Winter’s Bone – a day in the Ozarks

by Dana Ripper

Monday was a long, fun, interesting, and successful day.  We left out of Marshall in the morning and wound our way down to Webster County, east of Springfield.  The main purpose of the trip was to meet some new friends – bander/educator Andrew Kinslow and his wife Dawn, SMU professor Dr. Janice Green, MDC wildlife managment biologist Kevin Hedgpeth, and woodsman/musician Bo Brown.  It turns out that Bo did the soundtrack for the movie Winter’s Bone, an outstanding (if somewhat disturbing) film on one family’s life in the southern Missouri Ozarks.

On the way down we saw a variety of unusual things.  One of these was some…shall I say…”interesting” signs outside someone’s home in Preston, MO.  From what I’ve been able to gather, folks in the Ozarks tend to be extreme in their ideals, viewpoints, skills, and dedication.  That translates into some amazing talents and lifestyles; for example, Bo Brown teaches primitive skills and wilderness survival classes.

We spent the afternoon hiking around Andrew’s farm, on which he has been working hard to restore native ecosystems.  For 12 years, he has supplemented his high-school teaching with a summer course that involves banding birds on his property.  His students are trained in mist-net extraction and banding skills.  Many of the students love it so much that they return for several summers even after graduation.

One of the things we wanted to do with the Springfield folks was try to trap Saw-whet Owls.  The habitat down there seemed perfect – deciduous forest interspersed with cedar groves – and Andrew and I had been emailing about it for months.  The weather didn’t look to be cooperative (30+ mph winds and thunderstorms were forecast), but when the wind died down in the afternoon, we gave it a shot.

SUCCESS!!  I can’t say how happy I am that we were able to actually band a Saw-whet that night.  Not only is this probably the furthest south record in Missouri, but the Springfield banders were able to get their own personal experience with the owl – and can begin their own Saw-whet banding station next fall!

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