Purple martins are the largest swallow in the U.S.

Photo of a male and female purple martin

A colony of white, gourd-like houses hang on a large pole outside of the Dickinson County Nature Center. Around them flies dozens of gliding, floating, flitting dark birds — purple martins. Local birder and owner of Bird Haven in Spirit Lake Wendell Hansen has cared for the purple martins for many years, and last June…

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Egret, crane or heron? How to tell which bird you have seen

Photo of a great egret

Two big white birds — rehabilitated trumpeter swans — live on the Kenue Park wetland, but last week we also spotted three more white birds. Egrets? Cranes? Herons? We were trying to figure out what they were but we couldn’t see their necks, because it was breezy and they had their heads hunkered down. However,…

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Spring photography contest winners announced

Adult winner – Donald Vrchota Teen winner – Anna Rose Youth winner – Cy Enriquez Scroll through all submissions The bi-annual photography contest has submission deadlines of April 1 and Sept. 1. Entries are classified into three age groups: 13 and younger, 14-18 or 19 and older. Winners in each age group will be featured…

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Pasque flowers mean spring

Photo of pasques flowers

There are many signs of spring — waterfowl migration, robins returning, snow melting and ice going out on the Iowa Great Lakes. A true sign of spring in the tallgrass prairie is pasque flowers blooming. The pasque flower (Pulsatilla patens or Anemone patens) is found in healthy tallgrass prairies, usually on dry, rocky hillsides and…

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11 pollinators from around the world

Photo of a honey possum on a flower

The pollinator world goes beyond just butterflies and bees, and it also goes beyond the borders of Iowa and the United States. Pollinators come in many shapes, sizes, colors and species, and they help plant communities around the world survive. (Eight forgotten pollinators) Let’s take a look at some interesting worldwide pollinators. North and South…

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Make your own lava lamp

Sometimes we move away from nature-specific principles and teach more general science principles during Dickinson County Nature Center programs. We use science experiments in many of our programs to teach about natural reactions and to help kids learn to hypothesize and test out their theories. (Learn about permeable skin through an experiment in this video)…

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Five Iowa predators

Photo of a coyote

As Iowa was settled, its landscape and demographics changed, and that meant that its wildlife changed as well. Many species, such as deer, turkeys, trumpeter swans and bobcats were extirpated or close to extirpation. However, increasingly positive conservation attitudes has helped to bring back many species. Here are some of the predators that reign in…

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Eight forgotten pollinators

Photo of a bee fly on a daffodil

Slugs to flies, moths to beetles — pollinators come in many shapes and sizes beyond butterflies and bees. These pollinators help one-third of human food sources to grow, but some have become so common that they are seen more like pests instead of beneficial insects, and some have even been eradicated to the point of…

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Waterfowl spring migration usually begins at the beginning of March

Photo of a mallard flying

You might start seeing migrating birds even when it seems winter still has its grip on the world. Different species of birds decide to migrate based on different factors, such as day length, temperature, food availability and genetics predisposition. For waterfowl, it begins with daylight. Over the winter, waterfowl eat plenty of high-fat foods to…

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