DCCB announces winter programming calendar of events

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Dallas County Conservation Board naturalists Cindy Blobaum, left, and Chris Adkins teach the rudiments of GPS navigation at the Kuehn Conservation Area near Redfield.

A new year is upon us! 2020 is finally in our rearview mirrors and we can look forward to 2021 with hope and optimism.

The Dallas County Conservation Board (DCCB) has witnessed a record number of adventurers visiting our conservation areas and exploring the wilds this fall. I guess one silver lining to be found in the dark storm clouds of the pandemic is that we all recognized that we needed to get outdoors to find the solace that nature offers, which science has long-known is the best medicine for your pandemic funk.

The DCCB invites you to celebrate the new year with a big dose of nature, so join us for one of our winter programs to explore Dallas County’s wild places.

Typically, with the turning of the calendar page, we would share with you a Calendar of Events publication for DCCB’s Winter Programming. The pandemic put the kibosh on business as usual. Change is a constant in the natural world, and the DCCB is embracing this ecological tenet. Let us not lament what we cannot do but instead change, adapt and evolve new ways to celebrate and explore our place.

The DCCB created a robust listing of 2021 Winter Environmental Education Programs well adapted to meet pandemic protocols: small groups, socially distanced, outside, masked up.

While visiting DCCB’s website, you can select the program you wish to explore and then identify what date(s) and time(s) the DCCB naturalists will be offering this program. Reserve a slot for your family that fits your schedule by following these step-by-step instructions to help you create your own pandemic adapted 2021 Winter Programming “Calendar” of Events:

• Go to our website at www.dallascountyiowa.gov/conservation.
• Click on Environmental Education in the menu column.
• Click on Virtual Nature Exploration Hub.
• Click on the program of interest to view a program description, to find related resources and to register.

You can also reserve a slot for any DCCB program by calling our administrative office at 515-465-3577 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The DCCB hopes one of our program offerings will be just the catalyst you need to get out into the wilds and explore with us the healing medicines of nature. We look forward to 2021, learning with you in the wilds.

2021 DCCB Winter Program Listing

Owls– Meet Strix
Strix is a barred owl who injured her wing. She was rehabilitated but could not be returned to the wilds. Instead, she is the DCCB’s best teacher on the subject of owls. Participants in this program will come face-to-face with Strix during a naturalist-led conversation. Together we will identify the common owl species of Dallas County, explore their adaptations to nighttime hunting and learn their signature calls. The evening versions of this program will include an Owl Prowl hike on the trails of Hanging Rock to see if we can strike up a conversation with one of the local barred owls.

Birds
Birdwatching exploded during the pandemic. However many people struggle with identification. This naturalist-led program will teach basic bird identification skills. Participants will follow a path of instructional signs on the trails at Kuehn Conservation Area that will introduce the parameters of shape, size and field marks used by birders for identification. The program will include a visit to Kuehn’s bird viewing blind, providing you an opportunity to test your new skills. Binoculars and field guides are encouraged but not required.

Stargazing
The winter skies provide us with some of the best stargazing opportunities of the year. Participants will join a naturalist under the dark skies at Kuehn Conservation Area to locate and identify the major winter constellations. Discussions will explore not only the astronomical science of the constellations but also the stories attached to these star patterns. As we explore the wonders of the night skies, we will encourage you to be reminded of the wonders underfoot here in the wilds of Dallas County.

Finding Your Way with GPS
Looking for a winter outing challenge? This program invites you to get off-trail, bushwhack and really explore the hidden gems and rarely visited treasures of Kuehn Conservation Area. A naturalist will supply you with a Garmin Extex10 GPS unit, topographic map of Kuehn with waystations marked and a tutorial on GPS usage. Armed with this tool kit, participants will utilize their new orienteering skills to seek out the 10 waystations laid out on Kuehn’s landscape. Come to know the nearly 1,000 acres of wilds at Kuehn. Dress to hike the wilds, and bring water, snacks and a sense of adventure.

Survival Shelters
One of the DCCB’s most popular fall programs was the building of a survival shelter in the autumn woods at Kuehn Conservation Area. This program will be a winter’s twist on this theme, as it engages participants in building a quinzee or snow shelter. Extend your survival skills to meet the challenges of the winter.

Cross Country Ski
This program is one that did not require pandemic change. The DCCB’s cross country skiing programming will continue to operate utilizing pre-pandemic registration protocols. As in the past, when it snows, we ski. Call the DCCB at 515-465-3577 or email: conservation@dallascountyiowa.gov to place your name on our XC ski list. Then when the snows come, we will notify you of programming opportunities and invite you to join us on the trails at Voas Nature Area. Participants will be loaned XC skies, poles and boots. Following a brief tutorial on XC skiing techniques, you will be set to sally forth on the snow covered trails at Voas.

Chris Adkins is the environmental education coordinator  for the Dallas County Conservation Board.

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