Earth Day activities held at nature center

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 14, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe


Temperatures have begun to flirt with the 60s and 70s, the snow has melted and the ice is nearly gone, making way for next week’s Earth Day celebrations Friday, April 18. The day is seen as an opportunity to shed awareness and appreciate one of the more spectacular planets in the entire solar system.

“We have a lot of festivals and holidays for other things, and I think, this is the one day we can celebrate the earth,” said Dickinson County Naturalist Charles Vigdal. “It’s a very important part of our lives that we forget about, this is the planet that we live on and we are all apart of the earth. I think we all need to take a moment and stop and look around once in while and see what we can do to improve our habitat and make things a little bit better for everybody.”

The celebrations have been spread out to a whole week — dubbed Earth Week. Both the Dickinson County Nature Center and Lakeside Lab will host events throughout the seven days. A bird hike was held Sunday at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. Lee Schoenewe took residents on a hike to look for winter wrens, song birds, eagles and other waterfowl.

“We live on Earth every day, but we don’t often celebrate it,” said Kiley Roth, community relations coordinator. “We want people to come out and join us in celebrating this beautiful world and all it offers.”

Visitors can enjoy the wonders of nature and celebrate earth from 4-8 p.m. Friday, April 18 at the Nature Center.

The day will include outdoor educational hikes, demonstrations, crafts and other children’s activities. There will also be several guest speakers throughout the afternoon sharing their knowledge of nature with guests.

“It’s fun to see a lot of people that come every year,” Vigdal said. “I like the celebration because it is a fun way to get people out here. We have lots of fun activities and we get to talk about some interesting things.”

From 4-6:30 p.m., kids can enjoy hikes and crafts. Wetland frog hikes led by Jane Shuttleworth, the education coordinator at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, will be held at 4 and 5 p.m. Lee Schoenewe will lead hikes at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. for the bird watchers and those just curious in waterfowl.

Naturalists Karess Knudtson and Vigdal will present live animal demonstrations throughout the day, featuring the likes of Itsy Bitsy, Rosie and Courtney — the resident snakes — as well as Rizz and Rachel — the nature center’s pet rats. The animals are sure to excite any young kid in attendance.

“Whether you want to look for animals in nature on one of the hikes or stop by for the live animal demonstrations inside, you’re bound to learn something new during our Earth Day celebration,” Roth said.

There will be an hors d’oeuvres potluck inside the nature center beginning at 6:30 p.m. Guests are encouraged to bring their own appetizer or desert to enjoy while taking in the beauty of nature. Refreshments will be provided and adults are allowed to bring wine or beer along.

After a busy day of hikes, demonstrations and crafts, visitors can sit back and listen to stories told by Rich Leopold, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He will present “Tales of a Natural Resources Administrator: A Collection of Wins and Losses,” at 7 p.m.

“Rich will talk about some of the more pressing things going on in the world,” Vigdal said. “It’s a good reminder of things that are happening.”

Nature has always been a key aspect of Vigdal’s life and he hopes to share his love with others next Friday.

“I’ve always been interested,” he said. “In high school I was fascinated with biology and how things work. I like to think about the science of everything — physics and math. I think biology hits every one — everything is connected through science, it’s fascinating. The whole world is like a big jigsaw puzzle.”

Earth Day is a great way to get out and appreciate what the world has to offer, especially for those who love nature or want to finally get rid of that last bit of cabin fever.

“We want people to just to come out and see all the cool things here at the nature center,” Vigdal said. “It’s free and it’s a lot of fun.”


The Okoboji osprey returned to the Iowa Great Lakes Monday, April 7 — landing in their nest outside the Dickinson County Nature Center.

The osprey usually return in April, although this year was slightly earlier than usual. This will be the fourth nesting for the banded male and wild female, who raised three successful babies last year.

The babies that hatched in 2013 will stay in South America this season and should return in 2015. Osprey usually return to nest within 100 miles of where they learned to fly, although the banded male in the nature center nest is about 170 miles from where he fledged.

The osprey are building their nest and can be viewed on the web cam several times each day or with binoculars. They will lay eggs in three-four weeks, and the female will sit on the nest constantly after that to incubate and protect the eggs.

Osprey grow to about 4.5 pounds, with a 71-inch wingspan.

“I think osprey are exciting because they’re very physical birds,” Naturalist Charles Vigdal said. “They’re very acrobatic. They are the Michael Jordan of birds, because they can do things that normal birds can’t do.”

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