EAB found in five more southern Iowa counties -- Read more here!

River Cam

Yes, the Gladys Black River Cam below the dam at Lake Red Rock, along the Des Moines River, is off-air. It has been an ongoing struggle to receive a consistent amount of bandwidth for continued watching opportunities of the camera. The Red Rock Lake Association has explored every option to make this a viable wildlife-watching opportunity, but has made a difficult decision and have disconnected the camera. We appreciate all of the viewers who were patient and checked on us from time to time to hopefully get a view of our river's flying visitors and seasonal changes.

Why the struggle with internet connection? Distance is the key. A DSL internet connection works the best when the consumer is no more than 3 to 3.5 miles from the telephone central switch. The further the consumer, in this case the camera, is from the switch the slower the download and upload speeds. This holds true for both the river cam below the dam and the first camera placed above an eagle’s nest… these locations are just too far away for reliable, live streaming video. These camera locations are too remote for DSL and other currently available cost-effective technologies.

Who Goes There? Unraveling a Mystery!!

What tracks will we find on this snow-covered trail?
Here we are in another Iowa winter. The ups and downs of Iowa’s weather can easily go from one extreme to the other, from cold to frigid, from rainy to snowy to foggy, and sometimes muddy. Animals are still out and about and we can tell what they have been doing if we know the clues left behind.

Let’s take five minutes and go on a winter walk to our backyard, down the sidewalk, or to a trail and see if we can “read” a story along the way. Yes, read a story. It is a mystery.

Tracks and signs in the snow and mud help us to unravel the mystery of what types of animals live around us, what kind of habitat they live in, what kind of food they eat, and where they go when they are out and about exploring. Find some tracks and follow them. Where do they begin? Where do they stop? Did they stop for a drink? Did the animal climb a tree? Was the animal running or walking? Did they walk a straight line or meander about?

Feet get muddy and make great tracks!
Locating animal sign around us gives us a clue to an animal’s life, where they live and what they eat. Can you find other ‘sign’ along the way that tells you there was something close by? 

Look at the drawing below. Can you write or tell your story of what the animals did that day?

Here are some basics steps to animal tracking if you want to learn just a little bit more.

When examining tracks, look at one individual track, then look at the pattern that several tracks make. Take a look at your surroundings and note the habitat that you are in or closest to that will provide clues as to what kind of animals would most likely be there.

In looking at an individual track, note the general shape and determine if there is a heel pad. If so, what does it look like and how is it placed on the foot. Are there any toes? If so, count them and determine whether they are all the same. Do you see other marks or sign that the animal made like toes dragging (this is easier to see in fresh snow) or tails dragging, what about wing marks from a bird as it took off from the ground? Scroll the photos in this album to see what animal tracks look like in snow or mud!


After examining one track and any additional signs or clues, look at the group of tracks to see if you notice a pattern of movement or which way it is traveling. Trackers use terms such as “alternating” and “registering” to describe where a single track falls in sequence.

Direct registration is where an animal’s front foot is placed carefully. For example, a fox stalking its prey silently. They place their front foot so carefully that they do not want to crinkle a leaf or make any sound. The hind feet fall into the same place that their front foot did, which assures that it will be the same quiet placement. Each track is a “register.”

Indirect registration is when the hind foot registers just outside the front track.

The pattern of the tracks is also noteworthy. The alternating pattern is where an animal’s hind and front tracks will alternate, such as the raccoon.

Bounding and hopping describes a complete set of four tracks. Rabbits and squirrels often bound or hop from place to place. 

A continuous line of tracks are left by walking animals such as opossum and raccoons.

If you happen to feed the birds in your yard, or look at the edges of roads in the snow, you may notice their foot tracks and wing markings.

Some animals have long tails that drag.  A wavy line between the tracks could be a sign of an opossum or mouse leaving their tail marks between their footprints.

Now it's your turn! Draw a 'track story.' Ask someone else to create a story based on your picture of animal sign!

Download these PDF files to help with your track story or your next tracking adventure!

Activities plus Tracks and Tracking

Books and Guides:

  • Nature Smart: A Family Guide to Nature, by Stan Tekiela and Karen Shanberg
  • Tracking and the Art of Seeing, How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign, by Paul Rezendes
  • The Wild Mammals of Missouri,by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz
  • The Encyclopedia of Tracks and Scats (A comprehensive guide to the trackable animals of the United States and Canada), by Len McDougall
  • Tracks, Scats & Signs, A Take-Along Guide, by Leslie Dendy
  • Iowa Association of Naturalists - Iowa Mammals

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Upcoming Programs and Opportunities

There are several bald eagle watch events along the Mississippi River in January, check this listing in the Quad City Times for details!  Many bald eagle events are also listed on the Iowa DNR website!

January 31
 Winter Photo Hike, 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Photographers of all skill levels and camera types are invited to photograph the stark and still winter prairie on a ranger-led walk. We will begin with an overview of some of the things that might be seen on the winter prairie, and then venture out in the morning light to capture whatever we find. Sign up by contacting Megan Wandag by email at megan_wandag@fws.gov or phone at 515-994-3400.
Jan 31 and February 7
 Bald Eagle Days, Mississippi River, Arsenal Island; for info call 309-794-5338
February 7
 Bald Eagle Day, Coralville Reservoir; for info call 319-338-3543
February 13-16
 The Great Backyard Bird Count! Learn more here. Check out these educator webinars to help spark students interest in the outdoors and engage them in science!
February 13
 Iowa DNR will be hosting a Lunch with Eagles at Grays Lake, 2100 Fleur Drive in Des Moines. Outdoor viewing and replica nest 11:00-1:00
February 14   Bald Eagle Watch, Des Moines Park & Rec, Fellowship Baptist Church, 1503 SE 6th St, Des Moines, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
February 20-21
 Bald Eagle Day, Effigy Mounds National Monument and Prairie du Chien, WI; for info call 563-873-3491
February 22
  Jester Park Bald Eagle Watch, SOAR and education eagle will be at Jester Park Lodge with programs at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m.  (part of the Saylorville Bald Eagle Watch, for info call 515-276-4656)
March 1-7
  Celebrate Aldo Leopold Week. Check this link for scheduled events and activities. Learn more about Aldo here.
March 7
 The O’Brien County Conservation Board will be hosting their annual Bald Eagle Watch at Prairie Heritage Center, 4931 Yellow Ave., Peterson. It is a come-and-go event held from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.  There will be spotting scopes and binoculars available; for info call 712-295-7200
March 6-8
 Iowa Deer Classic, Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines 
March 14
 Bald Eagle Day, speakers from 10:00-Noon, American Legion, Sioux Rapids plus outdoor viewing at selected sites; for info call 712-296-4920
March 18  Iowa Butterfly Survey Network (IBSN) will be hosting a train the trainer program at Reiman Gardens in Ames, IA from 1:30-5:30 p.m. After this training, you will be able to go back to your organization and provide trainings to help recruit more volunteers in this citizen science program. More information and registration here.
March 19 & 21  Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/ 
March 28-29
 Iowa Young Birders Charter trip to see Nebraska cranes! For details including registration, check the Iowa Young Birders site
April 4
 Prairie Chicken Festival, Kellerton Grassland Bird Conservation Area from 6:30-9:00 a.m.  The public viewing platform is two miles west of Kellerton on Hwy 2, then one mile south on 300th Ave. For information, contact Ringgold County Conservation, 641-464-2787
April 4
 Learn more about the significance of the prairie chicken to First Nations people, Blank Park Zoo, 1:00-3:00 p.m.  Chief Blue Star Eagle, Sherwyn Zephier and wife Estellene, Yankton Nation, will provide a public program on Prairie Chickens in Yankton culture. Native drum and dance regalia will be included in the program.
June 18 & 20  Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  
September 10 & 12  Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  

Blank Park Zoo Wildlife Conservation Series
Join Blank Park Zoo staff to meet three wildlife visionaries fighting on the front lines to save some of Earth’s most iconic species – before it’s too late. From the largest land mammal to a tiny insect, learn what is being done to save them from extinction and how you can join the movement. Speakers scheduled February 5, March 5, and April 2 at 7:00 pm. Learn more here.

Free online course about Aldo Leopold!
Have you heard of a MOOC? It stands for Massive Open Online Course, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison is hosting one this winter called "The Land Ethic Reclaimed: Perceptive Hunting, Aldo Leopold and Conservation." The three week online course begins on January 26, and there is no registration fee to participate. The course leaders say that all learners are encouraged and welcome to participate, whether they are active hunters, hunting-curious, or simply nature enthusiasts. The course will provide students with an understanding of the historical legacy of wildlife management and recreational hunting as a part of conservation, the role of wildlife in ecosystems, the importance of ethics in guiding management decisions and hunter choices, and the politics and economics of controversies surrounding game and non-game management, hunting, and conservation. Click here to learn more and register!

In the news...

Raptor Viewing Etiquette

We should all observe good raptor  viewing etiquette, not only during the nesting season, but also during this time of migration. 

Remember that raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and bald and golden eagles have additional protections under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Seeing Nature

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird... so let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing  That’s what counts! 

I learned very early on the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. ~Richard Feynman, physicist

YouTube Video

Winged Expressions!
Check out the new sculpture near the 'entrance' to Horn's Ferry Bridge!

Horn's Ferry Bridge

Who Am I? for the week of 26 January

So, let’s get down to it. Put on those thinking caps, grab your friends and family, and let’s play! Remember — no cheating!

    • I am a threatened species in Iowa,
    • I become an adult when I am 8-10 years old,
    • I am fully terrestrial,
    • My feet have a club-like appearance, and
    • I love earthworms, prickly pear cacti, fruits and carrion.
What am I? Make your guess, and then go here for the answer and more interesting facts.
Did you get it right?! If not, no worries — you’ll have another chance next week!

emerald ash borer
Emerald Ash Borer state-wide quarantine announced

“Woodpecker-flecked ash trees are a great calling card when investigating an insect infestation. The damage symptoms on ash trees are very visible during the winter months. Woodpeckers feed on more than EAB, but when we find woodpeckers focusing on ash trees in an area, it’s a red flag that begs for further investigation,” said State Entomologist Robin Pruisner of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

We urge Iowans to be vigilant, reporting suspicious symptoms in Counties that are not yet known to be infested to a member of the Iowa EAB Team. And we continue to urge citizens to keep firewood local, don’t pack a pest to a new area,” said Mike Kintner, IDALS EAB and Gypsy Moth Coordinator.

The Iowa EAB Team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners and includes officials from Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA Forest Service.

The Iowa EAB Team strongly cautions Iowans not to transport firewood across county or state lines, since the movement of firewood throughout Iowa or to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB and other plant pests. Most EAB infestations in the United States have been started by people unknowingly moving infested firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. The adult beetle also can fly short distances, approximately 2 to 5 miles.

The next window for preventive treatment measures (trunk injection, soil injection, soil drench, or basal trunk sprays) will open early spring 2015 (mid-April to mid-May). If a landowner is interested in protecting a valuable and healthy ash tree within 15 miles of a known infestation, they should use the winter months to have landscape and tree service companies bid on work, and these bids can be reviewed before next spring.

Please contact Iowa EAB Team members to have suspicious looking trees checked in counties not currently known to be infested. The State of Iowa will continue to track the movement of EAB on a county-by-county basis. Before a county can be officially recognized as infested, proof of a reproducing population is needed and an EAB must be collected and verified by USDA entomologists.

To learn more about EAB and other pests that are threatening Iowa’s tree population, please visit www.IowaTreePests.com.

Check these out!

Iowa Young Birders - Check out this group formed in 2011 to help young people experience the joy and wonder of finding, seeing, and identifying birds!  The Iowa Ornithologists Union is helping to sponsor birding field trips for young people age 8-18 in conjunction with their spring and fall meetings. Check out the details and the Iowa Young Birders website for other field trip opportunities! <jealous!>

Healthy and Happy Outdoors - Learn more about this new Iowa Department of Natural Resources initiative here. Register with the program and record your outdoor activities in Iowa parks and recreation areas with each recorded activity a chance to win outdoor gear in a drawing.  The site also has a search feature for finding outdoor activities in Iowa.

Visit MyCountyParks.com to check out a park or wildlife area you might want to explore managed by one of Iowa's 99 county conservation boards! Look here for events and activities, too!