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Shhhhhh! Don’t Wake the Babies in Siouxland, Sioux City

4 Sep

Baby house sparrows call out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I’ve noticed some noisy neighbors recently in the area and it has been a bit fun to watch and mostly listen to the little guys/gals as mom or dad flies to and fro feeding them. But I can’t figure out how all three of the baby sparrows plus an adult fit into the birdhouse.

An adult house sparrow has a mouth full of food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult house sparrow has a mouth full of food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Baby house sparrows go quiet calling out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And I imagine at some point the little dears will be ready to fly off and just hope they make it on their life’s journey. Other neighbors, furry ones, hear the cries of “feed me” and watch longingly from afar, possibly thinking of their own meal.

Nature is what it is. But one hopes like with all living beings they get a chance, but sometimes it sees chance can be a good or bad encounter.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Baby house sparrows call out from a bird house for food from their parents in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult house sparrow looks about before flying to a feeder for another batch of baby food for its nestlings in a bird house in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, August 3, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Still Day in Siouxland, Wildlife Management Area, Salix

29 Aug

A water lily on a still pond at a Woodbury County Wildlife Management area near Snyder Bend Park Wednesday, July 13, 2022 south of Salix, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes a quiet, still day is a pleasant day in Siouxland. Enjoying the outdoors, on a cooler day with the hopes of seeing some wildlife but not really knowing what to expect. There are the days when one must look a bit more to see the beauty in the vastness, which might be one unique lily pad among the many.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Lazy Days of Summer in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

27 Aug

An Asian tiger yawns from the soon to become heat of the day at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This summer in Siouxland like many places has been extremely hot and dry. When I visited the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE earlier in the summer on such a day the animals reminded me that sometimes it’s okay to take a break during the heat of the day, if possible, and not over do it. Although for humans that is not always possible, as temperatures seem to become more extreme both in summer and winter maybe the human race needs to re-evaluate it’s life and needs to accommodate a climate that is not always hospitable. But that will never happen as the wheels of commerce and industry and those who wield the power will never acquiesce to such a mind set as they work from their mostly air-conditioned and more temperature controlled board rooms and offices.

But watching the animals at the zoo, they understand nature and seem to know when taking a break is a reasonable option too puruse.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Resting but always wary, a tiger lays on a cool cement floor at the start of a soon to be hot day at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nap time for a young cheetah at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A young cheetah looks up at the sound of a noise at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A young spider monkey picks off something from another at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two spider monkeys look out what their enclosure at the humans watching them at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two spider monkeys look about from their enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Friday, June 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fair Time in Siouxland, Woodbury County Fair, Moville

15 Aug

A show pig appears to be looking for a way out as its owner participates in a 4-H/FFA judging event at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Rural Iowa in Siouxland would never be complete without a county fair in the summertime. Or elsewhere in other states for that matter. As a child I spent a few summers participating in 4-H events with projects and remember some fondly, and others that may not have gone as expected. And fairs have a long history, originally beginning in England as a sort of religious celebration according to some online sites.

According to a history site the first county fair in the U.S. took place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807. Sheep farmer Elkanah Watson wanted to promote better farming practices and held a sheep shearing demonstration and contest. Probably happy with its success, Watson began developing agricultural fairs that included contests and activities for the whole family.

While trying to maintain control of their animal entries, 4-H/FFA members of various county clubs also need to stay focused on the event judge during a competition at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A 4-H/FFA member preps his sheep for showing at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And in Iowa according to another site it was in 1841 that an exhibition was held exhibiting a particular cattle breed. An Agricultural Society created an event to show off cattle of the Durham breed, the first such exhibition west of the Mississippi River. In 1855 the Agricultural Society created the Lee County Fair in Lee County and thus began county fairs. And others in most states with agriculture began their own fairs. It was a chance for “country folk” to get a day off and maybe show off some of their livestock or produce they had grown. And fairs have changed over time, adding carnivals, and two youth groups, 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of American) were started to offer young people interested in agriculture and farm type living than now includes organic a space and place to pursue those interests.

A bunny “exhibit” for a 4_h member a at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Animal owners like the 4-H member and owner of this rabbit puts an ice water bottle in the cage to help keep the animal cool during sweltering temperatures during the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022. Large fans were also deployed throughout the barn areas to keep the air moving during the fair. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visitors enjoy the rabbit exhibits of 4-H/FFA members at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For 4-H and FFA members the county fairs are the place to show off their work for the year and compete with like-minded individuals and maybe go to their state’s fair to compete amongst their peers, the “championship games” equivalent to sporting events. And these days 4-H clubs are not limited to only “kids in the country” like when I was growing up, and the various activities and kinds of projects has greatly expanded beyond just animals. Although some members whose parents might own small acreage can raise rabbits, chickens, goats or lamps as well as other types of projects that might include nutrition, photography, art, explanatory projects involving building or cooking.

A 4-H/FFA member cuddles her kitten before competing in an event during the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The cat looks calm wearing its leash/bib during a 4-H/FFA competition during the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A kitten looks very sedate from all of the affection and attention during a 4-H/FFA competition at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But county fairs also harken back to a little country nostalgia that those farming might enjoy. Collecting and exhibiting older “antique” farm tractors is now an expensive hobbies, akin to those who collect and show off model A and T cars and those muscle cars of the ’50’s and ’60’s.

Older style tractors and in some cases, “antiques” on display at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Older farm tractors are as collectible to some folk as antique cars seen at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And then there is the carnival side of fairs and the rides that all kids, no matter the age, still enjoy and look forward too.

A county fair wouldn’t be complete without carnival rides see at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A county fair wouldn’t be complete without carnival rides see at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A county fair wouldn’t be complete without carnival rides see at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some of the events are a bit fun-filled for the kids as in a pie eating contest that was more whip cream slurping than actual pie eating. And though I didn’t watch all of it, a few of the younger ones seemed a bit unsure if inhaling all of that topping was actually going to stay put. And no “spill buckets”.

Happy about winning the age division pie eating, well whip cream slurping contest, during the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Standing nonchalantly after winning the age division pie eating, well whip cream slurping contest, while a volunteer holds another contestant’s pigtails to keep them clear of the whip cream during the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Fair Queen makes sure this particular contestant gets plenty of whip cream to slurp during a “pie eating” contest at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In the end though, for those that compete at the county fair, bringing home a blue ribbon or best of show or even a championship trophy still tops the list of accomplishments.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Showing off some “fancy booties” a prize winning goat entry for a 4-H/FFA member is held for a commemorative photo in the winners circle at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville, Iowa Thursday, August 4, 2022 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Summer’s Day Birding, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve, Westfield

11 Aug

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living in Siouxland for some is a bit of luxury in that the rural area has a number of places that “birders”, such as members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society, can get together and enjoy their common interest in finding and recording the feathered creatures that inhabit Siouxland, as well as those passing through during a migratory flight depending on the season.

And sometimes I am lucky to go along with the folk and explore a new area or revisit one I had forgotten about. Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve is a large acreage in Siouxland that contains the largest remaining prairie native to Iowa, along with a couple hundred bison that roam the preserve. The birders this day were driving the rim of the preserve and looking for whatever creatures they might find and recording their finds later on their website.

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A member of the Loess Hills Audubon Society takes a photo of scene while birding 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©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For me as always, it’s more about the photography and documenting what occurs, a practice I can’t seem to shake after working for small daily newspapers and weeklies for 3 decades. I enjoy watching people enjoy their passion and taking the time to pursue it, even on what turned out to be. muggy kind of morning and more so as the day wore on. But once out and searching one can forget the discomfort of the weather in trying to find those elusive little feathered neighbors. The birders recognize the bird song, of which some I do, but not near enough, and it’s probably time for me to download one of the many bird apps to use to know what bird is singing while outdoors.

A lonely fence post seen 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©)

One of several bison grazing on a hilltop off at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wildflowers seen 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©)

I can easily get sidetracked while out as I see various visuals come into view. But it’s always fun, and a little morning walk after a couple cups of coffee preps one, and of course, thinking about lunch later. I am learning through friends how a day might be planned and I must admit, the planning around fun activities and eating always sounds like a good day to me.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A wooden bench allows visitors a place to sit and watch and listen at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve off of Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Storms in Siouxland, rural Sioux County

5 Aug

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I was younger and prior to living in Siouxland I chased a few storms for newspapers I previously worked for, in west Texas and Louisiana. Looking back on those experiences it was probably not the best of choices. But it can produce interesting images. Many of them centered on property destruction on surrounding communities where I worked. Storms roll through the Midwest and Siouxland in the spring and summer. Sometimes they can be pretty dramatic, other times they bring needed rain without much drama. Generally those are the better storms. But I still enjoy going out occasionally to check out the clouds and such and hope the most action I see is heavy rain. Done the the hail and high winds and I can pass on those. To which the adage “no pain no gain” can extol a heavy price especially when personal vehicles are damaged.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Storm clouds appear to bring rain showers near Ireton, Iowa in rural Sioux County Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Floor Show in Siouxland, De Soto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

29 Jul

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when I head out to photograph I might have a destination in mind. One particular day I headed down to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley. The refuge encompasses area in both Iowa and Nebraska (Boyer Chute National Wildlife Area) along the Missouri River. Depending on the time of year I expect to find some wildlife. Mainly birds during the spring and fall migration periods. Hopefully eagles and then shore birds and ducks and geese.

This particular day it was a cool morning only to heat up later so I thought why not go for a drive and hope for the best. Driving into the refuge I saw a juvenile eagle fly overhead and a couple of other birds, but there was not many species showing.

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I drove to a large “blind” area set up by the federal parks folk which happens to be across the river from a perennial eagles nest. I parked walked to the blind and then pleasantly surprised to find three Great Blue Herons feeding along the shoreline. I am just happy to see wildlife, and happier still to be able to photograph them within a reasonable distance. I was not prepared though to find one bird unhappy another was walking into its shoreline feeding area and so the dance began. Since I was concentrating shooting only one bird at a time I was not shooting wide enough when the two began to engage. Shooting through a blind opening with a long lens and not having one’s hand on the zoom ring is not good camera practice. Oh well.

It was enough though to enjoy seeing something I had never witnessed and still being able to make a few frames showing the birds’ dancing. Done in a manner of seconds, they parted and just started feeding again.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Great Blue Herons squabble over shoreline territory while looking for food until they sort it out at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, July 3, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deer in “Headlights”, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

25 Jul

A deer and turkey spy a passer-by in a meadow area at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I do get out and walk about Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in Siouxland I sometimes get lucky and find deer, stopped in their tracks, and watching me, as I walk on a trail. Never having really hunted anything more than sparrows when a kid with a BB gun I could never sit still very long and would have been lousy waiting for animals to appear and then take advantage of and shoot them. My dad always told me that if I killed a deer, I was on my own skinning it. And I really had no desire to shoot one. Watching them traverse in a field or meadow or woods is enjoyment that I like. The bonus is being able to photograph them at a close enough range, most of the time, to actually see some detail.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer makes its way across a meadow area at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With its fawn not far away, a white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A white-tailed deer watches a visitor using a walking trail while its fawn looks in another direction at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Knock, Knock, Knocking on the Door in Siouxland, Sioux City

13 Jul

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many mornings when it’s pleasant enough to sit outside in the morning to enjoy that first “cup of Joe” in Siouxland I will hear a familiar reframe. Knock, knock, knock, knock in a staccato kind of fashion. And then see the visitor looking for a more reliable treat after checking the usual spots for insects. Nothing wrong with a little desert.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker visits a feeder in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying “Light Play” in Siouxland, rural Monona County

9 Jul

The setting sun creates a dramatic look as it peers through western horizon clouds spotlighting various areas of a hillside off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when I drive about Siouxland I have not particular destination in mind, or at least no particular subject matter. Sometimes when checking out an area to see what I can find and have as a resource for later use I will take a drive. One particular weekend day afternoon to got lucky as the sun was getting low in the sky for the end of the day, the sunlight broke through the cloud cover that had contained it and showered the countryside with light. Very directional and hard lighting that will give a landscape a bit of character or bring its own character out as it sculpts hillsides and other amenities.

A lone Canada goose sits quietly on a shaded pond off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The setting sun creates a dramatic look as it peers through western horizon clouds spotlighting various areas of a hillside off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like watching the light when it creates some amazing possibilities for images. Even if I am not shooting or in position for what I might think would be a good photograph. A pond nearby was in shade because of the low setting sun and the trees and provides a good contrast (pun intended since there is no contrast in light at the pond) to what an area looks like without the sunlight streaming across.

Life sometimes should be simple and a joy to just enjoy simple things, like sunlight and a landscape.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The setting sun creates a dramatic look as it peers through western horizon clouds spotlighting various areas of a hillside off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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