Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harry S. Truman State Park

Harry S. Truman State Park located in Warsaw, MO with over 1400 acres of area there is no shortage of things to do. There are numerous camping sites located in various different areas in the park. We stayed at the area called "Thorny Ridge" It was a beautiful campsite mere yards from the lake. The lake itself is the largest man-made lake in Missouri with over 55,000 acres of water surface.

Fishing is the number one sport on the lake, with opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. Not a fisherman? That's okay, boating, skiing, kayaking, swimming are all great activities that are easily enjoyed on the lake as well. The campground also features a large swimming area, complete with beach and shower house as well as a changing house. Like to hike? This park has many wonderful hiking trails, some through oak woodlands, and others on rocky glades with panoramic views of the lake. Wildlife abounds here, White-Tail deer and Wild Turkey are commonly seen, as well as armadillo, raccoons (be sure to secure your food), opossums, coyotes, fox and beaver. The park is a birdwatchers haven with numeorus bird species; Bald Eagles, Hawks, Shore Birds, Herons, Owls, Geese, Ducks, and many songbirds. The area was created and is managed by the Corp of Engineers, and originally was named Kaysinger Bluff Dam and Reservoir in 1954. Construction began in August of 1964 and was renamed in 1970 by Congress to Harry S. Truman State Park; named after the only Missouri born president. Nearby is Lamar, Missouri which is Harry S. Truman's birthplace. We took time to visit the birth home and nearby visitors center, it is worth the trip back in time to see this little piece of history. The creation of the lake was not without its problems, many roads had to be rerouted, Cemeteries moved, bridges torn down and others built, it even forced the closing of Frisco Railroads, after flooding shut down tracks. The rail line decided it was not worth the investment to reroute the little used railroad. Nearby you will find the Lost Valley Fish Hatchery situated on 971 acres. This is a great place learn more about the lake, and the enivornmental issues concerning the area. There is a wonderful visitors center that features a 12,700 gallon aquarium with native species of fish for viewing. Many educational exhibits delight visitors young and old alike. The hatchery is responsible for raising many species of fish in the 78 rearing ponds, including, Channel Catfish, Muskellunge, Walleye, Largemouth Bass, Hybrid and Striped Bass, Bluegill, and Hybrid Sunfish. They also participate in propagation research of many endangered fish species as well as native water mussells. Youth fishing is allowed on site for children age 15 and under at no charge, bait and tackle are provided. This is a great place to spend a week or a weekend as a family, camping, fishing, hiking, boating, and just getting back in touch with nature. Plan to visit soon, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Relaxation on the River

Elrod Mill Conservation Area is located along the Platte River. As I mentioned before it is one of my favorite spots for relaxation along the river. There are large sand bars and rippling water flowing over the rocks in the shallows. The banks of the river are tree lined and there are always many birds to watch or listen too. Skipping stones, reading and sunbathing are well spent activities here. It is also a great place for photographic opportunities...many deer and raccoons come to drink from the river. It is located North of Savannah Missouri approximately 15 miles. I drive the back roads to get there and it is a long leisurely drive that I enjoy almost as much as Elrod Mill itself.

Friday, March 27, 2009

First Spring Blooms

I discovered the first blooms of spring this week in my flower beds. The first is Purple Dwarf Iris and the second is a cluster of Yellow Crocus. Even though they are not native to Missouri, they are still beautiful and a welcome sight after a long cold winter. The forecast for here is calling for up to 4 inches of snow mixed with rain and sleet for tonight and tomorrow. I will sure be glad when all this snowy cold weather is finished and we can finally get down to some nice warm temperatures.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Missouri Sunset

Missouri has some of the most beautiful sunsets of anywhere else in the United States. One evening last fall I captured this image of the sun reflecting off the clouds as it was starting to set. We had a rain storm earlier that evening, the beautiful sun and clouds and the smell in the air of the rain washed Earth combined to make a wonderful fall day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hix Cabin---Ozark Missouri

One of the most memorable weekends I can remember was spent at this wonderful cabin located in Macks Creek, MO. The owners of the property Nora and Johnny Hix were friendly,
helpful and honestly some of the kindness people I've had the pleasure to meet. In October of 2007 we decided to spent our 20th Anniversary getting back to nature. The cabin here is absolutely beautiful, complete with fireplace and loft. There is a wrap-around porch with views of the lake and nearby timber. Fishing is allowed on the lake and we caught many nice catfish which we dined on in the evenings. There is a fully equipped kitchen and a BBQ grill outside for all your grilling needs. The bathroom has a large clawfoot bathtub which was great for soaking and relaxing. Bring the wine and plan to spend a cozy night in the hot tub on the outer deck under the stars. Want to stretch your legs? There is a walking trail through the nearby timber, where we spotted this adorable little box turtle eating an earthworm (if you look closely you can see part of it sticking out of his mouth) The drive back to the cabin always brought with it many deer grazing in the pastures. If you are looking for other activities there are many things nearby, including horseback riding, The Lake of the Ozarks, HA HA Tonka State Park, as well as a few caves including "Bridle Cave. If you are looking for a relaxing, quiet little getaway this is the perfect spot to consider. We will definiately go back one day. Visit their website at www.hixlakeandcabin.com for all the details for planning your visit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hiking Weston Bend

Weston Bend State Park in Weston, MO is one of the most beautiful parks I've visited in our lovely state of Missouri. It is located south of St. Joseph off I-29 Highway right outside Weston. There are a lot of paved walking and biking trails. With such a wide variety of trails, walkers of any skill level will find exactly what they are looking for. For all the bird lovers there is also a great overlook where many warblers and other songbirds can be seen or heard. This park is unsurpassed for birdwatching. For all of you treasure hunters, if you like letterboxing or geocaching I happen to know there are some of those out there too. Don't miss out on this gem, it is well worth the visit and plan to spend most of the day exploring the various trails. For more information on Geocaching or Letterboxing visit these great websites that will help you get started. www.geocaching.com or www.letterboxing.org

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baby Jay

This is one from the archives. In spring of 2007 I was out exploring one of my favorite conservation areas near my home. Happy Holler offers many opportunities to see wildlife up close. This little Blue Jay had recently left the nest and was clinging to the side of a moss covered tree with such a sweet yet serious look on his face. As if to say "Uh MOM, this isn't fun anymore!!" He had two siblings nearby on the ground hiding behind some bushes. This little fellow seemed the most courageous of the three. This spring will bring about a whole new batch of young baby birds. Many times well meaning people scoop them up thinking they are in danger, or that mom abandoned them. Remember if they have feathers like this one, they are ready to leave the nest and not to worry, mom and dad are nearby feeding and watching over them. Keep your cats and dogs indoors, or at least keep them away from these new fledglings as best as you can. If you happen across a young bird with NO feathers this little bird had a mishap and needs to be placed back into the nest (if you are able to safely reach it, we don't want any broken bones) Do not worry about your scent being on the young bird, mom and dad can't smell. Keep your eyes open for these young fliers, it is a great feeling to watch them leave the nest and try their hand (or wings) at flying. To see the parents interact with them, and to fight off potential predators is sometimes humorous.
Keep a camera handy, you never know what interesting photo op. will present itself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Maestro

In January 2008 we had several snow storms and after one of these storms my husband and I drove to a local pond to see the geese. I was able to capture this image of a Canada Goose as he was stretching his wings after landing on the frozen pond. He looks so much like he is conducting an orchestra that I named him the Maestro.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Platte River

Near our home flows the beautiful Platte River. This picture was taken last year right after heavy rains. As you can see by the photograph the river was flowing hard and was bank full. It later over-flowed its banks and flooded some low lying cropland. In the foreground where the green grass meets the river is a steep bank, approximately 30-40 feet straight down to the river (under normal water conditions), so it gives you some idea of the depth of the water. This river has always been one of my favorites. There are several Conservation Areas along its banks, one particular favorite is called Elrod Mill. The sandy beaches and normally low water conditions make it a great place to bird watch and take in some sunbathing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Old Man in the Tree

We've all heard stories of the "Old Man in the Moon" but how about the "Old Man in the Tree"?
Not sure if there is a story but perhaps there should be. These carvings were done on numerous trees near Bigelow Missouri. They are unique and very beautiful. My husband and I were driving through the country looking for things to photograph but I didn't expect something so unusual to present itself. Someone went to a lot of work. We found three of these carvings in different trees along the route we drove.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Officially Spring?

Many people have their own ideas of what signifies the beginning of spring. For some it is the arrival of the robins. Still others believe it is the first crocus' that bloom when the snow is still on the ground. For me it is the site of the first Turkey Vultures, which happened for me this year on this past Sunday March 8th. We were driving on 71 Highway just south of Savannah, MO I looked towards the north and spotted a Turkey Vulture soaring on the thermals high in the sky. Temperatures were in the low 40's and it was a very cloudy day, rain was on the way. Yet for me it was SPRING!

Startling Starlings

Many of us in Missouri are familiar with the Starling. This non-native bird is aggressive, gregarious and a true nuisance to many. Hog farmers hate them for the TGE disease they spread to their pigs. Bird lovers even dislike them because they push many of our lovely native species out of nesting sites and away from the bird seed we provide for them. Nothing is more irritating to have spent a small fortune on special bird seeds for all the lovely song birds and to look out your window expecting to see Chick-A-Dees or maybe a Tufted Titmouse only to see a flock of large starlings. While I am in agreement that these birds can be frustrating. I've been waging my own war with them for many years as they take over my Purple Martin houses each spring in large numbers. No amount of nest removing seems to deter them in the least. I lower the Martin house, remove the nests, throw out any eggs that are present , raise the nest, only to repeat the process later that night....ERRRR! I guess they should be admired for the tenacious survival skills they possess. An enterprising gentleman from England brought a pair of these birds to the United States as they reminded him of home. These birds subsequently escaped and the rest in history! In the winter these birds are speckled with yellow spots all over, in the spring they gain their breeding plumage and are a glossy blue-black. Many people mistake them for the Common Grackle. The main way to tell the difference....Grackles have LONG tails and white eyes, Starlings have SHORT tails and dark eyes. While the Starling may not be very many peoples favorite birds, I guess we should cut them a little slack, after all they are just doing what comes natural---surviving anyway they can.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Find the Snake

The Prairie Kingsnake is the master of camouflage, just look at those cryptic colors. He is very difficult to see against the dry grasses of his normal habitat. Kingsnakes are among my favorites, they are beautiful snakes. As pets they are unsurpassed in their temperament. In the wild these snakes feed on a variety of prey, most especially other snakes (it is their chocolate) even venomous snakes are not safe from these adept hunters. Several species of kingsnakes live in Missouri, the prairie kingsnake (pictured), the Speckled Kingsnake and the Common Milksnake (which is a variety of king snake). Look for these guys in grassy areas, usually hiding under vegetation or other shelters available to them waiting for their prey.