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

Legislation introduced to name an Iowa state butterfly
Iowa House of Representatives Megan Jones and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell are co-sponsors of a resolution to the Iowa Legislature to have the Regal Fritillary named as the official state butterfly of Iowa. Read the resolution here. Now is the time to contact your local state representative and senator and encourage their support of this resolution. Here is an FAQ document to help you answer questions. Attention educators: download this fritillary life cycle poster to use in your classroom! Thanks to Reiman Gardens in Ames for spreading the word.

Iowa’s Wild Canary

The American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) was declared the official Iowa state bird by the Iowa Legislature in 1933. The goldfinch is found throughout the state, even during the long winter months. You may not recognize the dull and drab color of the male American goldfinch during the winter when he sports a dull-olive yellow body rather than the vibrant sunny yellow and black wings and tail. The soft canary song and the roller-coaster flight pattern is your best giveaway to identify this bird.

American Goldfinch

Filling a thistle feeder with nyjer seed (an oil thistle seed from Asia and Africa) or offering black oil sunflower seeds may give you the best opportunity to follow their changes from winter to summer and begin observing their mating habits. The mating habits begin long before the nesting season, which is considered late for most Iowa songbirds. Their nesting may occur in late May, but most occurring in late July and August when thistle and composite flowers are in abundance. The soft milkweed and thistle silk is commonly used in their nests.

·         Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas, early and late nesting information (PDF)

There are usually many males that will vie for the attention of one female during the summer months. Several males may chase the female for long periods of time over large open areas, flashing their golden yellows all the while calling “perchickory.”

goldfinch nest
When it is nesting time, the female builds a well-made, solid nest in the shape of a cup, made of plant fibers, thistle down, spider webs, and caterpillar web strands. Some nests may be in dense grassy areas, trees, shrubs or even conifers. Both parents feed nestlings from the seeds of composite flowers and insects that fill their crops and are regurgitated into the mouths of their babies. The role of the male is to provide most of the food in the later stages. The young leave the nest 11-17 days after hatching.

These sunny singers forage on the ground for insects, berries, and seeds. Driving along the roadsides in the summer you may notice flocks of goldfinches especially when the periwinkle blue chicory is blooming, but if you really want to partake in this little bird’s habitat, take a walk along a prairie filled with flowers or woodland edge. Your backyard gardens, city parks, and fields with sunflowers hold numerous goldfinches, as well. Some of the most favorite seeds come from flowers that we call composites (the head brings together several tiny flowers, or florets, so that they look like just one large flower). Examples of Iowa’s composite plants are, coneflowers, sunflowers, asters, chicory, coreopsis, goldenrod, ironweed, and black-eyed susans. Goldfinches are often seen drinking from the pools of water that is held within the leaves of the native cup plants.

Composite Flowers

Links for more info on the goldfinch:

Gladys wrote many newspaper columns about her birding observations in The Des Moines Register from 1969 to 1987 and in three weekly newspapers in Marion County until the week of her death in 1998. Below is one example! 


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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.

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!

March 1-7
  Celebrate Aldo Leopold Week. Check this link for scheduled events and activities. Learn more about Aldo here.
March 5 & 7   Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  
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 12  Rockin' Into Action: A day for Solid Waste Educators and Naturalists, A day for solid waste educators, naturalists, and teachers! 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Register by March 9 at here.
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 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 March 5 and April 2 at 7:00 pm. Learn more here.

Who Am I? for the week of 2 March

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 semi-aquatic,
    • My neck and chin is bright yellow,
    • My favorite food is crayfish,
    • I am endangered or of special concern in many places, and
    • I live around wetlands, ponds and quiet streams.
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!

In the news...

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

“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.

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.

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!