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The Northwood Anchor of Northwood, Iowa

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Mammoth Adventure

The Worth County Conservation Board is planning a family overnight program. The program.... A mammoth dig!

Here in Iowa a year or so ago, some woolly mammoth fossils were found down in Mahaska County. The well preserved fossils appeared on the edge of a stream bank on private property where they were seen and soon dug out of the ground. It didn't take long to realize what they were and a long term project began to do an archeological project started to recover as much of the fossils at they could and to try and learn about why they were there and what led to their preservation.

The study soon was able to determine that the fossils were buried at the bottom of a then existing plunge pool of a small waterfall. Numerous theories exist as to how they got there but none are provable...

Mahaska County has since been offering "mammoth digs" where participants can sign up to excavate the area to look for more fossils. It's a slow process of scraping and recording what they find as they dig. Participants can be most any age and so I had the idea to sponsor a summer family trip to the site in July.

On July 28 we will leave Northwood for a two day excursion. We will travel to the area that day, spending the night in one of their county parks. They have two cabins available for rent, each having two bedrooms with queen sized beds plus a fold out queen bed in the main room. Participants will also be able to set up a tent in the vicinity of the cabins.

Thus it should be quite possible for a couple families to share the facilities with perhaps the adults getting a comfy mattress and the kids getting tent space :)

We will spend the night in the cabin and on the 29th go to the dig site. They try to make sure everybody has a good time at the dig, and finds some bones in the still expanding dig site. After lunch we'll plan to return back to North Iowa.

As mentioned, I'd like to make this a family trip with parents and children welcome. Estimated costs will probably run in the $20 range per person to cover a couple meals and cabin/tent camping fees. If you have interest or would like to sign up for the trip, please contact our office.

Ice Age

Thinking of mammoths has brought up another somewhat wintery topic. We had snowy owls here this winter. While not uncommon to see one once in a while, a pair of the white birds did frequent the area much of the winter.

They set up shop in what seemed a most unlikely place, mostly bare farm fields, but apparently there were enough small rodents living in the corn stubble to attract their attention and provide the occasional viewing opportunity as they hunted.

It has been of previous expectation that a snowy owl that makes its way down into Iowa is already a dead bird, already too far into starvation mode to recover as that seems to be many of their fates.

Indeed, I was handed the foot of one such bird that had been on the "watch" list. Somehow it had died, and a leg left in the snow was about all that was uneaten.

As the predator that made the kill was not seen, nearly anything could have happened. The foot was fascinating in and of itself.

The feathers around the talons were remarkably hairy in their appearance and texture, giving the bird a big snowshoe footprint as well as insulating the foot from the cold. When this owl stood on the ground, its foot pad or toe skin probably did not touch the snow.

As the spring slowly arrived however the pair that had been in residence in the area turned into seven birds in the same field area! So, even with the loss of one of their number, they were here in abundance.

A recent Audubon article covered the remarkable numbers of owls that have invaded the country further south than many pervious years... some even taking up the most unlikely spots as beaches on the East Coast. If you google "Audubon and snowy owl" you'll find it pretty fast.

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Original Publication Date: March 26, 2014

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