Photo of chipping sparrow and cowbird egg

Cowbirds lay eggs in other nests

June 10, 2019

Two volunteers were weeding an area and found a small chipping sparrow nest in a low bush. In the nest were three of the sparrow’s bright blue, speckled eggs and another egg that didn’t match. This fourth egg was larger, white and speckled with brown. If you find a similar…

Egg carton butterfly

June 3, 2019

I saw a funny meme about looking for recipes online and having to click on a post that instead of giving you the list of ingredients instead goes through “When I was senior in college, I walked down the long and misty concrete pathway and across a spring green lawn…

Photo of a bee eye

Bees see in UV

June 3, 2019

Bees see the world much differently than humans. It’s not just because they are small but because they see different colors. On the color scale, humans can see the colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. On one end, there is infrared, which humans can’t…

Photo of a hanging opossum toilet paper tube

Hanging opossum craft

May 28, 2019

We call them possums, but Iowa actually has opossums. (Debunk some opossum myths here.) We think opossums are pretty adorable, although everyone doesn’t agree, so we wanted to make a fun opossum craft that you can easily replicate at home. All you’ll need is: Empty toilet paper tube Gray construction…

Opossum with babies on her back

Opossum myths and facts

May 28, 2019

We call them possums, but Iowa actually has opossums. These adorable creatures live in the western hemisphere and can refer to more than 100 species of animals. Possums are actual creatures as well. There are about 70 different species of possums in Australia, including the pollinating honey possum — read…

Photo of a tiger mosquito

Your mosquito questions answered

May 20, 2019

The bane of summer — the mosquito. We all love nice weather, but no one loves this little annoyances that seem to love the heat as well. You probably have plenty of questions, so we’re here to answer just a few. Why do mosquitoes bite? Female mosquitoes bite and take…

Close-up photo of wiggle caterpillar puppet

Wiggle caterpillar puppet

May 13, 2019

We have swallowtail caterpillars in our butterfly enclosure and talked in our kids blog this week about how to tell the difference between them and monarch caterpillars, so it seems only fitting to have a caterpillar craft as well. Caterpillars are fun to watch for many reasons, but one of…

Photo of a black swallowtail caterpillar

4 keys to telling apart monarch and swallowtail caterpillars

May 13, 2019

We stress that it is important to plant milkweed because it is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on and that their caterpillars eat. However, some people have come to us confused that monarch caterpillars are eating the dill in their yard. Taking a closer look though,…

Photo of a fox squirrel

Black squirrels in Iowa

May 7, 2019

Clubs, businesses, special events — many things in Iowa have been named after the mythic black squirrel. I grew up in eastern Iowa where black squirrels were a common sight and didn’t really think anything about it until moving to northwest Iowa where black squirrels are much less common. Then,…

Photo of a pink piggy bank made from a water bottle

Recycled nature craft ideas

April 29, 2019

During the April Family Nature Night, we challenged families to get creative using items that we would often toss into the garbage or the recycling bin. Empty plastic water bottles, scrap metal, cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, wine corks — these items look useless, but they can actually be turned…

Photo of snake sticking out its tongue

Itsy Bitsy isn’t itsy bitsy: Western fox snake fun facts

April 29, 2019

A herpetologist — someone who studies reptiles and amphibians — came to the Dickinson County Nature Center and asked how old Itsy Bitsy, the western fox snake, was. At that point, we estimated she was about 22 years old. He pulled his head back in surprise. While we realized that…

Photo of folded paper fish

Here fishy fish: Fish paper craft

April 22, 2019

Since we’ve been enjoying the Okoboji osprey coming back to Kenue Park (read the beginning of their diary series here), we thought it most appropriate to have a fish craft. Osprey absolutely love fish; in fact, it makes up about 99 percent of their diet, and they are truly created…