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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

Perseverance and Luck in Siouxland, Saw-whet Owl, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

13 Dec
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

Some times when I am out and about in Siouxland I feel lucky in that I was able to photograph something I previously had not, and able to create some images I am really happy with. Not all folk might agree with my photographic choices, but I am not them, and they are not me. During a recent outing I was with friends trying to find and photograph a saw-whet owl in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove. The 500 acre park is mostly timber with some pine trees, where occasionally saw-whet owls will winter, coming south from the Boreal Forests of Canada to a “warmer” winter climate.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I would not have gotten so lucky had it not been for a local photographer and nature enthusiast, Don Poggensee. Mr. Poggensee has been photographing these and other owls in the area and elsewhere for years. Probably decades, but who’s counting. After the previous opportunity to photograph the small 6″ inch owls didn’t pan out, I had planned to go back to the park. In corresponding with Mr. Poggensee he mentioned he would let me know if the owls might show up as he tends to check the area every morning, and undoubtedly has thousands of images of these owls. He also said that over the years he has probably escorted a few thousand people who have travelled hundreds of miles to come and photograph the small winter visitors.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I was guided back to a place I and others had just been too two days prior. As we reached The small stand of pine trees Mr. Poggensee stopped and asked, “Do you see it?” I was scanning the tree and remarked that the first time out (and probably more) I could stand right in front of the tree and look right at it, but not see it. And sure enough, we were standing in front of it and I didn’t see it. But eventually I did. And I was thrilled. I had seen tight photos of this owl for a couple of years and thought it would be fun and “cool” to be able to photograph it myself. Sometimes one gets lucky, with a little help.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is satisfying to be able to photograph such a majestic little bird. While not an eagle or equally large raptor, the cute little guy was cooperative and allowed itself to be photographed without darting away. We kept a respectful distance and I worked slowly positioning myself. The sun was a little higher in the sky but was pleased with the highlights of the surrounding vegetation that help set off and distinguish the owl from its surroundings. Mr. Poggensee said that if you get lucky and can photograph the bird with its eyes closed, the feathers on the eyelids look like snowflakes. And going forward this Christmas holiday season I believe I will continue to see snowflakes dancing in my mind.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A July Day in Siouxland, Wildlife Management Area, Woodbury County

5 Dec
A bee makes the most of gathering nectar from flowering plants in a meadow at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Snyder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days in Siouxland are more productive than others for every being. I wonder looking back at this busy bee if he and his family are safely tucked away into their hive, counting the days until spring again arrives. And wild flowers are seen in meadows around the region and the sun is warm and fragrances fresh. Winter is slowly descending into the region which some of the last warm days currently happening. And this and other scenes will be a faded memory.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bee makes the most of gathering nectar from flowering plants in a meadow at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Snyder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bee makes the most of gathering nectar from flowering plants in a meadow at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Snyder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading Fall Colors in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

29 Nov

A hiking trail seen from a ridge at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular fall season in Siouxland seemed fleeting and unfulfilled. While there were pockets of color here and there, this fall was like a poem of unrequited love. It is always so nice to see brilliant colors and many hues when fall comes around. It is one of my favorite seasons as it is others as well. But this year that love of fall was not returned by Mother Nature. Mood swings in temperature in extreme seemed to have dampened expectations and the colors. So one must then hope and wish that next year’s fall will be better and somehow like memories past of a period of cooler temps and slowly changing colors that last a bit and not washed away with wind and rain.

Fading colors seen at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Railroad tracks seen from an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There were nice days though when the temperature seemed perfect for sweater, fleece or jacket wearing. Too cool for shorts but not cool or cold enough for a heavy jacket. The sun and its light rays caressing the path with direct yet diffused lighting. Adding another element to be cherished in photographing landscapes and such. Not the harsh, direct light of summer. And once the colors have faded, the brown landscape emerges and holds sway until spring and warmer temperatures prevail and green shoots reemerge. But now patience is key and the ability to embrace other styles of photography until winter has passed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A trail takes a hiker to an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading colors during a fall hike at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Continuing Drought in Siouxland Creates Wetless Wetlands, Wilson Island State Recreation Area, Missouri Valley

19 Nov

A Lesser Yellowlegs snatched a meal in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The last couple of years or so, the Siouxland region like other places in and around the midwest and other states has been dealing with drought conditions. Little rainfall during that normal season or snowfall during the winter months. Areas that should have water now does not, and slowly the lack of water will affect all, humans and animals in nature.

I have driven past a sign on a local interstate highway for years, one for Wilson Island State Recreational Area. I understand from some friends that it used to be a wonderful place to camp and spend time. A major flood in 2011 inundated the recreation area and killed many of the trees and irreparably damaged the site, as the flood did to other areas in the region as well.

Just a few lily pads remain in a dry pond at the Wilson Island State Creation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Barren trees seen at the Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For the longest time the park was closed. For years it seemed as clean up work apparently was slow going with the removal of dead trees and restoring of camping areas after the flood water eventually receded. I visited the park while in the vicinity of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. With the current drought conditions, shore birds and other life in nature is struggling to find needed food sources that have since dried up or changed from previous years. And some signs seen in the park appear absurd considering the current conditions.

Apparently a Lesser Yellowlegs looking for bugs in a pond didn’t read the sign at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Lesser Yellowlegs looks for a meal in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A dry pond bed is all that is left at the Wilson Island State Recreation Area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With winter seemingly coming earlier this year by indications of recent temperature changes and snow and rain storms passing across the U.S. maybe the drought conditions will be dented. But the Siouxland region is almost 14 inches below normal for annual rainfall. And so moisture is needed to replace what is disappearing and which will eventually affect controlled plant farming as water is needed for growing corn and soybeans and other agriculture crops.

I do hope it snows this winter, and also hope the frigid temperatures below freezing and those well below zero with wind chill take a year off. Snowshoeing and being outdoors in the winter time is not so bad. But feeling 20-30 mile an hour wind on your face with temperatures reaching -20 and -30 degrees is not so much fun.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A small a pond of water is all that is seen at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Barely a trickle of water seen in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National WIldlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Vestiges of Spring in Siouxland, rural Monona County

13 Nov

Spring green seen from a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring is long gone and fall most recently here in Siouxland. The latest weather reports indicate that soon the area may experience overnight lows in the teens or single digits. Add in a little wind chill and thee area could be below zero. Too soon for my taste, and makes me begin thinking and dreaming about spring in the following year.

Wildflowers seen near a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Loess Hills seen from a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the Joni Mitchell song so well reminds folk, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” from her song Big Yellow Taxi. As I have gotten older I try to enjoy the moments and days that I experience, and am not in a hurry for the next. Winter time can be a bit bleak and one never knows if it will be only a brown landscape and no snow, or white for days. And the extreme cold doesn’t help.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A meadow seen from a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A sign provides information about the local area and the Loess Hills in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Fall Day in Siouxland, rural Monona County

7 Nov

A trace of fog highlights a rural scene of the Loess Hills area in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Onawa, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall is a favorite season of mine as it is for a lot of people. And even though again this year Siouxland has seen less rainfall than it should one could still find some color in places. Driving the backroads of the Loess Hills area in western Iowa is always a pleasure. I am only sad I didn’t get to enough places this year within the time period as the colors changed and the temperature yo-yo’ed between unusually warm to cold and near freezing.

Two hikers head off on a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa as fall colors are continuing to change from summer to fall. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A rural scene of the Loess Hills area in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Onawa, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Already most if not all trees have lost their leaves and their color. The only ones that still might have some leaves are burr oaks which sport a green and brown color scheme. Winter can sometimes be a long stretch as one only sees brown and sometimes white. But even that was sparse last year with less than normal snowfall as well. But patience will have to be the rule of the day as daylight savings time changes soon and winter slowly creeps closer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The hillside near a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa are ablaze in fall colors. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two hikers set out to hike a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa as fall colors are continuing to change from summer to fall. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pausing in Siouxland and Enjoying the Moment, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

1 Nov

A couple watch a farmer harvest a crop in a field below a bluff that is part of the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. The couple said they met 40 some years ago on a grade school outing at this very site overlooking the area below which is approximately 30 miles north of Omaha, NE where they now live. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days it’s not a bad thing to take a pause, and slow down, ponder and just enjoy the moment in Siouxland. I found a couple doing just that recently at the Hitchcock Nature Center which overlooks farmland from a bluff region and part of the Loess Hills that is found in western Iowa.

The couple said they visit fairly often, and met while in school decades ago during a class trip to the preserve, and always enjoy coming out and enjoying the moment. Until a talkative photographer interrupts the reverie.

But pausing, watching and enjoying is always a good thing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Some Days are for Clowning Around in Siouxland, Grand Meadow Heritage Days, Washta

26 Oct

Clown Special K launches bubbles into the air at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When visiting the Grand Meadow Heritage Days earlier this fall in Siouxland there were a few artists and others set up to entertain visitors to the museum and enjoying a look back in time at the displays. The clown Special K was creating balloon hats for kids and releasing bubbles into the air. Lots and lots of bubbles. Even though she probably entertained those attending, it would have been nice had more people shown up. Rest assured she went home “squeaky clean”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Clown Special K launches bubbles into the air at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clown Special K launches bubbles into the air at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clown Special K launches bubbles into the air at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clown Special K with a tool of her trade to launch bubbles into the air at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clown Special K creates a balloon hat at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Reliving the Old Wild West in Siouxland, Iowa Western Border Agents, Grand Heritage Center, Washta

22 Oct

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While attending the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival Days in Siouxland, in September, I ran into some folk who I previously met and photographed who belong to a black powder gun club, the Western Iowa Border Agents, and do staged Wild West Shootouts at various places they visit. Sometimes parades, sometimes other festivals. I talked with some of the club members a few years ago and asked about their interest in the Old West. Some of the kids then are now grown adults and according to one dad, living on their own as he smiled and looked at his sons.

Visitors to the festival watch as the Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The men’s portrayals and sharing of their interest is no different than those who attend Civil War re-enactments around the country, being involved in a kind of real-world experience of past events.

One of the gentlemen told me he does all of the loading for the rounds fired for the pistols and rifles. But that, like with everything else, costs have risen due to the pandemic and limited supplies, some items have gone from $12.00 per pound beyond $100.00 per pound for material. Which for an enthusiast is a steep cost for a hobby.

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Those that watch enjoy the staged event, a retelling of some of the harsher elements of the Old West where slights and disparaging remarks were settled by gunfire. Sadly those, it mirrors some of the current occurrences that happen today. Someone slights someone at a party and then you read about a person returning with a weapon and shooting someone.

One of the gentlemen told me that a parade event the group has been involved with for many, many years and in which they always did a staged shootout during the parade has been cancelled for a couple of years. Organizers cited the Parkland School shooting event which had happened that year and couldn’t in good conscience allow the stage shooting as people not aware of the staged event could panic believing an actual shooting is taking place. Modern society is not so modern sometimes.

But doing the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival in attendance enjoyed the “show” and everyone walked away and deciding who would hit the dirt the next time as we all like to come out as heroes.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club talks to their cameraman prior to a staged Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Iowa Western Border Agents club stage an Old West shootout event during the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A couple chat prior to the Western Iowa Border Agents’ stage shootout event at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center’s 46th Annual Heritage Days festival Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, Washta, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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