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Sometimes Caution is Good when Making Friends in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

3 Apr
A crow and an eagle look in the same direction while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When the larger than normal, apparently, bald eagle population passed through Siouxland recently on their migratory trip, some other birds seemed intent on meeting them. It was fascinating to watch, but gave me a little trepidation as all were vying for “eats” on the ice covered oxbow at Snyder Bend Park.

A crow squawks at an eagle while sitting on ice looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching a crow squawk at the larger bird of prey gave me an uneasy feeling. Bashful this one particular bird was not. And all ended well, as each decided to move on. But while watching, I wondered what was going to happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A crow takes off under an eagle while looking for fish remnants in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lining Up in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

30 Mar
Light and shade at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am looking for the return of sunshine in Siouxland, lasting more than a day or so, as spring gets closer and temperatures rise to the 40’s and 50’s. The sunshine makes it ever so easy to create B&W images of shapes, angles and lines. Plus it makes it ever so nice to look out one’s window, even on colder days, and imagine the warm sunshine. Patience, the virtue that takes practice to acquire.

I find it fun to photograph geometric patterns, getting lost in the design or lack there of, and leaving it to one’s imagination what is seen. The possibilities are endless as are subjects. And roaming the Siouxland area once again is an anticipated delight.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Light and shade at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021 in Pottawattamie County. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter Weather at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center, Washta

24 Mar
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Out driving around Siouxland one cold February day I stopped at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center which is now a museum of sorts giving a nod to America’s and Iowa’s agricultural roots located in rural Cherokee County.

I had never stopped there during winter, and this winter has been different with recent bone chilling temperatures and more snow, or so it seems so late in the season. And what I found is a far cry to the festivals I have attended there in the past during the month of August.

A visitor walks through the basement of the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921that contains an assortment of historical farming equipment collected over the years seen at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A gentleman uses his smart tablet to film a demonstration of corn shelling at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking at one scene with the windmill and barn and cabin made me pause, its reminiscent look of what the plains in the late 1850’s might have looked like during a tough winter then, located in the middle of nowhere that someone might have homesteaded, beginning a new life and working the land.

The museum/former school is full of historical memorabilia and antique farming equipment that was much more labor intensive by today’s standards. Technology may have improved people’s lives in a lot ways, but Mother Nature still calls the shots somedays with weather being something that was probably fierce when the state was first settled and still is today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An “old timer” feeds corn into the auger of a shelling machine at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A room in the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921 is set up like a General Store that existed in many small communities in Iowa is see at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Unusual in Siouxland, Eagles at Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

18 Mar
Two eagles sit on ice eating fish in an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This passing year and the beginning of this year has seen some unusual events in Siouxland, as they have in other parts of the nation as well. One of those happenings is the migrating birds passing through the area. Listening to folk who follow such explain because of recent weather patterns the birds that normally pass through the Siouxland area, generally one species following another, are occurring within the same time frame. And in some places, in greater abundance than previously seen.

It’s been reported that between 100-150 bald eagles visited Snyder Bend Park for a few days and some are still there, prompting curiosity for some visitors and local birders to get out and take a look. In addition to the eagles other waterfowl are also passing through during their spring migration.

Local birders visit Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021 looking for various bird species passing through on their yearly migration. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Canada geese fly through a wetland area of Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ring-billed gulls stop on their migratory journey at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the most fascinating part of visiting the park were the amount of eagles that stopped and hung out. When visiting the first time I saw an email of a friend reporting what other birders in the area had seen. The water in the oxbow area of the park was mostly still frozen, and the bald eagles were feasting on dead fish caught in the ice or floating as the ice melted. A few days of warmer than usual temperatures led to more ice melting and more dead fish floating to the shoreline. Last year the Siouxland area received less than normal rainfall which led to lower water levels in many bodies of water, and for some, it then became difficult to sustain the fish or aquatic life normally there, which made it easier pickings for the traveling eagles on their journey north.

A number of bald eagles sit on ice eating fish at an iinlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple of ring-billed gulls walk among eaten fish bodies as they look for food while nearby a number of bald eagles are also on the ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Dead fish line the bank of the oxbow at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a year of lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus getting outdoors to enjoy nature is appealing to a lot of people. Fresh air, despite the sometimes colder than normal temperatures, is always rewarding in and of itself. But add to that the chance to see a enormous migration of birds because of the unusual temperature fluctuations this year has just made it more rewarding.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A hiker makes his way across the oxbow to get a closer look at eagles on that side of the water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of bald eagles roost in a tree across the oxbow pond at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two bald eagles feast on dead fish as a couple of ring-billed gulls fly in either direction to steer clear of them at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A redwing blackbird calls out from its perch on a grass stem at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of eagles sit on ice eating fish at an inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A crow calls out while sitting on the ice where dead fish can be found at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese fly over the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Pelicans fly to another part of the oxbow inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Canada geese come in for a landing at the oxbow water inlet at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Friday, March 5, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Meeting Strangers in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park

12 Mar
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when meeting “strangers” when out and about in Siouxland they can be a little shy. Especially the feathered ones. Sometimes it’s good to have a telephoto lens when out doing nature photography.

A bald eagle watches from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently a number of bald eagles have gathered at the Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County taking advantage of fish they have found in a small inlet at the park which is located near the Missouri River. One friend estimated at a minimum 100 or more bald eagles congregating there as they journey to Minnesota suggested another friend. It is amazing to see these creatures. But evidently I was not someone this guy wanted to meet.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle takes off from its tree perch at Snyder Bend Park near Salix, Iowa Saturday, March 6, 2021(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Selecting a Subject in Siouxland, rural Iowa and Nebraska

2 Mar
A lone leaf, left behind at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Setting out with a purpose when photographing is always a good course to take when time is limited and the destination known. But it doesn’t always work out that way. In a free wheeling photo course I offer at a local community college I take the “students” to various locations I have previously visited and share with them a place in which to become familiar and find photographic opportunities.

Finding a perfect photographic subject at Preparation Canyon State Forest Overlook north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes depending on the place and subject matter it can be challenging to different students at different times with different interests. Hence the purpose of the class in being prepared to change one’s photographic perception whether for class or a vacation or whatever the occasion. Circumstances change and one should be ready to pivot with those changes which may bring opportunity or not.

Greeted by a subject at the No Toll Troll Stroll park in Oakland, NE Saturday, October 31, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having worked for a few smaller newspapers I always enjoyed getting out and photographing and learned that my preconception of what I might encounter may not always hold true to what I found Thinking on one’s feet is probably a good way of putting it. Seeing the opportunity to photograph something as opposed to photographing what one might think is possible when getting to a destination. One never left a newspaper assignment without having something “usable”. I had a few editors “disappointed” because I didn’t come back with the photograph of what they imagined in their mind. And never mind that what they imagined may not have existed except for in their own head, one just has to be open to the opportunity of what is, rather than be disappointed with what is not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding some color on a fall day at Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Frosty Winter’s Day in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

26 Feb
Cattle graze in a corn field harvested in the fall of 2020 on a frosty winter’s day in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A warmer day in Siouxland and a chance to take a short drive around the countryside, enjoying some of Nature’s winters work. A recent frosting of trees and buildings adds a little beauty to an otherwise normal winter’s day a chance to leave the house without freezing extremities and perchance to dream of “greener pastures”as the calendar marches ahead one day at a time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Unexpected pleasures in Siouxland, Finding Visitors in rural Plymouth County

20 Feb
An eagle feeds while another waits along the Big Sioux River in a winter scene off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while out and about driving in Siouxland I come across something I never planned. And then I sometimes find something I never knew I had photographed until I look at my images at home. While enjoying a day out in warmer temperatures of 12 degrees, I stopped along the Big Sioux River to photograph the meandering stream. When I had finished and was heading back to my vehicle I stopped and photographed the river in the other direction. There is a bridge there, and while it was not spectacular I made a few images. Then I photographed beyond the bridge, working with a newly acquired lens and putting it through some paces. It was not until I had returned home and looked at those images did I realize that there were two eagles down river that I did not see with the naked eye and wished I had.

An unexpected pleasure to be enjoyed later and maybe another trip to look for the birds.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A winter scene of the Big Sioux River meandering off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking in History’s Footsteps in Siouxland, rural Monona County

14 Feb
An older cemetery, many grave sites at the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneer settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I know I have visited a few different cemeteries in the Siouxland area. Each is unique in its own way. Each has history of early settlers who lived and died nearby, settling a part of then frontier but what is now western Iowa. And as I have speculated previously the landscape around which these souls are buried must be so different than what is seen these days. More land being farmed, no more native prairie grass waving in the wind. And more people populating what must of then been a more desolate and somewhat isolated frontier.

A sign welcomes visitors to the older Belvidere Cemetery, many grave sites here contain the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A country road leads to an older cemetery. Many grave sites at the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneer settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Doing some online looking did not bring any general information about this burial site or the community of Belvidere. Names of the deceased are listed, but no cross references without further genealogical research. While not doing a lot of looking there at the cemetery itself, I have found that not many names are duplicated among the various cemeteries I have visited with earlier dates from the 19th Century. Guessing relatives did not travel far or met and married folk from a very far distance, even miles by today’s standards

This older Belvidere Cemetery, like many, sits top a hill and has grave sites containing the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These are peaceful places, a good resting place in an area that departed souls can look out from and still see the surrounding hillsides that may have graced their views during those earlier years as the area was being populated with people looking for a place west of the Mississippi. Seeking fortune, a new life or solitude, and maybe a new beginning.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An older cemetery, many of the grave sites in the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The entrance to the Belvidere Cemetery, which contains the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enduring the Cold in Siouxland, rural Plymouth County

12 Feb
Frost on the muzzle of a horse grazing in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

We humans are not the only ones needing to put up with recent cold temperatures recently. While out driving about Siouxland I came across three horses grazing outdoors. There was a barn nearby so one would assume they bed down onto some nice straw for the evening.

But it was a sunny day, and I can only guess like their human counterparts they were enjoying a brief respite in the sunshine during a balmy 12 degree high kind of day. Waiting for warmer temperatures to return and melt some of this white stuff and make it bearable again to be outdoors for more than a brief period of time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Horses, their muzzles frosted over, graze in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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