Nature in the Natural State

Various times, daily

These educational spots are brought to you by the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists and KUAR. The Central Arkansas Master Naturalists' mission is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

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Nature In The Natural State: Bird Berries

Jan 31, 2020

Many of us feed birds in the wintertime by putting out seed and suet. But you can also feed birds more naturally by planting native habitat they can eat throughout the winter. This native habitat will also serve as food for caterpillars in the spring and summer, which in turn will feed other animals up the foodchain.

The American beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana, is a native shrub that produces brilliant purple berries. Possumhaw, Ilex decidua, another native, has bright red berries.

Nature In The Natural State: Feeder Watch

Jan 31, 2020

Do you have a yard? Do you see birds in it? Do you feed them? If so, please check out Project FeederWatch, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

This citizen science project is more than 30 years old. Thousands of feeder watchers count birds every year from November through April. You can count at times that work for you. You may see a species you’ve never seen before, like the beautiful Eastern towhee, or observe new behavior from a species you’ve seen many times, like the Carolina chickadee.

Nature In The Natural State: Dormancy

Jan 31, 2020

With the onset of winter, days shorten and temperatures drop.

Animals meet winter’s challenges in different ways. Some mammalian species like chipmunks, bats, and bears experience different types of dormancy, lowering their body temperatures, slowing their heart rates and metabolisms, and going without food for periods ranging from several days to several months.

Reptiles have their own version of dormancy, called brumation, often going for months without food and oxygen, but drinking water throughout the period.

Foxes and deer grow heavy winter coats.

Nature In The Natural State: Mast Year

Jan 31, 2020

Did you notice a large number of acorns on the ground this fall? That’s because this year was what naturalists call a mast year.

Mast is the fruit of forest trees and shrubs. Hard mast is nuts, like acorns, hickory nuts, and beechnuts. Mast seeding is the production of above average numbers of seeds by an entire of population of plants. Mast years are good for the wildlife that feed on the nuts, and also good for the trees themselves, because the larger than usual crop of nuts means the potential for nuts that will escape being eaten and will go on to sprout.

Nature In The Natural State: Snags

Jan 31, 2020

Did you know there’s a name for upright dead trees? They are called snags, and they’re an essential part of a forest ecosystem. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t cut down and cart away a snag.

Nature In The Natural State: Milkweed Seeds

Jan 31, 2020

November is one of the best months to plant milkweed seeds in the ground. They must be “cold stratified” to sprout, meaning they must experience cold for at least several weeks. Plant seeds a quarter inch deep in wet soil. White swamp milkweed, Asclepias perennis likes moist soil, the beautiful orange-flowered Asclepias tuberosa likes well-drained soil, and Four-leaf milkweed, Asclepias quadrifolia, likes dry soil. They all like the sun and are all native to Arkansas.

Nature In The Natural State: Winter Birds

Jan 31, 2020

Winter birds are one way we mark the passing of the seasons. In central Arkansas, two species who winter here are dark-eyed juncos and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

Dark gray with a white belly and white outer tail feathers, the junco will eat feeder seed thrown on the ground. Juncos frequent semi-open habitat such as woodland edges, thickets, and yards with trees and shrubs.

Nature In The Natural State: Leaf Litter

Oct 14, 2019

As the days of fall grow shorter, we prepare our yards and gardens for winter.

What do you do with your leaf litter and yard waste? Do you remove it from the ground and burn it, or rake it off for your city to pick up?

If so, do you know what else you’re throwing away?

Nature In The Natural State: Lawns And Mowing

Oct 14, 2019

People generally agree that a mowed lawn is attractive. In fact, ordinances and covenants in many neighborhoods require lawns, and mandate that they be mowed.

Should we re-examine these values, in light of the climate crisis and increasing environmental degradation?

Most lawn mowers run on fossil fuels. Fertilizers and herbicides are poison, and their runoff from our lawns ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where they contribute to the Gulf’s Dead Zone. The grass in most lawns is not a native species and so turns a yard into a food desert for wildlife.

Nature In The Natural State: Invasive Pear Trees

Oct 14, 2019

Why is the city of Fayetteville giving replacement trees to people who cut down their Bradford pear tree?

Because not all trees are good.

The Bradford pear is just one of many cultivars of the callery pear, which is actually a non-native invasive species in the United States. The first callery pear was imported in 1908 from China to resist a blight attacking U.S. pear orchards.

Nature In The Natural State: Oak Trees

Sep 6, 2019

Are you concerned about climate change? One action to take in response is to plant an oak tree, preferably quercus alba, the white oak.

Why an oak? The white oak supports more moths and butterflies than any other tree species—over 500, according to the latest research. These insects are essential for nature’s food web, on which we all depend, to function.

Nature In The Natural State: Arkansas' Eco-Regions

Sep 6, 2019

Do you know Arkansas’s six natural divisions? They are also called eco-regions, meaning that each one is defined by a different geology, climate, soil, and variety of species.

They are the Ozark Highlands, spanning the northernmost part of Arkansas; the Ouachita Mountains to the south, containing the highest point in the state; the Arkansas Valley, where the Arkansas River separates the Ozarks from the Ouachitas; the Gulf Coastal Plain in the south; and the Mississippi Embayment, comprising the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, or Delta, and Crowley’s Ridge.

Nature In The Natural State: Fire Flies

Sep 6, 2019

On Arkansas summer nights, fireflies’ blinking bio-luminescence attracts mates, defends territory, and warns predators away.

These beetles love humid, warm environments. But fireflies are disappearing worldwide, because of habitat destruction and light pollution.

Nature In The Natural State: Carolina Chickadees

Jul 29, 2019

Is your yard a food desert? I’m not asking whether you have a garden. I’m asking whether your yard supports native species of animals. Let’s take the chickadee as an example, because it has been studied recently. Carolina chickadees are native to Arkansas and live here year-round.

If you have a feeder in your yard you probably see them. But did you know that they eat insects as well as seeds? In fact, they must have insects to feed their young, or their young will die. And here’s where your yard comes into it.

Nature In The Natural State: Hummingbirds

Jul 29, 2019

Who doesn’t love hummingbirds? The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards and even upside down, and they have a larger brain to body ratio than any other animal, including us. The ruby throat-ed hummingbird is the only species native to Arkansas. They arrive in March, raise two broods, and leave in September.

Nature In The Natural State: Monarch Butterflies

Jul 29, 2019

Have you ever seen a distinctive orange, black, and white monarch butterfly? April brings monarchs north to Arkansas from Mexico. A female will lay a single egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The caterpillar that hatches will molt five times before it forms a chrysalis. Out will hatch a butterfly, who will mate and continue the next part of the migration north, as far as Canada.