Counting the Little Birdies in Siouxland, Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Sioux City

27 Dec
Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Jerry Probst programs a portable speaker to emit barred owl sounds as he spends the morning participating in the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes one has to have faith that you will find what you seek. Even if you feel you are walking in a dark wilderness and feeling your way, metaphorically speaking. But starting the day before sunrise looking for birds can feel that way. And in the end, one may or may not be successful in the endeavor.

Every Christmas the Audubon Society conducts an annual Christmas bird count where chapters of the Society, like the Loess Hills chapter, throughout the U.S. during a two-week period in December look for whatever species happens to be there and record their findings. These may be birds that are indigenous to the area as well as those migrating to another clime to winter at.

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Jerry Probst places a portable speaker in some brush to emit barred owl sounds as he spends the morning participating in the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

City lights from Sioux City is seen past the dark trees before sunrise as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was difficult photographing this bird count which I previously had done, but then it was later in the day and I actually had light to be able to accomplish the task. But two Audubon Loess Hills chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle were looking for owls. At least they were “looking” to hear owls at Stone State Park and had brought along a small portable speaker to start a dialogue with these elusive creatures.

And one never really knows what you might find go bump in the night (dark) or, literally, stumble upon as the pair made their way along one of the roadways in the park.

A woman walking her dog in total darkness called out as she saw the red light the two used to check their footing and avoid fallen limbs that littered the roadway due to recent storm activity that brought some F1 tornado activity throughout Iowa and not that far from Sioux City, damaging buildings and downing trees and limbs.

A woman walks her dog in Stone State Park as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in the park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A woman walks her dog in Stone State Park as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in the park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

She seemed genuinely surprised that other folk were out so early in the morning walking trails in the park, as were Probst and Dunkle. But then not many folk probably venture into the park in total darkness. And try as they may to get whatever owls might be around to respond to the calls made, not a sound could be heard, not even a “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight” from these furry creatures.

But with the recent weather activity with the recent warming periods and then dip into cold, it seems even these creatures have had to learn to adjust their formerly normal activity that might also include a new normal. But as an annual event, the bird counting folk can always look forward to next year.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Warren Dunkle, right, moving to stay warm, as he and Jerry Probst and spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst said he’s been involved in the Audubon Christmas bird count for over 20 years as he spends the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Warren Dunkle says he mostly is a second pair of eyes as he spends the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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