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Spring Indicators

Spicebush Flower

Published on: Apr. 10, 2013

As we move into April it looks like spring has finally sprung. The temperatures we experienced this March were chilly; nearly 20 degrees different from warm temperatures we basked in last year. In a broader context, this March was nearly 6 degrees below normal and was the coldest in Missouri since 1996. However, over the last week we’ve been able to experience some wonderful temperatures and the plants are enjoying it as well.

Spring Blossoms

Buds are popping and flowers are blooming as the plants begin to stretch their limbs. One of the first plants to indicate the arrival of spring is the spicebush. “Spicey” because of the aromatic oil in the bark, fruit, and leaves, this little tree is commonly found in the understory of our bottomland forests. If you went for a walk in the woods over the last week or two, you may have seen it’s small yellow flowers, which is why some call it the “forsythia of the wilds”. As the season progresses, it will develop shiny red berries or drupes that all sorts of wildlife love to eat.

Seasonal Shifts

Although this plant can often be overlooked it can prove to be an indicator of the season and promise of wildlife activity. Such is the annual cycle of wetland management, full of cues and variability from one year to the next. As mallards were replaced by pintails, which were swapped out by shovelers and teal, long-legged shorebirds like greater yellow-legs and even black-necked stilts have moved in and have been foraging in the shallowly flooded habitats. It is this time of year that we think about our water management options.

Water management

As water is drawn down this spring different plants will germinate depending upon the soil saturation and soil temperature. A slow draw down ensures a broader window of opportunity for this to occur within our impoundments rather than just draining the pool all at once. Additionally, staggering the timing of drawdowns across pools provides different conditions to a range of species. With nature there is one certainty; variability will happen and unfortunately we can’t always predict it. This is why providing a range of conditions across a wider period of time makes the best sense. As the plants begin to establish themselves in our wetlands, we’ll evaluate the quality of food these plants can produce and the value they may hold in terms of cover and structure for wetland wildlife. Throughout the summer we’ll tweak our management to favor more valuable plants (like irrigating wild millet) or thinning less desirable plants (like spraying cocklebur). This will set the stage in terms of the habitat and cover that will be available this fall.

Much like the yellow hue of the spicebush in the spring indicates the presence of berries later in the year for a variety of forest critters, receding water levels mark the beginning of our preparation of “duck food” for this coming fall’s flight.

Key Messages: 

We work with you and for you to sustain healthy forests, fish and wildlife.

Comments

On April 29th, 2013 at 10:04am cordek said:

Harvesting crayfish is not permitted in the north portion of Pool 1 but is permitted in the ditches.  On most Conservation Areas, seining or trapping live bait is permitted in streams (ditches) in accordance with statewide regulations.  Seining or trapping live bait, including tadpoles, is prohibited in lakes and ponds.  The statewide regulations allow crayfish to be trapped year round, however,  trapping is not permitted on Duck Creek from October 15 thru the last day of the duck season.  All traps must be labeled with the individual’s name and address or nine digit Conservation Number, the opening cannot exceed one and one half (1 ½) inches  by eighteen (18) inches and all traps must be checked daily.  Daily limit is one-hundred fifty (150) crayfish and the individual must possess a valid MO fishing permit.  Live bait obtained from waters of the state may not be transported from the state or sold. Information pertaining to these rules can be found in the Wildlife Code of Missouri, specifically Chapters 6 and 11. http://sos.mo.gov/adrules/csr/current/3csr/3csr.asp

On April 27th, 2013 at 10:02pm Anonymous said:

Frank, I set crawfish traps around my home on private property. I'm interested in setting them out on conservation lands but cant find much info on the department website. Could I legally set them out on the north end of the lake or in the ditches surrounding the area? Thanks a bunch, any and all help is very appreciated.

On April 25th, 2013 at 2:06pm frank said:

There won’t be any work done this year for the old C blind area. We plan to tackle that next year. The dozer was just smoothing out a couple spots along the ditch last week so we could mow it this year.

On April 25th, 2013 at 12:07pm Anonymous said:

Noticed a bulldozer parked in front of pool C. Any news on Pool C refurbishing?

On April 25th, 2013 at 7:37am frank said:

Yes, hens are legal to shoot in the fall. No new developments with the blinds in Units A and B.

On April 19th, 2013 at 8:04pm Anonymous said:

Are Hen Turkeys legal to kill in the fall? Any updates on the plans to replace blinds in A and B Unit?

On April 14th, 2013 at 11:57pm CW said:

As spring spawns in the great outdoors, my house gets ready for it by spring cleaning my garage. Packing up all the waterfowl clothes, giving the waders a final go over before they go to sleep for the summer, and shelving all the decoys after removing all the mud and muck gathered from the season. Your mention of cocklebur's brought a smile to my face, as I am still finding them stuck to various clothes and winter socks. I think I found every cocklebur bush Duck Creek had to offer this year and ended up bringing a sample of each bush home with me.
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