On behalf of the Clayton County Conservation Board and animals at the Osborne Nature Center, we welcome you to our new innovative blog. On this site you can find information regarding the facilities of Osborne and a Google Calendar showing the public events being held here. Videos and slideshows are also located on the bottom of the page. Subscribe to our blog or check back often to view new happenings at Osborne and within Clayton County Conservation. We hope you find this blog to be enjoyable and informative-Remember to play outside.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Clayton Ridge Outdoor Classroom

Two weeks ago the Clayton Ridge Sixth Grade finally got their outdoor class seeded with prairie.  The project took place two days before the first snowfall and was accomplished with the help of Clayton County Naturalists and Pheasants Forever.  The students will be using the leftover prairie seeds in their classrooms with hopes they can plant the plugs back into the prairie later next spring.

carolina wren

A Carolina Wren was spotted at the Osborne Nature Center last week. This bird is not typically found here often in the winter and I was delighted to see it flitting under the bushes and in front of my office.

Winter Poetry

Classroom programs are in fullswing-hence the delay in a blog post.  The naturalists are giving several presentations a day to the schools in Clayton County. This weekend I took some time away and visited a friends cabin.  The poem was later composed, recollecting my experiences that snowy weekend.

slabs of snow bellow off the stemmed oak branches
breaking like a snare, booming like a bass
they tumble flawlessly to the ground
succumbing to the weight that makes all things whole
startling, yet comforting music up on the ridge

dogwood branches bending to touch their toes
creating a webbed umbrella right under my nose
the skittish junco wears his arctic tuxedo,
dancing on the crystal ground
he feasts on the few seeds around

the snowfall is vastly thick
turning the valley into a milky way
like frosted sugar,
snow sweetens the appearance of every living thing

quiet music on the ridge
each one crafted separately
inseparable in the joy they bring
facing up to the winter sky
snowflakes tickle my beard
glimmer in my transparent eye

silence is complimented by a curious bird
flitting beside me, he sings chickadeeedee
brash voice of the red bellied woodpecker
alerts a squirrel who is prancing in the snow below
a sudden bustling crash,
then a grumbling splash
echoes across in pine creek
has one of pine sentinels
succumb to its snow match?

with majestic black wings,
breaking the white snow-cladding sky
an eagle leaves the pines,
singing her shivering song.
sky is darkening and
the ghostly snow urges me along.

jubilantly, in this darkened coliseum
barred owls hoot.
the triumphant echo announces their gladiator presence.
I applaud back
while a nervous shrew scurries under my feet,
bid you well my friend.

a symphony of coyotes
turns this valley into a captive amphitheatre of luring beauty
I can not see the coyotes
through the milky glow of the snowy nighttime woods
I feel their sacred song and I dance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Project AWARE

Exciting News!

Project Aware will be coming to Northeast Iowa next July.  Project AWARE stands for (A Watershed Awareness River Expedition) last year the group removed over 9 tons of trash from the Nishnabotna Rivers in Southwest Iowa.  Project Aware is funded by the IDNR and their are objects are to increase awareness about water quality issues, engage Iowa's citizen volunteers in a river cleanup and empower them to give something back to Iowa's watersheds.  There will be  many ways to get involved both through sponsorship and with the actual river cleanup next July. More details about the event will be presented next spring.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Outdoor Classroom

Work has begun on the Outdoor Classroom at Clayton Ridge Middle School in Garnavillo, Iowa.  The science teacher had expressed interest in starting something where the students could be outside and he could have fires. I took this as a warm invitation to get the ball rolling.  After having several consultants tour the site, we decided to seek some information from the students themselves.

The 6th grade class was spread out in the proposed classroom area and asked to write/draw what they would want the area to look like, based upon their information and other conservationists; we decided to thin the area and restore it back into native prairie.

The next step was to spray a few patches of broomegrass and locate funding sources for the seeds.  The local Clayton County Pheasants Forever chapter said they would be glad to help with seed purchase.  After the area was sprayed and browned up, Clayton County Conservation staff burned the selected patches.

Today, the 6th grade students spent an hour of their class clearing the prairire area of trees/brush.  The tree logs are being used as outdoor seating and the honeysuckle bushes were made into a brush pile for wildlife cover.  In a few weeks, the same 6th grade class will do a fall prairie seeding. This will be achieved through having the students handseed the burned area and letting the frost/snow work the seed down into the ground.  By growing prairie plants in their classrooms, the students will continue the work of this project throughout the winter.  We are all hopefull some results may come to light next year!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Native Trout in Iowa

Most people laugh when I tell them we have one species of Native Trout in Iowa: the Brook Trout.  This trout was orginally found in spring-fed streams of Northeast Iowa.  Early settlers of Iowa refered to this species as the "stream trout" or "mountain trout" with few descriptions of its physical characteristics.  Today, the trout can be found in several streams in Northeast Iowa, native reproduction still occurs in three of Iowa's 100  fishable trout streams in Northeast Iowa. In these three trout steams, the Brook Trout has enough consistent natural reproduction to maintain a viable population without any stocking.


We are currently looking for available binoculars or funding sources to help with the purchase of binoculars. Currently, the naturalists present over 350 classroom programs a year to local clayton county students, and facilitate nearly 50 field trips a year. The binoculars would be used often in these two settings to provide students with life and observation skills and give each student the enjoyment of seeing wildlife upclose. If you or anyone you know could help, please contact the Osborne Nature Center.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Iowa Water and Land Legacy

On November 2, you will have a chance to give something back to Natural Resoruces in Iowa.

Question 1. on the ballet will ask you to vote on Iowa's Water and Land Legacy.  Iowa's Water and Land Legacy is an "outdoor recreation trust fund, created with the purpose of protecting and enhancing water quality, natural areas in the state including parks, trails, fish and wildlife habitat, and conserving agricultural soils in the state."  This is NOT a tax increase, the revenue from this fund will come from allocating 3/8 of a one cent from sales tax revenue the next time Iowa Legislature approves a sales tax.

 "53% of Iowa’s waters rate “poor.” In addition, while agriculture is the backbone of Iowa’s economy, Iowa loses an average of 5 tons of soil per acre each year due to erosion. Currently, Iowa ranks 47th out of 50 states in conservation spending, Iowa ranks 48th out of 50 states in public hunting/fishing property" quoted from from Iowa Water and Land Legacy
For more information please visit:  http://www.iowaswaterandlandlegacy.org 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall colors update

Just got back from picking up several brilliant sugar maple leaves-each one brought a different feeling to me. 

The fall colors in Northeast Iowa are nearing peak-most of the early trees (cottonwoods, walnuts basswoods, maples, ash, hickory) are showing of their finest colors of the year.  Some trees have been affected by a fungus called Anthracnose-which makes parts of the leaves dead or blotched. Anthracnose varies on the impact it has on hardwood trees, typically white oaks and walnuts are effected the most. 

Popular places to get outside and view the leaves in Northeast Iowa are Osborne Nature Center, Pikes Peak State Park, Backbone State Park, Yellow River State Forest.  Three of my hidden gems are Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, Mossy Glenn State Preserve and White Pine Hollow State Preserve. None of  these 3 have designated trails, but they do have some of the most spectacular trees and scenes in the midwest.

If you can not get out and hike (I know you can!) tour the Great River Road or any hilly back country gravel road this next week to see the fall colors in their prime. 

Share some pictures/experiences!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Northeast Iowa Fall Colors

If you have not noticed yet, the fall colors are starting to turn in Northeast Iowa. The changing of leaf color is associated with winter dormancy in all perennial plants. A chemical called phytochrome triggers plants to go into the dormant period when nights get long enough. Therefore, day length does trigger leaf color.  Change in the manufacture of chlorophyll is slowed and the green color in the leaves begins to fade, allowing the other pigments to show through. Since the transport of water is slowed down, food manufactured by the remaining chlorophyll builds up in the sap of the leaf and other pigments are formed which cause the leaves to turn
red or purple in color, depending on the acidity of the sap. Pheeew all that changing gives us some brilliant colors!

The sumac and virginia creeper have begun turning into brilliant red hues. Sumac almost always turns red because red pigments are present and its leaf sap is acidic, while many of the oaks and sometimes ashes will get a purplish color because the sap is less acidic. Currently, the walnuts are fastly loosing their now yellow leaves and some ashes haveh also begun turning yellow.  For more information on fall color change and viewing times you can visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/forestry/fallcolor.html

There is no better time to visit Northeast Iowa than from the last weekend in September through the third weekend of October-expect plenty of color change. I will do my best to keep the blog updated on current colors and where to go!

Osborne 5k Fun Run Recap

The Osborne 5k Fun Run was a great sucess this past weekend. We has a record number of 63 people run the 3.1 mile route through the pine trees, crossing the water and back to the finish line. Nobody got lost and everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunitity to run through the WATER!  Thank you to all the sponsers and participants who came this year. The funds will be used for Bus Scholarships so more schools may experience the same joy of the woods that the 63 Fun Run Runners did this past weekend.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heritage Days

This October 9th-10th from 10a.m.-4p.m, go back in time to the small community of Osborne to glimpse the pioneer era. Enjoy exhibits, demonstrations, pioneer church service, food and much more.  Activities are fitting for all ages! More information can be found by calling the Osborne Nature Center at 563-245-1516.

Great Horned Owls

This morning while driving into work, I spotted a site that has become more and more familar; a dead owl on the side of the road. 

Owls are my favorite topic to present to kids. We learn about owl's amazing adaptations, how they control rodent populations, hoot for owls, and most importantly we learn NOT to throw food out of the seat of your car.  The reason for this is  when rodents see/smell food (lets say a french fries) on the roadside they will come out from the ditches to dispose of what you left.  Within a short distance of the ditches, waits the patient owl in a tree. Once the owl sees the mouse eating the french fries on the roadside, he will swoop down to eat him and possibly get hit by an oncoming vehicle.  Studies have shown the majority of dead raptors found along roadsides are most often Owls.  You can do your part to prevent Car/Owl collisions by Not throwing food out of the seat of your car.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Osborne 5K Fun Run

Grab your running shoes and head out to the Osborne Fun Run this September 18th at 9am.  Participants will run or walk he trails at the Osborne Center, crossing the Volga River along the way.  Plan on getting wet and or muddy!  The registration form can be found at www.claytoncountyconservation.org/  Hope to see you on the trails!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Water Poetry

How valuable is clear water in Iowa-more and more this topic is becomming the priority of the environmental movement of our state.  This poem was spawned based upon a few recent experiences kayacking/fishing rivers in Northeast Iowa.

we are on the only planet
where water is the indictor species of every living being
the flowing circulatory heart of earth
we dread having too little or too much, for
clean water and the human heart are out of touch
by thinking altering (draining) the landscape
and treating the water will suffice,
no matter the outcomes no matter the price,
we disregard the organisms who
succumb to our fate in the silted waters we create.

In a growing population
you better grab your clean share
while the ice is still melting.

Yes, come tomorrow
I’m heading north to borrow a boat
To go floating above for an honest purpose,
fishing below for a better meaning
of what lays under the surface.
Hoping for clearer waters to
reveal a flowing heart who is tranquil, healthy
and free.


For the past few weeks the Monarch Butterflys have been a spectacular sight in Osborne Nature Center's butterfly garden. Kids and parents alike, have been spending time in the garden chasing them around. The seasonal naturalists have also been keeping tabs on them by putting Milkweed and Monarch eggs in an large container where people are allowed to watch the transformation of the Monarch. Currently, there are over five catapillars downstairs in the Osborne Nature Center. Last week, a group of students was lucky enough to release a full grown Monarch into the wild.  Reports say this year may be a record year for Monarch Migration to Mexico-so find the time to get outside and see this wonderfull insect!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Osborne Nature Center

Stop in the Iowa Room at the Osborne Nature Center to see the new t-shirts and gifts we have on display. We also have several  monarch chrysalis and caterpillars below in the nature center. The two fawns in the Native Wildlife Exhibit are also up and moving around quite often.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Caring for Baby Birds

All around Clayton County, new birds are trying out their wings for the first time: Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Blue Birds, Robins, Phobes, Chickadees, on and on the list goes.  If you find a baby bird on the ground here are a few things you can do to help. More than likely the birds parent(s) are near the area and are watching the bird so make sure pets and other yard animals are out of the way. From a short distance observe the bird and see if the parents fly down to feed him/her or try to take care of the bird. If no parental action is observed you can pick up the bird and place it back in the nest. Birds DO NOT have a highly developed sense of smell, so your scents should not deter the parent(s) from coming back to the nest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Algific Slopes

Feeling the heat of summer yet-your local Algific Slopes are loving it!  Algific(cold air)Slopes are a unique micro-climate found in the Driftless area in Northeast Iowa. These sensitive ecosystems are only found in a few places of the world, Iowa being one of them.  Algific slopes formed when warm summer air is drawn into sinkholes and is cooled as it flows over iced blocks of limestone.  The cool air then escapes through the vents on the sides of the Algific Talus slope.  The Fish & Wildlife Service diagram below shows the process in-depth.

 Algific Slopes contain a large number of diverse species not typically found in Iowa. Some of these species include:  Canada Yew, Balsam Fir Tree, Golden Saxifrage. Also the Federally Endangered Iowa Pleistocene Snail and Federally Threatened Northern Monkshood plant-both of these species can only survive on Algific Slopes.  The other day the naturalists at Osborne had the opportunitity to view the Northern Monkshood for the first time. The picture truly can do no justice to the beauty and sensitive requirements of this fragile plant we are blessed to have in our county.

For more information on Algific Slopes in Northeast Iowa you contact Osborne Nature Center or  the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who manages the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Northeast Iowa Poetry

Things at Osborne have been very busy with the Junior Naturalist Camps in full swing. Hope to have some updates and pictures from them soon. In the meantime, a night of refuge and inspiration was found while camping in a secluded valley on the Turkey River Watershed; creating this poem.  Wish we could all venture back to the times when the land was still wild and free.  Enjoy!

Relic Ridge
In a different day
a different time
you were mine
We were native lovers in another life,
Our spirits were young
our souls were old.
tonight I revisit
the spot where our
stories were told.

In a time when the world
was still sacred,
we shared the blessings
of the Driftless together.
We tickled ourselves with bluestems,
climbed the giant white pine
danced with the owl moon,
swam freely in a clear river
On relic ridge you were mine.

We followed the natural cycle.
in a country full of game
we blended our lifestyle with
perfect harmony
With open minds we
read the book of nature,
we were the oaks and prairies rooted deeply
in the Driftless soil.
Together we sowed the seeds of love,
we never let our food spoil;
for our impact was light and
our respect was deep for
the land which sustained us.

In a different day,
a different time
you were mine.
We were native lovers in another life,
Our spirits were young
our souls were old.
tonight I revisit
the spot where our
stories were told.

Centuries ago,
on this archaic limestone
our human lives were left behind
Nature is constant motion;
our bodies leave hope for
new life to be grown.
Now my spirit awakes with the
sun bringing dawn,
not with the sadness of
you being gone cause;
I won't forget the summer solstice
the sacred nights we shared
dancing in the ambiance of the Driftless.

In a different day,
a different time
you were mine.
We were native lovers in another life;
Our spirits were young
our souls were old,
tonight I revisit
relic ridge where our
stories are told.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Motor Mill

Just a quick note to remind everyone to visit Motor Mill this summer. Hidden in the Turkey River valley, the Motor Mill Historic Site is a peaceful natural area managed by Clayton County Conservation. Motor Mill features a six-story limestone flouring mill and four related stone buildings dating from the late 1860’s. The surrounding ground also includes a restored upland Oak Savanna to walk and has plenty of bird viewing opportunitites; camping is also available. Free tours are available Saturdays 9-5, Sundays 12-5 and holidays 9-5, two weekends/ month May-September or group tours by appointment.  Open weekends are:

June 26-27
July 3-4 July 17-18
July 31-August 1 August 14-15
August 28-29 September 4-6
September 18-19

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ornate Box Turtle Found

This Ornate Box Turtle was found crossing the road four miles west of Millville.  The children promptly picked it up and brought it into Osborne for identification and help.  After getting their picture taking and learning some facts about Ornate Box Turtle's the children returned the turtle to the area near where they found it.

Ornate Box Turtles are listed as a THREATENED species in Iowa and are very uncommon in Northeast Iowa.  They are Iowa's only fully terrestrial (land dwelling) turtle and are a good indicator species  These turtles prefer large open sandy habitats where they can bury themselves in the sand and also require sandy areas for reproduction/egg laying.  Due to few natural preditors Ornate Box turtles can live up to 50 years old-however Iowa's population is threatened because of the lack of sandy habitat available and car collisons.  

Thank you to the children who had the knowledge and caring to bring this special reptile into Osborne. I am sure they will not forget it-I know I won't.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Animals at Osborne Nature Center

If you have not been to visit Osborne Nature Center in the past few months, now is the time to bring the kids out to the NativeWildlife Exhibit. At the end of May, the Wildlife Exhibit became the new home for a raccoon and coyote. Both of these animals came from Minnesota Wildlife Connection in Sandstone, Minnesota. Even more exciting news broke this weekend, after the doe had a baby fawn.  ( It's a buck!)Fawns are unique because they do not smell. Having this adaptation helps keep predators away.

On Wednsday, the fawn was spotted lying quietly in the grass and resting beside her mother. Now is a great time to get a unique experience seeing the baby fawn; take time to bring the family outdoors to Osborne Nature Center to see the new animals.

Field Trips

Wishing on Dandelions

The last school field trip took place yesterday at Osborne Nature Center, bringing the end to a wonderful spring season of connecting children to the natural world. In 30 days the Osborne Nature Center had over 25 field trips visit the park.  Group sizes ranged from 12 kids to 170 kids and some came as far as 2 hours away to see the animals and nature.  The success of these field trips can be attributed to faculty and staff who recognize the importance of getting children outdoors. Many of the school groups are forced to do their own fundraising to cover the cost of the bus driver and gas; also many field trips would not be possible without Don Dunbar. Don is our most prominent volunteer at Osborne and his kindred spirit and stories are a joy to be around.  Thanks to all the teachers, administrators, parents and Don for helping children play outside. Remember to play outside this summer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Snowshoeing in May

Snowshoeing in May?

30 pairs of snowshoes were recently purchased by Clayton County Conservation  for educational use in schools and for field trips at Osborne Nature Center.  The snowshoes should arrive by the end of summer and be ready to use this winter.  The staff is currently discussing the possibilty of renting the snowshoes to the general public to use on Osborne's trails this winter.   If your interested in renting snowshoes from the Osborne Nature Center, be sure to leave a comment of support.

Osborne Nature Center Garden

If you are in the Elkader area, make sure to stop by to check out the flower/plant garden at Osborne Nature Center.  They are in full bloom right now with several different aromas and colors to touch the senses. The gardens at Osborne are kept up by a group of dedicated volunteers who each collectively manage their own plots. I would run out and take a picture quick, but that would spoil the beauty of  enjoying the garden firsthand!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Naturalist Poetry

This poem is based upon the initial completion of my bluebird boxes. I placed five boxes on my property; currently three of them are being used by nesting bluebirds. Yesterday, one of the boxes was blown upside down by the strong winds, causing three of the eggs to break. This has been one of the greatest avoidable heartbreaks of my life. Hopefully, we all may gain critical insight on our actions and open our hearts to the beauty of supporting suistainable life. Remember to monitor your bluebird boxes..

I’m a giver of life; an honest transmitter of the natural world allowing native spirits to flow through my soul. My Coyote eyes are keen observers on the radiant beauty and harmony found in nature. My Owl ears interpret the subtlest composers of nature’s free musical choir. I open my human heart to the ephemeral innocence of children playing in nature. I choose to forgive the misinformed and unaware. Choose to be a steward of the land, give something back to the land which sustains my body and refreshes my spirit. Like the charming bluebird, I live life simply, yet colorfully. Connecting people to nature through inspirational and passionate experiences is my inherent responsibility. But after seeing the bluebirds die today, I recognize I have much to learn in so little time; there is so much I can take, yet I feel I give so little back. Thankfully, the bluebirds are resilient to my humanly mistake and will have another brood this summer. For now, I will be a more knowledgeable and caring student: become a better teacher by sharing this transcending story about the everyday choices we make and the enduring hope for sustaining Nature.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Morel Mushrooms

In the past couple of days, several adults at Osborne Nature Center have asked me if the “yellows” are out. The “yellows” are morel mushrooms, a type of edible fungi found in Iowa’s woodlands and forest edges. Before the yellows fruit, the smaller grey morel mushrooms often sprout first. Both greys and yellows are edible and can be cooked with either butter, crackers, or flour. Typically morels can be found from the end of April till the middle of May when temperatures are in the 60’s to 70’s during the day and 50’s at night. Early in the season search south facing hills and as temperatures warm, direct your search towards north facing hill sides. Most morels can often be found underneath a dead elm tree, especially if the tree has bark peeling from its branches. The window for prime morel hunting is quickly closing, as morels can dry up in a matter of days so take the family on a treasure hunt for dinner!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Junior Naturalist Camp

The Junior Naturalist Camp season has started at Osborne Nature Center. The Junior Naturalist Camp is held during the summer at Osborne. The camp is open to Clayton County 6-8th grade students. The Junior Naturalist program focuses on exploring nature and the environment. Activities are led by Naturalists at Osborne Center, local resource specialists and sportsmen. Each grade level has a different theme and participates in a variety of activities. Some activities include: geocaching, canoeing, tubing, archery, night hikes, Bird ID, and survival skills. Sign up quickly as the deadline is May 19, 2010.

For more information simply vist the LINK below for a copy of the Junior Naturalist Brochure. http://www.claytoncountyconservation.org/JNPbrochure10.pdf

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Camping in Clayton County

Each year, camping in Clayton County provides people with a variety of outdoor experiences. The Clayton County Conserveration Board currently owns and manages five parks that offer camping.  Bloody Run and Joy Springs are the two most widely used parks. Both parks include potable water, excellent scenery and good trout fishing. 

Motor Mill National Historic Site offers campers a historic place to camp and tour.  The campground is located deep in the Turkey River valley and offers good fishing with a restored upland oak savanna.  Water will be available soon after the new well is completed.

Friedens's and Buck Creek are the two most "primitive" campgrounds owned by Clayton County.  Both places are free to camp and provide no potable water. Instead, these parks provide users with a rustic experience of Northeast Iowa.   Frieden's park is located along the Turkey River and provides excellent fishing.  Buck Creek has lots of public acess for trout fishing and hunting. 

For more information click on the Clayton County Conservation Board's symbol located on the right side of this website or call 563-245-1516.

If you want to experience the beauty and wildlife of Northeast Iowa come camp Clayton County Parks; just one trip and you'll be hooked!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cardinals Kissing

Many avian species do numerous acts to court their partner, this is called "pair bonding".   One morning at my feeder I saw a male cardinal sharing his seed (mouth to mouth) with a female cardinal.  It was a laughable yet inspiring moment and has spawned this poem "Cardinals Kissing"

On the long lonely nights,
I’d wake well before the cold dawn,
Brew my coffee and
Let my thoughts carry on.
Watch the first sunray
Glisten the western hill,
Listen to your
Cheerful rhapsody,
Watch you feed
On treasures of safflower and sunflower seed.

A modest businessman, you sold your song and beauty
For the monthly seed price of 12.43.
The woods were your residence,
My feeders your cathedral,
You were the best winter minister, a radiance of inspiration.

Their was not a wind too strong or a snow too high;
That kept you from coming back to redden up my day.

You pardon the winter;
Because in spring,
All loneliness goes missing
when cardinals go kissing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Wildflowers

Smiles are all around, new sounds float in the air; but did you notice the forest floor no longer is bare?

To many, Iowa's spring woodland wildflowers are the ultimate treasure of early spring.  Many of these woodland wildflowers are called "spring ephemerals".  Ephemeral flowers are the early risers of the forest; they flower and fruit within one or two months.  Typically, they can only be seen above ground from April through the end of May.  Ephemerals bloom early when there are no leaves on the trees; taking full advantage of the nourishing sunlight and high soil moisture.  Due to the variance in early spring weather, ephmerals have developed many adaptations. The Bloodroot, a common spring ephemeral; has leaves around the main stem to trap warm air. Pasque Flower and Hepatica have tiny hairs to keep the plant warm. 

Not only are Spring Ephemerals pretty to look at, they help sustain many other forms of life. Bees and other insects pollinate Spring Ephemerals, hummingbirds pollinate Columbine. The seeds of many Spring Ephemerals are transported by ants in a process called "myrmecochory."  The fleshy organ of the seeds, attracts ants who then bring them to their nests where they eat the seed and discard the remains. This helps wildflowers by dispersearing the seeds to many places and protecting them until germination.

Enough of the talking; go take a walk in the woods and see what wildflowers you can discover-remember Spring Ephemerals can be "Here today, Gone tommorrw"

HEPATICA: Notice the "hairs"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bird Nestcams

If you enjoyed the Luther Bald Eagle Camera, or just plain enjoy watching nature; please take a moment to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Nestcams.  Right now they have cameras set up for an Eastern Bluebird, Barn and Barred Owls, and a Eastern Phoebe.  ALL of these species breed in Iowa!  After your done watching, take time to look outside to see what nest you may find. 

Cornell Ornithology Link:   http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nestcams/camera/index

Bluebirds-How we can give back.

Tru-ly,  cheer cheerful charmer, is the sound of the cheerfull Eastern Bluebird. Bluebirds first arrived in Clayton County nearly two weeks ago and are now looking for places to successfully nest and raise young. Many Iowan's can help aid in the success of nesting Bluebirds by creating and monitoring Bluebird boxes. This is a fun, exciting way to get further aquainted with the quintessential spring harbinger of Clayton County. Throughout their stay in Iowa, Bluebirds may have more than one brood of young; so do not fret if you can not put up a box right now.  Osborne Nature Center has blueboxes on display, and bluebox plans for visitors to use. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nature's Music

Even with the upcoming predicted cold spell, Nature is showing us Spring is here.
Flocks of Robins, Bluebirds, Woodcocks, Song Sparrows and male Red-Winged Blackbirds have been observed throughout Clayton County. During the morning and evening hours the sound of Goose Music can be heard overhead. In the evening if you listen carefully you may even hear the first amphibian to sing the "spring peeper" who simply sings his name..peeeeper peeeeeper peeeeper. 

One of our programs we do for the students is called Nature's Music.  During the class, we teach the children how to awaken their senses and listen to all the sounds (loud and subtle) of nature.  The kids get a kick out of making all the sounds, but it truly is amazing when you take them outside and they can apply that knowledge to the outdoors. Many of them say, "ooo I've heard that sound before".

Cheers to the attentive ear who knows spring is here, and thanks to all animals who collectively compose  "Nature's Music"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

River Poetry

The following is a poem based upon experiences on Iowa's Rivers.

Experience is like a river constantly changing, never the same.
eddies to rapids and riffles to pools,
it is forever winding and impacting all the
people who cross its path.
Experience carves wonders
into the landscape of the human mind,
weathering ego's and depositing
grains of knowledge and inspiration
along its meandering journey.
Like the river, experience floods with emotions.
Lessons of failures and success
aren't complete without the experience.
The river of experience shapes perspective,
navigates the past through present and
Nourishes the essential hope of future beings.
The river invites every being to
consume its eternal life source,
listen to the enchanted melody of water rushing over rocks
and to share the valuable experiences found reflecting in
its storied waters.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lead Poisoning in Eagles

The increased number of resident Bald Eagle's in Iowa over the past 30 years has provided many people with a sense of awe and respect. However, recent data conducted by Iowa Wildlife Rehabilitators displays a saddening trend. Ingestion of Lead is becoming more common in Iowa's and other surrounding state's Eagles.

Since 2004, 133 sick eagles have been admitted to Iowa Wildlife Rehabilitators, 65 (58.5%) of those eagles have tested positive for lead poisoning; in 2009, 26 Eagles died because of lead ingestion.
During the winter months when eagles can not find food, they will scavenger for any large meal they may find; such as dead deer or deer gut piles. (Winter months also exhibit the highest number of admitted Bald Eagles in Iowa) Research conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources displayed how lead shot actually "fragments" in deer. This fragmentation allows particles of lead to be captured throughout the deer-thus possibly transmitting it to an opportunistic Eagle.

In 1991, due to severly declining waterfowl populations, the United States banned the use of lead shot in waterfowl bird hunting. In the near future, a similar type of law may be needed to protect the Bald Eagle and other birds of prey.  One thing is certain, more research needs to be done to ensure the Eagle does not appear on the endandged species list again and people need to be aware of the problems pertaining to lead shot use.  If you would like more information on this topic please click on:    Saving Our Avian Raptors

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bluebird Box Workshop

On Friday March 5th from 6-8pm, come discover the pleasure of building your own bluebird box. Participants will learn the importance of these boxes and explore ways to care for bluebirds once they arrive at your nest box. Upon completion, participants will be able to take their box home. Registration is required-call the Osborne Center at 563-245-1516 for more details.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Cheer..cheer cheer cheer/spring must be near.

A state bird of seven different states, telling us spring must be near, the bright red male Northern Cardinal sings: What Cheer..cheer cheer cheer. On sunny late winter mornings, the male cardinal perches atop a tree and sings to attract a mate. Interestingly, the female cardinal  is one of only a few song birds which sing as well. During nesting, she may sing a duet with the male as a sign of telling him when to bring food to the family.  In their search for finding a suitable nesting site, the male and female travel together as a pair. Upon finding a quality habitat, the female does the majority of nest construction. The female will lay 3-4 pale green, blue, or gray eggs; incubation time ranges from 10-13 days.  During nesting season, male cardinals are extremely aggressive in defending their breeding territories and have been known to attack their reflection in glass windows or shiny surfaces.  Research has shown that males with a brighter red appearance have higher feeding and reproductive rates.  As winter winds down, take time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Northern Cardinal and know warmer days are ahead.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bald Eagle Comeback

On a typical day visitors can spot Bald Eagles roaming the skies above Osborne Nature Center. Currently, they are preparing their nests for courtship. Rewind back to the year 1977, when there was only ONE active Bald Eagle Nest in the entire state of Iowa.  The use of the pesticide DDT had caused Eagle's egg shells to become so thin that the egg shells would break once the parents sat on them; thus reducing breeding populations. 

Thankfully, the banning of DDT in 1972 significantly helped restore Bald Eagle populations nationwide.  Today, there are over 254 active nests in the State of Iowa, with at least 16 of those nests being in Clayton County alone.  The Iowa DNR is looking for volunteers who would like to monitor or "adopt" a nest this year. If you are interested please contact IDNR Wildlife Diversity Specialist Stephanie Shepherd at Stephanie.Shepherd@dnr.iowa.gov   In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye in the sky (or trees) for one of the best comeback stories of the past 30 years.

The link below will take you to a Live Bald Eagle Nest webcam in Decorah, Iowa. The nest is being monitored by Luther College. http://www.luther.edu/eaglecam/stream/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter Survival

One of the programs offered at Osborne is the Winter Survival Course. During this class, students are taught how to be prepared for a survival situation, what to do if they become lost, and what human needs are most important. The highlight of the class is giving students the opportunitity to work in teams to build real life debri survival shelters. Shelter building has been around for centuries in many different cultures, Environmental Educator/Writer  David Sobel touches on the value of forts and shelters in his book: Children's Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood.  Sobel speaks fort building is a "crucially important way children ages 8-11 explore the landscape and bond with the natural environment."

In December, after the Central 6th grade finished their Winter Survival Class , their teacher Mr. Bormann had these reflections.  "As we made our way into the woods, I couldn't help but notice the beauty of it all. At first I noticed the snow nestled in a slumber like state, highliting every branch that reached out to touch us..but I was not just taken back by the beauty of my surroundings, but by the beauty of the child's mind in the learning process. It really is incredible.  Seeing young adults become sparked by a positive hands on learning experience really does bring a great sense of satisfaction as an educator...Brian told the kids this experience will probably be one they remember when they graduate.  I know I'll never forget it."

The link below will take you to Mr. Bormann's Blog, with a video of the kids at Osborne and his reflections included:  Mr. Bormann's Winter Surival Reflections