Saturday, May 31, 2008

Uncommon Warblers at ROLF

These are warblers that may pass through ROLF in April-May but nest substaintially north or west of Missouri. They may be seen for a period of about 50 days.

Blackburnian Warbler
Golden Winged Warbler
Brewster's Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut Sided Warbler (saw in 2008)
Hermit Warbler
Black Throated Green Warbler

Pine Warbler
Cerulean Warbler

Brown Thrasher

Common bird at ROLF. Nest near or on the ground in bushes next to a road of path. Can be very sassy if you come close to the nest. The Brown Trasher is a large bird 9-10" and is a summer only resident.

Night singing Birds

This group is comprised of Whip-Poor-Wills, Chuck-Wills-Widow, and Hight Hawks. The Whip-Poor-Will and the Chuck-Wills-Widow are large ground birds about 12" long; and the Night Hawk is larger and speeds it's night time hours in flight.

They feed entirely on insects during the night time hours and are usually quite vocal during dusk and dawn and, more so, on near full moon lit nights. Their songs are repetitive and easily heard at ROLF. When driving at night they can be seen flying erratically in the headlights and their red eyes are easily seen.

They are reside in the Goatsucker family. The were once thought to drink milk from goats at night.

At appears this year (2008) the Chuck-Wills-Widow is the most common form to hear.

Friday, May 30, 2008

American Goldfinch

Beautiful permanent resident of ROLF. Molts in late fall to an olive green color but molts to bright yellow with a black spot on it's head in April. Undulating flyer. Loves seed heads of all types. In fact, nest in August just so it can have available seeds to feed the fledglings.


More rare than the Bald Eagle is the Osprey. It rarely nest in Missouri but can be seen at ROLF migrating and fishing in March-April and again in the fall. It is possible that a few pairs nest in Missouri. The most striking feature of this large bird is it's dive from 500 feet to the river surface to spear a fish and the corresponding splash.

Bald Eagle

Permanent resident of Missouri now. Gone for 40 years has returned to the Ozarks and nests on the North Fork River. Their are at least two nests on the river and 300 across the state. Bald Eagles can be readily seen from any other the cabin flying low through the valley looking for fish.


Common permanent resident across the whole state. Nest near the ground; their are several nesting at ROLF in May through June.

Cat Bird

Common resident of ROFL. More often heard; sounds like a cat; "meow, meow". Nest in low bushes and shrubs and is very secretive. Heard on this May 2008.

Tufted Tit-mouse

ROLF has a permanent resident in the Tufted Tit Mouse. This small gray bird has a distinctive call "peter, peter, peter, peter". It will readily feed at a bird feeder on sunflower seeds. They nest at ROLF about 12-20' up in the trees.

Downey Woodpecker

Permanent resident of ROLF. Smallest woodpecker.  Can been seen nesting in the summer or eating at feeders in the winter. Loves suet.  Will actually feed at hummingbird feeders in the spring because it also loves nectar.

Rolf's common Owls

There are really three common owls at ROLF on the North Fork;

1. The Barred Owl - the eight hooter; call "who cooks for you, who cooks for you, who cooks for you all", a a variety of screeches and whistles. The frequently hoot back in forth to each other in groups.

2. The Great Horned Owl - Large, yellow eyes, the hunter of the midnight woods; call "who who who whoa"; not as loud as the Barred owl.

3. Screech Owl - a small owl that whinnys like a horse; with a quavering sad lonely call; usually right a dusk and again at dawn.

All three owls are common and can be seen just prior to dusk flying on roads.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia Cardinalis)

Blooms along the North Fork (some years profusely) and is a startling color of red. Attracts hummingbirds all fall until they migrate south. Shown on top, is the rarer Blue Lobelia, also on the North Fork River.

Ruby Throat Hummingbird

Common at ROLF from April to October. Our smallest bird. Can be found on all tubular flowers probing for nectar or a feeders. They are particularly found of Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia) in the late summer and fall long the North Fork River.

Red Headed Woodpecker

Common in heavily forested areas in the Ozarks. Have seen one pair a ROLF in 2006. Way less common that the Red Bellied Woodpecker.

Eastern Bluebird

Common in all of Missouri. Nests statewide. State Bird. Winters in southern Missouri. Take to Bluebird houses. A gentle and joyous bird. Male and Female shown.

Wood Thush

About the size of a robin, Wood Thrushes are larger than the other spring migrant thrushes (Veery and Swainson's). Cinnamon-brown above with white breast and prominent spots. Males and females look alike. The song is a beautiful flute-like phrase of 3 to 5 different sad, lonesome, but beautiful note notes. Can be heard in a shady hollow, in the evening, or before a storm. They are quite common at ROLF.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ROLF Herons

Here are two common Herons that spend their summer breeding and feeding on the North Fork river. Both are quite common and should be easy recognize after looking at these pictures. Many people think that Great Blue Herons are Cranes; they are not. The smaller Green Heron is an outstanding fisher.

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a large, crow-sized woodpecker, with brilliant red crest. Both sexes have the red crest and white neck stripe, but only the male has a red forehead and mustache. Pileated Woodpeckers require large trees both for nesting and for the insects, such as Carpenter ants, they provide. Tall dead tree snags are especially important for nesting cavities. It is a permanent resident of ROLF.

Jack in the Pulpit

Saw this beautiful Jack in the Pulpit on the River of Life Spring trail on 4/30/08. They bloom in southern Missouri mid-April to mid-May.

Orchard Oriole

Common spring and fall. Uncommon in summer and rare in winter. Nests at ROLF.

Orchard Orioles are smaller than the more well-known Baltimore Orioles. Male Orchard Orioles are a dark brick-red; females are a soft yellow-green. Females somewhat resemble female tanagers but female tanagers do not have wingbars. One yr. old male Orchard Orioles are the same color as females but have black throats. Orchard Orioles are very common in High Island in the spring where they particularly favor the many bottlebrush bushes which have been planted by homeowners. 

Pictures are of female and male.

Yellow Breasted Chat (Warbler)

The largest warbler, chats are secretive for most of their lives. Along the coast chats are not an easy bird to see. In the spring you are much more likely to hear them than see them. They like to creep around thickets, often calling quietly with their strange combination of whistles, gurgles, chortles and grunts. You might have a better chance of seeing them in the fall, when their pursuit of poison ivy berries brings them out into the open. During the breeding season chats are the most obvious - they like to call from high perches and often do aerial courtship displays unlike any other bird. In the summer Chats breed at ROLF.

Black and White Warbler

Very common spring and fall. 

Black-and-white Warblers are usually spotted creeping on tree trunks as they search for insects. Their behavior is more typical of a nuthatch than a warbler. David caught this warbler on the ground with his feast. Immature females are a more camouflaged version of the boldly colored males. The song is a distinctive, easy to recognize, weeseee, weeseee, weeseee Black-and-white Warblers usually nest at ROLF. Their nests are usually constructed on the ground, at the base of a tree or stump.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbirds are fairly common in open, rural country, but usually not found in urban settings. They are bold, aggressive birds and will chase much larger birds in defense of their nest. The broad white band at the end of their tails is the best identification clue. They also have a narrow strip of red feathers on their crown, but that is usually hidden. The are occasionally seen at ROLF but are quite common in June as you drive back-roads with fences.

Blue-winged Warbler

Also, common at ROF is the Blue-winged Warbler is most likely to be spotted low in trees or in undergrowth. The coloring of females is duller than that of males. Blue-winged Warblers often hybridize with Golden Winged Warblers in areas where their ranges overlap, creating interesting plumage variations. Where both species occur, the Blue-winged Warbler's numbers appear to be increasing at the expense of the Golden-winged Warbler.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

February Float trip (-4 Degrees F)

That is is me floating in the 1980's near Twin Bridges. Very cold, but no crowd on the river. Spent a rare day below zero but was dressed for the trip; can't say I wasn't cold though.


Can been see along the North Fork where it stakes out a fishing territory. Needs to let you know you have entered his territory. Diet is near 100% fish. There seems to be a noisy pair every 1/2 mile along the river.

Rose Poppy Mallow

Coming into bloom in June. Not the largest flower. but certainly one of the most striking. Grows with 2-3 blossoms per stem about 12" tall. Fairly common in hayfields. Lots at ROLF.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpeckers may be found wherever mature trees are to be found. Their loud churrrr, churrr  is a familiar sound in our suburbs or the forest. Beginning birders are often confused by its name, since the red patch on its lower abdomen is difficult to see. Others confuse it with the Ladder-backed Woodpecker which is not found in our area. The female resembles the male but has less red on the top of her head. Red-bellies eat acorns, insects, and fruit, and are also known to store food. They willingly come to feeders for sunflower seed or suet. Red-bellies like to mark their territory by noisy drums on trees and are not at all reluctant to use house siding. They rely on tall soft trees such as pines to excavate their nest cavities. There was an active nest about 25' from the Tree-Top Loft in May 2008.

Eastern Wood Pee Wee

The Eastern Wood-Pewee is our ROLF's common flycatcher in summer. Like other flycatchers, when not chasing insects it likes to perch high up in trees where it may be difficult to spot. Its plaintive song, a drawn-out pee weee is much more obvious. The Eastern Wood-Pewee can be distinguished from most Empidonax flycatchers by its lack of eyering. The male is slightly larger than the female. Song; "Peeeee - Weeeeeeeeeeee, Peeeeeeee - Weeeeeeah"

Prothonotary Warbler

The Prothonotary Warbler is known as the "Gold and Silver Bird" and it is indeed a brilliant sight. Females are a duller version of the male. His song is a distinctive ringing tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet with all notes on the same pitch. Prothonotaries are the only eastern warbler to use tree cavities for their nests. They make 2 nests during the Summer at ROFF in the North Fork riparian vegetation.

Scarlet Tanager

Common at ROLF in the summer in the tops of trees. Best chance to see one is from a treehouse on the hillside. Female olive green to yellow. Immatures resemble females. First spring male is lighter red or orange rather than brilliant scarlet. In early fall, males may take on a mixture of green and red feathers as they molt to olive green for the winter. Scarlet Tanagers may be difficult to spot despite their brilliant coloring, as they often like to perch motionless high up in the canopy of trees. Some say the call sounds like a robin with a sore throat.

Eastern Phoebe

Nesting under both the Log Lodge and Treetop Hideaway every year, the Phoebe is a great bird to watch.

The Eastern Phoebe is a plain but attractive bird roughly the size of a Purple Martin. Adult birds have dusky gray or grayish-brown upper parts with the crown, face, and tail contrastingly darker, sometimes appearing almost black. The under parts are off-white with pale dusky gray markings on the sides of the breast. Some wintering birds show a faint yellow to yellow-green wash on the belly and vent. Various sources describe these birds as juvenile, immature, fresh fall birds, or simply winter plumage (basic) adults.

The habitat in which you will find Eastern Phoebe is deciduous or mixed open woodlands. Mature and dense forested areas are less desirable. One can frequently find Eastern Phoebes in the general area of small ponds, ditches, wet open woodlands, or woodland edges. Here they often perch in a rather erect posture, frequently 3 to 15 feet off the ground and will fly out from the perch to capture insects (referred to as sallying or fly catching). They also consume small berries and fruit of various plants. While perched, Phoebes will often pump or wag their tail.

White Eyed Vireo

Very common at ROLF. The White-eyed Vireo is often difficult to spot as it likes to lurk in moist thickets and woods. Fortunately it has a very distinctive call, consisting of a 5 to 7 note phrase followed by a sharp Chick.  Pick-up-a-real-CHICK. Sometimes the call resembles very closely that of the Yellow-breasted Chat. Also aiding in identification are its white eyes. 

The striking Indigo Bunting

The Indigo Bunting is particularly common at ROLF in the spring and early summer. Males are readily identified by their iridescent dark blue plumage. Females are a soft brown with blueish patches on the tail. Buntings along with Tanagers display complex molting patterns. In the fall male adult Indigo Buntings resemble females. Varying degrees of blueness may be observed. Indigo Buntings are sometimes seen feeding on lawns and make use of bird feeders. 

Monday, May 26, 2008

Looks to be a good year for Paw Paws

Picture from 4/30/08 . The Paw Paws with blossoms and a few weeks later have their massive leaves. It will be fall before the "custardly" fruit is ready ..... usually mid-September. These pictures from near the ROLF spring.

Mountain Lions in Missouri

One hot wildlife question being debated in coffee shops, sporting goods stores and Internet chat sites across Missouri goes something like this: “Do we have mountain lions here or not?” The short answer is yes, sometimes. But we have far fewer than rumors would lead you to believe.

What we do not have is any evidence of a viable, breeding population of mountain lions in Missouri. As a result, the Missouri Department of Conservation has changed the state classification of the species from endangered to extirpated. An extirpated species is one that is considered extinct as a viable breeding population from a portion of its historical range.

The Conservation Commission has determined that, based on considerations of human safety and risk to livestock, it is undesirable to have a breeding population of mountain lions in Missouri. Therefore, the Department of Conservation will not encourage the species to reestablish itself in the state. Despite rumors, the Department has never stocked mountain lions and will not do so in the future.

Once there were lions

Although mountain lions, sometimes called cougars, pumas, panthers or catamounts, were common in Missouri and elsewhere in the Midwest prior to European settlement, they were eradicated during the 19th century. As the countryside was settled and developed, the large predators were shot. People also killed almost all of the deer, the mountain lions’ primary food source.

The last native wild mountain lion in Missouri was killed in 1927. They were extirpated from Iowa by 1867, Nebraska by 1890, Kansas by 1904 and from Wisconsin by 1908. Though populations of mountain lions survived in remote mountainous terrain in western states, no verifiable evidence exists to suggest that they survived anywhere in the Midwest, outside of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

However, many Missourians probably know someone who claims to have seen a mountain lion recently. Or, they’ve heard rumors of mountain lion sightings offered as proof that the species has reclaimed old habitats, or never really disappeared. Hundreds of eyewitness accounts, second-hand testimony and other stories circulate in communities across Missouri, causing lots of discussion and concern. In the search for evidence, however, it is important to distinguish between a reported sighting and a “confirmed” mountain lion report.

The lion trackers

The Mountain Lion Response Team was formed in 1996 to investigate sightings, respond to calls and collect and analyze physical evidence of the presence of mountain lions in Missouri. We provide information and training to Conservation Department employees and service to the public. We have had training from mountain lion experts in Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida.

One important lesson learned in our training is that mountain lions are so secretive that they are rarely "seen" by people. However, physical proof of their existance in these other states is easily found. Our search for hard evidence here in Missouri, such as photos (verified), cougar carcasses, scat with cougar DNA, videos, tracks, etc., has turned up a few, but not many, confirmed mountain lions. Difficult as it may be to obtain, hard evidence is required before we can say, “Yes, we have a confirmed mountain lion.” It is important that we maintain credibility with the public, and it would be irresponsible to make statements about the presence of a large predator like the mountain lion without solid evidence.

We have had only a handful of confirmed mountain lions in Missouri, despite hundreds and hundreds of reports. There have been eight confirmed mountain lions since 1994. One of these was hit by a car near downtown Kansas City in 2002, and another in 2003 near Fulton.

Missing from Missouri is the physical evidence that is left by a viable, breeding population of mountain lions. In the area of every documented population in the U.S., biologists are able to locate numerous tracks, prey kills, scrapes (made when lions scent-mark their territories), and photos, which are often available from the many motion-detecting game cameras that hunters use to monitor trails. Also, frequent mountain lion road-kills turn up, of all ages and of both sexes.

South Dakota estimates they now have a population of 165 mountain lions in the Black Hills, and 40 mountain lion carcasses turned up last year. More than 20 died in vehicle collisions in the last two years alone, despite the area’s relatively low human population and road density. So if we had many mountain lions at all in Missouri, we would almost certainly have more evidence than we do now.

Biologists in Arkansas and Oklahoma have reached the same conclusion as we have after years of searching: They have documented wandering individuals, but no evidence yet of viable populations. The nearest populations are in Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. New evidence suggests that they are in the process of colonizing parts of western Okalahoma, northwest Nebraska, and western North Dakota.

Some sightings explained

But what about the hundreds of sightings reported in Missouri? Some of the sightings turn out to be other animals, and mistaken sightings are rampant.

Dog tracks and dogs themselves are the number one and number two cases of misidentification. Tracks are difficult for most people to distinguish because subtle differences in the details of the tracks distinguish dogs from mountain lions (dog tracks usually show claw marks, where cat tracks rarely do), and dogs can leave tracks larger than mountain lions. Some reports are accompanied by photos and videos, and upon close inspection we find that they are photos of bobcats, coyotes, foxes, house cats and other animals. Even in the western states where thousands of mountain lions are present, bona-fide sightings are rare and misidentification is the rule rather than the exception.

The recent bobcat population expansion in northern Missouri is partly responsible for some mistaken sightings of mountain lions. Many people aren’t familiar with bobcats, and the casual observer may confuse them with mountain lions. Their tracks look similar except for size, and a bobcat can kill an adult-sized deer, hiding the carcass under a pile of leaves or grass like a mountain lion might. Freshly killed deer carcasses have been submitted as evidence, but analysis has revealed bobcat attack rather than mountain lion.

Is that what I think it is?

The mountain lion is a large, slender cat with a small head, small, rounded ears that are not tufted, powerful shoulders and hindquarters, and a cylindrical tail that is long and heavy. The tail has a small dark hook in the end and usually hangs down next to the hind legs. The body fur is short and soft.

The adult mountain lion is distinguished from the bobcat by its large size (total body length of 60 to 102 inches); uniform coloration of grizzled gray or dark brown to buff or light orange; and a tail length of 21 to 35 inches (up to half its body length). A male mountain lion weighs 140 to 160 pounds, while a female weighs 90 to 110 pounds.

Though a popular myth, black panthers do not exist in the wild in North America. A black panther is a melanistic version of a large cat, usually an African leopard or a jaguar. These can sometimes be seen in zoos. Melanistic refers to the unusual black coloration produced by a hereditary, genetic mutation. There has never been a black mountain lion documented anywhere in their range.

Mountain lions prefer dense cover or rocky, rugged terrain, generally in areas of low human habitation, or regions of dense swamps. The size of the home range is typically 50 to 75 square miles for females and 90 to several hundred square miles for males. Mountain lions are generally nocturnal and are active near dawn and dusk. They feed on deer and other medium-sized and large mammals. On average, a typical adult lion kills and consumes about one deer per week.

Female mountain lions have litters of 2 to 3 kittens. Blind and 12 inches long at birth, they weigh about 1 pound. They are buff, spotted with black, and have dark rings on their tails. Once they stop nursing, the female carries food to them until they accompany her at about 2 months of age. The kittens lose their spots gradually. They are usually gone by 18 months of age, when young lions begin to leave home.

Adult females often share territory with their female offspring, although some disperse. Adult males are solitary and territorial and may kill other males and kittens they encounter. This forces young males to leave these territories in search of suitable, unoccupied areas.

Mountain lion populations in western states have grown recently, and as the habitats fill up, new animals born each year have to travel farther locate suitable living space. In the Midwest and eastern Texas, biologists have confirmed physical evidence of mountain lions at least 65 times since 1990.

Recently several mountain lions made headlines when they were killed by cars, trains or police officers in suburban neighborhoods in Midwestern towns. Some biologists believe that they made use of travel corridors along the Missouri River and other rivers. Young male mountain lions have wandered into Fulton, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; South Sioux City, Nebraska; Yankton, South Dakota; and Omaha, Nebraska. In central Iowa, hunters killed one young male lion and a trail camera caught another on film.

Biologists in South Dakota estimate that each year 20 to 25 yearling mountain lions—mostly males—are leaving the Black Hills, forced out by adult males that already occupy the best habitats. One animal was fitted with a radio collar that had been attached during a study of lion survival. It moved 667 miles before it was struck by a train in northern Oklahoma. Another radio-marked male traveled more than 500 miles into northern Minnesota. A recent report documented a radio-marked female from Utah that moved more than 830 miles, roaming through parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

This evidence supports the fact that mountain lions do roam and that some of these animals have made it to Missouri. Mountain lions that escape from captivity could be another source of sightings. Nearly 30 Missourians have permits to have mountain lions in captivity.

For now, the official population status of mountain lions in Missouri is extirpated. However, because of their dispersal patterns, mountain lions may occasionally enter the state. Most of them will likely be males, but an occasional female may make it to Missouri. Rumors will continue to abound, so carefully consider the evidence, and be aware that the Department will be diligent to make our discoveries well publicized.

Safety and reporting

The prospect of increasing mountain lion populations in Missouri causes a feeling of alarm for some folks. They cite the quickly growing bobcat population in the Midwest and are concerned that mountain lions could do the same thing if left unchecked. Missouri annually ranks among the top states for the number of cattle raised, and the potential presence of mountain lions causes much concern among producers. There have been no reports of mountain lions attacking people in Missouri, and no evidence of attacks on livestock or pets.

Our Wildlife Code continues to protect mountain lions from indiscriminant shooting, but also allows citizens to protect themselves and their property. It states, “Mountain lions attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or attacking human beings, may be killed without prior permission, but the kill must be reported immediately to an agent of the department and the intact mountain lion carcass, including pelt, must be surrendered to the agent within twenty-four (24) hours.”

If you have evidence of a mountain lion, or a sighting, please contact the Missouri Department of Conservation. For regional office phone numbers, please see page 1. If you have physical evidence, you can also e-mail the Mountain Lion Response Team at

Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Sightings as of 2003 (many more since 2003)

Confirmed Instances of Mountain Lions in Missouri

The following instances have been confirmed by the MDC Mountain Lion Response Team. However, the origin of theses animals (i.e. escaped/released captive or pioneer from other state) is unknown.

2003 —August, Callaway County: An approximately 1-year-old male road kill. There were no obvious signs that it was formerly a captive animal. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.

2002 —October, Clay County: A 2- to 3-year-old male road kill. DNA analysis revealed its origin to be North America.

2001 —December, Pulaski County: A photograph was taken by a motion-detecting game camera. After a lengthy evaluation, it was determined that it is likely a small, sub-adult mountain lion.

2000 —December, Lewis County: A video was taken by a deer hunter from a tree stand.

1999 —January, Texas County: An adult-sized lion was treed by a rabbit hunter’s dogs. Tracks in the snow (photos taken) and two deer carcasses characteristic of lion kills were found nearby.

1997 —January, Christian County: A video was taken by a property owner. The animal’s behavior implied it had once been held in captivity.

1996 —November, Reynolds County: A video was taken by a conservation agent of a mountain lion with a deer carcass.

1994—December, Carter County: A small adult female was treed and shot by two raccoon hunters near Peck Ranch CA. The carcass was never recovered, but a photo was obtained of the animal on a truck tailgate. Each hunter was fined $2,000.

In Nov. 1998, a deer hunter found the skinned pelt of a small adult, a female with head and feet attached, near a remote Texas County road. Evidence suggests this is the same animal killed in Carter county.