This is Katrina Moyna with the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette, Iowa, bringing you your weekly nature programming! What’s happening this week in the natural world? Well, imagine if television stations broadcasted the activities of birds, mammals, fishes, and plants along with weather phenomenon, so we were more in touch with what is taking place around us. Imagine if our calendar read according to natural occurrences, like: monarch butterflies arrive, frog eggs are turning into tadpoles, black-eyed Susans are emerging. What if such natural landmarks were carved into our collective calendar in addition to national holidays like Labor Day, and New Year’s Day? How sweet would that be?!
Phenology is the study of the effects of the flow of sun energy through the eco-system. Many of the responses of nature to sun energy are predictable, like migrating wildlife and blooming times. Folks in the North Raccoon River Valley have gathered and submitted observations to their local nature center and have created an Iowa Phenology Calendar for Central Iowa, the tallgrass prairie region. Here are some observations Des Moines citizens have made in mid-January to mid-February:
- Eagles begin mating and building nests
- Male Cardinals become territorial
- A Red Fox was spotted N. of Bell Ave. (It looked like he had a date.)
- Trumpeter Swans arrive in Iowa
- The best Ice Fishing occurs late December to mid-January
- Rainbow Trout spawning peaks
- Erected American Kestrel boxes
- Bobcats begin mating
- Canada Geese arrive
- Mink begin mating
These observations are not only interesting, but crucial to ongoing scientific research and our way of life. In March 2009, ninety years of birdwatchers' notes were published online. These 6 million handwritten note cards could give insight on climate change and fluctuations in wildlife and plant population levels. What’s interesting is that technology does not have to compete with nature activities. Citizens can track populations in Real Time. When citizens upload their wildlife or plant sightings to an Internet database, suddenly we are better able to track phenomenon, see patterns, and concentrate wildlife conservation and mitigation efforts!
If anyone knows of a phenology calendar for northeast Iowa or would like to start one, please contact your nearest nature center, or visit the USA National Phenology Network to submit your observations. Start making nature observations with your neighborhood group or with a bunch of friends. It’s a great excuse to see how your backyard changes over the year, and offers the opportunity to get outdoors and visit different parts of the state.
The Driftless Area Wetlands Centre will host Astronomy Night on Friday, February 27th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. We will have the newest and most up-to-date, indoor digital planetarium of its kind (courtesy of Keystone AEA), and MFL MarMac teachers will host the event. Other possible activities include: a costume contest, coloring, cookies, outside telescopes, and guest speakers at multiple interpretive stations. We will host MovieMania nights on February 7 and 21. Brian Gibbs with Osborne Nature Center will be talking about his work in Glacier National Park on February 7, and Bald Eagle Days is in Guttenberg on Saturday, February 14 and in Prairie du Chien on Saturday, February 28.
Enjoy the Outdoors! It’s always free!
Photo: Kat Busse photographs a stand of Anise Hyssop (foreground) and Purple Coneflower at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre. Anise Hyssop is a mint that has a black licorice taste!