KRCU's Discover Nature

KRCU's Discover Nature


Weekly podcast highlighting nature in Missouri.More from KRCU's Discover Nature »

Most Recent Episodes

Great Horned Owl

November 29 - December 5 Discover Nature this week as Great Horned Owls begin to court. These large, nocturnal birds occur in deep forests, open areas...

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Got Squirrels? Here's How You Can Keep Them Out Of Your Attic

November 1 - November 7 This week we can Discover Nature through conflict management.Fox and Gray squirrels are among the most commonly observed...




Snow Geese

October 25 - October 31Discover Nature this week as Snow goose populations peak at Missouri’s wetland areas. Snow geese travel through Missouri during...




Tupelo and Bald Cypress

October 18 - October 24 Discover Nature this week as bald cypress and tupelo gum trees add their colors to Missouri’s fall landscape. Both the bald...




Zebra Mussels


June 26 - July 2

Discover Nature this week as you help to stop one of Missouri’s Most Unwanted invasive species, the zebra mussel.

Zebra mussels are fingernail-sized, black-and-white striped mollusks native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia. Over the next several decades, zebra mussels could spread to other freshwater locations in Missouri and throughout North America.

You can help prevent the spread of zebra mussels by observing the following "clean boating" suggestions when transporting your boat.

First, thoroughly inspect your boat and trailer. Scrape off and trash any suspected mussels, however small. Also, remove all water weeds hanging from the boat or trailer. Drain all the water from the boat, specifically from the motor, livewell, bilge and transom wells.

Throw leftover bait in the trash before you leave an area. Leftover live aquatic bait that has contacted infested waters should not be taken to uninfested waters.

When you get home thoroughly rinse every inch of your boat; use a hard spray from a garden hose or tow the boat through a do-it-yourself carwash and use the high pressure hot water to "de-mussel" your boat. Don’t use chlorine bleach or other environmentally unsound washing solutions.

Boats, motors and trailers should be allowed to dry thoroughly in the sun for at least five days before boating again.

When in infested waters, the best way to keep a hull mussel-free is to run the boat frequently (small juvenile mussels are quite soft and are scoured off the hull at high speeds).

On boats which remain in the water, zebra mussels can attach to drive units, cover or enter water intakes, and clog, overheat and destroy the engine.

Lastly, learn what these invasive creatures look like.  If you suspect a new infestation of an exotic plant or animal, report it to your natural resource agency.




Rock Snot

June 19 - June 25

Discover Nature this week as you learn about a most unattractive invasive species.

Mmmm, rock snot. The name says it all, doesn’t it? The latest invader to threaten Missouri sounds awful, and it could be even worse than its name.  Also commonly known as “Didymo”, rock snot is  a type of algae that forms dense mats on stream bottoms. It has gained footholds in streams worldwide, including some of the most revered trout waters on Earth. The infestation nearest to Missouri is in the White River just south of the Missouri-Arkansas border.

The jury is still out concerning didymo’s possible ecological effects. It definitely is bad news for anglers, though. Stringy algae threads catch on hooks from dry flies to crankbaits, making fishing nearly impossible.

Contamination of recreational equipment, such as boats, life jackets and fishing gear, particularly waders, is the most common way for didymo to spread. The Missouri Department of Conservation is considering regulation changes to reduce the risk of spreading rock snot, but Missourians can take preventive action on their own right now.
To avoid spreading rock snot, remember the sequence “Check, Clean, Dry” when you leave a waterway.

• First, Check all gear and equipment and remove any visible algae. Do not dispose of algae by putting it down a drain or into bodies of water. 

• Next, Clean all gear and equipment with a solution of 2-percent bleach, 5-percent saltwater or dish detergent. Allow all equipment to stay in contact with the solution for at least three minutes. Soak all soft items, such as felt-soled waders and life jackets, in the solution for at least 20 minutes. If you only fish one water body or if your gear has adequate time to dry between waters, then the chemical cleaning treatments are not necessary.  Drying equipment for 48 hours will effectively kill didymo cells.

• Then, Dry all gear and equipment in the sun for at least 48 hours. 
Replacing felt-soled waders with a new environmentally sensitive alternative also reduces the risk of spreading rock snot and other invasive species.




Chorus Frogs

March 1 - March 6

Discover nature this week as western chorus frogs alert us to the coming spring. Natural “antifreeze” in their blood keeps them from freezing as they overwinter in shallow burrows in the ground. Now we can listen for calls like a thumbnail drug across a comb - or a longer and lower pitched noise from the related upland chorus frog.

For some, the mere mention of a frog reminds them of anatomy class, as many a frog has been dissected in American classrooms. But there are lots of interesting facts and benefits to frogs other than the popular anatomy lesson.

The western chorus frog is found throughout Missouri, except for the Southeast region, where it’s replaced by the upland chorus frog.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, these chorus frog species are about the same size, ranging from ¾ to 1 and a half inches in length.The western version likes prairies, agricultural lands, large river floodplains and grassy edges of marshes. The upland chorus frog is found in small patches of woods, swamps and bottomland forest. 

Both species are gray or tan in color with white bellies. The Western chorus frog has three wide, dark stripes or a series of spots down its back with a wide, dark brown stripe on its sides. The upland chorus frog has three narrow stripes or a broken series of dashes down the back.

By eating a variety of small insects and spiders, frogs help control populations of sometimes-troublesome insects and they also fall prey to many larger predators at each stage of their life cycle. Because they are sensitive to pollutants, they are considered an “indicator species” whose health can be a way to gauge the relative health of their ecosystem.

For more information on chorus frogs or other native Missouri wildlife, go online to Missouri




Turkey Vultures

February 14 - February 20

Discover Nature this week as turkey vultures begin arriving to our state.

I remember seeing these big birds many times as a child and wondering at the size of them as they circled in the sky. Last year, however, I got an up close look at several of them, when I rounded a turn on one of our many country roads. When you can see them at close range, it is easy to see a small resemblance to a wild turkey, and difficult to imagine how something so grotesque can be so valuable to our ecosystem.

A mature turkey vulture is a large-bodied bird with black plumage and a small, red, bare head, and a short, hooked and pale beak. From below, the wings appear black with the trailing half of the wing gray or silvery. When soaring, turkey vultures hold their wings in a V position and you will see them tilt from side to side as they soar.

These vultures roost in large colonies but forage individually, which means what I saw on the road was a rare sight for several of them to forage together. However, the incident was a typical example of the danger posed by passing vehicles as they scavenge on road-killed carcasses.

Highly specialized carrion feeders, turkey vultures locate their food by smell as well as by sight. As scavengers, they perform a valuable service by cleaning up the woods, grasslands and our roadsides. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, black vultures often rely on the turkey vulture’s keen sense of smell to locate the carrion on which they both feed.

A common summer resident in Missouri, this remarkable bird’s impressive soaring flight helps clean up the natural areas we enjoy. And contrary to the beliefs of some, they do not kill live animals and present little danger to livestock.




Maple Syrup

February 7 - February 13

Discover nature this week as freezing nights and thawing days cause maple sap to flow best.

The Maple tree is found throughout Missouri, and its leaf was the inspiration for the Canadian flag. This species varies in its leaf shapes and lobe spaces.

School children are best at identifying maple trees, as nearly every Missouri child has at one time pretended the seed pods were helicopters as they spiral down to the ground in the swirling wind.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, maple trees have a few different contributions to the human diet. The tree fruit, similar to green peas, is edible and available from April to June, and the inner bark was used by Native Americans for making bread. But now, in mid February, it is the right time to harvest the tree’s sap for making maple syrup.

It is best to do some research before drilling into a maple tree for sap, to ensure you have chosen the right tree and can complete the harvest without damaging the tree. Jan Phillips, author of Wild Edibles of Missouri, described her harvesting process, which begins by drilling a 4-inch hole and attaching large cans covered with plastic to keep out dust and insects. She and a friend collected 150 gallons of sap, which they later boiled down to four gallons of syrup.

Families who try harvesting sap and making maple syrup can take advantage of the opportunity to learn about photosynthesis, transpiration, and the water cycle throughout the process. But the fun of making maple syrup is the satisfaction that comes from a direct connection to the land and the sense of accomplishment that results from a meal or treat that is truly made from scratch.



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