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, September 19, 2011


A dusty keyboard taps while a shiny black mouse clicks over and over again. My stomach is gurgling from too much morning coffee and my mind is silently pacing on what topic I should write. I step outside to collect my thoughts and then it hits me: imagine a world with no bird song.

As a child, I would often ride my twelve speed bicycle two miles down to grandmother’s house. The times we shared together were mostly spent outdoors in her front yard or along the magical-forested trail at Herman Park. Today, as an adult the most constant sights and sounds I can recall from those times are bird songs.

Ornithologist’s (a person who studies birds) categorize bird music into two distinct groups, one is named a call and the other is termed a song. Calls are non-melodious and are often composed of short notes. Bird calls are often used to alert other birds and to contact other birds. In contrast, bird songs are more musical and complex than bird calls. Songs are used to attract mates and also for protecting a territory. Both bird calls and bird songs are produced by an organ called the syrnx.

The syrnx is located near the base of the bird’s trachea and contains many expandable membrane fibers. Unlike mammals, birds do not have any vocal cords and make their songs by air pressure and membrane vibrations in the syrnx. Through this process, birds are able to both create and alter the pitch/frequency of their song. Since many birds do not have a strong sense of smell they must rely upon their acute sense of sound to survive.

The most effective way I teach children and myself bird songs is to simply put words to them; this learning technique relies heavily on the use of mnemonics. Mnemonics are words or phrases used in helping a person better remember something. An example of mnemonics would be learning the ABC’s through singing the ABC song ,or using the world HOMES to recall the names of the Great Lakes (Heron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).

People are always intrigued when I use bird mnemoics on hikes. I tell them an open set of ears and a creative mind is all one truly needs to learn how to call and identify bird songs. Cheeseburger, cheeseburger says the Black Capped Chickadee as the kids giggle; what cheer, what cheer, cheer, cheer, sings the bright red male Northern Cardinal.

Birds add enjoyment and can increase our quality of life, they also can be indicators of the environment or “a sort of litmus paper” as renowned ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson would say. No matter the human commotion, electrical fuzz or mechanical racket; bird song is and will always be, incessantly beautiful.

I can not imagine a world without bird song. Can you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Osborne 5k Fun Run

The annual Osborne 5k Fun Run will be held Sept. 17th at Osborne Nature Center.  The course will take runners through the trails at Osborne and cross the shallow Volga River twice.  Funds generated from this event will be used in the Osborne Partners for Education Endowment. This endowment ensures that outdoor education programs at Osborne will continue to be given to students and adults in the area. Forms are available at the Nature Center or online at http://www.claytoncountyconservation.org/

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Showy Lady Slipper

The Pink Lady Slipper belongs to the Orchid Family.  The stem is typically 1-2ft tall. The leaves grow up to 7 inches long and 4 inches wide.  The hairs on the stem and leaves contain an acid  that has been known to cause a rash on human skin.  The plant typically has only one to two flowers or "slippers" that give off a fragrance to attract pollinators. This beautiful flower is becoming very rare in Iowa and is currently listed on the state's threatened species list. After much searching, I found this Showy Lady Slipper blooming in Clayton County during the first week of June.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fawn at Osborne

A young White Tailed Deer Fawn was born at Osborne and has been up and moving around. Visit the park soon to see if you can find her white spots hidden amongst the grass.

Turkey River Poetry

In stillness of the night

A waxing moon shines over the devils elbow,

Crystal rays of light break through the summertime haze of a hot June night.

Two white pines form an ancient window into the past

While sculptures of limestone pose,

above layers of shifting clay.

The Turkey River flows freely through these bends,

Carving rocks, nourishing all that is green-

A constant coolant to a feverish machine,

She wonders if one day we can make amends-
and stop filling her home with silt-laden sands.

At Cape Carp,

Shifting sands inspire conscious minds-

Kindred spirits heal together.

Native stories are delivered

From the moon-lit Turkey River,

A resource caught between natural piety and human peril-

Tonight her petition glitters under the June moon tan:

To form a unified voice and make a human connected stand

Against the impoverishment of a naturally connected land.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Field Trip Season

The spring school field trip season has concluded at Osborne-time to focus on the junior naturalist camps coming up next week. During the month of May, the Osborne Nature Center hosted over 20 field trips to the park. Certain days were double booked with kids and one day was even triple booked!  As crazy as these days can be, I always remember them when it is a freezing day during the cold month of January and I am inside wishing for a warm spring day to be out teaching the kids.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raptor Nestlings

We have had both Great Horned Owls nest and Red-Tail Hawks nest at Osborne Nature Center near the Volga River.  A Great Horned Owlet (young owl) was spotted two weeks ago in his nest and had nearly all his flight feathers. Two Red-Tail Hawk Nestlings have also been observed and will be leaving the next within the next two weeks. Stop in the office to inquire about the nest location.

Grape Jam

A friend of mine from Elkader recently reported the stores in Clayton County were running low on grape jam.  This comes during a time when Baltimore Oriole's are flocking to hummingbird feeders and grape jam feeders by the dozens. Several avid birder's in the county have reported seeing the most Oriole's in years, one couple reported they needed to fill their grape jam feeders nearly 4 times a day!  The less common Orchard Oriole has also been spotted at several jam feeders. So now is the time to brighten up your day! Set some grape or rasberry jam out in a small container and watch the color come your way.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is spring here

Although it does not fully feel like spring has arrived yet, reports of grey mushrooms and nesting bluebirds have come through the Osborne Welcome  and Nature Center. Last week, while checking our bluebird boxes, I found two bluebirds who were sitting on a full brood of eggs. I also have noticed several species of warblers coming through the area including the easy to spot yellow rumped warbler. This bird is easy to identify by the bright yellow patch on its rump-hence its name.  Regardless of the dreary weather, the signs are fastly approaching-letting us know spring is here.

Junior Naturalist Camp 2011

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 18, 2011.

For more information simply vist the LINK below for a copy of the Junior Naturalist Brochure.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Northern Mockingbird

This past weekend I was able to observe or Northern Mockingbird on the east side of Colesburg. This was a life bird for me, which means I had never seen it before. After several minuets of watching the bird and using my field guide I was able to i.d. it.  Northern Mockingbirds are not common in Northeast Iowa, their home range is further south and east. However, the birds are wanderer's and often can travel long distances looking for food. The bird may most be famous for its song, which can mimic dozens of other animals and human sounds. Mockingbirds are also known to sing at night. 

Cheers, to you finding a bird you've never seen!


Recently, through an Alpine Grant and various donations from residents and buisnesses in Elkader, we were able to purchase 20 pairs of Eagle Optics Binoculars to use for both school programs and public programs.  This has been a goal for over a year for me and I am very thankfull and excited to use them in the programs. We also purchased 10 Bird Field Guides so the children will be able to observe birds and identify them through use of field guides.  Introducing children to wildlife through up-close eyes is a great way to get them started on the life long path of observing and caring for the natural environment.  The best part is birds can be found anywhere outdoors, no matter if your watching through a bus window, a classroom window, or out on the playground, students can see something tangible  in nature and learn to identify/classify it.