Posts Tagged: International Owl Center

July 2018 Calendar!

July 2018! This month always feels like all summer, all the time!  And that means there’s lots of fun stuff to do! Start your planning with this handy-dandy July 2018 calendar (you can download the pdf here). Enjoy! XO, Inspire(d)

Check out these great July 2018 activities!  In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with its number on the calendar!

13. July 4: Harmony’s 4th of July Celebration – Including the Jim Busta Band featuring Mollie B., Grand Parade, pedal tractor pull, and fun for all ages! Full schedule of events at

14. July 10: International Owl Center: Build an Owl Program. Learn first-hand about owl adaptations by identifying the pieces and parts of an owl. See if a live owl will come out from under the “magic” box! Decorah Public Library, 11am

15. July 12: Join Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for a Summer Prairie Seed Harvest at Heritage Valley! Find details and RSVP at Rain date: July 19.

16. July 14: Songs of Hope returns! A free community concert, performances by 60 youth and young adults from around the world. 7PM, Potter Auditorium, Chatfield, MN.

17. July 14: Lanesboro Arts presents acclaimed MN songwriter Chris Koza & his band at the intimate St. Mane Theatre. $15 – $12. 7:30 p.m.

18. July 14: Enjoy amazing music in a gorgeous setting at the Driftless Music Festival, Eckhart Park, Viroqua. Noon-10pm, FREE admission! Zydeco, Funk, Americana, Reggae & Soul.

19. July 18: Blank Park Zoo: Animal Sounds and Stories. We all have a story to tell and so do the animals at the zoo! Come discover the many ways animals communicate. Decorah Public Library, 1pm

20. July 21: Decorah Ridiculous Day! Visit Water Street for sidewalk sales downtown. And be sure to check out ridiculous savings all around Decorah!

21. July 20-21: Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout 2018: Celebrate our garden heritage. Lectures, workshops, garden tours, tastings & more. July 20-21. FREE. Register @

22. July 29: Nordic Fest Weekend Pizza at Luna Valley! Come on out to the farm and relax after a weekend of Nordic-festing in town. Open Sunday, July 29th 11am-3pm. Rural Decorah.

23. July 31: Visual artists! Apply by today to sell your work at the 4th Annual Arts & Heritage Day on September 29, Chatfield, MN. Details @

International Owl Center


Photos by Sara Friedl-Putnam

International Owl Center
126 East Cedar Street
Houston, Minnesota 55943

Hours (year-round): Friday through Monday, 10 am to 4 pm; educational programs with an owl flight at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily; owl enrichment (fun activities for owls) at 3:30 p.m. Admission: Adults: $5; children 4–17, $3; members and children under 3, free
Can’t make it to the center anytime soon? Check out the 24/7 live owl cam on its website.

There was a whole lot of hooting going on at the International Owl Center on one recent Saturday morning. The sounds, however, aren’t emanating from Ruby, the imposing great horned owl perched on the forearm of educator Sue Fletcher, or any of the other education owls currently at “work” at the center. Instead, two young boys and their mothers were attempting – with varying degrees of success – to imitate the distinctive “hoo, hoo-oo, hoo, hoo” call of the great horned species.

“I love owls!” proclaims one of the boys during a lull in the action. The other quickly agrees.

“That’s the reaction we always strive to get from our visitors,” says Karla Bloem, executive director. “Our goal is educate and inspire people – and invite them to make changes in their lives that will benefit the owl community.”


In addition to its educational programs – which are customized according to the makeup of each audience – the center boasts more than a dozen highly realistic owl mounts representing owls engaging in different behaviors as well as an array of hands-on exhibits to give visitors a better idea of how owl wings, feet, and tails look and feel. (Touching the live birds is not allowed.) Those who want more of an outdoor adventure can take a self-guided tour of 10 pieces of owl art scattered throughout downtown Houston.

“If you want people to care, you have to show them that there’s so much more to owls than they ever realized,” says Bloem. “We want visitors to leave our centers having learned that owls are real creatures with real personalities.”

The seed for establishing an owl center was planted in 1998, when Bloem acquired an injured great horned owl, Alice – currently on maternity leave – to use in educational programs at the nearby Houston Nature Center. To celebrate Alice’s “hatch day,” she created the celebratory International Festival of Owls in 2001. The success of that three-day festival – which last year drew nearly 2,000 people from as far away as Norway, South Africa, and Nepal – sparked interest in establishing a center devoted exclusively to owls.

“This is the only facility in North America dedicated to teaching people about owls,” says Bloem. “It really is a must-see.”

What not to miss: The annual International Festival of Owls features activities for owl enthusiasts of all ages, including live-owl programs, an owl-themed pancake breakfast, an owl photography contest, nest-box building, and a kids hooting contest.

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam

Driftless Region Nature Centers


by Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos courtesy Driftless nature centers unless noted

Not feeling too spring-y just yet? Dream of the warmer months coming, then grab your calendars and plan ahead for classes and fun at the Driftless Region’s coolest nature centers!

Did you know there’s a place near Elkader, Iowa, where you can peer into the steely blue eyes of a live wolf? Were you aware that Lanesboro, Minnesota, is home to one of the best high-ropes courses in the region? Had you heard that tiny Houston, Minnesota, boasts the only center in all of North America devoted to owls?

Few places can rival the Driftless Region when it comes to offering exciting, fun, and educational nature-based experiences. And (lucky you!) there’s a wealth of nature centers and parks throughout the area chomping at the bit to help you tap in to your inner explorer.

So grab a cup of piping-hot tea or coffee, snuggle up in your comfiest chair, and learn a bit more about what some of the finest nature centers and parks in the region have in store for you in the (warmer) months ahead. Click on any of the links below to learn more!

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center

Houston Nature Center

International Owl Center

Lake Meyer Park and Campground

Myrick Park Center

Osborne Visitor/Nature Center

Also worth the trip!

Driftless Area Wetlands Centre

Photo by Kat Busse

Driftless Area Wetlands Centre
509 Hwy 18
Marquette, Iowa 52158

Hours: Tuesday­–Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm (beginning March 16)
Admission: Free

Feeling the urge to “unplug” and learn more about the nature of the Driftless Region? Then be sure to visit the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, opened in August 2013 to connect people to the natural world and empower them to positively impact their local environments.

Hartman Reserve Nature Center
657 Reserve Drive
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613

Hours: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm
Admission: Free

This 340-acre wooded isle located in the heart of Black Hawk County boasts hiking trails through forest, wetland, and prairie, as well as activities for visitors of all ages. Upcoming events include the Maple Syrup Festival March 5–6 – enjoy all-you-can-eat pancakes topped with real maple syrup (tickets required!) – and the Outdoor Adventure Fest on April 2.

Prairie’s Edge Nature Center
11562 Valley Avenue

Cresco, IA 52136

The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center gets its name from the native prairie planted next to the building. A visitor can see a tiger salamander meandering through the aquarium, native fish swimming through a 180-gallon tank, and a live honeybee display. Book early to get a spot at the campground, and be sure to check out the state’s first rock dam, Vernon Springs Ladder Dam, right across the road!


Bio: Sara Friedl-Putnam is eagerly anticipating the advent of spring so she can explore the Driftless Region’s many natural playgrounds with her two-year-old granddaughter and treat herself to a Skills School class or two (Amish bread-making, anyone?) at Eagle Bluff.