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Visiting the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari ParkVisiting near Siouxland, Ashland, NE

4 Jan
An elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In the coming new year, this year, I hope to get out to more parks and preserves and view some majestic animals, whether cared for in facilities or in nature itself. Sometimes plans don’t always go as one might like, but it’s a nice goal to have. Seeing these animals up close is special in a way as many can not make or afford the trip to the mountains or other locales for a 2-3 week hunt for such creatures, whether here in the U.S. or other international locales.

An older looking bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An older bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing animals up close sometimes hopefully gives one a better appreciation of how precious they are, better seen alive and in person than on some trophy wall adorning some narcissistic individual’s need to gloat or feel superior in some superficial way. I sometimes wonder if fortunes were reversed and these individuals were put onto the same “playing fields” as the creatures with only their hands, arms and legs would they fare any better from the creatures around them. A terrible thought, but maybe a lesson.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

“Seeing” History, kind of, near Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

2 Jan
Fans of the historical television drama Downton Abbey visit an exhibit of costumes at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I admit that I am a fan of history, visual and book, and recently the chance to see the costuming of the popular TV series Downton Abbey on PBS on display just south of Siouxland proper in Omaha, NE at the Durham Museum was a delightful trip. During those colder periods in the fall and winter it is nice to have some place to visit and check out if one is experiencing a bit of cabin fever.

Downton Abbey exhibit at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of fans of the television historical drama Downton Abbey visited the exhibit seeing various costumes worn by the show’s characters at an exhibit at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I was pleasantly surprised and a bit amazed at the number of fans and interested museum visitors and through a bit of eavesdropping hearing the excitement of some fans opportunity to see the costuming used for the show up close and a chance to “relive” the small screen experience up close and personal as they watched these “historical” lives enter their homes and imbue a historical aspect of a century or two ago.

A study in fashion during a wispy of Downton Abbey costumes exhibit at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Gowns worn by women actors of Downton Abbey on display at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Downton Abbey costumes on display at an exhibit at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seemingly today’s “elite” class, the rich or wanting to be rich, exude their authority through dress as well, whether they are moneyed people, celebrities, politicians, etc. Evidently some things do not change over time. And it’s interesting to view history through iconic types of imagery, like fashion. Looking no further than instagram or twitter or whatever popular social media is available for people to share their “status”. Wanting to be seen as special, rich or famous for whatever reasons is as old as mankind.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Close up look of the embroidery for a Downton Abbey period costume at the exhibit at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Period set scene helps show off costumes used in the Downton Abbey television series at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Supporters of the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An exhibit of costumes worn by characters in the historical television drama Downton Abbey on display at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating Christmas in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

29 Dec
People pose for a family snap shot in front of the Christmas tree at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating Christmas in and around Siouxland is always fun to experience. I have attended a variety of Christmas celebrations in small towns held by communities throughout the years. And since Siuoxland is comprised of three different states, it’s been fun attending Christmas celebrations in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

In recent years I have had work commitments which have curtailed my opportunity to visit various communities and the celebrations each hold ringing in the the Christmas holiday. Which is okay, work helps fund those other explorations of Siouxland when time permits and at some point I might be able to attend some of these again. Almost too many it seems to be able to post, but am happy so many communities and residents celebrate Christmas in one way or another.

A display of Christmas trees celebrating various cultures seen at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Christmas tree at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas time is for rejoicing and celebrating and it’s always nice that it is possible to get out and attend the various activities that are available. Lucky this country is not experiencing the woes and ills that other nations currently are. For all of the problems in the world, it would be nice for the mean ones to take a break from being mean and let people celebrate the season in peace.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A group of friends admire the Christmas tree at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Various forms of entertainment takes place leading up to Christmas Day at the Durham Museum Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Thinking Warm Thoughts in Siouxland, Loess Hills Audubon Society, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

21 Dec
Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count started recently here in Siouxland and elsewhere and runs from Dec. 14, 2022 through Jan. 5, 2023. People from throughout the U.S. will go out and record what species they find and share that for the organization’s data base and ongoing tracking of bird movement. With colder temperatures descending into the Siouxland region expected soon it will be a far cry when members of the Loess Hills Audubon group took a bird walk about Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in August of this year. Short sleeve shirts, shorts and some with sandals, that won’t be the attire needed to walk about and look this winter.

A swallowtail butterfly seen while Loess Hills Audubon club members were out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A song bird seen while Loess Hills Audubon club members were out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A song bird nestled in a cedar tree spotted by members of the Loess Hills Audubon club out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Connecticut chapter of the Audubon Society the Christmas bird count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. And because of the time of year, different species will be found in different places. I have attended some winter bird counts in the past hosted by the local Loess Hills Audubon Society and the folk are very dedicated in looking and finding species that will help educate humans about this particular animal kingdom.

I have just not been keen on those very cold, cold mornings and rising before the sun to get out and look for the birds. For me it’s always about photographing what is at hand, and shooting in the dark has its own challenges.

I haven’t decided yet if I want to make another attempt this year or not in getting back out into the cold, all the while thinking about those spring, summer and early fall expeditions looking for birds and enjoying those warmer temperatures. Although I always dress appropriately and don’t really feel the cold, getting over the inertia to get out of bed is it’s own challenge. I just enjoy my coffee later in the morning all the more.

Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Loess Hills Audubon club members out birding prior to the start of the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But looking for birds and trying to photograph them is always run, no matter the time of day or wind chill degree. It makes more a good story later on.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Residents of Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve make their way back to the barn in preparation for visitors during the 25th anniversary of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A painted turtle enjoying a morning sun basking at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve celebration in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas Light Display in Siouxland, Winnebago, NE

19 Dec
Christmas lights on display at the statue garden Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2022 in Winnebago, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the Christmas holiday season many people put up Christmas light displays throughout the Siouxland region, as do others through the U.S. and the world. It’s fun to see the displays and enjoy the festive lights cheering up dark nights.

And sometimes those displays juxtapose themselves with nature that adds another dimension to the idea of a light display and makes a photographer feel lucky to capture such an image. During this time of year the blue hour is within a very short window of time. And trying to balance man-made lights with nature is not always easy. Seeing the moon rising brightly I was still a bit late in capturing it with a dark blue night sky. But I still enjoyed the light display and fun imagery it produced.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the Holiday Spirit in Siouxland, Christmas Decorations, Gene Leahy Mall, Omaha, NE

9 Dec
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With Thanksgiving past along with Black Friday, the Christmas holiday is beginning and many places are already decorating for the upcoming day. Recently I visited a newly renovated park in Omaha, NE, the Gene Leahy Mall. Formerly the place had a few lagoons, but those have been filled in with new landscaping and different design and now sports and Christmas decorations and other accoutrements for the upcoming holiday.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The park is much more family friendly these days with many folk coming out to view the decorations and take photos, either by themselves or with a professional photographer in tow to capture this year’s memories to cherish later. And the magical effect of the decorations as the sun began to set made the area almost magical.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors enter the Gene Leahy Mall Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And it’s always challenging to photograph the fading light and the Christmas light together, trying to find that fight balance of ambient and artificial light to create a photo that has a little impact and hopefully catches a viewer’s eye.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing History in Ruins in Siouxland, Tekamah, NE

3 Dec
An old railroad passenger car far beyond beyond its expiration date is seen in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I travel about Siouxland my imagination sometimes wanders and I wonder what life was life before my time in the area. On an outing with another photographer we happened upon an old passenger train rail car in Tekamah, NE. The rail car has seen better days and I wonder what rail line it covered and when and where did it transport people in an earlier era. Speculation as to its current location made us think that maybe someone had found the rail car, moved it to this location for possible later use say for a museum or some such thing. But time has taken its toll and now only the rail car knows what its former glory days were like and who traveled the rails in it possibly searching for a new beginning or visiting a past one. All I can speculate is that its history is now firmly in the past.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An old railroad passenger car far beyond beyond its expiration date is seen in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s All in the Technique in Siouxland, rural Thurston County, Winnebago, NE

27 Nov

A Great Blue Heron takes off from a pond in rural Thurston County, Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Thursday, July 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When out driving around in Siouxland I will at times come across wildlife and then feel fortunate that I could take some photos of them “au natural”. Just watching them and seeing how they behave and go about their daily lives always leaves me feeling amazed. Most of the birds I have photographed show such amazing grace, although it may not be true, it appears that way. Personally I am not “fleet of foot” or graceful, and so it’s a joy to watch and wonder and be amazed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Great Blue Heron lands on a partially submerged tree branch in a pond in rural Thurston County, Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Thursday, July 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Great Blue Heron perches on a tree branch in a pond near Winnebago, NE Monday, August 29, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a “Rust”ic adventure in Siouxland, Tekamah, NE

17 Nov

Rusted roofs of sheds near a grain elevator in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes simple is best. During a recent outing in Siouxland and driving a backroad on a return trip from Omaha, NE, I came across some buildings that had seen better days while on a photo safari with a fellow photographer. Sometimes when I see something, one aspect of a possible image just “speaks to me” and I then must work hard to slow down and photograph other possibilities. The other photographer had spotted a grain elevator off the beaten path as we drove through Tekamah and so ventured up toward that area. I was fascinated by another building at first and made number of images of it and some other objects but then drifted back to a couple of sheds. In humans, the “stains” and aged marks would give a person a worn, weathered look, maybe good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. But the buildings made me thing of similar places I had seen as a child growing up on a farm in a smaller community. Maybe not having that distinguished look of a stone structure in a big city of a courthouse or library, but the two sheds were humble in their appearance and the work they seen taken place under their eaves.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A detail image of a grain elevator in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Location, Location, Location near Siouxland, Lee Simmons Wildlife Park, Ashland, NE

15 Nov

A turtle suns itself on a rock at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when looking for a nice spot to sun oneself, it all comes down to where one happens to be. While visiting the Lee Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari outside of Siouxland proper, I noticed different turtles within the park all having varying degrees of luck of where they were catching some sunshine during my visit. When I was younger and would visit a beach, it was a fun day, but I am not a big fan of having sand all over me. I just find it unpleasant. But am guessing sometimes a tortoise doesn’t have an option and goes with the flow, enjoying a moment or several out of the water as best it can.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A turtle suns itself on a log at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A turtle suns itself in a pond filled with scum at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 near Ashland, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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