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A Quiet Day in Siouxland Outdoors, Hitchcock Nature Center

5 Apr
A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There were a few days during the winter months in Siouxland that were nice enough, that is warmer, to get out and enjoy the sunshine and not freeze any extremities or other body parts off and still enjoy the day. Hitchcock Nature Center is always one such place to visit, even if it’s not an ideal time of year.

A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The park as expected was still brown tones and no leaves on the trees, but the sparseness and sunlight helped create possible images. Still, during what seemed like a forever, never ending winter in January with February still to come, it was nice to be able to spend some time outdoors, enjoying what nature there was making one look forward to spring in the hopefully not to distant future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The boardwalk can be seen from the center’s watch tower on a cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes Caution is Good when Making Friends in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

3 Apr
A crow and an eagle look in the same direction while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When the larger than normal, apparently, bald eagle population passed through Siouxland recently on their migratory trip, some other birds seemed intent on meeting them. It was fascinating to watch, but gave me a little trepidation as all were vying for “eats” on the ice covered oxbow at Snyder Bend Park.

A crow squawks at an eagle while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching a crow squawk at the larger bird of prey gave me an uneasy feeling. Bashful this one particular bird was not. And all ended well, as each decided to move on. But while watching, I wondered what was going to happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A crow takes off under an eagle while looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a Hike in Siouxland, Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve, Council Bluffs

1 Apr
Climbing a steep hill to enjoy the view at the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes enjoying areas in Siouxland requires a little exertion, especially when walking uphill to take in the views. On a coolish January day with 20mph wind gusts, the going gets tough and the intrepid just want to find a warm coffee shop and enjoy the brew.

The Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve offers nice views of the surrounding area is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Steep hills were overcome to enjoy the view of neighboring Omaha, NE seen from the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve encompasses 35 acres, and a trail runs along a ridge and in warmer, less windy conditions it might be a nice half day hike to enjoy.

Early spring and again fall might have been a better time to explore this area, but sometimes one does what one can at the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A trail runs along the ridge where one can stop to enjoy the view from the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A ridge trail at the top of the Vincent Bluff Nature Preserve gives one good views of the surrounding area seen from Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Oddity in Siouxland, rural South Dakota

26 Mar
A tree grows out of a silo near a barn off of Highway 4 in South Dakota not far from Akron, Iowa Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun when driving around Siouxland to come across what one might think of as an oddity of nature. When driving in rural South Dakota just over the Iowa border coming across a tree growing out of a silo made me think of a very large potted plant.

A tree grows out of a silo near a barn off of Highway 4 in South Dakota not far from Akron, Iowa Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Somehow I am doubtful that a farmer planted this tree in the silo and possibly was as surprised as his/her neighbors when it finally topped the structure. I had to admit it did put a bit of a smile on my face when I saw it from a distance and then decided to drive a bit closer to see if it was real or not. Somehow I think it would make a great decorated Christmas ornament, but won’t hold my breath to see if the owner thinks that as well. But it does make a great country scene.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A barn off of a gravel road near Highway 4 in South Dakota not far from Akron, Iowa Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A tree grows out of a silo near a barn off of Highway 4 in South Dakota not far from Akron, Iowa Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Unusual in Siouxland, Eagles at Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

18 Mar
Two eagles sit on ice eating fish in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This passing year and the beginning of this year has seen some unusual events in Siouxland, as they have in other parts of the nation as well. One of those happenings is the migrating birds passing through the area. Listening to folk who follow such explain because of recent weather patterns the birds that normally pass through the Siouxland area, generally one species following another, are occurring within the same time frame. And in some places, in greater abundance than previously seen.

It’s been reported that between 100-150 bald eagles visited Snyder Bend Park for a few days and some are still there, prompting curiosity for some visitors and local birders to get out and take a look. In addition to the eagles other waterfowl are also passing through during their spring migration.

Local birders visit Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021 looking for various bird species passing through on their yearly migration. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Canada geese fly through a wetland area of Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ring-billed gulls stop on their migratory journey at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the most fascinating part of visiting the park were the amount of eagles that stopped and hung out. When visiting the first time I saw an email of a friend reporting what other birders in the area had seen. The water in the oxbow area of the park was mostly still frozen, and the bald eagles were feasting on dead fish caught in the ice or floating as the ice melted. A few days of warmer than usual temperatures led to more ice melting and more dead fish floating to the shoreline. Last year the Siouxland area received less than normal rainfall which led to lower water levels in many bodies of water, and for some, it then became difficult to sustain the fish or aquatic life normally there, which made it easier pickings for the traveling eagles on their journey north.

A number of bald eagles sit on ice eating fish at an iinlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple of ring-billed gulls walk among eaten fish bodies as they look for food while nearby a number of bald eagles are also on the ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Dead fish line the bank of the oxbow at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a year of lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus getting outdoors to enjoy nature is appealing to a lot of people. Fresh air, despite the sometimes colder than normal temperatures, is always rewarding in and of itself. But add to that the chance to see a enormous migration of birds because of the unusual temperature fluctuations this year has just made it more rewarding.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A hiker makes his way across the oxbow to get a closer look at eagles on that side of the water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of bald eagles roost in a tree across the oxbow pond at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two bald eagles feast on dead fish as a couple of ring-billed gulls fly in either direction to steer clear of them at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A redwing blackbird calls out from its perch on a grass stem at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of eagles sit on ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A crow calls out while sitting on the ice where dead fish can be found at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese fly over the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Pelicans fly to another part of the oxbow inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese come in for a landing at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring Slowly Arrives in Siouxland, Sioux City

14 Mar
Another starling looks to join a crowd of birds around the top of a chimney for warmth Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. While temperatures today are above zero compared to the last few days and evenings of -20 degrees weather, birds are still looking for warmer days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As spring slowly gets to Siouxland and other parts of the country, the lingering cold is still a reminder of the winter that was this year. Recently temperatures have been in the 50’s and 60’s, but cooler temps are predicted and the previous 14 days of below freezing temperatures in February, many approaching -40 degrees with wind chill was tough to deal with.

Birds in the area looked for warmth where they could find it, trying to crowd in to a space that would help them survive, even if it was in the open. Time will tell if spring is really come to stay, or just toying with everyone hopeful for warmer and sunnier days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Starlings crowd around the top of a chimney for warmth Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. While temperatures today are above zero compared to the last few days and evenings of -20 degrees weather, birds are still looking for warmer days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Meeting Strangers in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

12 Mar
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when meeting “strangers” when out and about in Siouxland they can be a little shy. Especially the feathered ones. Sometimes it’s good to have a telephoto lens when out doing nature photography.

A bald eagle watches from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently a number of bald eagles have gathered at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County taking advantage of fish they have found in a small inlet at the park which is located near the Missouri River. One friend estimated at a minimum 100 or more bald eagles congregating there as they journey to Minnesota suggested another friend. It is amazing to see these creatures. But evidently I was not someone this guy wanted to meet.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flying to the Moon in Siouxland, Hitchock Nature Center and Sioux City

6 Mar
Moon rise in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I’ve never been one who has studied astronomy or other aspects of planetary science. I just enjoy looking skyward in Siouxland and seeing the moon or other planets that I can identify with the naked eye. Being a little older it always reminds me of “Ralph Cramden” of the show “The Honeymooners” and his favorite reframe when taxed by his always sweet wife. Or of the Board Chairman singing about an adventure of love.

Moon rise in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s an object in the sky sits out of reach to most mortals and allows one’s imagination to roam inspiring folk like Jules Verne and others to pen journeys to far away destinations. Journeys in men’s and women’s minds that still exists today with a renewed interest for whatever reason to travel, while many of us just gaze skyward and enjoy a view of an earthly companion.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The moon and a jet trail appear during a cool January day at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Selecting a Subject in Siouxland, rural Iowa and Nebraska

2 Mar
A lone leaf, left behind at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Setting out with a purpose when photographing is always a good course to take when time is limited and the destination known. But it doesn’t always work out that way. In a free wheeling photo course I offer at a local community college I take the “students” to various locations I have previously visited and share with them a place in which to become familiar and find photographic opportunities.

Finding a perfect photographic subject at Preparation Canyon State Forest Overlook north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes depending on the place and subject matter it can be challenging to different students at different times with different interests. Hence the purpose of the class in being prepared to change one’s photographic perception whether for class or a vacation or whatever the occasion. Circumstances change and one should be ready to pivot with those changes which may bring opportunity or not.

Greeted by a subject at the No Toll Troll Stroll park in Oakland, NE Saturday, October 31, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having worked for a few smaller newspapers I always enjoyed getting out and photographing and learned that my preconception of what I might encounter may not always hold true to what I found Thinking on one’s feet is probably a good way of putting it. Seeing the opportunity to photograph something as opposed to photographing what one might think is possible when getting to a destination. One never left a newspaper assignment without having something “usable”. I had a few editors “disappointed” because I didn’t come back with the photograph of what they imagined in their mind. And never mind that what they imagined may not have existed except for in their own head, one just has to be open to the opportunity of what is, rather than be disappointed with what is not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding some color on a fall day at Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning about Mythology in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

28 Feb
The face of at large gnome in the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” which recounts various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it worthwhile as I travel about Siouxland to learn. About places, history, and other sundries of life. It was a pleasant surprise to see mythology on display at the Laurtizen Gardens in Omaha, NE, and done in such a creative way.

A walk through a fantastical fairy land at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE.

The Gardens touched on various mythological creatures from different parts of the world and ended with a walk through a magical and inventive use of plants in its display of some of these creatures.

The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Information about various mythologies shown at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a cold day it was a pleasant way to spend time indoors learning in a fun setting and enjoying someone’s imagination. Since “timed entries” are required it was an uncrowded environment to explore.

Families look over an exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens which creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A display about world mythologies seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the coronavirus limiting various aspects of life, it’s nice to see some places behaving responsibly and giving people a chance to get out and take in a little “art” and enjoy a little time away from home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.With the umbrellas one could almost imagine Mary Poppins dropping in for a visit. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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