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Shhhhhh! Don’t Wake the Babies in Siouxland, Sioux City

4 Sep

Baby house sparrows call out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I’ve noticed some noisy neighbors recently in the area and it has been a bit fun to watch and mostly listen to the little guys/gals as mom or dad flies to and fro feeding them. But I can’t figure out how all three of the baby sparrows plus an adult fit into the birdhouse.

An adult house sparrow has a mouth full of food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult house sparrow has a mouth full of food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Baby house sparrows go quiet calling out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And I imagine at some point the little dears will be ready to fly off and just hope they make it on their life’s journey. Other neighbors, furry ones, hear the cries of “feed me” and watch longingly from afar, possibly thinking of their own meal.

Nature is what it is. But one hopes like with all living beings they get a chance, but sometimes it sees chance can be a good or bad encounter.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Baby house sparrows call out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult house sparrow looks about before flying to a feeder for another batch of baby food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting Nature in Siouxland, Frost Wilderness Wildlife Area, Vermillion, SD

2 Sep

A Cedar Waxwing sits on a branch at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like visiting new areas outdoors that I haven’t been to or seen yet. Although I have been to Frost Wilderness wildlife management area previously, I just didn’t know it. When previously visiting, there wasn’t any signage and this time I also found another entry that lets a visitor get a bit closer to the Missouri River that separates South Dakota and Nebraska. Plus I got to photograph a bird I have seen fleetingly but never long enough to make an image. Those Cedar Waxwings can be quick little birds, and prefer staying within the shelter of their surrounding trees. This time though one of them made me feel at home while other species also checked me out.

A Cedar Waxwing eyes a visitor from a branch at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle takes another pass overhead looking at a visitor and if it would be of any interest to it at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Orchard Oriole sits atop a tree at Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Orchard Orioles sit atop a tree at Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular wildlife area has mowed pathways which made walking much easier. And as one near the border between the two states another turnout with a pass through gate makes it easy to access the river and surrounding area. One thing though, the area appears managed more for the avid hunter than it does for the hiker and bird enthusiast. Signs are posted about the hunting availability and I would be shy to go walking early morning in the area looking for species as a visit a year or two ago I heard a very loud shot not more than 100-200 yards away. It wasn’t a shotgun, but a more robust type of rifle. Myself and some students with me made a quick beeline to our parked cars. Bullets have a way of traveling where not directed and sometimes folk don’t look beyond their target to see what lies beyond as the intent of bring down an animal occupies the senses.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird looks about a meadow at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American White Pelicans sit on a sandbar across the Missouri River at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Informational signage about the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trail markings signage at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Passing Moment in Siouxland Watching Nature, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

31 Aug

A redheaded woodpecker checks out who is also visiting the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I am out in Siouxland visiting various wildlife refuges my encounters with nature and the creatures is sometimes very fleeting. Many birds are very coy about strangers and visitors who happen upon the creature’s neck of the woods. Whether walking a trail or grassy meadow, the feathered friends take note and then seem to vanish. A blink of an eye is almost a lifetime while trying to photograph them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Redheaded woodpecker eyeballs a visitor at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Moments later a Redheaded woodpecker plays coy and ignores a visitor at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Redheaded woodpecker launches itself from its perch at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Displaying some interesting aero dynamics a Redheaded woodpecker leaves its perch at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Redheaded woodpecker leaves its perch upon a post at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Summer’s Day Birding, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve, Westfield

11 Aug

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living in Siouxland for some is a bit of luxury in that the rural area has a number of places that “birders”, such as members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society, can get together and enjoy their common interest in finding and recording the feathered creatures that inhabit Siouxland, as well as those passing through during a migratory flight depending on the season.

And sometimes I am lucky to go along with the folk and explore a new area or revisit one I had forgotten about. Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve is a large acreage in Siouxland that contains the largest remaining prairie native to Iowa, along with a couple hundred bison that roam the preserve. The birders this day were driving the rim of the preserve and looking for whatever creatures they might find and recording their finds later on their website.

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A member of the Loess Hills Audubon Society takes a photo of scene while birding off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For me as always, it’s more about the photography and documenting what occurs, a practice I can’t seem to shake after working for small daily newspapers and weeklies for 3 decades. I enjoy watching people enjoy their passion and taking the time to pursue it, even on what turned out to be. muggy kind of morning and more so as the day wore on. But once out and searching one can forget the discomfort of the weather in trying to find those elusive little feathered neighbors. The birders recognize the bird song, of which some I do, but not near enough, and it’s probably time for me to download one of the many bird apps to use to know what bird is singing while outdoors.

A lonely fence post seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of several bison grazing on a hilltop off at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wildflowers seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I can easily get sidetracked while out as I see various visuals come into view. But it’s always fun, and a little morning walk after a couple cups of coffee preps one, and of course, thinking about lunch later. I am learning through friends how a day might be planned and I must admit, the planning around fun activities and eating always sounds like a good day to me.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A wooden bench allows visitors a place to sit and watch and listen at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve off of Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Floor Show in Siouxland, De Soto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

29 Jul

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when I head out to photograph I might have a destination in mind. One particular day I headed down to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley. The refuge encompasses area in both Iowa and Nebraska (Boyer Chute National Wildlife Area) along the Missouri River. Depending on the time of year I expect to find some wildlife. Mainly birds during the spring and fall migration periods. Hopefully eagles and then shore birds and ducks and geese.

This particular day it was a cool morning only to heat up later so I thought why not go for a drive and hope for the best. Driving into the refuge I saw a juvenile eagle fly overhead and a couple of other birds, but there was not many species showing.

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I drove to a large “blind” area set up by the federal parks folk which happens to be across the river from a perennial eagles nest. I parked walked to the blind and then pleasantly surprised to find three Great Blue Herons feeding along the shoreline. I am just happy to see wildlife, and happier still to be able to photograph them within a reasonable distance. I was not prepared though to find one bird unhappy another was walking into its shoreline feeding area and so the dance began. Since I was concentrating shooting only one bird at a time I was not shooting wide enough when the two began to engage. Shooting through a blind opening with a long lens and not having one’s hand on the zoom ring is not good camera practice. Oh well.

It was enough though to enjoy seeing something I had never witnessed and still being able to make a few frames showing the birds’ dancing. Done in a manner of seconds, they parted and just started feeding again.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out with Friends in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

21 Jul

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are some days in Siouxland I like hanging out with friends, maybe going on a photo safari and seeing what types of images we can find. And I am certain that is true for animals as well. At the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, there are a couple of burros and sheep which pasture together at the preserve. They can generally be found in the same vicinity of one another of which I don’t particularly pay close attention. But recently, while photographing the group in the pasture I took note of another critter hanging out as well.

A birder friend informed me that cowbirds will often accompany larger animals and feed on flies and parasites that might normally afflict the four-footed beasts. And so it get a comfy cushioned seat while munching at the same time. Reminds me of some human couch potatoes I have known along life’s journey. It’s nice to have friends.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Little “Mourning Dove” Pick Me Up in Siouxland, Sioux City

15 Jul

Mourning Dove perches in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday May 14, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During a current hot spell in Siouxland I might poke my head out my door in the morning to see what the weather is like and sometimes sit outside enjoying the bird song as backyard visitors stop by for a snack or a meal. But these days the afternoons are insufferable with the heat and humidity so I don’t sit out there watching my “guests” come and go. I have to refill the feeders so I know they are still stopping by and am glad of it. Hoping for a cool weather interlude, if only for a day or so to start the morning with some fresh air before hibernating from the heat that surely will follow.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two Mourning Doves perch in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday May 14, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Knock, Knock, Knocking on the Door in Siouxland, Sioux City

13 Jul

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many mornings when it’s pleasant enough to sit outside in the morning to enjoy that first “cup of Joe” in Siouxland I will hear a familiar reframe. Knock, knock, knock, knock in a staccato kind of fashion. And then see the visitor looking for a more reliable treat after checking the usual spots for insects. Nothing wrong with a little desert.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographing the Best Side in Siouxland, Sioux City

29 Jun

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the recent heat wave and high temperatures I haven’t been sitting outside much to watch my backyard friends in Siouxland. Although I keep them fed and watered and really early on those mornings when the temps are hovering in the 60’s I sit outside listening to bird song before the temperature spike to the 90’s as the day wears on.

It’s just fun to watch these creatures, some of which I think are conscious of being watched as they appear to keep checking and posing, which I guess is my cue to only capture their best side, the famous quote mentions, “Ready for my close up, Mr DeMille.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Managing the Heatwave in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

27 Jun

A couple of Canada geese enjoy a sunshine day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life in Siouxland has been heating up as it were. Like most of the country it seems the heat has settled for a few days with only intermittent rain showers to cool things down. On those days I wistfully think back to brisk walks I have taken outdoors, mostly at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve looking for critters and enjoying the time when I get back home and I put some coffee on to sit down with and enjoy the warmth.

Oh we humans are a fickle lot.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canada geese find some open water on an iced over Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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