Pilot Knob Conservation Area

I had occasion to visit the 1,360 acre Pilot Knob Conservation Area near Carr Lane, Missouri. I hiked a portion of the winding 2.7-mile trail on a cold and blustery day (nearby Berryville, Arkansas recorded 47 mile per hour wind gusts.) What I saw was beautiful, but similar to the hillsides and hilltops here in and around the hollow, with big trees and rocky outcroppings. Under a crossing overhead power line I noticed a couple of fields of turnips and lots of signs (scat) of coyotes on the hiking trail. I wonder what species in particular the turnip food plots are for?

Ninety percent of the Pilot Knob Conservation Area is forested, while the remaining bits are Ozark glades or glade restoration projects. Ozark glades are naturally occurring savannah-like openings in the forest, where the specialized habitat allows certain species to flourish. The glades I am familiar with are very rocky and dry, almost like a desert, with species you might expect only in the desert, such as prickly-pear cactus, scorpions, tarantulas and lots of lizards and butterflies. I am sure there is more to it, but that is my impression from the local glades I have seen. Like other openings, Ozark glades are often overrun by that aromatic but invasive bully, the Eastern Red Cedar. Ozark glades in a natural state would burn off periodically, keeping the ambitious red cedar in check.

The glade restoration project I saw in the Pilot Knob Conservation Area seemed to be just passed the stage of opening up the forest with cutting, bulldozing and burning, leaving big oaks thinly spaced. I wonder if they’ll do much planting of glade grasses and wildflowers and such? Obviously, restoring an Ozark glade to its natural state will take awhile to get right. Interesting.

I’m Not Much of a Birdwatcher

I’m not much of a birdwatcher, I mean I do it, and I enjoy it, but I don’t know much of what I am looking at. But I have noticed with winter time the influx of new birds. Some birds are easier to spot than others.

For instance, I saw my first bald eagle of the winter the other day. I was told years ago that the bald eagles arrive from the north just as our turkey buzzards go south, so I always wondered if the two events were linked. Turkey buzzards are large birds, with wing spans of six feet. I read once of a turkey buzzard eating carrion and a bald eagle took an interest. It swooped down several times, telling the buzzard to move along. When it didn’t the eagle became impatient and grabbed it and killed it.

The last few years there seems to be several buzzards that stay near the hollow year round. Of course, these may be black buzzards that I am seeing, a bird we didn’t formerly have around here much. Though not as big as the turkey buzzard, I’ve read that the black buzzard is much more aggressive, even killing new born calves on occasion. As far as I can determine, the turkey buzzard doesn’t kill.

And geese have been flying overhead for quite some time. I heard some just yesterday, though there were more a month ago passing than now. I know the geese are headed south, but that is not the direction I see them going overhead. They more often than not are flying from west to east or east to west. I’m sure they know what they are doing.

Speaking of birds, a couple of days ago I heard our rooster, Russell Crowe, making a racket, so I watched and he gathered up the hens and took them all inside the chicken coop. It was only with all the chickens out of sight did I notice a big hawk with a white chest up in a tree. It swooped down out of the tree, over the chicken yard, passed the barn and into the top of a big tree. A red-tailed hawk, I assume.