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Mr. Finch Goes A’Courting in Siouxland, Sioux City

25 Jun

A male House Finch joins a female House Finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature seems to always be surprising me, even when I don’t know that it is. But I keep learning even if by mistake. Spring time is filled with love in the air, even in Siouxland. Finding these two finches becoming animated a birder friend explained to me the male house finch is courting the female house finch and in the process showing its ability to be a good provider. Seems love the kind of thing that crosses the line of all species. And as the saying goes, “Watch and Learn.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A male House Finch courts a female House finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A male House Finch courts a female House Finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Light in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

23 Jun

A young orangutan eats a snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes trying to photograph a subject presents challenges of its own, in Siouxland and elsewhere, and “seeing the light” and best understanding the best way, and sometimes only way to make a photograph helps one grow and learn.

A recent visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE found some of the animals active as they receive their morning meal or snack. This is most often the case. Even when traipsing about in the countryside animals are more active in the morning hours.

A young orangutan eats a snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The morning sunlight did a nice job of illuminating the wire fencing surrounding the orangutan enclosure at the zoo. And certain changes at the zoo with access or how close one can get also prevented one from finding a better angle to help alleviate or position oneself to photograph the young primate while it ate and be able to show its face. In addition to the sun, there was the matter of focusing on the face. Today’s AF points are pretty small allowing one to zero on a specific spot to autofocus, but trying to achieve that through the fencing presented its own set of problems. And the little guy did not want to sit still while trying to squeeze every last bit of meal from the package in its hands.

That left me using manual focus which is okay, but I have noticed as one gets older and the glasses go from being a single eye prescription to one that includes bi and try-focal additions, life get interesting.

The Olympus camera body I am currently using does allow one to set bright, colored peakness focusing assistance which helped me make certain the young orangutan was sharp.

An older orangutan eats a leafy treat at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Then an older orangutan was eating its meal sitting in a much brighter area of the enclosure and not cooperating by looking my way while I was trying to photograph it. But its mind and tummy was focused elsewhere. The same problems photographing the younger primate sitting in shade applied here as well and I probably made a number of images trying to keep focus and catching a look of the eyes as it fed.

I am one not opposed to practicing my skill set at times and I was getting the hand/eye coordination and seeing and hitting the shutter at the right moment as this orangutan moved about eating. One never knows either, that sometimes nice images can be made with a little patience and practice. While none of the images are stellar, the fact that the younger primate’s face shows keeps the attention on him and his activity of eating even with the distracting sunlit wire fencing.

And then there is photographing your subjects behind glass.

Sometimes it’s just what it is.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An older orangutan eats a leafy treat at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A silverback gorilla looks over at the window to see humans watching it as it roams about its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Sunset in Siouxland, rural Monona County

13 Jun

A muskrat has a snack in a pond off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Everyone seems to have a routine when it comes to the end of day and the sun sets a little lower in the sky before dropping behind the horizon as nighttime falls. Even in Siouxland it seems critters use the remaining daylight hours to enjoy the moment before the coming night.

What appears to be a muskrat slips away after enjoying a meal away in a pond on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Red Wing Blackbird sings its heart as the suns begins to reach the horizon line out on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy driving about this time of day, and if parked somewhere in the country, the bird song fills the air almost up until evening is fully descended. Restoring a sense of calm and quiet, it’s a pleasant way to end one’s day. As the days get a bit longer there will be more time to enjoy the countryside and its residents if they care to share with a visitor passing through.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Possibly a Cooper’s Hawk sits almost unnoticed in the distance in a treetop as the sun sets and it looks for maybe one last meal in a field off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Public Grooming in Siouxland, Sioux City

11 Jun

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surrounding while perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In my neck of the woods in Siouxland there seems to be a single or pair of Cooper’s Hawks that live about the area. I see one, rarely both, flying above or landing nearby, sometimes closer than I personally would like.

The weather this particular day had been off and on with a rain shower, although mostly off in the immediate area. So I was surprised when the hawk showed up looking a little ruffled and damp. Possibly getting caught in a down pout nearby and then finding a place to do a little drying off. The towel guy wasn’t available this particular day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surrounding while perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Cooper’s Hawk does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting to all those difficult spots a Cooper’s Hawk does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surroundings while it does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Stop and Go on a Country Road, rural Monona County

9 Jun

A deer checks its surroundings along a country road as the sun begins to set in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While out driving about some backroads in Siouxland I always feel so lucky when I come across wildlife and they take the time to acknowledge me, in a cautious way, as I try to take a few photographs from a distance to see if I can. I shoot a lot of frames these days because I know how fleeting some of these moments can be. Also, driving slowly on the back roads with minimal if no traffic is helpful in that I can pull to the side or shoulder safely and slip out of the car seat to get a better vantage point or angle and not feel like I am a contortionist behind the steering wheel.

A deer makes its way along a country road as the sun begins to set in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A deer stops to eat along a country road as the sun begins to set in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This young deer came up from out of a field not far from where some Turkey Vultures were gathered eating carrion on the roadway. The deer looked about warily, walked a bit, ate a bit and then walked some more, stopping and starting as it found the greens it was looking for before disappearing off the roadway down into another field safe for another day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer makes its way along a country road as the sun begins to set in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Springtime Visitors in Siouxland, Migration Guests Passing Through, Sioux City

3 Jun

A black warbler sits in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This spring seemed a little unusual for Siouxland, at least my part of it, in that I found a number of birds passing through of which I had not seen before. A birding friend informed me that some of these birds are found in other areas, within a few miles actually of me, but I had never noticed them in my neighborhood previously. Then again, I might not paid attention.

A black warbler looks for food in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A black and white warbler looks for food on a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But with the unusual stuff going on the last couple of years and as I have hung out in my backyard more maybe my attention to guests stopping by is more acute. It certainly makes it more interesting and fun photographically. Practice makes for better bird photos and lord knows I need that. Some of these little critters are very challenging to stop action and get clear shots as they flit about trees and bushes just beginning to leaf.

A rose-breasted grosbeak checks out the scene around some feeders in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A rose-breasted grosbeak checks out the scene around some feeders in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sits on a suet feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And for the most part, I saw the birds traveling in pairs or more groupings. There were 2-3 couples of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak birds that hung out for 2-3 days, then I didn’t see them again. The bird song as well was noticeable with different sounds that I have previously encountered while sitting and watching and listening.

A yellow warbler looks for food among the newly formed leaves on a tree branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A yellow warbler looks for food among the newly formed leaves on a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A yellow warbler cleans itself on a tree branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And although I think the birds who might be passing through have done just that, I am looking forward to my local residents hanging out this summer and the chance to photograph them again. Of course I don’t have a pool for them to stop by and enjoy, but I promise treats.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A male Brown-headed Cowbird eats at a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A female Brown-headed Cowbird sits on a branch before checking for food in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Grey Catbird sits on a suet feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Day out in Siouxland, Badger Lake, Whiting

1 Jun

Seeing double as two Canada geese clean themselves after bathing in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days in Siouxland I find myself checking out a location just to see what I might find. These days I don’t expect to make spectacular photographs or even interesting ones. It’s just nice to be outside, without freezing one’s a____ off and enjoying a drive.

Blue-winged Teal ducks sit in the sunshine in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Canada goose refreshes itself in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Canada goose sends water on its wings after immersing itself underwater in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Canada goose heads for shallow water after bathing in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I do like swinging by Badger Lake in rural Monona County. The water levels had been very low, then have increased with some recent rain showers and so while no overly populated as during a heavy migration period, there are still some water fowl taking advantage of the almost “exclusive” availability of the watering hole. No crowding, “elbowing” for space. Just a nice relaxing spring day to enjoy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American coots enjoy a swim in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American coots enjoy a swim in the sunshine in a pond at Badger lake near Whiting, Iowa Saturday, April 2, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning to Share in Siouxland, rural Monona County, Whiting

26 May

Turkey vultures spar over who gets to dine first on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It seems one of life’s lessons for many species, even those here in Siouxland, is that sometimes one needs to share. Driving out in the country recently I came across a demised raccoon on a gravel road with Turkey Vultures posturing and maneuvering to get a chance to eat some of the remains. And the vultures did a little dance until finally they decided that maybe it is best to be patient and share in the spoils.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

One Turkey Vulture gives a little push back than arrival who wanted to join in on the meal on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The newly arrived Turkey Vulture relents trying to muscle in on a quick bite while on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Turkey vultures wait for their turn to dine first on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Transitory Visitors in Siouxland, American White Pelicans, Badger Lake, Whiting

18 May

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the migrating waterfowl like the American White Pelicans passing through Siouxland, I sometimes get confused about what birds find a home in this area and those that are passing on to another destination. Like the majority of Canada geese that use Siouxland as flyover country, but others call it home.

A truck hauling equipment passes in the background as American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I occasionally check various locations around the area to see who’s hanging out, sometimes I am delighted, other times disappointed when I find nothing. But then there is another day, and these critters like we humans are dealing with roller coaster weather than runs cold, then hot, dry, then wet, which probably interrupts their travels as much as it does our daily lives. And some of us are not traveling as far.

Wishing these critters a safe journey and fair winds as they journey to their summer destination.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Refuge in Siouxland, Little Sioux Park, Correctionville

12 May

A Trumpeter swan checking out visitors at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are a number of wildlife refuge areas to be found in and around the Siouxland area. Visiting Little Sioux Park recently I thought it lucky to see some Trumpeter swans at the small lake there. Stealthily trying to get out of my vehicle to photograph these creatures I realized it was odd, they weren’t flying away, but rather coming toward me.

A Trumperer swan swims to shore to greet a visitor at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Trumperer swans come to shore to greet a visitor at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It seems the swans at the park all have a damaged wing, and so live there. Enjoying a quiet area, free of predators, except maybe humans, and greeting park visitors maybe in the hopes of gaining a treat.

The swans ambled slowly but without hesitation up the fence line to greet the new comer and check them out.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Trumpeter swan “grins” at a visitor at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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