Photo of an eastern screech owl

Owls of Iowa: Eastern screech owl

December 18, 2019

They are called the eastern screech owl (Megascops asio), but that doesn’t mean all you’ll hear from them is screeches. Typically, these small owls only screech when they are defending their nest or fledglings. Otherwise, you will hear a variety of calls, including trills, whinnies, hoots and barks. They even…

Photo of a big brown bat

How bats survive the winter

December 16, 2019

Iowa has nine species of bats (you can read more about them here) and some of them hibernate while others migrate, and some migrate to hibernate. Iowa’s two most common bats, and those that you would find in Dickinson County, are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and the big…

Photo of woman reading a story

Family Nature Night goes to the Caribbean

December 12, 2019

It may feel like the weather outside is frightful, but Caribbean Night will be so delightful at the Dickinson County Nature Center. The final Family Nature Night for 2019 has a tropical theme. “We thought it would be fun to take it outside the parameters of Iowa and think a…

Photo of a saw-whet owl in a tree

Owls of Iowa: Northern saw-whet owl

December 11, 2019

Great-horned owls may be the most well-known and most common owl in Iowa, but I don’t think there’s any disputing that the northern saw-whet owl is the cutest. Only slightly heavier than a hairy woodpecker and about the size of a robin, the saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is tiny and…

How garter snakes spend the winter

December 9, 2019

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is just that — common. They are a small snake, usually less than 3 feet, and are non-venomous. The snakes are found throughout Iowa and much of the U.S., as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. However common they are in the summertime,…

Photo of roosting monarch butterflies

Why do monarchs overwinter in Mexico?

December 5, 2019

Most people familiar with monarch butterflies know that they migrate to central Mexico to overwinter. You can read in-depth how monarchs find their way here, but in general, they use their circadian rhythm to orient themselves with the direction of the sun and also use the earth’s magnetic field to…

Photo of a great-horned owl

Owls of Iowa: Great horned owl

December 2, 2019

There are nine species of owls in Iowa, and the great-horned owl (Bubo virgianus) may be the most well-known species. Great-horned owls have the quintessential owl call. When you think owl, you think “Whoooo. Whoooo.” That is actually not the call of every owl but the call of the great-horned…

Photo of completed origami bee

Simple origami bee

December 2, 2019

We’re bzzzzy bees at the Dickinson County Nature Center, and we’re continuously celebrating bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds and all of our pollinators at Pollinator Paradise. Once you see the live bees in the indoor beehive, crawl through the human-sized honeycomb, pollinate life-size apple trees and see all the delicious foods…

Photo of people walking on a snowy trail

Eight snow facts you probably didn’t know

November 27, 2019

1. All snowflakes are unique, sort of. The short answer is, yes, because each ice crystal has a unique path to the ground. They will float through different clouds of different temperatures and different levels of moisture, which means the ice crystal will grow in a unique way. Temperature and…

Photo of a muskrat in water

Muskrats remain active during the winter

November 25, 2019

It may look like a whole colony of muskrats has overtaken a wetland in the winter. Mounds of plants are pushed up all around, but most likely it’s not as many muskrats as it appears. Muskrats do not hibernate during winter, and they also don’t store food in their lodges…

Photo of a mosquito on a flower

Reasons why insects are beneficial

November 20, 2019

Insects are beneficial. For some reason, most people grow up thinking “Ew” whenever they think “Insect.” However, the vast majority of insects are actually beneficial to humans and the environment. Even those that we think of as annoying, such as mosquitoes, can actually be beneficial in some way. Mosquitoes are…

Painted and snapping turtles survive winter underwater

November 18, 2019

We see many types of turtles roaming around northwest Iowa in the summertime, especially painted turtles and snapping turtles. But we don’t see any in the winter. Where do they all go? Painted turtles and snapping turtles spend their winters in lakes or ponds, living beneath the ice the forms.…

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