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Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

13 Jan

I’m not a very often wildlife kind of photographer. On occasion I will photograph birds when I come upon them and am happy when I get a fairly decent image like one near Winnebago, NE not too long ago.

A raptor takes off from a tree near a snow covered field where bison grazing outside of Winnebago, NE Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©) (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

I recently visited the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge that straddles both Iowa and Nebraska and has communal link which is the Missouri River. My visit happened before the recent nonsense brought on by Washington politicians who always seem to be out of touch with folk in the real world and never seem to care about those affected. They still get paid.

I was testing out a newly acquired lens (to me) to see if I wanted to actually purchase an older manual focus Canon telephoto lens. And I was pleased with the results, and glad the geese I photographed were not moving too quickly.

Geese on open water at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Geese on frozen water at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The refuge is a nice place to visit and hang out, even if one is not photographing migratory birds, but just wanting to enjoy the quiet and what the refuge has to offer which I learned about from a previous visit. And some of the history that is associated with the area during the expansion west.

But I wanted to see if the lens still retained its sharpness even on an overcast day with created its own mood with the birds and even though it was chilly or rather cold, still a nice way to spend a day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Geese on open water at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Geese on frozen water at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Geese walking on frozen water at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Understanding Nature in Siouxland, Buena Vista University, Storm Lake

9 Jan

Many times I have visited the community of Storm Lake where Buena Vista University is located. It’s a nice looking campus, situated near a lake and a city park and contains many interesting elements in and of itself. One place on campus I have not checked out what a science center.

Natural science items on display in the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An Alaskan brown bear on display in the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Students learn science by doing according to online information. I was surprised by the number of stuffed animals on display, as well as a few skeletal remains exhibited too. Walking by classrooms and viewing the taxidermy students seemed very engaged in their learning process. And seeing items posted in a hallway it seems students get a chance to put their theory into practice. Posted photos showed students in the field learning and performing field tasks.

The skeletal remains of a white rhinoceros on display in the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A variety of animal busts on display in the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I personally love education. There is all sorts to be had, not all of which requires an extended amount of time studying in institutions of higher learning. But my own college education was something I still draw from to this day. The experiences, people, both student and instructor and for the first time using my noodle to decipher and understand a much larger world around me than I could even imagine growing up at home. While I might not have directly used my higher education in pursuit of my career, its foundation and learning the ability to critically think and understand and improve my comprehension of various matters have helped me immensely as I have traveled through life. And I also find that even though my collegiate years are decades behind me, I am still learning and striving to critically assess and understand life events that unfold around me and help inform me to better understand the world I am living in.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The skeletal remains of an African elephant on display in the Estelle Siebens Science Center at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Nature in Siouxland, Table Marsh Wildlife area

5 Jan

A beaver hut is seen in theTable Marsh Wildlife Area in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy spending time outdoors in nature in Siouxland, preferably in more agreeable weather that is not too hot nor too cold. Maybe I’m just picky. But the quiet, sometimes solitude and the chance to breathe fresher air can be restorative.

A wetland area, Table Marsh Wildlife is located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

a lone bird soars over the Table Marsh Wildlife located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are a number of areas around the Woodbury County and other places near where I live. I don’t always think about visiting them on specific days, or for that matter, most times at all. Sometimes when I see a sign on my way to someplace I am reminded I need to stop in there and check it out or revisit it. So my trips are not timed to capture a specific migrating bird or other creatures, but more out of curiosity of what is there, what does it look like and what might I find here and now in the present.

A sketchy dirt road leads to the wetland area, Table Marsh Wildlife, located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

an old bridge makes passage over part of the Table Marsh Wildlife is located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A wetland area, Table Marsh Wildlife is located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But at that moment in time, everything stops for me, I don’t hear the sound of traffic, the chatter of other folk or anything that one might find intrusive in such an area other than birds calling or the blowing wind rustling tall grass. It’s just a moment in time to savor for what it is, before the next moment moves one forward to another place.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A couple of geese fly over the Table Marsh Wildlife located in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing the Forest’s Trees near Siouxland, Fontenelle Forest

1 Jan

During a recent excursion down into Nebraska I visited the Fontenelle Forest located in Bellevue, NE and couldn’t believe such a place existed within a city.

The visitor center contains a wealth of information before checking out the trails at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Fontenelle Forest is an ongoing project in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The visitors’ center has a wealth of information and exhibits on display and is a nice place to just sit and watch the outdoors from an enclosed area. But the network of extensive board walks was really very nice helping a person traverse a large area and enabling one to see more of the park.

Miles of boardwalk allow easy access to see various areas at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Miles of boardwalk allow easy access to see various areas at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Boarded walks head out in a myriad of directions for easy access in Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Their was also convenient benches along the way that allows one to sit and just enjoy the quiet and nature’s sounds or view the surrounding area at one’s leisure.

Convenient seating along a boardwalk is available to visitors to sit and enjoy the views a while, such as the Missouri River at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While walking about I found signage that informed me about the park and certain aspects of what inhabits the area. Talking to another visitor who was carrying a camera with a long lens and a monopod, he mentioned that a few weeks earlier during a migration period a particular species of bird (of which I have forgotten) had to stay grounded because of wet weather passing through interrupting its migration south, and he said there were so many that it was impossible not to photograph them within an arm’s length.

Signage helps explain to visitors various aspects of the park so one is more informed about the area when visiting Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Signage along the paths help inform visitors what they might see in the immediate area at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The day I was out there were families walking about enjoying themselves, trying to outdo one another in spotting birds they recognized.

A family stops to enjoy a view at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Paths make their way up and down the hillsides in Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And from the board walks steps descending into valleys brought one to more trails and other delights making wandering around the park a pleasant and almost timeless visit, time slipping by without realizing it had. Some days should be so carefree and unencumbered. Nature, the outdoors and a peaceful place to enjoy it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Acres of forested land can be accessed at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sunshine and a few lingering leaves makes the Fontenelle Forest sparkle in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Some interesting trails with starts and stops at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding bits of History in Siouxland, Smithland

28 Dec

Blossoming trees at the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like stumbling upon a bit of history when driving about Siouxland. That happened to me a couple of years ago when visiting the Fowler Preserve in Woodbury County near Smithland. Trees and other fauna was just beginning to bloom. There are a couple of trails there that take one to the top of a hill where you can get a view of the surrounding area and to rest a bit as you make your way of the hillside.

Benches are sprinkled throughout the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Besides some normal accoutrements in parks like open space and picnic tables, I came across a large rock with a plaque. It made note of the fact that for 20 years, from 1856 to 1876, a stage coach trail passed through the area from Smithland to Sioux City. That century’s mass transportation which allowed small groups of people to get from one point to another on the western frontier without having to purchase their own horse, or wagon, or whatever might be available, until the railroads allowed even larger groups of people to move about. I was struck with awe the idea of standing someplace that 2 centuries earlier I could have spied the coach and its passengers making their way to a new place, seeing history unfold as people moved West, not knowing what to expect but hoping for a different, if not better life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of a picnic area at the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A stagecoach trail passed through the Fowler Preserve from the mid 1850’s to late the 1870’s near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

(Click image for larger view.)

Man and Nature in Siouxland, Buena Vista University, Storm Lake

24 Dec

I always like seeing objects in juxtaposition to one another and how, mostly differences, can stand out if one takes the time to notice. During a trip to Buena Vista University in Storm Lake I was admiring one of the campus buildings and its sleek modern glass and steel look. Situated within an area of trees that were turning color.

Seeing the contrast between nature and a building of glass and steel, the Estelle Siebens Science Center, at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Man’s relationship with nature is a complicated one. At least it seems to have become that way. Some folk just want to strip nature bare and reap whatever profits are there for the taking without being good land stewards and without much thought, leaving that heavy lifting to someone else. In some places planners seemed to realize the two need to work in harmony and attempt to make that happen. Whether it is successful or not depends on who is viewing and if they are paying any attention. Either from the outside looking in, or the inside looking out.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Nature outside, maybe looking in the glass and steel building on the campus of the Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Changing Weather in Siouxland, Watch out for crossing deer, Iowa

22 Dec

Within a course of a few days the weather in the Siouxland area has changed, but still remains coolish. A recent storm has partially melted away, at least on the roadways, so one day it was snowy looking with a touch of hoar frost.

Snow covered trees and grounds at a rest stop near Missiouri Valley, Iowa Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And then it was brown. And without the lack of snow I might have missed someone’s bit of humor retouching a deer crossing sign reflecting the Christmas season. As least in this stretch of Siouxland Rudolf and Santa’s team will be safe.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An anonymous person shares their Christmas cheer by afixing a deer crossing road sign with a red dot on the nose on Hwy 12 near Sioux City, Iowa where Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer may cross the road, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

(Click on image for a larger view.)

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