Visit to check out a park or wildlife area you might want to explore managed by one of Iowa's 99 county conservation boards!

Developmentally-appropriate activities for early childhood learners to explore the natural world can be found at KinderNature!

Invitations may create long-standing relationships
Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation

All in all, the winter has been pretty good to us in south-central Iowa. Through the social media and observations, there have been many reported species of birds showing up to feeders that ordinarily would not be considered on Iowa’s winter bird list. The berries provided on shrubs and trees have seemed to be accessible without layers of ice lasting for long periods of time. The prairies and grasslands still hold abundant seed. On nicer days, it’s always fun to watch the birds flip the leaf litter looking for insects. Surprisingly, they do find a few treats in the debris.

Feeding birds at a bird feeder or providing landscape plantings that provide fruits, berries, and nuts are not only enjoyable, it’s a great family activity that can be enjoyed no matter the season! Bird feeding can be as elaborate or as simple as you have time. Attracting them is not so difficult if you provide them the same basic needs as people or other living organisms. We all need food, water and shelter. 

With our winters here in Iowa, black oil sunflower seed can be one of the most beneficial foods that will help birds stay warm through normal and extreme conditions. Providing water can be as simple as a heated water bowl that our outdoor pets may utilize. Plantings, trees, shrubs and places that they can fly to easily are very important to escape predators or wait for their opportunity to feed. You may find that feeding and watching birds around your area is a great social activity, brings appreciation and a connection to nature, is fun, and to some, nourishes them through the winter and warms the soul. Any invitation you provide the birds in your area may create long-standing relationships. Here are some great links and resources for backyard bird feeding...

Books that may be available at your County Conservation Board Office or Library:

  • Wild about Birds, the DNR Bird Feeding Guide, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, Carrol L. Henderson
  • Feeding Wild Birds in Winter, by Clive Dobson

Learn about feeding birds

Birdwatching, backyard feeding, and visiting public birding blinds are all considered hobby’s to most. Did you know that the birds you see can actually assist scientists and researchers monitor migration, migration patterns, and help with bird conservation issues? Here are a few organizations that can really benefit from your passion or pleasure of bird observation. Just think, YOU can help answer questions that scientists cannot collect and answer all on their own!

Winter birdfeeding

Get ready for those hummers to return! The Hummingbird Society is one of the best informational sites that we have found for feeding hummingbirds and getting questions answered. Here is the best hummingbird nectar recipe!

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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

Visit the Iowa DNR website for as listing of all bald eagle watch events!

13 February    Des Moines Parks and Rec Bald Eagle Day at Fellowship Baptist Church, 1503 SE 6th St in Des Moines, 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. 
28 February  Saylorville Bald Eagle Watch! SOAR will be at Jester Park Lodge from Noon to 4:00 p.m., outdoor viewing at selected sites around reservoir, start at Visitor’s Center 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information call 515-276-4656

Mystery Critter for the week of 8 February

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

  • I am roughly 30 inches tall,
  • My habitat is rivers, lakes, and marshes,
  • I am a fish eater, but do eat mammals and carrion
  • I have 2-3 young per yearand
  • I am considered a wildlife “success” story!
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!

Thanks to The Grass Stain Guru for giving us permission to re-post past "mystery critter" posts here on this site! As a hint, we'll only pick out the "mysteries" that can be found in Iowa. 

In the news...

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

Please contact any of the following members of the Iowa EAB Team for further information:

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 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!