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Keeping an “Eagle Eye” out for Birds in Siouxland, Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area, Little Sioux

30 Jan
An adult bald eagle perches in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When driving about in Siouxland I generally have a destination in mind when looking for birds. A particular park, nature preserve or refuge where I believe I will have a good chance of seeing birds, or deer or whatever else might appear. When just driving around looking for landscapes and such I will just drive and look. But the success of photographing birds one needs to be more specific.

Adult and juvenile bald eagles perch in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle watches a crow fly by as it perches on a rock at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. Both species are scavenging for food in the river. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent excursion to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge I happened to glance over toward a small river that feeds into the Missouri River and a place I had previously visited, although I didn’t know the name of the place at the time. And previously I has found a couple eagles gliding over the river looking for something to eat. The Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is 200-300 acres of woods and wetland. The Little Sioux River runs through it and out into the Missouri River, and it was there that I saw some “large birds” sitting atop a small, very small, spillway. Am guessing they were juvenile bald eagles feeding along with some crows and seeing that before the place’s exit ramp appeared made it possible to detour from heading further south and to see what might be found.

A not quite adult bald eagle flies overhead at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two juvenile bald eagles attempt some aerial combat over theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes serendipity prevails as I found maybe 40-50 eagles hanging out, feeding, flying, practicing aerial combat maneuvers. It seemed a lot of the birds were juvenile bald eagles, possible on their migration flight with parents in tow checking locations along the way. I was happy having the chance to photograph these creatures although I still working to achieve in flight images that are in focus. So even though it was a grey, overcast kind of day, one works with what one has. Blue sky and brighter light might have been nice for taking photographs, but the birds didn’t seem to mind about the weather and in fining them, who am I to complain.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An adult bald eagles flies along a tree line at the shore in theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle perches on a rock surrounded by crows who are also scavenging for food at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out in Siouxland on a Cold Winter’s Day, Sioux City

28 Jan
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days recently in Siouxland it’s been extremely cold and like the winter’s tale involving Santa Claus’ trip around the world, “not a creature is stirring”. Upon a recent visit to Latham Park, a local private park, birds were hanging out about in the bushes that surround the park. While the green leaves and foliage is gone, the bushes still offer some refuge on a cold day sheltering the little feathered friends from gusts of wind. Probably dreaming of spring and warmer weather themselves. Patience oft thought of as a virtue, can sometimes be in short supply.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two sparrows sit on an iron wrought fence which surround Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Downy Woodpecker looks for lunch on a tree at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pausing in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

24 Jan
A deer casts a quizzical look at an early morning walker at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on where one walks at times it is possible to meet and greet another trails in Siouxland, my hope is always that it’s a critter of some kind. Of course, coming across them in warmer weather is always a plus and sunshine makes the images snap a bit more that shooting on an extremely cold day with a grey overcast sky.

Turkeys loiter on a cut path looking for snacks at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But it’s also true that I won’t meet any passersby on a trail if I am not actually walking on the trail looking for them. Temperatures have recently been creeping upwards towards the mid 30’s and the hard, crusted, ice encased compacted snow has begun to melt a little bit. But then, weather folk say more rain, they snow is on the way. Winter is still here and thoughts of spring will continue to be just that, thoughts and dreams.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young deer pauses to check out a visitor at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Turkeys on parade at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two deer make their way through a harvested corn field at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Birds on a Stick in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD and Sioux City

22 Jan
An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A black capped chickadee sits on a branch as summer winds down and fall begins in the backyard of a residence Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I began photographing more birds both near home and in parks around Siouxland I began to pay more attention to the perches these feathered folk use. Sometimes it is very sturdy and at others it seems to follow that phrase “any port in a storm” where they may situate themselves as they take stock of the surrounding area. Birds in some of the parks have sometimes more choice for perches, as often times these places also provide a kind of prairie habitat which is generally not available in neighborhoods within a community.

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow watches from a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And photographing in these two different places create their own challenges. In a neighborhood one can sit a spell, especially near feeders and birds will come and go and possible give more opportunities to photograph them as they rest on a perch before heading to a feeder. Whereas in the park’s meadow area the birds can see you coming from some distance off and I have found one is only able to get so close necessitating the use of a long lens often times with a teleconverter to make an image of the bird “in the wild” so to speak. And of course as in so many things, timing is everything. Sometimes the act of bringing a camera to one’s eye will spook a bird so one needs to be aware and judge how close and how long one wants to hold a lens up into a position to get a photograph of a particular subject.

In the meadow areas using a tripod or monopod is just another piece of gear to carry for some distance, possibly a few miles while hiking, which is not always fun and tiring. So trade offs are made while one “enjoys” oneself out in nature with possibly the benefit of a photograph of some creature also enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house finch sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow looks directly at a visitor in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An Eastern Kingfisher studies its surroundings from a tree branch overhanging Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Just Saying “Howdy Neighbor” in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

10 Jan
A Blue Jay looks a little cross while a barred owl tries to get in a little nap time at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it just good manners in Siouxland to acknowledge a neighbor and go on one’s way, even if begrudgingly. On a visit to Moorehead Park looking for owls I found the Barred Owl sunning itself in a tree cavity. This is something I don’t often get to photograph but then was surprised, pleasantly so, when a Blue Jay showed up and apparently was not pleased to see the owl.

As it danced a little jig on the branch, the owl slowly opened its eyes then closed them again, apparently thinking its nap time was more important than his feathered visitor, who eventually left. I guess it’s better to ignore small annoyances sometimes that get worked up about them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Reflections in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

8 Jan
Two Lesser Yellowlegs look for food in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out photographing in Siouxland I attempt to see subjects in a different way. It doesn’t always work, although some days when an idea occurs to me the elements needed for creating the images are not there, or are fleeting. The last couple of years has been trying in regards to photographing waterfowl or other birds around ponds and small lakes in the area. With an ongoing drought that is serious some ponds have dried up, hopefully returning when it begins raining again in combination to sufficient snowfall.

A reflection of a nesting pod at Mud Creek at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A blue-winged teal makes its way in a pond at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And then there are those conditional elements where one hopes for a calm day the wind picks up and that nice calm body of water fades. Or the waterfowl, shore birds pursue the insects with a bit of gusto. Causing ripples that disturb an otherwise calm body of water. Life happens, and one does the best that is possible at the time. Ever hopeful for a nice image while just enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A turtle suns itself on a branch sticking out of the water at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, July 18, 2022. The animal seems unaffected by the high heat in triple digits and humidity that the Siouxland Region will experience the next few days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Lesser Yellowlegs hunts for a meal at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A wood duck floats in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari ParkVisiting near Siouxland, Ashland, NE

4 Jan
An elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In the coming new year, this year, I hope to get out to more parks and preserves and view some majestic animals, whether cared for in facilities or in nature itself. Sometimes plans don’t always go as one might like, but it’s a nice goal to have. Seeing these animals up close is special in a way as many can not make or afford the trip to the mountains or other locales for a 2-3 week hunt for such creatures, whether here in the U.S. or other international locales.

An older looking bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An older bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing animals up close sometimes hopefully gives one a better appreciation of how precious they are, better seen alive and in person than on some trophy wall adorning some narcissistic individual’s need to gloat or feel superior in some superficial way. I sometimes wonder if fortunes were reversed and these individuals were put onto the same “playing fields” as the creatures with only their hands, arms and legs would they fare any better from the creatures around them. A terrible thought, but maybe a lesson.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Freezing One’s A__ Off in Siouxland, Sioux City

27 Dec
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as a squirrel feeds on corn while covered in blowing snow flakes trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like much of the Midwest and other parts of the country the Siouxland region was in an arctic freezer recently, with temperatures dipping to -44 degrees with windchill and wind gusts of 30-40 mph. I bundled up to clear sidewalks, which later covered again with the wind blowing, and filled feeders. I feel bad for the little critters spending the cold outdoors and so like to see that they have something to eat. And also filled some water bowls I keep outside, which froze over in just minutes. Even heated water bowls I keep outside during the winter were freezing over with just small areas visible without frost or ice. It’s pretty amazing and scary it’s so cold.

As temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, house sparrows drink from a heated pet water bowl outdoors in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, photographed through a doorway window pane.
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as house finches and sparrows feed at a backyard feeder then fly to nearby bushes with puffed out feathers trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the birds eating do not really tell the story of the frigid weather. Interestingly enough I had to wait a few minutes for the lens to acclimate outdoors as my first set of photos appeared not sharp, and luckily I could stay in a corner area outdoors that was somewhat protected from the wind. The birds though were thoroughly enjoying themselves and the eats and I was happy to see that.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as sparrows feed on fallen seed from a backyard feeder as they try to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house finch flies to another feeder as temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022.
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as sparrows puff out their feathers on a fence line in between trips to backyard feeders trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
As temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, house sparrows drink from a heated pet water bowl outdoors in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, photographed through a doorway window pane.

Thinking Warm Thoughts in Siouxland, Loess Hills Audubon Society, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

21 Dec
Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count started recently here in Siouxland and elsewhere and runs from Dec. 14, 2022 through Jan. 5, 2023. People from throughout the U.S. will go out and record what species they find and share that for the organization’s data base and ongoing tracking of bird movement. With colder temperatures descending into the Siouxland region expected soon it will be a far cry when members of the Loess Hills Audubon group took a bird walk about Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in August of this year. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and some with sandals, that won’t be the attire needed to walk about and look this winter.

A swallowtail butterfly seen while Loess Hills Audubon club members were out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A song bird seen while Loess Hills Audubon club members were out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A song bird nestled in a cedar tree spotted by members of the Loess Hills Audubon club out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Connecticut chapter of the Audubon Society the Christmas bird count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. And because of the time of year, different species will be found in different places. I have attended some winter bird counts in the past hosted by the local Loess Hills Audubon Society and the folk are very dedicated in looking and finding species that will help educate humans about this particular animal kingdom.

I have just not been keen on those very cold, cold mornings and rising before the sun to get out and look for the birds. For me it’s always about photographing what is at hand, and shooting in the dark has its own challenges.

I haven’t decided yet if I want to make another attempt this year or not in getting back out into the cold, all the while thinking about those spring, summer and early fall expeditions looking for birds and enjoying those warmer temperatures. Although I always dress appropriately and don’t really feel the cold, getting over the inertia to get out of bed is it’s own challenge. I just enjoy my coffee later in the morning all the more.

Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But looking for birds and trying to photograph them is always run, no matter the time of day or wind chill degree. It makes more a good story later on.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Residents of Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve make their way back to the barn in preparation for visitors during the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A painted turtle enjoying a morning sun basking at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Making a Photo Choice in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, South Dakota

17 Dec
Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times while out photographing in Siouxland I come across various scenes and shoot a number of photographs, worrying at the time about capturing or creating an image and deciding later which ones I should work up in the post processing. Much like developing rolls of film and scanning through the negatives with a loupe or looking at a contact sheet and then deciding which one(s) I should spend time on in the “darkroom”.

During an outing at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve this fall I was lucky to find some Canadian geese hanging out at a small lake area in the park not having yet left for the day to find a nearby corn field to eat and maybe spend the day. The lake area is bordered by trees and brush and I was at one end or part way down to the end and was photographing through a break in the trees without branches obstructing my view or appearing as an aberrant line that is visible but looks like something on the camera’s sensor.

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found the geese flying through what remaining fall foliage more appealing that past bare branches, but the ability to get a clear angle to photograph them was limited and frustrating in that the color helps tell part of the story, as the geese are migrating to a an area for winter. I much prefer the line of the geese in the second and third photographs as they show the line of ducks in flight but believe the colorful foliage helps set them apart from their background although the flying geese’s formation began changing at that point, and would soon be leaving the grove of trees and wetland area. Shooting with somewhat of a super telephoto lens gave me a very slight and limited angle of view, in addition to the photographing through a break in the grove tree’s branches that line this wetland area. Sometimes one has to made do with what one has and be happy for a decent image as compared to telling maybe an interesting story ending with that famous line, “Trust me when I tell you………”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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