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Iowa Winter Birds: Pine Siskin

Photo of a pine siskin

When I started working for the Dickinson County Conservation Board five years ago, I didn’t know much about identifying birds. I could pick out a cardinal, a robin, a goldfinch and a bald eagle. I remember when I was watching the birds in the avian courtyard with a volunteer, and he pointed out a streaky…

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Iowa Winter Birds: Purple finch

Photo of a purple finch

Although purple finches have a non-breeding range throughout the eastern half of the U.S., they may be more of an irregular visitor to your feeder. Part of that could be due to competition with its look-alike, the house finch. (Learn how to tell them apart here) The house finch is native to the western U.S.…

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Iowa Winter Birds: American Tree Sparrow

Photo of an american tree sparrow

The American tree sparrow’s name is really misleading. European settlers named it the American tree sparrow because the chubby bird with a rust-colored cap and eyeline reminded them of the Eurasian tree sparrow, but Spizelloides arborea isn’t just American. It does spend its nonbreeding winter seasons in the U.S. and southern Canada, but it head…

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Iowa’s Winter Birds: Dark-eyed junco

Photo of a slate-colored junco

Snowbirds are people that flee Iowa for warmer weather farther south. By farther south, we usually mean Florida, Texas or Arizona. However, for some residents of the far north, like dark-eyed juncos, Iowa is the warm haven to which they flock. As winter sets in, these pretty little sparrows migrate from their breeding grounds in…

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Orange pheasant

Graphic that says easy orange pheasant recipe

My husband doesn’t usually go pheasant hunting, because it’s difficult to do without a hunting dog, and our Olde English Bulldog just doesn’t seem to like the outdoors…or being active…or being awake. So I haven’t had the chance to eat pheasant before, but this year he went hunting with a friend and shot a pheasant.…

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Animal Baby Name Game

Graphic of name game

Baby names are so much fun. Whether you’re planning for your own child, getting ready for a baby shower or just having fun thinking of names, it can be quite a crazy world to look into. There are literally thousands upon thousands of names, and some can be quite crazy. It is the same with…

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Snapping turtles are fascinating

Photo of a common snapping turtle

People speculate how both gangsters and snapping turtles cut off people’s fingers, so when the Dickinson County Nature Center got a baby snapping turtle as an animal ambassador, it was named Capone after the legendary gangster Al Capone. Common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are the largest turtles in Iowa, and they are quite fascinating creatures.…

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Why Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore

Photo of Pluto

Pluto was first designated a planet in 1930 when it was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. The tiny planet is about two-thirds the diameter of Earth’s moon and most likely is made up of a rocky core surrounded by ice and coated with methane and nitrogen frost. It…

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What kind of turtle is it?

Photo of an ornate box turtle

Shells, claws and tails — turtles can seem confusingly similar. However, if you know a few key differences to look for, you can soon confidently identify some common turtle species in Iowa. There are 13 turtle species known in Iowa, but we’re going to look at just five — Blanding’s turtles, painted turtles, red-eared sliders,…

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Flying high: Mallards one of highest flying birds documented

Photo of mallard duck taking off

We have many wonderful volunteers at the Dickinson County Nature Center, and one of regular front desk helpers loves to bring in articles with interesting animal facts. The last article she brought in from “Smithsonian” magazine told that the highest bird flight ever recorded was by the Ruppell’s griffon, a vulture native to Africa. It’s…

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