Photo of a wood tick

A hard shell, long legs, a bad reputation. Know what I’m talking about? It’s the wood tick (Dermacentor variabilis), or American dog tick! More than a dozen tick species can be found throughout Iowa, but the most common is the wood tick. Iowa State University Extension & Outreach has a great publication on wood ticks,…

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Photo of a tree swallow sitting on a post

Bright birds with forked tails that swoop and dive around you — we see a lot of these in Kenue Park. They’re definitely swallows, but can you tell which kind? In Iowa, you’re likely to see four different kinds of swallows: Barn swallows, tree swallows, cliff swallows and purple martins. They’re quite similar, but relatively…

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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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Photo of osprey on nest

Iowa is a wonderful place for us to nest and raise our chicks each year. There is plenty of food. There is not too much competition for nesting sites. The temperatures are just right. Plus, there is plenty of nesting material. I was happy when I returned that last year’s nesting platform hadn’t been taken…

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Photo of compost being sifted

Everyone loves superfoods, and compost is like a superfood for your garden. Food scraps and yard waste together make up about 30 percent of what we throw away, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and instead they can be composted. Composting leaves and grass clippings is exactly what the Dickinson Recycling Center in Milford does.…

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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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Photo of an osprey eating a koi fish

I know that we’re not the only ones who leave the Iowa Great Lakes area for the winter. There are ducks, geese, songbirds, swans and even people that take off when the weather gets colder for areas that are warmer and where food is easy to come by. Last year was a weird year. My…

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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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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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You’ve built snowmen. You’ve gone sledding. You’ve had snowball fights. Now, it’s still winter and you don’t know what else to do to have fun in the snow. So we have put together 10 activities that will make the everlasting snow a bit more fun! 1. Maple taffy I love historical fiction, and I grew…

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