The 2018 #top9 blogs, crafts and activities and photos

The #top9 is always a trending topic at this time of the year as people look back and reflect.

So, being New Year’s Eve, we thought we’d take some time to look back as well and check out our top 9 blogs, top 9 crafts and top 9 photos of the year.

Top 9 blogs


  1. Seven differences between osprey and bald eagles: The top blog as well as the top viewed page on our website in 2018 was this article about the differences between osprey and bald eagles. If you love osprey as much as we do, stop in the Dickinson County Nature Center to see our newest Okoboji Outdoors T-shirt design featuring one of our actual Okoboji Osprey.Photo of a female osprey with chicks
  2. 5 ways to tell apart a chipmunk and a ground squirrel: Along the same lines, people were also interested in the difference between chipmunks and ground squirrels.
  3. Moth or butterfly? Can you tell the difference?: Interestingly, the third-most popular blog of 2018 also was a “can you tell the difference” blog. Moths and butterflies seem very similar, but there are key ways to tell them apart, like their antenna, colors, time they are active and their caterpillars.
  4. 4 ways to tell apart swans and snow geese: The next most popular blog helps people tell the difference between three different kinds of swans — trumpeter, tundra and mute swans — and snow geese. Size, coloring and call are just some of the ways that you can identify big, white waterfowl.Photo of a trumpeter swan
  5. Identifying the leaves of trees native to northwest Iowa: It seems like people like identification articles! The fifth-most viewed blog of 2018 talked about how to identify leaves that have fallen in your yard. It also includes a handy guide that you can download to take outside with you.
  6. Venom and barbed hairs: Why tarantulas are actually quite cool: A lot of visitors to the nature center balk when they hear “snakes” or “tarantula,” but Pinki the Chilean rose-haired tarantula is truly an amazing creature when you get to know her.
  7. Looks like a baby tomato, smells like a tomato, not a tomato: Sometimes you find something in your yard or in the wild and go, “What is this?” That’s what happened with one county resident who sent us some photos of what appeared to be a baby tomato in her yard, but it is actually nightshade. Learn more about it on this popular blog.
  8. Native Iowa butterflies and moths: Skippers and swallowtails: The world of pollinators is sometimes boiled down to monarch butterflies and honeybees, but it is so amazingly vast. We had so much fun learning about native Iowa butterflies and moths and writing about them in this series.
  9. It’s not a bee — 5 types of wasps, hornets and yellowjackets you might see in Iowa: So many people come in to the nature center and think they don’t like bees, but they really have had encounters with more aggressive creatures like wasps, hornets and yellowjackets, which are separate species from bees.
Photo of paper wasps building a nest

Paper wasp

Top 9 crafts and activities

  1. Origami frog: This leaping frog actually leaps, and it’s pretty simple to make even for origami novices like us.
  2. Cream of pheasant, wild rice soup: This recipe is an oldie but goodie on our website. It was posted six years ago but is still a top hit.
  3. Pipe cleaner animals: Pipe cleaners may be the most inexpensive and versatile of all craft supplies, and with our simple instructions, you can make your own pipe cleaner animals to play with.Photo of a pipe cleaner robin
  4. Acorn flour chocolate chip cookies: We tried something new and made acorn flour chocolate chip cookies for an event and found that this wheat substitute blended in really well with the recipe. You couldn’t even tell we used acorn flour, other than the darker color.
  5. Duck mask: All you need to make your own duck mask is a paper plate and a few other simple supplies.
  6. Read 10 children’s books all about nature: If you’re looking for some new and exciting books for story time at home, check out some of our favorite nature-related books.
  7. Make a bee hotel: We can all help native bees by providing places for them to lay eggs, raise brood and overwinter. Don’t worry, most native bees have stingers too small to penetrate human skin, so they are absolutely no threat to you or your family. Help us bring back bee populations by helping in this simple way.Photo of bamboo bee home
  8. Hatching dinosaur egg: A dinosaur egg that hatches with a real dinosaur toy inside — learn how to make this super fun activity here.
  9. Origami butterfly: We round out our top 9 crafts and activities with another origami activity — a simple and beautiful butterfly.

Top 9 photos

Dickinson County Nature Center in winter

1. Dickinson County Nature Center, posted December 2018

Photo of the nature center entryway

2. Updated entryway, posted August 2018

Phot of honeycomb climber

3./4. (Tie) New honeycomb climber, posted May 2018

Photo of two canvas photos

3./4. (Tie) Tom Gustafson exhibit, posted January 2018

Photo of turtle poking head out of bedding

5. Teddy the turtle, posted March 2018

Photo of a wildflower

6. Judd Wildlife Area, posted August 2018

Photo of a family dressed like pollinators

7. Family at the Bee & Butterfly Festival, posted September 2018

Photo of the Dickinson County Nature Center in winter

8. Dickinson County Nature Center – posted December 11, 2018

Photo of the Dickinson County Nature Center

9. Dickinson County Nature Center, posted September 2018

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