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Backyard Birds in Siouxland, Sioux City

3 Dec
A white-breasted nuthatch flicks its tongue as it eats a snack at a feeder in the backyard of a residence Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa.

With the changing seasons, now fall into winter, I am not certain which little guys will stick around for the winter visiting feeders in the neighborhood. As I traveled about Siouxland this year I sometimes found myself enjoying watching winged creatures closer to home than at some nature preserves. It was also nice to just be able to sit on a deck and drink coffee and watch the antics provided by these small neighbors. And slowly, very slowly, I am learning a bit about the different species. In particular, I have learned there are more than a dozen local sparrow species and sometimes telling them apart is not easy. So I am finding my learning curve a bit long in the tooth.

A downy woodpecker eats a grub it found in a dead branch on a tree in the backyard of a residence Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa.

Summer and fall is winding down for some backyard visitors, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer and fall is winding down for some backyard visitors, in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have learned it takes a bit of patience to sit quietly watching these skittish creatures come eat and fly off, some species like the white-breasted nuthatch and black capped chickadee barely landing before flying away with a meal to eat elsewhere and then returning some more and repeating this pattern continuously. Other birds, like the sparrows will sit and munch a while before leaving.

A sparrow grabs a snack as summer and fall winds down for some backyard visitors, in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer and fall is winding down for some backyard visitors, like this sparrow in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer and fall is winding down for some backyard visitors, like this house finch in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I would guess I have taken in excess a few thousand images of birds in my neighborhood, trying to improve on the photographs of the ones previously taken. Tweaking the technique and then hoping for that extra second or two before the little creature bolts to “safety”, although learning when they may come back for more and figuring out time of day for feeding habit. Surprisingly I found that mid-afternoon seems to be a feeding time as opposed to early morning and early evening, both of which I have found the birds feeding. But education in any form is always good and am already looking forward to next year when the weather warms up a tad and the birds are once again active.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A backyard visiting sparrow makes his presence known, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Possibly a female cardinal snacks a snack in a backyard, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A house finch chews on a seed in a backyard, in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Common house sparrows snack at a feeder at a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer’s Past in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

27 Nov
A rabbit sits quietly watching someone approach on a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Tuesday, August 3, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Now as fall begins to wane and the prairie winds pushes temperatures into a more wintry feel in Siouxland, I just sigh and think about walking about the region in warmer temperatures and realize it will again be a few months. Even though recently air temp has stayed in the 40’s with a couple days even approaching high 50’s, that prairie wind creates a wind chill affect negating whatever warmth the sun appears to be sharing.

A male cardinal perches on a bird feeder near the welcome center at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Tuesday, August 3, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A red-headed woodpecker searches for a meal on a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Tuesday, August 3, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So I try to adjust my thinking and pull out heavier coats to continue taking walks in nature, weather permitting, as well as driving conditions, and enjoy the moment at hand. Wishful thinking is that, until the reality of the day interrupts serene thoughts and life presents itself in the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A rabbit looks about watching someone approach on a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Tuesday, August 3, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Cool Misty Morning in Siouxland, rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

23 Nov
A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some times the prospect of waking up early to get somewhere before the sun actually peeks over the horizon seems a difficult task. It’s not always a long drive to reach someplace in Siouxland, but I find jump starting my “get off my ass and go” engine takes a bit of effort. But when I get somewhere, I am most certainly glad I got up and explored the destination, enjoying the light play that an early morning sun will sometimes create.

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Add a little cool overnight temperatures and as the sun warms up the earth magical things happen as the light plays with the mist that is created. I don’t always avail myself of every opportunity I might have in photographing light play. And sometimes I know I am just being lazy. But these days I don’t mind. I will enjoy what I see and the moment and only hope there may be more sometime down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Preparing for the holidays, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, Iowa

21 Nov
Holiday decoration begins appearing at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve as it prepares for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Volunteers carry Christmas decorations as the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve prepares for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Besides enjoying the cooler temperatures and colorful leaves that fall brings, I do enjoy the festive feel when homes and other places begin putting up lights for the holiday season in Siouxland. While not looking forward to cooler temperatures, I like just enjoying the moment, making thinking of childhood memories or other good times that Christmas helps me remember, besides the obvious, that a very special child was born on a very special night. Although I think the jury is still out, and will be, for when that night actually occurred.

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve began a tradition last year during the pandemic to entice people to at least come outside, where it is relatively safer from catching the virus and enjoying some holiday cheer. And again this year the park manager, Jody Moats, and her crew of staff and volunteers are once again decorating the Homestead in preparation for the Christmas season.

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve park manager Jody Moats attaches Christmas lights to a tree with the help of a volunteer for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve volunteers are putting up lights for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s fun to wander about the park and enjoy hearing the giggles and excited talk of little ones attending with their parents in anticipation of Old St. Nick visiting their home, hopefully, during the holiday season. At least for a short time period one might be able to put on hold all the other problems that seem to continually occur and maybe truly wish a happy and merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve volunteers are putting up lights for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve park manager Jody Moats gives directions to a volunteer as they put up lights for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve volunteers are putting up lights for the Homestead Holidays weekends beginning Thursday, Dec. 2 in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The Homestead holidays will span every weekend in December, Thursday through Sunday except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flying Escort in Siouxland, rural Thurston County, Nebraska

19 Nov
Two Canada geese get an escort from a bevy of Red Wing blackbirds as they fly along the Missouri River on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In the last year I have spent more time visiting nature places in Siouxland with a concerted effort to hopefully photograph birds and other animals than in previous years. Shooting wildlife is not as easy as it seems. The critters are quite fast, but because of the pandemic I spent a good portion of my time traipsing through various nature preserves in the area, near and far. And enjoyed it. Shutting out so much “white noise” that has occurred because of people’s views on staying healthy, or not.

While walking a trail near the Missouri River not far from Winnebago, NE I saw some geese fly overhead with apparently an escort by some a flock of red-wing blackbirds. It made me think of those WWII war movies where B-51 bombers flew to Europe escorted by fighter plans to run interference during their mission. While I don’t believe the smaller birds were escorting the larger birds, it did give me pause, and a chance to marvel at nature and possible quirks I never noticed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Waning Days of Fall in Siouxland, rural Monona and Woodbury Counties

15 Nov
Cattle graze in a field under colorful fall foliage outside Smithland, Iowa in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the first winter snow and possible snow to begin creeping into the area accompanied by high winds, I don’t expect many of the leaves and any fall color to be seen in a few days. Driving about Siouxland the last couple of weeks I have felt lucky to see find spots of changing fall foliage and the chance to take a few images. Like many folk, I enjoy fall and it was one of the reasons for returning to the Midwest after having worked and lived in other parts of the U.S. Winter will come, but it will also pass. One only hoped it passes sooner that later. Mild winters are nice, if temps remain in the 20’s and 30’s without below freezing wind gusts and sustained cold spells. Being out on days like that is not so enjoyable even if one likes winter.

An iron trestle bridge frames a gravel road as some fall color is seen in a yet to be harvested corn field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Country backroads and changing autumnal colors in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about the backroads and country roads are a joy to me. Have always been. No matter where I lived I always seemed to find country roads to drive about on and a chance to get away from the noise that sometimes daily life brings. These days maybe a little more jazz than classical music on the car radio that gives my mind a chance to wander as I drive around and just look, not really knowing what to expect over the next hill or around the next bend. Small surprises and joy when an image pops up and I am there to record it. Most times, if ever, award winning, but satisfying none the less and pleasing to me. Sometimes simple joys are the best.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Trees with colorful foliage near a harvested soybean field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flying the Friendly Skies in Siouxland, Rural Nebraska

11 Nov
A Great Blue Heron lands on a dead tree seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I never tire and am always please when driving about Siouxland to see critters as they go about their day until I inadvertently disturb them when pulling up to a pond or other areas I am aware of in search of wildlife. And sometimes I think they spot my vehicle and hesitate just long enough for me to think I might actually get a photograph and then depart, just as I am hitting the shutter button on my camera. The challenge to photographing creatures in their environment. Some day I might actually become good at it, maybe, but for the time being, seeing the animals in their habitat is enjoyable in and of itself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Great Blue Heron flies to a dead tree seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Great Blue Heron looking as if it has enormous stilts to stand on perching in the top of a dead tree seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bidding “Friends” Goodbye in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

9 Nov
A deer checks out a walker on a trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the changing of seasons takes place in Siouxland and elsewhere, I am certain I may not see as many wildlife critters as I did during the spring and summer months, and early autumn. My own inclination to get up when it’s dark and to take a walk when it’s cold seems less appealing these coming months. But then again, I might get lucky. While out and about, I might come across some deer and other critters over the winter months as they look for food and survived the fall’s hunting season. As least I hope they do. It makes for a much pleasant walk when the creatures pause, stare and wonder about you as much as you might pause, stare and wonder about them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer checks out a walker on a trail from a safe distance at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A deer stops its grazing as a walker approaches on a trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A deer checks out a walker on a trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Reaching for Heaven in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

22 Oct
A goose takes flight and aims for the heavens during the migratory season this fall seen at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes one wants to aim high and take a chance of achieving new heights, even in Siouxland. Not much needs to be said aside from admiring a person or creature who wants to try. It is always nice to achieve a goal or dream, but sometimes it is just as important to just make the attempt in getting there.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Latham Park, Sioux City

20 Oct
Various plants decorate Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, August 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out roaming about Siouxland I just enjoy seeing the light. How it interacts with various subjects and and the surrounding environ. No agenda in photographing anything specific, just “seeing the light”. Life should sometimes be so simple. And the fleeting months of fall I find the light bright, but not over powering because of the angle of the sun and its intense, but still muted. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people I talk with, but after a while, if one watches and looks and sees, it eventually becomes clearer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Sunlight backlights a plant and details its vein structure seen at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, August 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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