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A Snacking Good Time in Siouxland, Sioux City

26 May
A squirrel checks his surroundings as it makes off with a shelled peanut in a backyard at a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have noticed in Siouxland that some backyard guests are always looking for a bite to eat. And one little guy will sit on a fence chattering away, evidently complaining to the concierge that the feeder slots are empty. And by nature, squirrels do what squirrels do. Eat and bury nuts. I have yet to find any stickie notes with locations marked and attached detailing where the stash is buried. And to some extent, I am surprised the nuts are left undisturbed for a period of time and saved for later. But rainy day funds for anyone is a good plan.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A squirrel has that “don’t look at me” expression as it sits on a feeder in a backyard residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A squirrel gets down to business at a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winging It in Siouxland and Just Passing Through, Snyder Bend Park, Woodbury County

24 May
A great blue heron flies over a pond of water at Snyder Bend Park Thursday, April 6, 2023 in rural Woodbury County near Salix Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While out and about in Siouxland looking for critters and migrating birds, I never really know who or what may be a local resident and just out and about, or just passing through on its way to another destination.

I don’t know if I will ever become a serious birder, but I find that I now recognize a few more birds that I previously did. And I only a few thousands (hundreds of thousands?) to go. But photographing them, or at least trying, has been a nice past time and a skill set I still need to work on. A newspaper photo editor once told me I only need one photo to tell a story. I didn’t respond about how many photos I might take to tell that story. Of course, he never asked.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A great blue heron flies over a pond of water at Snyder Bend Park Thursday, April 6, 2023 in rural Woodbury County near Salix Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sharing with Siblings in Siouxland, Stone State Park, Sioux City

22 May
Two juvenile American bald eagles work out perching from the same tree top as another watches from a separate branch above the Big Sioux City River near Stone State Park Sunday, Feb. 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

If one grew up in a family and was not an only child, there were those days when siblings were expected to share. And sometimes I am guessing the same is true in the animal kingdom, even in Siouxland. This past February on a cold day I hiked into an area along the Big Sioux River near Stone State Park. Eagles were congregating there and hanging out until it was time to move along.

And on one particular day, it seemed two related juvenile bald eagles liked sitting on the same branch and in the same place.

Two juvenile American bald eagles work out perching from the same tree top above the Big Sioux City River near Stone State Park Sunday, Feb. 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two juvenile American bald eagles work out perching from the same tree top above the Big Sioux City River near Stone State Park Sunday, Feb. 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Human siblings will exhibit the same behavior, each wanting to occupy space that another might already occupy, or want depending on the circumstances. I find the behavior fascinating while also chilly waiting to see how everything played out. And remember thinking one of them flew to another branch probably only to continue the battle of wills another time and another day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two juvenile American bald eagles work out perching from the same tree top as another lands on a separate branch above the Big Sioux City River near Stone State Park Sunday, Feb. 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The DeMille Close Up in Siouxland, Sioux City

20 May
A Downy Woodpecker looks for insects on the trunk of a maple tree in the backyard of a residence Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Often when I am photographing birds and other critters in Siouxland, I strive to get tight shots when permissible. For one thing, with small birds, they tend to get lost in the foliage of nearby bushes or tree limbs. And when taking their images I think about the movie quote from the Billy Wilder film “Sunset Boulevard” that has most likely bantered about for ages since its original usage.

As noted on the website “shmoop” dot com:

This misquoted line is spoken by Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson, in the film Sunset Boulevard, directed by Billy Wilder (1950).

At the end of Sunset Boulevard, delusional crackpot (i.e., actress) Norma Desmond stalks toward a camera, thinking it’s a movie camera, saying, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” In reality, it’s a news camera and everyone is there because she’s about to be arrested for murder. What a misunderstanding.

Many people misquote the line as “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” It’s a minor mistake that doesn’t change the meaning of the quote. But hey, that’s what we do. We take a close-up look at quotes and find all the flaws. Check yourself before you misquote yourself. “

But in a way, it is true. There are good angles from which to take a person’s or object’s photograph or portrait, and then there is probably a better angle.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Downy Woodpecker looks for insects on the trunk of a maple tree in the backyard of a residence Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Lost in the Weeds in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

10 May
A Lesser Yellowlegs looks for a meal along the shoreline of Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday April 23, 2023 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when trying to photograph wildlife at various parks and preserves in Siouxland I swear they really work at trying to avoid me and my endeavors. A red-headed woodpecker a year or so ago would always land near me and make its call. And just as I raised my lens it would fly off, only to land nearby and start the process over again. I guess on some mornings I was cheap entertainment.

Watching wildlife feed and stalk its food sources is fascinating. And although some of these birds are the same species I have photographed many times before, they still give me a challenge in capturing their movements. Autofocus is great, but sometimes that muscle memory and manual focus is a needed skill. But with age and glasses, technology is still welcomed. And I am happy to utilize focus peaking when manually focusing. Most mirrorless camera bodies now incorporate that feature, which is great for crowded subject fields as well as shooting in low light situations.

Now if I could get that woodpecker to cooperate.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Lesser Yellowlegs looks for food along the shoreline of Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday April 23, 2023 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Lesser Yellowlegs spots something as it looks for food along the shoreline of Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday April 23, 2023 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing the White of the American White Pelican in Siouxland, Brown’s Lake and Snyders Bend in rural Woodbury County

8 May
American White Pelicans at Snyders Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently on an outing in Siouxland at Brown’s Lake and Snyders Bend in rural Woodbury County, a number of American White Pelicans numbering between 100-200 were seen between the two places and bodies of water. Moving in tandem they swarmed and fed together circling areas of water then turning bottoms up while others soared overhead and skimmed the water’s surface, just enjoying a day out as they migrated back to wherever home is.

The pelicans put on quite a show and their graceful agility is pretty amazing to watch. Recently a few numbers can be seen flying about various parts of Siouxland soaring high on the air currents and circling climbing ever higher until they swoop toward the earth only to repeat themselves.

American White Pelicans take off at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Saturday, April 1, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans fly over the water as an egret watches in the background at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Saturday, April 1, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching nature is always fascinating I believe, and away from all the white noise and other distractions that so easily encroach on one’s days and time. It’s just good to get away and birds times appear ready to perform their floor shows while on the road.

American White Pelicans fly in synch at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Saturday, April 1, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans set out to fly over Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I also find it challenging to photograph them depending on the day and environment. The stark whiteness on an especially bright sunny day works well on the water in early morning light but more difficult as the day moves forward. The light skimming the area accentuates the blue water which contrasts nicely with the white bodies. Skyward, not so much. The images taken at Snyders Bend was the same morning as at Brown’s Lake, but the direction of the sun and the movements of the birds were different thus creating totally different types of images as the sun lit the two areas in a much different fashion. But still, capturing the pelicans’ movements and antics was still fun and nice being out in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An American White Pelican makes a landing at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American White Pelican flies along the surface at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American White Pelican skims the water at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans on parade while others enjoy the sunshine amongst the reeds at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans and double-crested cormorants at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans riding the “waves” at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American White Pelican joins friends at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Trumpeter swan flies over two American White Pelicans at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A small duck tries to keep pace with an American white pelican at Snyder Bend Park Thursday, April 6, 2023 in rural Woodbury County near Salix Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An American White Pelican flies overhead at Brown’s Lake in Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Swimming among Diamonds in Siouxland, rural Thurston County, Nebraska

6 May
Swimming in a pond of “diamonds” two Canada geese are silhouetted with backlight shining onto a pond seen Monday, April 17, 2023 seen in rural Thurston County, near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun photographing in Siouxland to watch the “light play” that can occur depending on the time of year, day and whether or not Mother Nature grants a reprieve so the sun shines, and it’s also a clear day.

With the recent wacky weather seen this spring, the Siouxland weather also changes capriciously. And I was glad it was no hallucinations one day when I saw some Canada geese and other waterfowl swimming among diamonds on a pond that I check out from time to time. Rich in the moment of light, if not in wealth, the day just shone a bit brighter.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Blending in, in Siouxland, Omega Wetland Complex, rural Woodbury County, Iowa

4 May
A northern Harrier, center left, flies with a group of waterfowl spooking them at the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when visiting places in and around Siouxland, I find it best to try and blend in at whatever event or place I am visiting in order to photograph various scenes. And I am assuming the same is true in nature as animals do quite a good job fading into their surroundings.

Recently visiting the Owego Wetland Complex with a friend, we watched a Northern Harrier raptor flying over some ducks and Canada geese on the ponds. Eventually the ducks bolted even though they were in some respects the same size or larger than the raptor. And so it was surprising as I was editing my images after that outing to find the Northern Harrier flying in amongst the ducks, maybe sizing them up, or just enjoying itself in creating a little mayhem. No complaints, it just made a more interesting image I didn’t realize until later.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Nature by 2’s in Siouxland, Parks and Recreation Areas, Sioux City, Woodbury County

2 May
Sparrows sit on a branch in the backyard of a residence Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Only after photographing animals outdoors in nature do I sometimes realize symmetry of some of the photographs. In some cases nature happens in twos. I am assuming the pairing of birds is one or the other mate staying nearby while they are out feeding either looking for something or at a backyard feeder.

Two juvenile American bald eagles fly in tandem above the Big Sioux City River near Stone State Park Sunday, Feb. 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American White Pelicans at Snyder’s Bend Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, April 2, 2023 near Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Currently reading a book titled “Slow Birding”, one of the book’s chapters deals with House Wrens and whether or not mates are faithful and how this affects reproduction and the gene pool of the species. And it is amazing to see at what length researchers go to achieve a result without a pre-determined outcome on their part.

House finches snack on seeds fallen from a bird feeder at feeders at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A House Finch eats a seed at a feeder at the visitor’s center in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And it makes sense that humans reflect nature and visa versa from some sort of instinctive intuition for self-preservation, although I often have my doubts about humans because of the terrible things some individuals do to others. But that is a choice, a poor choice by most standards, but a choice nonetheless.

So time spent observing and appreciating nature is more enjoyable that reading about the cruelty the human race just can’t seem to get beyond.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

along the Union Bridge Trail in Correctionville, Iowa Friday March 24, 2023. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Chicks in Siouxland, or Eaglets, rural Woodbury County

30 Apr
American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lately I find myself looking for migrating birds and critters more than exploring new places in Siouxland. This year has been a good year for finding eagles nearby, that is, not having to drive an hour to watch them soar and behave. Some local birders are happy because it seems the eagle population in Iowa is beginning to come back. There was a ban on using lead shot for game hunters since a number of eagles were dying from lead poisoning, by eating and ingesting wounded and later dead game that hunters did not recover and through eating that game the birds then became ill and some died.

So it was by happenstance that I came upon an eagle’s nest I was not aware of in rural Iowa after exploring a nearby wooded grove. And then got even luckier when I spied through a telephoto lens that it appears that two young (baby) eaglets were somewhat undercover of the adult’s body in the nest.

American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of the adults was waiting for the other to return with a fresh food supply. It was a very windy day and it was tough to get a clear photograph of the birds in the nest as the branches get swaying about along with 25-30mph gusts of wind that kept pushing my lens about.

Finally the returning adult brought back some kind of waterfowl as it appeared there were webbed feet hanging from its talons. And there were waterfowl hanging out in a nearby stream.

The little chicks kept peeking above the rim of the nest and the adult seemed to be keeping them in check and also munching on something nearby as it kept pecking on something within the nest. The more time spent outdoors watching and trying to photograph nature the more interesting it becomes. While I don’t fancy myself a great or even good wildlife photographer, the challenge of capturing an image of nature in action makes me a better photographer all around. Anticipating what might occur, if that’s even possible, and then photographing the moment keeps one on your toes waiting for a telling moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American bald eagles are raising young in a nest high atop a lone tree near the Owego Wetland Complex seen Friday, April 7, 2023 in rural Woodbury County, Iowa. Owego was an early settlement now abandoned and comprises of over 1,300 acres of recovered agricultural land. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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