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Driving in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

17 Jan
An afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes I am grateful that I can get out the house and just take a drive in Siouxland during this pandemic. For folk living in a city, that becomes a bit more problematic. It doesn’t take too many minutes or miles to find oneself on a backroad, taking in the sights and just enjoying some peace or in my case, a little jazz.

The moon is seen during an afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I don’t always expect to find anything exciting to photograph while on these excursions. Sometimes I don’t even take any photos. Just like to let the mind wander on its own as I am doing, mulling ideas and thoughts and just enjoying a slow, quiet drive in a place I feel at home in.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An afternoon drive in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (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©)

Doing a 180 in Siouxland, Sioux City

7 Jan
A sunset seen from the outskirts of Sioux City, Iowa Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy the ambiance of the moment. Look one direction and see the day ending. Look another direction and see the night beginning. Life continues forward with brief respites and a chance to just enjoy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A moonrise seen from the outskirts of Sioux City, Iowa Monday, Dec. 28, 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©)

Fall Color in Siouxland, Rural Harrison County

16 Dec
The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As winter inches closer with the shortest day of the year making it official, I will still be lamenting the passing of fall as I do every year. On a nice, crisp fall day, fall colors seem to come alive and appear more vibrant,and a “warmish” sun makes the day more enjoyable in Siouxland, without those driving wind gusts that can easily drop the temperature 10-15 degrees.

The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cruising back country roads and having the time to stop and enjoy the sights is a ritual I enjoy every year. I am happy I have more time these days to enjoy that ritual even though winter puts a hold on driving some back roads. Never pays to get stuck in the country during the winter. But time will pass and that opportunity I hope will avail itself again next year to maybe some new places and revisit others to see what they look like then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Harrison County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Last Days of Fall in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge

4 Dec
Visiting the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While driving about Siouxland I took a trip to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge and got lucky with a warmish day and some remaining fall foliage before the first winter storm came with snow the end of October and removed the color from the park’s landscape. While I enjoyed the color during the visit I noticed not many birds appeared to be migrating through at that time.

Visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The weather has been so wacky this year. Being cold, then warm, then cold again, that the seasons seem a bit out of the norm. I still hope to return and see if any birds are passing through on their way to warmer climates and their winter homes before the landscape is covered in white and the temperatures drop too much.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Drive through rural Siouxland, Harrison County

30 Nov
Sometimes vehicle sunroofs can be beneficial when bird spotting like in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was nice to get out on a recent weekend to drive about rural Iowa in Siouxland without extreme cold or snowy conditions on the backroads and Loess Hills byways. I enjoy driving through the scenic areas skirting the footballs of what is known as the Loess Hills in Iowa that stretches down into the southwest portion of Iowa.

A gravel road traversing the byways in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular stretch of road and the general direction I was headed kept me driving through hilly areas most of which are wooded and will be necessary to check out come next fall. Coming across various rural scenes and sightings was rewarding and fun. I never drive very fast on the backroads allowing drivers with more “pressing matters” the opportunity to go around me as I look for subjects of interest to point my camera at.

Although at first hard to see, two deer find a lunch time meal in a newly harvested corn field in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A rural scene in Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the pace of being in the country really isn’t all that less frenetic as city dwellers, it does give one a chance to pause, look around, enjoy the beauty of the countryside if that appeals to a person. Some folk may find that really, really boring, but for others it is that slice of heaven. Time flies by fast enough until one realizes it has, and wonders how that happened. So slow drives on a weekend may not stop time or even slow it down, but I can personally can make an effort to enjoy it for what it is for myself and forgot about other crazy stuff happening in the world around me for a little while.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spotting an eagle sitting in a tree over a gravel road in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching Seasonal Changes in Siouxland, rural Monona County, Iowa

18 Nov
Two weathered out buildings of a former homestead along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I encourage photography students to revisit places they have previously photographed because there will always be changes. Different time of day, time of year, weather, it all plays a part in an image one wants to create.

And it’s fun to witness the change, plus being out in the country away from all the white noise and just cruising a back road listening to music. I also ask students what is a better way to spend a day, that out photographing. Of course I am biased, but still.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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