One of the coolest gifts you can give that outdoor person in your life this Christmas is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s 2020 natural events calendar.
I’ve got mine and have circled a number of events I don’t want to miss next year.
The calendar combines spectacular photography with a natural event nearly every day of the year, and you can buy them at most MDC offices, including the one at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center in Joplin’s Wildcat Park. You can also order a calendar for $9 from www.mdcnatureshop.com.
This year’s calendar has a moody photo of the Jack’s Fork in springtime by Reva Dow; eye-popping, intense images by Gail Rowley, such as a Baltimore oriole in a redbud tree; more great wildlife images by Danny Brown; as well as other well-known photographers, including Becky Wylie, of Neosho, who has been a regular in the annual natural events calendar for years.
And with hundreds of events, there’s something for everybody: skywatchers, birdwatchers, mushroom hunters — just name your passion.
Here’s some of what I circled just to give you a taste of what’s in the calendar:
• Jan. 21: “Peak number of bald eagles gather this month near lakes, rivers and wetlands.” (Actually, this falls right between two eagle-viewing events. Roaring River State Park has an event from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18. Also, mark on your calendar for Saturday, Jan. 25. That is when Stella holds its annual Festival of Eagles, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Stella Veterans Memorial Park.)
• Feb. 20: “Coyotes breed through March. Listen for howling.” Followed by this event, for Feb. 25: “Listen for chorus frogs.” Some years back, when we lived along a small Missouri creek, I’d sit out on the deck on warm February nights and just listen to nature waking up from the winter. Amazing.
• March 30: “Redbuds begin blooming.” To be followed by ...
• April 20: “Look for flowering dogwoods.”
• May 14: “Watch for lightning bugs on warm evenings.” I have seen them as early as the second week of April around here, but whenever they appear, I never tire of the light show. Nothing stirs up childhood memories of summer like a night full of lightning bugs.
• June 25: “Smoketrees bloom on Southwest Missouri glades.” There are some great glades around Roaring River, which are worth checking out after a morning spent fishing.
• July 1: “Blackberries are ripening.” The Missouri Department of Conservation also offers “Cooking Wild in Missouri” for $16, a cookbook with a recipe for blackberry gelato. That book also makes a great gift. I think the gelato is about the best thing you can make with fresh blackberries. A couple of years ago, at a family reunion, we had a homemade ice cream contest, with everybody who wanted in putting up $25 with the pot to go to the winner. The little kids voted in a blind taste test. My (actually MDC’s) blackberry gelato came in second, losing only to my sister and her husband, whose recipe included bacon and maple syrup. Tough to beat bacon.
• July 2: “Chiggers itch from blackberry picking.”
• Aug. 12: “Perseid meteor shower peaks.” The best place to watch these types of events will be the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas, the region’s only Dark Sky Park.
• Sept. 21: “Cardinal flowers bloom along Ozark streams.” So much has begun turning color — sassafras, sumac — and the signs of autumn are emerging, but nothing is as brilliant in the fall as those blood-red flowers that share a name with the red bird.
• Oct. 20: “Peak fall color begins in maples, oaks and hickories. Now is a great time to hike a trail or float a stream.” That leads me to another MDC book that I have used a lot and that also makes a great gift: “A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri,” for $8.
• Nov. 30: “Penumbral lunar eclipse occurs.” Keep in mind, that is the morning of Nov. 30 and not that evening.
• Dec. 1: “Great horned owls are courting,” and Dec. 3: “Barred owls are courting.” I have spent many a winter night in the woods just to listen to these powerful, spooky, majestic conversations. Now there’s another natural event not to be missed.
The Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center will have a holiday open house from 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12. It will be a great time to pick up gifts.
Hope that helps with your Christmas shopping.
Andy Ostmeyer is the editor of The Joplin Globe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.