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Unexpected pleasures in Siouxland, Finding Visitors in rural Plymouth County

20 Feb
An eagle feeds while another waits along the Big Sioux River in a winter scene off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while out and about driving in Siouxland I come across something I never planned. And then I sometimes find something I never knew I had photographed until I look at my images at home. While enjoying a day out in warmer temperatures of 12 degrees, I stopped along the Big Sioux River to photograph the meandering stream. When I had finished and was heading back to my vehicle I stopped and photographed the river in the other direction. There is a bridge there, and while it was not spectacular I made a few images. Then I photographed beyond the bridge, working with a newly acquired lens and putting it through some paces. It was not until I had returned home and looked at those images did I realize that there were two eagles down river that I did not see with the naked eye and wished I had.

An unexpected pleasure to be enjoyed later and maybe another trip to look for the birds.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A winter scene of the Big Sioux River meandering off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter in Siouxland, Sioux City

16 Feb
Birds, possibly starlings, fluff out their feathers to fight off the cold on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The little rodent, affectionately known as Punxsutawney Phil, has decided it’s seen its shadow, allowing another 6 weeks of winter to linger around the Siouxland area and other places as well. Boogers. It has been a pleasant weather so far as winters go, but the next couple of weeks temps are predicted to stay below freezing and below zero with wind chill taking them down into double digits. Not something I am looking forward too. Bird activity has been mixed with the backyard neighbors scarce some days and around the next.

A red-bellied woodpecker feasts on some bird food in a backyard on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Long winters can be okay until the temperature dips below zero and then heads into minus double digits because of wind chill, which there seems to be a lot of that in Iowa. One could only imagine settlers on these plains in the 19th century with mud houses on an open plain with the wind howling and dipping temperatures into lows that impossibly frigid.

So spring is on my mind with temperatures in the 30’s. I even like 40’s. Thinking of greening grass and the warm rays of the sun. It will arrive, but at this point seems like somewhere in a distant future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Backyard birds, possibly starlings, sit on a neighbor’s chimney on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enduring the Cold in Siouxland, rural Plymouth County

12 Feb
Frost on the muzzle of a horse grazing in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

We humans are not the only ones needing to put up with recent cold temperatures recently. While out driving about Siouxland I came across three horses grazing outdoors. There was a barn nearby so one would assume they bed down onto some nice straw for the evening.

But it was a sunny day, and I can only guess like their human counterparts they were enjoying a brief respite in the sunshine during a balmy 12 degree high kind of day. Waiting for warmer temperatures to return and melt some of this white stuff and make it bearable again to be outdoors for more than a brief period of time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Horses, their muzzles frosted over, graze in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Blue Waters in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

2 Feb
Watching the fish in the shark tank at the Henry Doorly Zoo aquarium in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I get to some destinations around Siouxland, I like to stop and just enjoy the ambiance and the moment. Like a few photographers I know, I sometimes tend to overshoot. But knowing this, I also try to embrace the idea of just enjoying what I see without a viewfinder, mostly.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the shark tank at the Henry Doorly Zoo aquarium in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Feeding Time in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

23 Jan
Feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Everybody loves meal time. Some of us snack a little too much sometimes in between. It was fun during a day trip out of Siouxland to see zoo staff at the Henry Doorly Zoo feeding their flock of penguins. The little guys and gals eagerly greeted the staffers.

Feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One poor little guy was hoping for a little special attention but the staffer through the food over his head toward the water leaving him standing there.

One lone penguin was hoping for a little special attention during feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 12, 2012. (video by Jerry L. Mennenga©)

Most got a little attention as the attendants made sure each were fed a fish, or two. And the creatures scurried here and there knowing it was chow time and no excuses, even though a few were reticent about eating their fish, one or two gulps and the birds then took a dip.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A little personal attention during feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Feeding time at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Time for a swim after a meal at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A swim after a meal at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Tufted Puffin at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Tufted Puffin looks out at visitors at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Eagles and some Sunshine in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend Refuge

11 Jan
An eagle watches a field below it at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge Monday, January 4, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a few occasions I have had the pleasure and delight of coming across eagles in Siouxland. Although I haven’t been lucky enough to find them diving for food or fending off another eagle while in flight, I have enjoyed seeing them in the wild.

An eagle’s feathers are ruffled by a stiff breeze at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A pair of eagles have a nest in a tree top across the Missouri River from a bird blind in the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge that straddles western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. I’s fun to watch them sitting tin the tree or soaring the surrounding air space.

An eagle returns to its nest with a bundle of small sticks in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On my last visit the pair seemed to be doing a home makeover, bringing sticks and twigs and performing a little remodeling, maybe changing the look of the nursery. From a bird blind one can watch them and other water fowl who stopped at this juncture of open water on the river. One can watch and see the “new year” progressing and hopefully sometime in the spring get lucky and see a new head bobbing above the nest line.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two eagles tend to their nest in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Snack on a Cold Day, Sioux City

9 Jan
A squirrel checks a fence line as another squirrel looks interested in a backyard snack time Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I watch neighborhood squirrels throughout the year it’s fun to watch their antics and for the most part play with one another in backyards. But when it comes to snack time, they are a wary bunch and chowing as fast as they can before any interruption affects their meal time. Be it friend or foe.

A squirrel digs in while eating at a backyard feeder Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With fresh snow on the ground the furry visitors drop by a bit more often, sometimes sitting on the fence chattering, which I interpret as “Can’t you put out a little more for us, please, sir, another serving?” to co-opt a famous line from a favorite seasonal story.

A squirrel spends time eating at a backyard feeder Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And the forecast predicts some warmer days ahead, and possibly more snow. So backyard neighbors will probably be about again looking for any snack on a cold day, which I certainly don’t fault them for. And, what are neighbors for?

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A squirrel waits its turn to eat at a backyard feeder Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Nature in Siouxland, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

1 Jan
A large flock of ducks lift up off of the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With changing seasons it’s always enjoyable to go to the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley to watch the migration of birds. Mainly ducks, geese and some others. Probably more that I don’t recognize. So it’s always a lucky thing to meet an actual “birder” who will sometimes point out species they are excited to see.

Ducks are seen on the shoreline of the Missouri River from a blind at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An eagle sits atop a tree at another location still along the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on weather one can sometimes find a lot of people or few. Because of the drive time to the refuge I always tend to hit mid-morning which doesn’t find a lot of folk rummaging about yet until later in the day. Unless it’s a really, really special occasion, I never rise before the sun to get there at first light. I realize I am missing photographic opportunities but I like being fully awake while getting to the park. And it seems it’s not until noon or early afternoon that people start showing up in numbers so it’s easy to get about and social distance. Plus, if I don’t see everything at that time, and one doesn’t as various birds continue to migrate on their time table, it gives me another reason to make another trip.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bicyclist makes his way down a paved road at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An eagle sits atop a tree across the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ahh, Relish the Little Birdies in Siouxland, Winnebago, NE

26 Dec
A house sparrow is lost in the fall colors reflected in a small pool of water in Ho Chunk village in Winnebago, NE Friday Oct. 9 2020, and surrounding area. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As winter begins to settle in here in Siouxland I will miss seeing the opportunities for photographing certain possibilities until next year. The reflection of fall colors in a pool of water and how directional light in the morning makes trees come alive with their own “electric” light show.

Sometimes life gets busy and one doesn’t take a moment or two to just enjoy those small things or critters one may see on a daily basis. And especially not stopping to simply watch.

A robin seem to stop and take in the fall colors around Ho Chunk village in Winnebago, NE Friday Oct. 9 2020, and surrounding area. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

If I walk briskly or arrive early to a meeting, how will I be affected if I stop and look and watch for a few seconds, observing nature and finding myself milliseconds behind in my apparent schedule. I would guess I will not be that affected, and probably though, the better for pausing and enjoying what nature provides.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A house sparrow sits in a patch of grass near a small pool of water in Ho Chunk village in Winnebago, NE Friday Oct. 9 2020, and surrounding area. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Humanity in All in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

28 Nov
A silver back gorilla makes his way in its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some anthropologists and behavioral scientists talk about we humans are close in nature to the primate, maybe even descending from the creatures millions of years ago. Of course folk will debate that scenario until the end of time. But it is fascinating that there are quite similar traits between humans and other creatures. Even if we don’t admit it. And finding that observation in Siouxland just reinforces my notion that all living creatures and interconnected at some point. For good or bad.

On a recent visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE I saw what I believes to be an all too common trait of humans, Children especially, but I have seen a few humans behave this way as well. And it reminded me of the cereal commercial, and the siblings exclaiming, “Mikey likes it!” And with Thanksgiving recently occurring I am sure there were a few sceptical humans wondering if they wanted to try something new at the dinner table.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A silver back gorilla checks out a possible snack left in its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A silver back gorilla eyes a possible snack in its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
When in doubt, a silver back gorilla checks out a possible snack in its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Humans honestly come by their scepticism to food if a “distant” cousin also seems suspicious at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sliver back gorilla decides this snack may not be so bad afterall at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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