What Santa Nature Left Under The Tree
One of our favorite stops for Christmas shopping this past year was the gift shop at the Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood. This year Santa left us a “2019 Missouri Natural Events Calendar”, “Discover Missouri Natural Areas: A Guide to 50 Great Places”, “Outside Jokes: Cartoons About Nature and the Outdoors”, and the “Animal Tracks Pocket Naturalist Guide”. We are such Nature Nerds! Our favorite is the nature events calendar with its beautiful photography and daily notes on what is happening outside in Missouri nearly every day of the year. You can find many of these on-line at MDC Nature Shop but you will miss out seeing all the wildlife exhibits at Powder Valley.
More Missouri Nature Events
While visiting the Powder Valley Nature Center we learned about all the different special interest mailing lists that the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) maintains on events, news, education, wildlife watching, and family-friendly outings. This is how we heard about a guided evening “owl prowl” in nearby St. Charles County as well as nature photography and wildlife drawing artists workshops this winter. Visit MDC Subscriptions to start receiving your own personalized updates.
New Year’s First Day Hikes
For those who treasure experiencing Nature in the Missouri outdoors regardless of the season, we are fortunate to have many state parks within a short drive of Innsbrook. Start the new year off by participating in Missouri State Parks’ First Day Hikes. Learn more at Mo State Parks. DYK that there are over 90 state parks across Missouri providing over 1,000 miles of trails, managed by the Dept. of Natural Resources? This does not include nearly 1 million acres of mostly forested lands that are administered by the Missouri Dept. of Conservation. All these state parks and conservation areas make Missouri one of the top states in the nation for appreciation and conservation of nature.
Winter Solstice Surprise
The first day of winter brought us a special encounter with a rare ringed salamander also known as Ambystoma Annulatum. It was almost 7 inches long and slowly making its way across an IBK road while we were on an early morning walk. Our sighting of a ringed salamander was the first one in nearly 15 years at IBK. We used the “Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri” by Tom Johnson as our reference guide for identifying this colorful find. DYK that this salamander is just one of over 43 different amphibian species that can be found in Missouri from over 4,600 that exist across the planet?
We hope you enjoyed our last post on the Twelve Days of Christmas Critters at Innsbrook. Just after sending that post out we had a 13th wild visitor on our deck that taunted Kyp with a little dance move. Thankfully the glass door was closed, otherwise it would have been off again to the screen repair shop! A small price to pay for living inside a wilderness zoo without fences, moats, or cages around us.
Nature Lover’s Valentine Hike
An annual tradition for some Innsbrook Nature Lovers has been a winter hike on or near Valentine’s Day. We have experienced frigid single-digit temperatures, falling snow, and treacherous ice, but also temps in the 60s! Our favorite winter hike is along the Lake Konstanz Trail which offers several different landscapes, including a pine forest where wildlife tracks are often abundant, with several easy on/off points should the trail turn too icy to continue. We will be taking our Valentine hike on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 16 regardless of the weather! For those new to IBK you can find information about our nature trails at IBK Nature Trails.
Lunar Eclipse This Month
Innsbrook along with the rest of the U.S. will experience a total lunar eclipse on the evening of Sunday, January 20 as the moon is completely immersed in the earth’s shadow. It’s been more than three years since everyone could witness a total lunar eclipse across all of North America. With the winter moon high up above the horizon viewers will be able to see the event from start to finish over nearly 3 hours, unlike previous years.
The partial eclipse will begin at 9:34 pm in the central time zone and totality start at 10:41 lasting for just over an hour which is long for a lunar eclipse. For observing tips I turn to the “Sky & Telescope Magazine” website for resources on eclipses at S&T Eclipse . DYK why there is not a lunar eclipse with every rotation of the moon around the earth? It’s because the moon orbital plane is at a 5 degree tilt, so it misses the earth’s shadow most of the time when it is opposite the sun.
The Wilderness Above Us
During the eclipse, as the bright sunlit full moon disappears and more stars come out you will see how background light impacts the number of stars and planets that are visible to the naked eye. We are appreciative of Innsbrook Resort’s reminder in the Village Views to limit or turn off your outdoor landscaping lights, especially when you are not present. To learn more about what types of outdoor lighting is best to use in rural areas visit Outdoor Lighting. Here you will learn that while blue-rich LED lighting is energy-efficient, but according to the International Dark Sky Association it is not so good for the environment and wildlife that depends on the dark.
It is has been reported from satellite data that in the last 5 years the planet’s surface has brightened by nearly 10%, much of it attributable to a combination of urban sprawl and increased outdoor lighting. Consequentially, many nocturnal animals including nighttime pollinators are being negatively impacted by the loss of their dark habitats.
Some forward-thinking communities, parks, and even resorts across the country have begun to enact light control recommendations or regulations to protect their dark skies. They have been rewarded by becoming tourist destinations not only for daytime nature lovers but also nighttime stargazers. Some have even earned the official status of “dark sky preserves” or “sanctuaries”. To see how Missouri is doing check out this global light pollution map where you can zoom around to find us.
Each winter I use the easy-to-find Orion constellation to measure how the preservation of our local dark skies is going. 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 down to a magnitude of 5, unchanged from the previous two years. For more information on the survey and how to find Orion visit Dark Sky Survey.
Great Backyard Bird Count
This year’s GBBC, sponsored by the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is Feb. 15 -18. Last year we recorded seeing over 23 bird species which was less than the previous year’s total of 31. We use the “Birds of Missouri Pocket Field Guide” to identify our flying guests. Visit the GBC Bird Count website for more information and to log your sightings. DYK on a unseasonably warm day in January we already spied a bluebird couple cavorting around one of the many bluebird houses at IBK? We hope they slow down the romance because we all remember the impact of such a cold April last year during the peak of nest building.
Weird Weather and Climate Change
According to the University of Missouri Extension Center climatologists, as reported in our local Warren County Record newspaper recently, the past year of 2018 offered more weird weather across the state. There’s good reason many of us felt there was no spring in 2018 as April was the second coldest on record for the state overall, but then the following month was the hottest May on record! A lack of rainfall with high heat created drought conditions across much of Missouri’s farmland in 2018. Missouri experienced some of the largest multiple-season rainfall deficits of all the nation causing severe subsoil moisture shortages. (We addressed the impact of this on lake levels in this recent newsletter.) The fall season of last year felt as short as spring when November became the 4th coldest on record with single-digit low temperature records set, and one of the snowiest months in years.
So does all the cold weather of November and heavy snows of January mean global warming and man-made climate change is not real? Actually, climatologists have discovered that the warming arctic, which this last year was cited as the second warmest on record, affects the troposphere far above the north pole. What is known as the polar vortex is predicted by many weather models to be less stable due in part to a warming Arctic below it and in the stratosphere in which the vortex resides. A cascade of chain reactions then moves the jet stream further south into the Northern Hemisphere, weakening its function as a wall, thus sending colder air spilling into northern latitudes. Europe is experiencing this right now as we are in North America. If you don’t have time to follow all the climate news in our media, you can see the big stories at which we log in our Climate Change Chronicles.
Living in Harmony With Nature (LHN)
Our call out for a good example of LHN this past fall goes to Innsbrook Resort who had a landscaping crew take out so much invasive honeysuckle that it took a trailer to haul it out. This past fall was a particularly good season to identify this bush as a cold November caused all other plant leaves to drop, leaving the green leaves and red berries of honeysuckle standing out in the forest.
However, a questionable example of LHN was this non-resort property within an island inside the Village of Innsbrook where for weeks many mature trees have been taken out as if it was a commercial logging operation. DYK that trees in forests are one of the best ways to capture and sequester carbon dioxide to keep it out of the atmosphere? Yes, the trees on your IBK property help to offset your own carbon footprint! In a future newsletter we will share what we have learned about how many trees, or acres of forest, it takes to offset a typical American lifestyle.
A final LHN call out is for the public comments that Jeff Thomsen, Chair of the Village of Innsbrook Trustees, made in an article in this past week’s Warren County Record (corrected). He led off by reminding readers of Innsbrook’s mission statement to promote Living in Harmony With Nature. He ended his comments with stating the Village’s opposition to more gun shooting ranges which threaten our ability to enjoy Innsbrook in peace and quiet. We look forward to seeing the Village continue to expand its resources and programs to help residents, property owners, businesses, and visitors truly live in harmony with nature so that it does not just become another marketing slogan with no substance behind it.
Shooting Range Update & Lead Pollution
As many of you have heard, despite overwhelming public opposition the Warren County Commissioners approved a revised conditional use permit for a new combat-style shooting range and training venue to be located just to the west of the Innsbrook Resort and south of the existing Reifsnider State Forest range. Read more in this previous IBK Nature Group Post as well as in this recent Warren County Record news story. In my opinion, how sadly myopic they were in their lack of a vision for Warren County to approve yet another range adjacent to over $250M worth of resort properties in which many owners have invested to escape the noise, pollution, and gun violence of urban areas.
While there are many good reasons this commercial use should have been rejected, one that appeared to have received scant consideration by our elected and appointed county representatives was the environmental pollution of toxic lead ammunition used in military-grade weaponry. While other states ban the use of lead-based ammunition all together, Missouri does not yet. Lead waste from ammunition is a well-known toxin that enters the food chain of humans and wildlife. Birds of prey like our precious Bald Eagles and their chicks, which nest in IBK and the area of this shooting range, are especially prone to lead poisoning. Even the NRA and MDC recognize the dangers of lead ammunition and promote policies and remediation plans be adopted which minimize environmental pollution. But sadly, it appears most of our Warren County leadership does not.
How Connected Are You to Nature?
There have been many articles of recent about the benefits of being out in Nature to personal health, happiness and general welfare. The term “Nature Relatedness” was created to describe an individual’s connectedness with the natural world and their appreciation of all living things on the planet. Some faiths promote this as concern and care for God’s creation, which we definitely agree. A survey was developed Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet to measure a person’s connection to the natural world. We downloaded it HERE so you can print out to take at your convenience. Let us know if you think it reflects your experience in Nature. Learn more at Dr. Nisbet’s Nature Relatedness Website.
Advisors and Volunteers Needed
As the new year begins we seek advisors and volunteers to help us with their choice of event ideas, nature hikes, newsletter topics, photography, social media, stream team monitoring, and special projects like getting more kids out into nature and developing a property owner guide for better living in harmony with nature. We anticipate meeting just a few times a year in a social setting so the time requirements are minimal. Remember that our group is not a formal club as we don’t like spending time with indoor meetings, organizational bylaws, memberships dues, and the like so the occasional help is especially valued! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rich and Kath at (636) 745-0121.
Closing Nature Quote
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” a letter penned by Albert Einstein.