Archive | outdoors RSS feed for this section

A Snack on a Cold Winter’s Day in Siouxland, Sioux City

7 Feb
A house sparrow eats a sunflower seed it found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently the Siouxland area had another snow storm. This one dropping anywhere between 4-12 inches depending on where lucky souls happened to reside throughout the region. I felt really bad for some neighborhood residents as they tried to find food after this snow fall and made attempts during a very cold morning to get a meal.

A dark-eyed junco and a house sparrow race to a seed they found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house sparrow eats a sunflower seed it found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I watched these neighbors dashing to and fro win the snow, chasing one another away from a possible food source and constantly looking. I photographed them for a while, watching the antics hopes of finding something to eat after the passing storm. Finally I had spent enough time getting fresh air and freezing my toes off. So I put my gear away and returned with nutrients that I filled feeders and spread about the ground, although the little buggers do that well enough themselves as they rush the feeders. Hopefully they got their fill for the time being before looking again in the afternoon as they always do before settling in for the night.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A squirrel eats a seed it found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow sits on a snow covered branch watching for its turn at a feeder Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house sparrow eats a sunflower seed it found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A house sparrow eats a sunflower seed it found in the snow Thursday morning, Jan. 19, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa after 6 plus inches fell Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning as a storm system moved across the U.S. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Close, Closer, Closest in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

5 Feb
A barred owl watches its surroundings while also trying to nap in a tree at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

My attempts over the last couple years or so in photographing animals, especially birds, has taught me that I need to become more patient. And to walk more slowly. Yet be ready to photograph when it’s possible otherwise the opportunity will be missed. Photographing a barred owl on a couple different occasions at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove meant moving very, very slowly. Not even nonchalantly, but more like a glacier. Millimeters at a time until one is in position. Others might have a better technique than I. But I have to rely on my skills.

When formerly working for various news publications I learned long ago that when the opportunity presented itself, photograph the scene. Then move to a better position and photograph some more. Even in the days of shooting film. One never really knew when something might go awry and the opportunity would be lost. Things chance in moments and animals like birds error on the side of cautious, flying away for safety rather than being curious. Probably a good strategy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.
A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.

Foraging for Food on a Cold Day in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

3 Feb
Deer forage in the afternoon on a cold day at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a fairly recent cold day in Siouxland I visited Bacon Creek Park to see what might be about and a chance for a short, quick walk. The weather not really conducive to spending long periods outdoors if didn’t have to, but also having a bit of cabin fever, sometimes short trips and a quick look about is in order.

As I saw these deer looking for some sustenance on this day in snow covered terrain I knew I didn’t have it so bad, leaving a warm house, a meal to return to and a chance to see some nature in action, as limited and calm as it was. Some days are made for a second cup of coffee and contemplation of all that is right.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer forages in the afternoon on a cold day at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sharing in Siouxland, Sioux City

1 Feb
A female house finch takes a drink of water from a bird bath in a backyard residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While watching critters, birds and other animals in Siouxland, I am sometimes amazed at the civil behavior I witness. When photographing birds feeding they will often times work to move one another out of the way so they too can get a “seat at the table” of a particular bird feeder. But watching a couple of house finches, which could actually be mates, the male watched as the female drank from a bird feeder and then helped himself. Whether planned or not or behavioral or not, this particular day the male was chivalrous to the female until they drank their fill and left.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A female and male house finch share a bird bath for a drink for a drink in a backyard residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Keeping an “Eagle Eye” out for Birds in Siouxland, Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area, Little Sioux

30 Jan
An adult bald eagle perches in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When driving about in Siouxland I generally have a destination in mind when looking for birds. A particular park, nature preserve or refuge where I believe I will have a good chance of seeing birds, or deer or whatever else might appear. When just driving around looking for landscapes and such I will just drive and look. But the success of photographing birds one needs to be more specific.

Adult and juvenile bald eagles perch in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle watches a crow fly by as it perches on a rock at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. Both species are scavenging for food in the river. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent excursion to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge I happened to glance over toward a small river that feeds into the Missouri River and a place I had previously visited, although I didn’t know the name of the place at the time. And previously I has found a couple eagles gliding over the river looking for something to eat. The Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is 200-300 acres of woods and wetland. The Little Sioux River runs through it and out into the Missouri River, and it was there that I saw some “large birds” sitting atop a small, very small, spillway. Am guessing they were juvenile bald eagles feeding along with some crows and seeing that before the place’s exit ramp appeared made it possible to detour from heading further south and to see what might be found.

A not quite adult bald eagle flies overhead at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two juvenile bald eagles attempt some aerial combat over theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes serendipity prevails as I found maybe 40-50 eagles hanging out, feeding, flying, practicing aerial combat maneuvers. It seemed a lot of the birds were juvenile bald eagles, possible on their migration flight with parents in tow checking locations along the way. I was happy having the chance to photograph these creatures although I still working to achieve in flight images that are in focus. So even though it was a grey, overcast kind of day, one works with what one has. Blue sky and brighter light might have been nice for taking photographs, but the birds didn’t seem to mind about the weather and in fining them, who am I to complain.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An adult bald eagles flies along a tree line at the shore in theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle perches on a rock surrounded by crows who are also scavenging for food at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out in Siouxland on a Cold Winter’s Day, Sioux City

28 Jan
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days recently in Siouxland it’s been extremely cold and like the winter’s tale involving Santa Claus’ trip around the world, “not a creature is stirring”. Upon a recent visit to Latham Park, a local private park, birds were hanging out about in the bushes that surround the park. While the green leaves and foliage is gone, the bushes still offer some refuge on a cold day sheltering the little feathered friends from gusts of wind. Probably dreaming of spring and warmer weather themselves. Patience oft thought of as a virtue, can sometimes be in short supply.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two sparrows sit on an iron wrought fence which surround Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Downy Woodpecker looks for lunch on a tree at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Migration in Siouxland, Gavins Point Dam, Yankton, SD

26 Jan
A waterfowl that might be a lesser-scaup duck lands in the spillway of Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Maybe somedays I am not the most observant person, focused on some thing in particular and excluding other sights that should also command my attention. I have ventured out in a limited fashion this year in Siouxland looking for critters and migratory birds but to me it seems that the migration passed me by or is not following a pattern of what I have observed in years past, which could easily be the case.

Migrating snow geese fly overhead as they look for a landing place near the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American White pelican lands at a lake near the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have ventured already to some familiar places looking for migratory birds in December and January but have not found much of any thing. Even local wildlife that hangs out at such places. And my birding skills are vastly inferior to others I know, not seeing flying geese or other birds isn’t the same as finding certain species of song birds that pass through the area and are no larger than say a house sparrow.

I never mind getting out and taking a look, but am ever hopeful that my interest my at least afford me an opportunity to pull my camera out of its bag and make a couple of photographs. Of course, in the kind of weather as we have been having, I fault no feathered visitor in finding a warmer, more user friendly place to shelter in and hang out until conditions are better for its journey. I bitch and moan a bit about getting out in sub degree weather to look for these guys, and am not the “one on the road” traveling to a destination looking for fair winds and smooth sailing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Migratory waterfowl birds congregate at a lake area near Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American White pelican lands at a lake near the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Migrating snow geese fly overhead as they look for a landing place near the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, SD Thursday, December 30, 2021 (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pausing in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

24 Jan
A deer casts a quizzical look at an early morning walker at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on where one walks at times it is possible to meet and greet another trails in Siouxland, my hope is always that it’s a critter of some kind. Of course, coming across them in warmer weather is always a plus and sunshine makes the images snap a bit more that shooting on an extremely cold day with a grey overcast sky.

Turkeys loiter on a cut path looking for snacks at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But it’s also true that I won’t meet any passersby on a trail if I am not actually walking on the trail looking for them. Temperatures have recently been creeping upwards towards the mid 30’s and the hard, crusted, ice encased compacted snow has begun to melt a little bit. But then, weather folk say more rain, they snow is on the way. Winter is still here and thoughts of spring will continue to be just that, thoughts and dreams.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young deer pauses to check out a visitor at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Turkeys on parade at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two deer make their way through a harvested corn field at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Birds on a Stick in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD and Sioux City

22 Jan
An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A black capped chickadee sits on a branch as summer winds down and fall begins in the backyard of a residence Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I began photographing more birds both near home and in parks around Siouxland I began to pay more attention to the perches these feathered folk use. Sometimes it is very sturdy and at others it seems to follow that phrase “any port in a storm” where they may situate themselves as they take stock of the surrounding area. Birds in some of the parks have sometimes more choice for perches, as often times these places also provide a kind of prairie habitat which is generally not available in neighborhoods within a community.

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow watches from a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And photographing in these two different places create their own challenges. In a neighborhood one can sit a spell, especially near feeders and birds will come and go and possible give more opportunities to photograph them as they rest on a perch before heading to a feeder. Whereas in the park’s meadow area the birds can see you coming from some distance off and I have found one is only able to get so close necessitating the use of a long lens often times with a teleconverter to make an image of the bird “in the wild” so to speak. And of course as in so many things, timing is everything. Sometimes the act of bringing a camera to one’s eye will spook a bird so one needs to be aware and judge how close and how long one wants to hold a lens up into a position to get a photograph of a particular subject.

In the meadow areas using a tripod or monopod is just another piece of gear to carry for some distance, possibly a few miles while hiking, which is not always fun and tiring. So trade offs are made while one “enjoys” oneself out in nature with possibly the benefit of a photograph of some creature also enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house finch sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow looks directly at a visitor in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An Eastern Kingfisher studies its surroundings from a tree branch overhanging Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Practicing Creativity in Siouxland, Lawton

20 Jan
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I joined a couple members of the local camera club in Siouxland, Sioux City Camera Club, as they attempted some slow shutter, long exposures of lighted steel wool done by another club member, Ron Nicolls, who attempts to get members to see a little differently and experiment with their photography.

Photographers stand at the right side of the image frame attempting slow shutter, long exposure photographs while Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself. Stars can be seen above Nicolls during the photo demonstration that took place in field near Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls allows photographers to prefocus on him before lighting a steel wool pad to sling around himself as camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was interesting as Nicolls spun the lighted steel wool on a tether about his person in a snow covered field, a little fire prevention precaution. As one continued photographing the look of what one was seeing kept changing. This makes sense in that, like a camp fire, as the fire dies out, the intensity first seen when the steel wool is lit and and then flung about, it burns itself out and thus gives varying degrees of light for photographing.

Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls lights a steel wool pad to sling around himself as camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself, and its begins to dim as sparks fly into the air and photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on where one was standing you also had to be mindful of flying sparks either hitting you or flying nearby. However the sparks added a bonus of sorts to the images captured. I was shooting with an Olympus OMD M1 body which touts 4-5 stops of in-body stabilization and so was handholding my camera shoot between 2.5 seconds and 6 seconds at f/2.5 and f/3.2. I did get movement from Nicolls as he lobbed the lighted steel wool about his body, but for the most part, the in-body stabilization worked well, allowing me to somewhat “move about the cabin” and yet capture images created by the spinning burning wool pad.

It was an interesting and creative endeavor Nicolls presented to other camera club members and an opportunity to attempt a different type of photography that most have not considered. It was also nice that the weather that day was in the mid-30’s so not so bone chilling to make such an effort less than ideal. One’s pursuit of creativity is only limited by one’s non attempt at trying something different and experimentation which could lead to yet another effort to try another photographic approach.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Photographer Tom Schoening makes adjustments to his camera on a trip during a slow shutter, long exposure photography shoot by Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls who is slinging a lighted steel wool pad around himself in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a just lit steel wool pad around himself as photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Photographer Tom Schoening and Carey Anderson finish their slow shutter, long exposure photography shoot by with Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls who was slinging a lighted steel wool pad around himself in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
%d bloggers like this: