A Summer’s Day Birding, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve, Westfield

11 Aug

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living in Siouxland for some is a bit of luxury in that the rural area has a number of places that “birders”, such as members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society, can get together and enjoy their common interest in finding and recording the feathered creatures that inhabit Siouxland, as well as those passing through during a migratory flight depending on the season.

And sometimes I am lucky to go along with the folk and explore a new area or revisit one I had forgotten about. Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve is a large acreage in Siouxland that contains the largest remaining prairie native to Iowa, along with a couple hundred bison that roam the preserve. The birders this day were driving the rim of the preserve and looking for whatever creatures they might find and recording their finds later on their website.

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A member of the Loess Hills Audubon Society takes a photo of scene while birding off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For me as always, it’s more about the photography and documenting what occurs, a practice I can’t seem to shake after working for small daily newspapers and weeklies for 3 decades. I enjoy watching people enjoy their passion and taking the time to pursue it, even on what turned out to be. muggy kind of morning and more so as the day wore on. But once out and searching one can forget the discomfort of the weather in trying to find those elusive little feathered neighbors. The birders recognize the bird song, of which some I do, but not near enough, and it’s probably time for me to download one of the many bird apps to use to know what bird is singing while outdoors.

A lonely fence post seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of several bison grazing on a hilltop off at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wildflowers seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I can easily get sidetracked while out as I see various visuals come into view. But it’s always fun, and a little morning walk after a couple cups of coffee preps one, and of course, thinking about lunch later. I am learning through friends how a day might be planned and I must admit, the planning around fun activities and eating always sounds like a good day to me.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A wooden bench allows visitors a place to sit and watch and listen at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve off of Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating 25 Years in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

9 Aug

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This month a local park and preserve will be celebrating its 25th anniversary as a nature preserve, park and general nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve has grown into a local place of peace and solitude and to help celebrate its milestone I have put together a small book to commemorate its existence and to showcase some of the residents that hang out there.

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have taken many walks and hikes over the years and seen changes to the preserve and am always happier after a walk. Although these days I am looking forward to cooler temperatures as the heat and humidity even in early morning can be stifling.

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The preserve will be hosting a celebration day in August with some events and a chance for people to explore and enjoy the place to recharge themselves. Maybe get to see some of the residents of whom a few appear below. Although the cast and crew may change in nature, the joy of seeing and photographing them always remains a high point on any day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bashful Red-headed woodpecker tries hiding sitting atop a dead tree stump at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker looks for a meal at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A mourning dove sits quietly in a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve on a chilly Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall color at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Eastern Kingbird takes in its surroundings at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Content or Quality in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

7 Aug

A momma raccoon looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while out shooting in Siouxland I come across situations where I weigh the idea of capturing an image and its content versus the quality of what that image may be because of the shooting situation. Working for newspapers for so many years has taught me that most times a photographic situation may not be ideal. And I still find that to be true. In those newspapering days I was shooting TriX and sometimes one might “pull” the processing to flatten out high contrast situations in bright sunlight, or a mixture of bright sunlight and deep shade. And TriX was rated at 400ASA.

A momma raccoon looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A baby raccoon follows its momma as it looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I was exploring a wildlife management area new to me that I had not walked before. And I came across a creek and small pond. I was watching birds fly about when I noticed movement along a bank. Naturally the pond and creek were 4 to 5 feet below me and when I spotted the raccoon through tall grass and lily ponds I thought I would try my luck. I find photographing animals always a challenge. And the raccoon didn’t seem to have noticed me. It wasn’t until I had been shooting a bit trying to focus through the tall grass and into the shade that I realized the bigger raccoon had company. A couple of babies tagging along behind as they hunted for a meal.

Two baby raccoons follow their momma as it looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A baby raccoon follows its momma as it looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A momma raccoon looks for food possibilities under some water lilies with a baby close by at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The one little guy/gal hugged his momma’s tale and made it hard to distinguish one from the other until I got home and started editing my files. Most times when I see an animal and it doesn’t seem to be aware of me I pretty freeze in place, barely moving a foot unless to make certain I am rooted in spot so I don’t go tipping over as I look through the viewfinder. And trying to keep track of the head in deep shade and focus at the same time was a challenge.

So then later it becomes the balance of sharing images that may not be stellar technically but have some value for the content. Images of raccoons are not at the top of the Fujita scale if one is measuring intensity and dynamic content. So I guess it’s more of the challenge to be able to produce images under less than ideal conditions and still tell somewhat of a photographic story. The raccoons trailed off, pun intended, away from me still looking for food and I enjoyed watching nature having a day out with the kids.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A baby raccoon gets wet following its momma as it looks for food possibilities under some water lilies at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A water lily pond at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Synder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Storms in Siouxland, rural Sioux County

5 Aug

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I was younger and prior to living in Siouxland I chased a few storms for newspapers I previously worked for, in west Texas and Louisiana. Looking back on those experiences it was probably not the best of choices. But it can produce interesting images. Many of them centered on property destruction on surrounding communities where I worked. Storms roll through the Midwest and Siouxland in the spring and summer. Sometimes they can be pretty dramatic, other times they bring needed rain without much drama. Generally those are the better storms. But I still enjoy going out occasionally to check out the clouds and such and hope the most action I see is heavy rain. Done the the hail and high winds and I can pass on those. To which the adage “no pain no gain” can extol a heavy price especially when personal vehicles are damaged.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sharing, Kind of, in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

3 Aug

Two giraffes apparently can share their eats when one isn’t aware of the other seen at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I have taken more interest in photographing animals, backyard birds, zoos, wildlife in nature around Siouxland and such, I began looking more at their behavior and interactions. Probably applying human attributes, fairly or not, as I watch them interact with one another.

The giraffe in the foreground didn’t seem to notice as opposed to not minding, the other giraffe sharing some of its food at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE the day I visited. Sometimes a gentle touch is a better approach. Just like siblings, sharing is good when one is the recipient of the sharing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A little sharing at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Encountering a Jurassic Experience, the Scraposaurs, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Sioux City

1 Aug

The Wooly Rhino was built with salvaged steel and covered in hair plugs and is one of various “prehistoric animals” are represented by the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it’s nice not to have to travel too far in Siouxland to find an interesting exhibit to check out. A traveling exhibit currently at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City consists of recycled Jurassic critters, or creatures from an earlier age. Artist Dale Lewis created whimsical creatures out of recycled metal bits and pieces. Although pieces might not be the best description for some of these towering creatures.

The pterodactyl is built from a variety of stainless steel screening material with forks for teeth while the chicks are made from former steel farm equipment and part of a traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The pterodactyl is built from a variety of stainless steel screening material with forks for teeth and is part of a traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The artist’s inspiration for “Dino” the dog was the TV cartoon “The Flintstones” and is one of a variety of various “prehistoric animals” built from scrap material are represented by the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lewis harkens from Minnesota so this may be a way to spend cold winter days as he created these creatures from various metal materials. The exhibit is slated to be on site until April of 2023. So it will be interesting with a heavy winter snow to see these creatures peeking out from under snow drifts. Maybe experiencing another ice age that their forebears endured and were lost in so many centuries ago.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The “Thing” is one of many creatures built from a variety of scrap material various “prehistoric animals” are represented by the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A bison statue is flanked by one of several scrap built “prehistoric animals” are represented by the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The artist, Dale Lewis, “signed” his name on one of the “prehistoric animals” are represented in the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Built from a variety of scrap material various “prehistoric animals” are represented in the traveling Scraposaurs exhibit now at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa seen Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Screaming for Ice Cream, Ice Cream Days, Le Mars

31 Jul

A pet pooch keeps its “eye on the ball” or ice cream wrapper during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A annual Siouxland community celebration is the Ice Cream Days in Le Mars. Wells Enterprises is the located there and the maker of Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

A Blue Bunny “bunny’ mobile snakes its way down a main drag during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A small marching band steps in cadence as they await their turn to play during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A number of floats, mostly ice cream related, travel along the parade route. And a big hit is when the Blue Bunny folk go by and hand out frozen ice cream sandwiches. Even at 10 a.m. who can refuse such a treat. But one crowd favorite every year are the go carts driven by a Shriners group as they raucously careen up and down the street performing maneuvers and spinning out and often times laying rubber.

A young girl covers her ears right of the Shriners’ go-cart during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During any parade Shriners’ go-cart performances are always a big attraction even with the noise created by the whine of the many engines seen during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Another large contingent of floats this year was a family reunion. There were four floats, each filled with maybe 15-20 people per each one, meaning it was a large family and ever larger family reunion once all the kids, grandkids, etc. were added in. For a Saturday morning, it’s a nice way to start one’s summer weekend. Everyone screams for ice cream.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The first of four parade floats containing a large family gathering reunion join in during the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Tractors are always a big hit during any parade and are present at the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A girl anticipates the balloon creation she will get from a clown at the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A girl smiles at the balloon creation a clown gave her at the Ice Cream Days parade Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Le Mars, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Floor Show in Siouxland, De Soto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

29 Jul

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when I head out to photograph I might have a destination in mind. One particular day I headed down to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley. The refuge encompasses area in both Iowa and Nebraska (Boyer Chute National Wildlife Area) along the Missouri River. Depending on the time of year I expect to find some wildlife. Mainly birds during the spring and fall migration periods. Hopefully eagles and then shore birds and ducks and geese.

This particular day it was a cool morning only to heat up later so I thought why not go for a drive and hope for the best. Driving into the refuge I saw a juvenile eagle fly overhead and a couple of other birds, but there was not many species showing.

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I drove to a large “blind” area set up by the federal parks folk which happens to be across the river from a perennial eagles nest. I parked walked to the blind and then pleasantly surprised to find three Great Blue Herons feeding along the shoreline. I am just happy to see wildlife, and happier still to be able to photograph them within a reasonable distance. I was not prepared though to find one bird unhappy another was walking into its shoreline feeding area and so the dance began. Since I was concentrating shooting only one bird at a time I was not shooting wide enough when the two began to engage. Shooting through a blind opening with a long lens and not having one’s hand on the zoom ring is not good camera practice. Oh well.

It was enough though to enjoy seeing something I had never witnessed and still being able to make a few frames showing the birds’ dancing. Done in a manner of seconds, they parted and just started feeding again.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Blooming in Siouxland, Sioux City

27 Jul

A blooming Iris in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While I appreciate beautiful gardens and such when I come upon them in and around Siouxland, I myself do not possess the green thumb. In the spring I have a few flowers that bloom if the weather cooperates and that changes from year to year. Too cold and dry a spring, maybe tulips, maybe not. Other flowering species might follow but not always, or as much as I might like to think.

Flowers bloom along with a flowering Lilac bush in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gardening is a talent unto itself and the knowledge of choosing the correct plants and nurturing them to produce those blooms is a skill that takes practice. Personally, I like bushes as they take up more space in the yard which might mean less mowing and more places for my feathered friends to hide in as they flit to and from feeders. And then I always think there is always next year and maybe a better weather year for producing flowers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A blooming Iris in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deer in “Headlights”, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

25 Jul

A deer and turkey spy a passer-by in a meadow area at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I do get out and walk about Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in Siouxland I sometimes get lucky and find deer, stopped in their tracks, and watching me, as I walk on a trail. Never having really hunted anything more than sparrows when a kid with a BB gun I could never sit still very long and would have been lousy waiting for animals to appear and then take advantage of and shoot them. My dad always told me that if I killed a deer, I was on my own skinning it. And I really had no desire to shoot one. Watching them traverse in a field or meadow or woods is enjoyment that I like. The bonus is being able to photograph them at a close enough range, most of the time, to actually see some detail.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer makes its way across a meadow area at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With its fawn not far away, a white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail while its fawn looks in another direction at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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