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“Shooting the Moon” in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

22 May

A full moon rises as the sun sets behind a the horizon over an Iowa countryside near Anthon, Iowa Saturday evening May 15, 2022 before the lunar eclipse takes place later creating the blood moon. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the seasons change in Siouxland and the days slowly get longer, I find it easier to “stay up later” and try some photographic adventures. Although a friend of mine was probably disappointed that I didn’t want to shoot later, I find myself fading sooner as night approaches than I did when a younger person.

We ventured out to try our hand at photographing the blood moon, which was created by a partial lunar eclipse. I have driven countless backroads around the Siouxland region, but when it came time to decide where to situate ourselves so the moon create a nice backdrop to something in the foreground, I drew a blank, and settled for a stretch of roadway and hillside.

But after an hour of shooting I found myself fading faster than the setting sun. I told my friend to continue shooting and I didn’t mind staying out late, but I decided to just enjoy the moonrise as it got darker than to try and photograph it in the night sky.

It was amazing to see though. And while there are no European cathedrals in rural Siouxland to utilize in creating an image of note, there is always next month to maybe plan a little better and find a place that would visually create a better scene. Time will tell.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A full moon rises over an Iowa countryside near Anthon, Iowa Saturday evening May 15, 2022 before the lunar eclipse takes place later creating the blood moon. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Transitory Visitors in Siouxland, American White Pelicans, Badger Lake, Whiting

18 May

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the migrating waterfowl like the American White Pelicans passing through Siouxland, I sometimes get confused about what birds find a home in this area and those that are passing on to another destination. Like the majority of Canada geese that use Siouxland as flyover country, but others call it home.

A truck hauling equipment passes in the background as American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I occasionally check various locations around the area to see who’s hanging out, sometimes I am delighted, other times disappointed when I find nothing. But then there is another day, and these critters like we humans are dealing with roller coaster weather than runs cold, then hot, dry, then wet, which probably interrupts their travels as much as it does our daily lives. And some of us are not traveling as far.

Wishing these critters a safe journey and fair winds as they journey to their summer destination.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Diversity in Siouxland, a short hour or so walk at Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

10 May
An osprey keeps watch of a passerby from its perch above a walking trail at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I’ve learned more about “birding” and being of aware of the creatures on my outings to local parks and preserves, sometimes I am amazed at the diversity I see within a small area and the numbers and types of birds there. And I know I am only scratching the surface of getting photos and seeing these critters. Others who post information while out have a list that is sometimes 15-20 species or more long. I am not quite, if ever, there.

An osprey is startled by a passerby walking on a trail beneath its tree perch at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An osprey wrangles a fish it caught in the lake to take back to a perch to eat at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And by no means are these birds exotic and flashy themselves, although my awareness was mostly of robins and sparrows, and occasionally a raptor or hawk of some kinds.

An American robin pauses on a downed branch at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A few blue-winged teal hang our together near a shoreline at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An American coot swims about in the lake at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And of course there are those cute, non aviary types one runs across who are determined not to be disturbed while trying to finish a meal. And of course I don’t blame them as those pesky paparazzi photo types walk by.

A squirrel munches its meal at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A northern flicker pauses momentarily on a tree trunk at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A belted kingfisher perches in a tree at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The creatures blend in so well and are most times too quick to photograph. I have learned anew the value of patience and perseverance. And of course the the usage of a digital camera that allows the deletion of many, many images with birds within thickets that only I know are there. As I tell students, “If you have to tell me about the great deer photo while showing it to me, maybe then one should try again. Oh, that small speck? Marvelous!”

It happens to the best of us. And with practice it can get better. But it’s also nice just being outdoors without a heavy coat, gloves and stocking cap along with hand and feet warmers. Although the wind gusts have persisted well into spring. But warmer months ahead and the opportunity to find and photograph more of these winged creatures.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Great White heron stands “hidden” in some reeds along a bank at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Great White heron flies off along a bank at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A northern shoveler swims along a shoreline at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult bald eagle soars overhead at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A View from the Top in Siouxland, Rural Monona County

2 May
A pair of Canadian geese are seen sitting in a former eagle’s nest, possibly enjoying a view from a natural Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022.

Sometimes when out wandering backroads in Siouxland I am pleasantly surprised by findings I come across. While out looking for various waterfowl and spring planting attempts by local farmers, I happened to talk with a rural Monona County resident who told me some geese had taken up residence in a former eagle’s nest. It was a interesting sight to see these two heads sitting on top of such a large nest. And they must feel pretty blesses to move in and the former occupants. Although the local resident said it was witnessed that an eagle was back, maybe checking on its sublet occupant.

I did find though that this one nest was not the only one occupied by a new resident. And now I wonder how many times I have driven by various areas in the country that have these hidden gems I am not aware of and have missed. Hoping for more revealing secrets as spring unfolds into summer. One can only hope.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A pair of Canadian geese can be seen sitting in an eagle’s nest possibly enjoying a view from an Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Canadian goose can be seen sitting in an eagle’s nest possibly enjoying a view from an Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Dry in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park, Woodbury County

30 Apr
Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The last year or so less and less rain has fallen in the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, northeaster Nebraska and south eastern South Dakota. A recent visit to Snyder Bend Park has shown how much water has receded from a previous shoreline. The park’s water is fed from a local power plant when it discharges water into the area. With little snow over the winter and until recently hardly any rain, at times the park looked like a dust bowl when the wind gusts occurred.

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I visited the park a couple years ago and eagles were migrating the park was filled with water. Now the former lake beds are a giant, sandy beach. Time will tell how this will unfold and what will be seen for recreation this summer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Beaver Town in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

24 Apr
Apparently beavers have been busy in the forest at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. A tree was felled by park personnel after its base had been gnawed by the furry critters. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent walk at a local park in Siouxland I was surprised to see so much “beaver” activity, yet I didn’t really see any beaver buildings that one often sees in the country along and in water. I was hoping with some recent warm weather that maybe the trees were beginning to green up at the park, but alas, I was disappointed with the progress but then came across all of this activity.

Some green is starting to appear at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Apparently beavers have been busy in the forest at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Apparently beavers have been busy in the forest at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. A tree was cut down after the furry critters were getting close to the tree falling over. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did see where park personnel has been clearing areas of trees, possibly those downed by winter storms where wind gusts up to 60mph along with reported tornado sightings in December and again in February were occurring in Siouxland and elsewhere in Iowa. But the gnawed look of so many trees seemed very indicative of some ambitious creatures who possibly needed a new addition to an existing home or maybe the kids decided to move back in because various reasons.

I have never been up early enough, or maybe late enough, to find these critters working their magic . I probably would not have the patience to sit and wait to attempt to photograph them. And probably don’t have the proper gear to work in such low light or darkness to begin with. But it seems no mistaking their handy work and evidently a thriving community within the midst.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A cut wood pile along a walking trail at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A tree felled by beavers at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Apparently beavers have been busy in the forest at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday April 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seasons in Siouxland, Bigelow Park and Brown’s Lake, Salix

22 Apr
A number of Canada and greater white-fronted geese take off from Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The “spring season” in Siouxland as elsewhere seems out of whack with weather bouncing back and forth between seasonal and a bit warmer, to still cold with biting wind gusts that reminds one Mother Nature is not quite done with sharing winter yet. A couple of different days checking out Bigelow Park and Brown’s Lake yielded different results. Wind gusts making temperatures feel like the teens and only allowing one to stay outside of a warm vehicle for maybe 10-15 minutes tops.

Sandhill cranes make a flyover at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some common mergansers look like low flying missiles over Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A common merganser flies low over some Canada geese and other waterfowl at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the wind and temperature didn’t seem to affect or bother the waterfowl present at the lake. Flying in and flying out, taking wing on whatever pretext, although some did react to low flying raptors looking for a meal and watching perched in nearby trees.

A juvenile bald eagle surveys Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult bald eagle looks over at a juvenile bald eagle in tree tops at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as much as I like watching the birds fly about and test my skills trying to photograph them, the windchill and cold temps made the prospect of having breakfast and a pot of coffee a strong influence in seeking a warmer climate than my vehicle. And nothing like having another opportunity to try again to capture these creatures in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A common merganser flies low to land at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese lift off at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese do a fly over before landing at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

More Bird Antics in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

20 Apr
A downy woodpecker checks out the scene at a suet feeder at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I never tire of watching birds at bird feeders. Each species seems to have its own ritual when having a bite to eat. And sometimes I even feel intrusive watching them eat as they stop, stare, long and hard, before continuing their meal. But for a quiet moment, it can be bliss.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A downy woodpecker snacks at a suet feeder at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker snacks at a suet feeder at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker snacks at a suet feeder at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker snacks at a suet feeder at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Welcome Center Friday, January 28, 2022 in the backyard of a residence in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Waiting for the Thaw as Winter Passes in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

14 Apr
Greater white-fronted geese among Canada Geese at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Friday, March 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As mentioned before winter in Siouxland and elsewhere has been different this year. Local weather folk said there were more above average warm days in February than cold days. But those cold days were very cold and small ponds and lakes, like Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, froze over. Migratory waterfowl walked about or even appeared to “skate” on the ice on the water. With only small areas where they could get their feet wet.

A Canada goose sounds off on a frozen Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Blue hour in the morning on Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But temperatures have warmed once again and the ice has melted for the time being. But it is not unusual to sometimes get a spring blizzard in April in Siouxland. It doesn’t last long, but still, winter has supposedly passed. The landscape is still brown, but recent and sporadic spring sprinkles with hopefully bring some spring flowers, or at least a green landscape. One can only hope it’s sooner than later.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two pair of Canada geese announce their presence at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A morning walk on a frozen Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

“Winter Dressing” in SIouxland and Rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

12 Apr
Hoarfrost decorates a small wooded area in the countryside seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mother Nature decorated Siouxland and rural Nebraska recently with remnants of this year’s winter’s season, as some low lying fog areas created that winter wonderland look with hoarfrost decorating the surrounding countryside. This kind of frost never seems to last long. That short shelf life between freezing and sunshine allows the ethereal effect to disappear quickly. Letting one wonder if it was a dream or actually real. Something William Shakespeare make have written about in one of his plays that also took place in the countryside.

Hoarfrost decorates a hillside seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese take off from a pond surrounded by hoarfrost decorating the countryside seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hoarfrost decorates a grass stem seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it challenging in photographing in this type of environment. One needs enough contrast to bring out the delicate details of the frost, especially if one is attempting macro photography. Blue skies are ideal because of the contrast, but that means the frost will be disappearing soon as the temperatures begin to rise and the sunshine helps the frost “disappear”.

Hoarfrost decorates a roadside seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hoarfrost decorates a fence line in the countryside seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I drove to this area to look about I that particular day I drove through some dense fog. But the temperature there was not cool enough to create the frost I found in rural Nebraska. And just miles apart. Sometimes one gets lucky and gets to witness Mother Nature in action. The hoarfrost being a kind of benign action as opposed to seeing storms and the destruction sometimes wrought after those have ended. This day though, I just wished I had brought a thermos of coffee with me as the sun rose higher in the sky and the landscape changed before the viewer’s eyes.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Hoarfrost decorates a field seen outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A frosty sight along Omaha Creek outside of Winnebago, NE Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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