The Wetlands: A Masterpiece of Flora and Fauna

Shaw Nature Reserve’s wetlands habitat stretches 32 acres and houses eight ponds. Of those ponds, two hold water all year, one retains a puddle amount at its deepest, and five remain shallower and run dry at various parts of the year.

The wetlands are home to biological, birding and botanical highlights, which change approximately every two weeks during spring and summer.

In spring, frog songs fill the air and migrant waterfowl come to roost. From mid-spring to mid-summer, water lilies bloom and songbirds flock to the wetlands. In high summer, dragonflies and singing insects swarm. From mid-summer to early fall, tall, flowering plants fill the area, including, but not limited to, shooting stars, blue flag irises, and queen of the prairies.

Visitors are encouraged to listen for the calls of bullfrogs and look for lightning bugs dancing through the evening air. Wood ducks, belted kingfishers, and great blue herons are particularly prominent in June.

Wood Duck

Photo by aNoodle / Source

Female wood ducks make a wooo-eeek call, while males make a jeeee or ter-weee call.

Though wood ducks’ population was threatened in the early 20th century, they have since returned to healthy numbers.

Females can have up to two broods per year in its southern range, but only 1 brood per year in its northern range. The broods range from 6 to 15 eggs and are incubated for 25-35 days. The parents tend to the young for 5-6 weeks, with the young gaining the ability to fly at 8-9 weeks.

Belted Kingfisher
Photo by Teddy Llovet / Source

Belted kingfishers have a call that sounds like a loud, penetrating rattle.

Recent surveys indication a population decline. This could be due to a loss of nesting sites and disturbance during breeding season.

Females can have 1 to 2 broods per year, numbering between 5 and 8 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for 22-24 days, with the female incubating at night and the male during the day. Young can leave the nest 27-29 days after hatching, with the parents feeding them for another 3 weeks.

Great Blue Heron

Photo from Public Domain / Source?

Great blue herons have a harsh squawking call.

The population of the species appears stable, with a widespread range.

Females can have 1 to 2 broods per year of 2 to 7 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for 25-30 days. Young gain the ability to fly at 60 days, departing the nest at 65-90 days.

Water Lilies (Nymphaea)

These summer favorites have round, vibrant green leaves that float at water level and fragrant flowers with colorful centers.  The flowers can grow from 6-12 inches across and only open during the day.

A water lily flower blooms. (Photo by Kat Niehaus)

Waterfowl and many mammals eat portions of the plant, while its leaves provide cover for fish living in the water below.

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)

A brown stalk holds five blooming shooting star flowers.

This native Missouri wildflower typically occurs in open woods and glades, rocky wooded slopes, bluff ledges, meadows and prairies.  It blooms in late spring, with flower colors ranging from white to pink to light purple.  The plant’s name comes from the flowers’ appearance.

Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Light purple and yellow blue flag iris flowers face toward the sunlight.

This is a clump-forming iris native to marshes, swamps, wet meadows, ditches and shorelines.  It forms a group of narrow, arching, sword-shaped, blue-green leaves, with flowering stalks rises from the clump to 30 inches tall in late spring.  Each stalk has 3 to 5 blue-purple flowers with purple veins.

Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra)

In Missouri, the plant is only found in several swamp, calcereous meadows in Reynold County.  It is a tall, upright, clump-forming plant that grow 6-8 feet tall that features panicles of tiny, fragrant, pale pink flowers early to mid summer.

Morgan Niezing,
Digital Media Intern





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