across our back lot are more visible in the snow from the countless deer, red foxes, and other critters with which we share our property.
Need we say anything more why experiencing Nature in the winter at Innsbrook is just as magical as it is any other time of the year? Our great room windows are surely the best widescreen all-weather 24/7 Nature Channel HDTV anyone could imagine!
In this, our 16th quarterly IBK Nature Group (IBK’ng) Newsletter we share a few winter nature activities to help your family get outside regardless of the weather. Read onward to learn more about: Valentine Hike, Great Backyard Bird Count, Dark Sky Survey, Lunar Eclipse, Natural Events Calendar, Charrette Creek Stream Team Training, Latest IBK Lake Water Reports, Our Dear Deer, and a New Year Wish List for Better Living in Harmony with Nature.
If you prefer to save and view this newsletter as a PDF for reading or printing out, please download it at Innsbrook Nature Winter 2018 Newsletter
Holiday Hiking & Wildlife Tracks
One of our New Year resolutions is to become avid “Holiday Hikers”. That is, each holiday we vow to take a hike on any of the many trails or roads around Innsbrook, or in one of Missouri’s state parks and forests like the adjacent Reifsnider State Forest to our west. To get Missourians starting off the year in the outdoors the Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources sponsors an annual New Year’s “First Day Hike” at over 35 state parks and historic sites. While many of these hikes were cancelled due to the arctic weather that day – we recorded a temperature of 8 degrees below that morning at IBK – it did not stop our Kyp and her adopted family from enjoying a section of the Konstanz Trail which goes through a protected pine forest.
With the unseasonably warm weather of the Thanksgiving holiday, it was so encouraging to see so many families walking around IBK; something that has changed for the better in recent years. But we have now paid the price for that warm fall with the deep freeze of the New Year. If you dress properly and walk safely with a pole and proper boots or even snow shoes, winter hikes can be as enjoyable as in any other season, if not more so. In the winter it’s often easier to view wildlife habitats, identify tracks, and enjoy the more distant view-scapes, all while avoiding ticks and thorns. It’s also easier to explore our forests off trail where you may occasionally come across a rare find as we did last fall with this collection of moonshine jugs once buried under limbs and leaves. We still need volunteers to help us clean this mess up in the Spring.
For a visual guide on winter wildlife tracks visit: https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/general-species-information/mammal-facts/mammal-tracks. For tips on how to dress your kids for cold weather hikes read this illustrated article on page 16 in the latest MDC XPLOR Family Nature Magazine.
A Testimonial About Frozen Lakes: Stay Off!
Innsbrook Resort has done a good job this year in reminding us to keep off frozen lakes and to keep our pets on leash especially when hiking near water. During our very first winter at IBK I rescued from the middle of a small frozen lake a stray dog that had wandered into IBK from outside and had fallen thru the ice and was close to going under. After quite the adventure, which was comic at times now looking back, we both made it off the frigid lake safely. While we reunited the stray dog with her family who lived just outside of the resort, we hope no animal lover ever has to make a decision like that again. Here’s a photo of a poor wild critter on the ice of Lake Aspen that was not so lucky, but provided some value to Nature’s food chain.
Nature Lover’s Valentine Hike
During each of the past few years the IBK’ng has organized a nature lover’s hike on the weekend celebrating Valentine’s Day. The weather and size of our winter hike has varied greatly year to year; from the legendary 5 degree survival trek of 2015 along the Farmhouse Trail, to the fresh snowfall tramp of 2016 around Lake Konstanz, to the balmy 60’s hike last year along the Tyrolean Trail that was easily accessible because the Alpine Dam road was not impassable from ice and snow.
This year we will be heading out again on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 1 pm for a 1-2 hour hike to share our love nature with our Valentine sweethearts. We’ll select the trail and meet-up location a few days beforehand and announce it under Nature News. Just a reminder that this will not be an Innsbrook Resort sponsored event, nor are we a formal club, so the decision to participate in a winter hike is at your own individual risk. Questions or RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Great Backyard Bird Count
Another IBK winter tradition is participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by Cornell University, the Audubon Society, and Wild Birds Unlimited. The event is a citizen-scientist project to monitor the health and movement of bird populations all over the globe. This winter’s bird count is February 16-19. Last year, participants in over 100 countries counted more than 6,200 species! There were 30 different species logged at IBK!
Bird populations are dynamic, constantly in flux. No single scientist could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species. Volunteer data helps scientists to get the big picture on many questions.
- How will the weather and climate change influence bird populations?
- How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
- How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
- What kinds of differences in bird diversity are seen in cities versus suburban, rural and natural areas?
For information about the count and how you can participate, go to the GBBC website at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/about/. It takes only 15 minutes while watching your bird feeder, sky, and trees. Let us know what you see by sending a note to email@example.com. Just a related reminder of where to find the best bird watching locations around Missouri, explore the interactive maps at the www.greatmissouribirdingtrail.com website. Let’s work to get IBK on this map!
IBK Dark Sky Survey
Another winter nature activity is participating in the “Globe at Night” campaign to track the erosion of our dark skies due to light pollution. Most long-time IBK property owners help to preserve our dark skies by limiting the use of outdoor lighting. After all, we are not living in the city and most of us don’t want it to look like we are either by being lit up like a suburban neighborhood!
The survey is easy to participate in by spotting the dimmest stars you can see in the Orion constellation that is high up above the southern horizon mid-evenings in January. Last year I recorded seeing stars to a magnitude of 5.0, which was not bad but slightly worse than the year before. Our skies during summer nights are another matter as they are rapidly deteriorating from light pollution both inside and outside of IBK. Here’s more information on the survey and how to find Orion at https://www.globeatnight.org/.
In 2017 there were a number of research reports and articles - including this one on the Impact of Artificial Lights – on the adverse ecological effects of light pollution on humans as well as flora and fauna. It seems that nocturnal animals, and even some pollinators who perform their work at night, are being harmed with too much ambient night-light. Learn more at the International Dark Sky Association website at http://www.darksky.org/ where you will find useful tips for outdoor lighting, especially on why to think twice about blue-white LED lighting.
January’s Lunar Eclipse
Many of us are still in awe of having witnessed the total solar eclipse last August. The moon continues to entertain us this winter. We started the month with a “Supermoon” on New Year’s Day which occurs when a full moon is also at its closest point in its orbit around the earth. Then on Wednesday, Jan. 31 we get a bonus second full moon of the month which is called a Blue Moon. But wait, there’s more! This one coincides with a lunar eclipse so the blue moon will actually turn reddish as earth’s shadow slowly covers it during a lunar eclipse.
Here in Missouri, unlike the west coast, we’ll just get to see the total eclipse as it begins, as the moon will set before it emerges from earth’s shadow. The partial eclipse will start at about 5:45am early that morning and be total at about 6:45am. The bad news is that the moon will set below the horizon by 7:00 so we get only a short time in totality, yet it could make some interesting time-elapsed landscape photographs as the red moon descends below the horizon. Many of us can still remember the Lunar Eclipse Beach Party of 2015, but that was at a far more reasonable time of the year and hour of the night.
New Year Wishes for Better Living in Harmony with Nature
In the Winter 2017 newsletter we took a survey of how readers thought we collectively at IBK did with living in harmony with nature. The results, which we presented in the Spring 2017 newsletter, were good but not as good as they should have been given that “Living in Harmony With Nature” is our community maxim. Since then in each newsletter we have shared a few tips for living more in harmony, as well as identifying a few things that definitely are not. In this issue we present our New Year wishes of what could be if we truly lived our mission:
- The Charrette Creek Commons would be powered by solar panels on its big roofs that seem like such a natural demonstration of living in harmony. Residents would match the effort by supporting the construction of a community solar energy garden, perhaps close to the vegetable garden.
- Innsbrook Corp. would support the creation of a non-profit organization to establish conservation easements inside and outside of the resort for property that had no development potential, but which was important to maintain in a natural state or to provide as a buffer as Warren County grows.
Residents would properly dispose of trash in dumpsters that had lids on them, and keep the lids closed after depositing their trash, to keep wildlife from feeding on garbage which risks poisoning the food chain, and to keep garbage from blowing all over.
- The more noisy, foul-smelling, polluting, dangerous and often speeding UTVs would be restricted from Innsbrook roads – which are shared with bikers, walkers, and horses - for the same reasons that the founders wisely prohibited gas-powered watercraft from our lakes.
- The Village of Innsbrook would take its motto seriously to become a Village that strives to live in harmony with Nature by establishing a citizen advisory committee to help do just that, instead of just giving it what some may feel is lip service.
- And our final wish is that Innsbrook Resort would appoint a Chief Nature Officer, instead of a Marketing Officer, in recognition that the natural assets of IBK offer the best marketing imaginable, and out of appreciation of the original vision for the resort from the founding families which we are ever so thankful for!
Have your own suggestions for living in harmony with nature? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charrette Creek Stream Team Volunteer Training:
One of the results of the Charrette Creek sewage spill from this past summer, and our Meadows Trail hike which occurred a few weeks afterwards, was greater interest in forming a volunteer stream team to monitor the health of Charrette Creek as it flows through the Village of Innsbrook. The Mo. DNR supported Stream Team program will soon be announcing its 2018 schedule of one-day introductory workshops for citizen volunteers. If you have interest in going along with us, hearing what we learn, or joining us in a stream hike this summer, send us a note at email@example.com. More info on Stream Teams in general can be found at www.mostreamteam.org.
Latest Innsbrook Lake Water Quality Reports
For the past 12 years Bob Goulding and his dedicated team of IBK volunteers have been participating in the Lakes of Missouri Program (www.lmvp.org) to monitor the health of Innsbrook lakes. With the help of the Mo. DNR and the University of Missouri, they’ve measured water clarity, chlorophyll, phosphorus, nitrogen, suspended solids, and temperature of ten lakes every three weeks from April through October.
This past fall we received the data for the 2016 summer season. If you’d like to see if your lake is covered or receive a copy of the full report, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To volunteer, contact Bob directly. In comparing this new data to last year (2015), I’ve noticed several differences.
- All of the lakes had a higher mean temperature in 2016 and started out warmer for the first reading at the end of April.
- Aspen’s clarity, as represented by the Secchi reading, was much clearer in 2016.
- Lake Innsbrook’s phosphorus, nitrogen and chlorophyll levels were significantly lower in 2016.
- Some lakes are experiencing an upward trend in phosphorous and nitrogen, which could be indicative of runoff from landscaped yards, farm fields, or stables.
We are fortunate to have IBK POA staff members diligently working to maintain water quality, but property owners can make a difference too. If you’re building, ask that straw bales be put along the runoff crevices or shoreline as a best practice to keep sediment out. Keep yard fertilizing to a minimum – remind your lawn service this is not the city – or let part of your yard go back native. Most importantly, please don’t denude your lot by removing all the little trees and undergrowth brush between you and the water, as some property owners have started to do.
IBK has survived another deer hunting season. The MDC reported over 280,000 deer were killed in 2017, which must be close to 20% of the total state-wide population. In Warren County it was over 2,500 deer alone. We frequently heard gunfire from areas surrounding IBK, as well as reports of hunters near permanent home sites. We saw hunters for ourselves around chalet-land who were stopped and questioned by security. Thankfully, we didn’t find errant arrows lying opened up under our feet along trails like we did a few years back, but there is still another week of archery season left so please be careful for you and your pets.
Over the years I have come to educate myself on the damage that overpopulation or crowding of any one species can do to the environment, whether it’s deer or mankind. There’s little doubt that an overpopulation of deer without an apex predator can change forests and landscapes forever. It’s not an easy subject matter for those of us who follow our local deer herds and watch spotted new-born fawns stumble for the first time while crossing a road. All I can do is to say a little prayer when I see a proud buck like this one crossing an IBK road in November just before the season opened.
We received an email last year asking if it was time that wolves were re-introduced to Missouri to keep deer herds in check! We did not take it seriously, but neither did we a different email that presciently questioned whether Innsbrook Resort’s waste water treatment system was sufficient to handle holiday weekend crowds. (It was not.) While I don’t think wild canids are coming anytime soon to Missouri, cougars have found their own way to Missouri from the northern plains and they may help Nature to self-manage deer populations. For those interested in the science of Wolf conservation as practiced in other states, the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka is hosting a community college class on Feb. 10 with more information at https://www.endangeredwolfcenter.org/
Nature may also have the last word by diminishing herd sizes on its own from diseases like CWD or blue tongue. Yet, I am hopelessly confused when some wildlife biologists say there are too many deer, then go on to say we don’t want deer to die from natural causes because it will leave too few to be available to die from hunting. Regardless, remember there is a wise ban on deer feeding in many counties of Missouri, including Warren.
On The Nature Bookshelf
This one was actually under our Christmas tree: the annual MDC Natural Events Calendar. In addition to stunning photographs of Missouri landscapes and wildlife, most calendar days are annotated with comments on what’s happening in nature or offers suggestions of what we can doing to provide for the animals that share our world. For example, January 9th lets us know that foxes will start breeding soon and will continue through March. January 6th reminds us to put our Christmas trees in ponds for fish cover or beside bird feeders for wildlife cover. It’s not too late to purchase the 2018 calendar at IBK property owner Wild Birds Unlimited stores in St. Charles and Chesterfield, at MDC Nature Centers like Powder Valley in Kirkwood, or on-line at the MDC Nature Shop at https://www.mdcnatureshop.com/.
Closing Nature Commentary
For conservationists and environmentalists alike this past year across the nation and in Missouri has been a sad one. Federal and state authorities have been busy rolling back dozens of policies and regulations that were enacted and supported by leaders from both political parties for many years. A conservative and religious value that I admire is our human responsibility for the protection of creation and sustainability of Planet Earth’s ecosystem. Every week we read about another common-sense policy that is being foolishly rescinded, like those put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or new guidance advising federal agencies against using terms such as science-based or researching climate change.
The mission of our own Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources is being altered with threats to close or sell off state parks while softening its environmental charter to protect our shared air, land and water. We know that our new Governor enjoys being close to Nature, so we remain hopeful he will show the leadership and forethought needed to safeguard what makes rural Missouri so attractive and unique for enjoyment by not just himself, or others who are lucky to have a place at IBK, but by all Missourians and their future generations.
Whenever we get distressed with the news, we put on our hiking boots, grab Kyp (and yes her leash), then get outside to take in deep breaths of fresh air that remind us why we love Nature and value IBK. But we believe that with the privilege to enjoy Nature comes a civic responsibility to help protect what we can the best we can. And personally speaking for our family, also to compensate for the inescapable truth that we are also part of the problem by our decision to live in rural Missouri, so close to Nature.
To empower us through challenging times it helps to remember something that we all have in common, no matter our politics:
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children.” attributed to a Native American Proverb.
Rich McFall & Kath Kremer for the Innsbrook Nature Group
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