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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©)

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©)

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©)

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Ice Fishing at Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

14 Jan
Ice fishermen try their luck for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When growing up I did a little river and pond fishing near my home. It was fun, challenging, peaceful. Sometimes I spent more time just looking at nature and letting my imagination run away while sitting there fighting off bugs and mosquitos and waiting for some fish to bite.

In Siouxland when out and about I see people fishing at various places I traverse. But I never understood the appeal of ice fishing. It’s cold out, and colder still when one is not moving about and seated on ice. I have photographed a few hockey games in my day and was always glad to get away from the ice as it was sometimes colder during the winter indoors at a game than going outside to return to a newspaper office.

Whenever I see folk trying their luck I am always reminded of that movie with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, “Grumpy Old Men”. A too funny comedy, at least I thought so at the time. Although art and life and life an art imitating one another may or may not be true.

A fisherman walks out onto the ice to try his luck at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ice fishermen chat while waiting for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But enough people do ice fish and seem to enjoy it. I never asked though if they catch the same fish summer or winter. And if the time of year made a difference to the taste. Change of seasons and food source available for the fish, like honey bees near a clover field or a field of flowers. Different types of pollen affects the end result of the honey produced. But maybe fish aren’t that complicated.

I prefer to just stomp around the woods and trails, trying to keep warm while walking and looking for critters, when moving on four legs or two, each make for a good subject depending on the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An ice fisherman joins a couple others who are waiting for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still Life in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

12 Jan
A still life of drift wood covered in snow and frozen in a pond at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes life can be simple and uncomplicated, even in Siouxland. A quiet walk in a park covered in snow when it’s cold. Not many folk about, and sometimes few critters. Which then may make it simple looking for images. Or not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Just Saying “Howdy Neighbor” in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

10 Jan
A Blue Jay looks a little cross while a barred owl tries to get in a little nap time at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it just good manners in Siouxland to acknowledge a neighbor and go on one’s way, even if begrudgingly. On a visit to Moorehead Park looking for owls I found the Barred Owl sunning itself in a tree cavity. This is something I don’t often get to photograph but then was surprised, pleasantly so, when a Blue Jay showed up and apparently was not pleased to see the owl.

As it danced a little jig on the branch, the owl slowly opened its eyes then closed them again, apparently thinking its nap time was more important than his feathered visitor, who eventually left. I guess it’s better to ignore small annoyances sometimes that get worked up about them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Reflections in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

8 Jan
Two Lesser Yellowlegs look for food in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out photographing in Siouxland I attempt to see subjects in a different way. It doesn’t always work, although some days when an idea occurs to me the elements needed for creating the images are not there, or are fleeting. The last couple of years has been trying in regards to photographing waterfowl or other birds around ponds and small lakes in the area. With an ongoing drought that is serious some ponds have dried up, hopefully returning when it begins raining again in combination to sufficient snowfall.

A reflection of a nesting pod at Mud Creek at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A blue-winged teal makes its way in a pond at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And then there are those conditional elements where one hopes for a calm day the wind picks up and that nice calm body of water fades. Or the waterfowl, shore birds pursue the insects with a bit of gusto. Causing ripples that disturb an otherwise calm body of water. Life happens, and one does the best that is possible at the time. Ever hopeful for a nice image while just enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A turtle suns itself on a branch sticking out of the water at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, July 18, 2022. The animal seems unaffected by the high heat in triple digits and humidity that the Siouxland Region will experience the next few days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Lesser Yellowlegs hunts for a meal at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A wood duck floats in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Out on a Limb in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve and residences in North Sioux City, SD and Sioux City

6 Jan
A Northern Flicker perches in a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I walk about nature places in Siouxland I always keep an eye out for birds. I find it challenging to be able to photograph these little guys/gals. Quick and small and generally pausing only momentarily, I’ve learned it takes considerable skill to get a photograph. And many times I am feeling more lucky than good at taking a photo. Some are nice images of the birds, some are just decent and then some I am really happy with that I was able to make an image. And it doesn’t matter the species, although it is nice when it’s a bird I don’t photograph often. But if the little one gives me attitude and makes for a delightful photo, I am happy.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet takes a different view of the world around it while sitting high in a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A turkey vulture sits in a tree top taking in the scene around it at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak sits on a branch while checking out a suet feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A house finch watches the backyard at a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Last year’s winter was warmer than what seemed normal with little to no snow. This year the weather is considerably colder with more snow and now ice storms mixed with snow. Some winter days I like sitting in one spot to photograph small song birds, but so far this winter the weather with its minus 30-40 degree temperatures has made me wary of frostbite just being outside too long.

But spring will eventually come and hopefully warmer temperatures, even in the high 20’s or 30’s with little wind would be pleasant enough to sit outside for a bit to capture these little guys in a different season and scenario. Plus the practice wouldn’t hurt.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Possibly a flycatcher sits on a branch at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Wood ducks hang out in a tree during morning hours at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

House finches wait their turn at a bird feeder birds in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, January 7, 2022. (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©)
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©)
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©)
A Grey Catbird calls from a small tree off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A red-tailed hawk sits perches on a branch looking or a snack at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday Oct. 22, 2021.
A sparrow eats a seed in the backyard of a residence Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sparrows sit in a tree in the backyard of a residence Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow appears to give the “stick eye” to a visitor watching it in the backyard of a residence Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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