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Nature Center hosts nocturnal hike for Halloween outdoor fun

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A Screech Owl in its "red phase" makes an imposing presence up close.

A Screech Owl in its “red phase” makes an imposing presence up close, but you may be surprised to learn this is a relatively small owl. Screech owls are polymorphic, with both a gray and a red phase. much like the color phases of hawks. About a third are red, with the percentage dropping north and west through their range.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Humans have long had an often irrational fear of critters that come out after the sun goes down, but now we appreciate that these animals are an interesting part of our outdoors world.

You can learn more about Missouri’s nocturnal creatures during an evening of education and entertainment at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Springfield Conservation Nature Center’s “Halloween Happening: Into the Woods with Red Riding Hood” event on Thursday, Oct. 27 and Friday, Oct. 28. Nighttime outdoor fun, a few hiking surprises and conservation education will all be part of this family-oriented event, which will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each night.

Linda Chorice, Springfield Conservation Nature Center Manager, explains the extensive renovations going on in phases.

Linda Chorice, Springfield Conservation Nature Center Manager, explains the extensive renovations going on in phases.

“Being outdoors at night adds excitement to learning about nocturnal creatures,” says Nature Center Manager Linda Chorice. “Night hikes fit well with a Halloween-themed event. However, the hikes are insightful, not frightful.”

At this year’s “Halloween Happening,” people can learn about nocturnal creatures in several ways. Each evening of the event, groups will be led on guided hikes on the Nature Center trails where they will meet costume-clad characters that will provide nature knowledge that’s both educational and entertaining. The last hike is scheduled to leave the Nature Center building at 9 p.m. Children are welcome to wear Halloween costumes that are suitable for walking the trails at night.

While hikes are taking place on the trails, activities oriented around nocturnal wildlife will be going on inside the Nature Center building. Free soda and popcorn will be provided.

There is no registration for this event. Call the Springfield Conservation Nature Center at 417-888-4237 for details. Information is also at mdc.mo.gov/springfield. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is located at 4601 S. Nature Center Way.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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