Changing Sights Around Siouxland, Omaha, NE

20 Jan
An older office building framed with fall colors in a downtown Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When visiting various communities in and around Siouxland it’s not often that I find changes occurring in smaller communities. Sometimes, but most often they happen in the larger metro areas.

Omaha, NE is still a growing metro area in the Midwest and new construction there as well as adaptation of older buildings into lofts and other, more current kinds of usages is ongoing.

New construction work in a downtown Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A blend of old and new in a downtown area of Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a blending of older and newer types of architectural structures seen in Omaha. Older buildings become dwarfed by newer buildings. No judgement, but it’s not surprising how “tastes” change over the years, decades, etc. And in some cases the cost to replicate or build some structures that were done one to two centuries ago would most likely be prohibitive.

And yet progress continues, as life, changes come, and sometimes go. Moving forward and hopefully not backward.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A plaza surrounded by apartments and food eateries in a downtown area of Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A look at a downtown area in Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Clear Day in Siouxland, Storm Lake

18 Jan
A cool autumn fall day at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I believe it was in a song the phrase “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone”. On a clear day the view in Siouxland is unimpeded. During a fall outing with a photography class I teach through a Lifelong Learning program at the local community college there was still some color at a park by the lake in the community of Storm Lake. A cool day but very pleasant.

Finding the right spot for a colorful photograph at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some remaining color at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes not much needs to be said on those days, other than being thankful to enjoy such a day and walking about and seeing nature’s beauty. And of course having a camera and trying to do just that. Any season is a good season to be out photographing. Some are just a bit more conducive weather-wise. And those days will pass as nicer ones come into view.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A cool autumn fall day at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Soaring in Siouxland, Gavins Point Dam, Yankton, SD

16 Jan
People watch from a parking lot as an adult bald eagle soars about at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature always amazes in good ways and sometimes bad and a recent outing in Siouxland brought the unexpected fun of watching bald eagles fly and fish at the spillway of Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD. This is a stopping off point for a variety of migratory fowl with open water most times in nearby lake areas at the Lewis and Clark Recreation area and at the dam’s spillway which regulates water flowing downstream of the Missouri River.

An adult bald eagle soars over the Missouri River spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult and juvenile bald eagle locked in a stare down at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A photographer tries his luck photographing both adult and juvenile bald eagles soaring about at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s truly amazing watching the bald eagles fly about and then dive, somewhat, into the flowing water of the river to catch fish. Sometimes it was like watching “touch and go” maneuvers that military aircraft sometimes perform during training. And as it was still during a holiday week a number of spectators came out to watch these majestic creatures perch in trees or look for food.

An adult bald eagle soars over the Missouri River spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult bald eagle clings onto something it pulled from the Missouri River spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle grabs something in the Missouri River while in flight over the spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was also challenging from a photographer’s standpoint in trying to follow the action which sometimes pivoted on a dime acquire focus as these creatures made their way over and near the water. Although I might be somewhat disappointed with the results of my photographic experience, I was not disappointed in the opportunity to watch these birds perform their aerial acrobatics, successes and near misses all being equal.

I could think of worse ways to spend part of a day, not withstanding with a day temperature of 45 degrees in late December.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two juvenile bald eagles manoeuvre while in flight at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle readies to grab something in the Missouri River while in flight over the spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult bald eagle soars over the Missouri River spillway at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A number of adult and juvenile bald eagles perch on a tree at the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter in Siouxland, Big Sioux River, Sioux City

14 Jan
A deer peeks out from behind a tree along the Big Sioux River near Stone State Park Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa/ (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter has finally arrived in the Siouxland area although temperatures continue to seesaw up and down from extreme cold to unseasonably warm. Of course there is nothing to the issue about weather and climate, and will leave that discussion to others.

During the “warmer” days though it’s nice to get out and take a walk even if it’s brief and more time is spent trying to photograph than actual walking.

A deer peeks out from behind a tree along the Big Sioux River near Stone State Park Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa/ (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Some open patches of water as ice forms on the Big Sioux River as the temperatures plummet near Stone State Park Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa/ (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when the temps hit below zero with wind chill, it might be a good time to do some house cleaning and cataloguing photos already taken until more agreeable weather allows one a safer venture outside to enjoy nature and whatever might be seen to continue photographing Siouxland. Winter is nice, but spring and longer days might be nicer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Ice is forming on the Big Sioux River as the temperatures plummet near Stone State Park Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa/ (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A deer peeks makes its way as it forages along the Big Sioux River near Stone State Park Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa/ (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Rainy Day in Siouxland and Revisiting Pioneer Courage Park, Omaha, NE

12 Jan
Detail image of one of the statues in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I am out and about and carrying a camera I will revisit a place I have previously photographed. Sometimes I can find images that are better, most times I look for images that are different. The Pioneer Courage Park is part of the “campus” of the First National Bank of Omaha. On a overcast day it takes on a different look different from the previous visit. Finding the raindrops on the faces of the statues gave them a different feel and made me think that possibly on their journey west those days it might have rained may have been a blessing depending on the territory the group was passing through. The Mormon Trail passed through some high desert country and rain storms may have been scarce certain times of the year.

And it’s a challenge to revisit someplace and look for a different image. Of course time of day, weather, time of year, all that plays into how a place might look and feel. And then one’s imagination takes over.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Detail image of one of the statues in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Thursday Oct. 28, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Viewing History in Siouxland from a Hilltop, Council Bluffs

10 Jan
A view of Omaha, NE across the Missouri River from the Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, IA Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding bits and pieces of history tucked into corners and hilltops, one never knows where something of note might turn up in Siouxland. During Abraham Lincoln’s early days of politics he visited the Council Bluff’s area. From a view atop a hill he saw the expansion of the westward movement of folk and what would become a “staging ground” for the Union Pacific Railroad. The people of Council Bluffs dedicated this small park not far from the cemetery where General Grenville M. Dodge’s wife is buried. Dodge was a general in Lincoln’s army during the Civil War.

The Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, IA commemorates the time Abraham Lincoln visited the area in 1859 when it was more rural to view where the Union Pacific Railroad’s eastern terminal would be located seenThursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, IA commemorates the time Abraham Lincoln visited the area in 1859 when it was more rural to view where the Union Pacific Railroad’s eastern terminal would be located seenThursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A major street is seen below the Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, IA Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Lincoln Monument is from where the later president saw an area chosen as the first eastern terminus for the yet to be built transcontinental railroad system. Doing even a cursory search online doesn’t really turn up more information other than Lincoln “slept here” kind of reference like George Washington. But it is an easily accessible area and a great place to take in views of the surrounding landscape and in the distance Omaha, NE, across the Missouri River.

Morning might be a better time with better weather and less haze that seems to settle in once the afternoon arrives. A small snippet of history, tucked away but with a nice view.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Turning leaves on trees seen below the Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, IA Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A view from the hilltop wherefrom where Abraham Lincoln surveyed the surrounding area in 1859, seen Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cruising Altitude in Siouxland, Browns Lake, rural Woodbury County

8 Jan
A juvenile bald eagle cruises just above Browns Lake in rural Woodbury County Thursday, December 16, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like unexpected surprises when out looking for critters in Siouxland. Finding them in places I haven’t encountered them before is such a delight. While out checking one location recently and not finding any birds I had hoped would be there, I stopped by another, Browns Lake. With the recent drought conditions in western Iowa the water level is very low and so I didn’t expect to find anything there except a frozen pond. Maybe some geese, which weren’t there either.

Walking about a bit I did spot a large object moving along a tree line and headed toward the lake. Never a Boy Scout, I guess I wasn’t prepared as I had a long telephoto lens instead of a shorter zoom and so found myself trying to adjust and my framing as a juvenile bald eagle kept flying closer, and closer, and closer still.

Just cruising. Taking in the sights below and probably looking for a noon time meal or snack. I hope it had better luck than I.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A juvenile bald eagle cruises just above Browns Lake in rural Woodbury County Thursday, December 16, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle cruises just above Browns Lake in rural Woodbury County Thursday, December 16, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle cruises just above Browns Lake in rural Woodbury County Thursday, December 16, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding History in Siouxland, Cook’s Blacksmith Shop, Ponca, NE

6 Jan
A red wheel dominates Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History is all around folk, even in Siouxland. Finding it can sometimes be easy, understanding it or getting more information about a person or place can sometimes be more problematic.

Information about the blacksmith shop provided online is short: “The Cook Blacksmith Shop was built in 1901 by C. O. Cook, who operated his business for over thirty years. The building is owned by the Ponca,NE Historical Society, which uses the shop as a living history museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that occurred in 1974.”

Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. Available information says the blacksmith shop, owned by Coran Cook was built in 1901 in which he operated it for 30 years. The shop is operated by the Ponca Historical Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A photograph of Coran Cook, founder of Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The contents of the building finds time standing still with tools of another century and apparently the only heat during winter months a wood stove in a backroom. I recently re-visited the site with a photo class I teach. When I visit places like this and similar ones, I always want to know a little bit about its history, who and why and what for preceding the modern day era. Unfortunately the Historical Society volunteer who let us in had another appointment to get to so he let us wander about the shop imagining what Mr. Cook did during those years as a blacksmith when more people, farmers included, used horses for transportation and work. The way west would not have been possible without horses, and the men who tended to their needs when a “retread” or changing of a horseshoe was necessary, or to care for an animal hurt while doing its owner’s bidding.

A different time and sensibility, but important in its day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A look at tools used in Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Possibly a favorite chair inside Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A pot bellied stove in Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Inside Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Detail image from inside Cook’s Blacksmith Shop in Ponca, NE Saturday Oct. 23, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sigh, They Never Say Hello, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

4 Jan
A young deer looks cautiously from a cut path at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday Oct. 22, 2021as autumn leaves begin to show and a hiker appears on another path.

A young deer bolts through a meadow after seeing a hiker at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday Oct. 22, 2021.

Some days when I am out walking about at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve I have my chance encounters with wildlife. Sometimes deer, turkeys, mostly songbirds, occasionally some raptors and waterfowl. I have learned to walk more quietly and take paths away from brisk walkers and runners out for exercise in that they sometimes scare the critters away into the brush.

A young white tail buck warily watches a walker approach on a trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A lone deer makes its way down a cut path at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most times I get only a brief moment to take a photograph. And instead of rushing the camera and lens to my eye I try to move very slowly so that the deer become a bit more curious than bolting as what they probably interpret as aggressive behavior. Photographs I have seen other photographers have taken of these creatures in the wild, whether sitting in blinds for hours (maybe) or walking in large more heavily wooded areas that foster a greater number of these creatures I don’t know.

I just see fleeting white tails in the distance, maybe hesitancy, and then flightier my nearly made a nice photograph episodes. Hoping my settings are correct and I might take one or two decent images. I am not the kind of person who would sit in a blind for hours, but wouldn’t mind walking for a few as I enjoy the movement and seeing places. In this new year maybe that should be a resolution to take more walks in the woods and explore areas I am not that familiar with, hoping I get lucky there or learn about specific new places that might afford me an opportunity to photograph wildlife. The first resolution though, is overcoming inertia and getting out. And as the days begin to lengthen and the sunlight warms the countryside, that becomes more feasible and possible. If I plan to walk a few hours looking for critters, I don’t mind coming home empty-handed without images, I just don’t want to freeze my ass off making the effort.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Deer move away as they see a walker on a trail at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deer stop and take notice as they see a walker on a trail at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A young fawn looks for its mother at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two young deer check out a walker and passerby on a nearby trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Tuesday, August 3, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging out with Family in Siouxland, Hillview Recreation Area, Hinton

2 Jan
Elk resting in their enclosure at the Hillview Recreation Area near Hinton, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, no matter which one but especially around Christmas, life seems very frenetic with so many places to go, people to see and things to do. The media extolls this as does so, so many advertisers. Last minute deals, hurry.

The ultimate quandary about life is that time is infinite, yet also finite.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

And in the mix is lost the the time and opportunity to just stop a moment, relax and just enjoy the quiet of family and friends, resisting the call to go somewhere or get one more deal.

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