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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©)

Enjoying Nature in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

23 Mar
A rabbit hunkers down as a visitor passes by at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I spent a good deal of time walking the trails of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve located nearby. It’s peaceful and a nice way to get some exercise while also feeding the photography bug, photographing whatever critters may pop up during the walk.

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©)

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©)

A young bunny continues its morning trek into tall grass at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most times I concentrate on deer and other larger animals. They also tend to “linger” a bit while checking out visitor on the trails, while the smaller critters tend to bolt right away. Better to be safe and leave than sorry for hanging around to see who’s bopping down the pathway.

And many times while there I also find various bird species. Mostly songbirds but at other times different varieties, and they too tend to be skittish and I am not always able to get as close as I might like to photograph them other than a “here is a snapshot of what I saw” kind of photograph. Of course he doesn’t help when a bicycle or runner goes by. That tends to spook the creatures with a fast moving “animal” passing by.

A Great Blue Heron feeds at Mud Creek in the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Great Blue Herron at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Great Blue Herron at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I try to be stealthy when photographing the birds, and have not yet gotten into the habit of rising before dawn to go “camp out” at a spot and wait for the critters start stirring in the wee hours of the morning. I still like to walk the park as much as I like to photograph the creatures and try to enjoy the best of both worlds and just enjoy the moment, a little fresh air and quiet, before the noise of the world grows louder as it inevitably will.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Great Blue Herron snacks in a marsh at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Warm Day in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

19 Mar
Two Canada geese seem to be complaining to a photographer while they enjoy their day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter in Siouxland as elsewhere has been unusual to say the least this year. Temperatures on a roller coaster ride, cold, very cold and then warm. The warm days were pleasant though, and most folk took advantage and got out to enjoy them. The waterfowl at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve also seemed to enjoy a bit of sunshine and warmth as they enjoyed walked about a frozen Mud Lake.

A bicyclist rides by as geese walk on an ice covered lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two women point at some geese on Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Canada geese enjoy a warmer day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living in the Midwest has its challenges during the winter months. But except for the extreme cold on some days, there was little snow shoveling this year which made many people happy, except for those that remove snow during the winter to add their bottom line. It’s March and warmer days are ahead. Maybe even a little rain to make up for practically no snowfall in this area. And it might be nice to once again photograph critters out at the preserve walking about some green space and getting much needed exercise and a chance to welcome a change of seasons.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two men walk their dogs during a warm day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A joint bone of some animal that did not survive the winter, weather prey or succumbing to an injury seen at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese waddle about a dozen Mud Lake on a warm day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Canada geese take to the sky blue yonder above the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, February 20, 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Early Morning Adventure in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

7 Mar
Canada geese move about early morning at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not all adventures are great adventures in Siouxland. Some can be experimental in nature as I found out early one morning last fall. I am guessing it was a pleasant enough morning, temperature probably in the 40’s at the coolest, which is not bad. Much better than the current single digits and below zero temperatures Siouxland is currently experiencing.

Canada geese move about early morning at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Shooting early in the morning and trying not to use too high of an ISO setting left with Smith a wide open aperture and slow shutter speeds. The Canada geese populating Mud Creek at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve were not overly active, but any motion created “artistic effects” whether intentional or not. But the famous saying, “Nothing ventured………” seemed to apply and the attempt made.

I will be the first to admit that the results were not tremendous, but I did like the blue hour affect and the slight motion, well for some images, more than slight motion that resulted. As the temperatures rise it might be time to again revisit an early morning adventure and try and find that sweet spot between light and motion and clear images, or a better artistic rendering utilizing such an affect.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A later morning photograph shows a Canada goose sitting quietly in the water on pond scum at Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bird Migration in Siouxland, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

5 Mar
Swans rest at an open water area on a lake area at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like most parts of the U.S. that are pathways for bird migration during the winter months, I have seen birds moving through Siouxland, but it seems hit and miss at times. Although by no means am I a “hardcore” birder, out in whatever weather looking for these critters, but try to time my trips with reasonable temperatures at least north of 20-25 degrees without windchill. And maybe because it has been such a weird winter in that temperature swings from the 50’s down to below zero every few days has affected the birds and their instincts and migration.

Swans come in for a landing at a lake area at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese, a variety of ducks and swans enjoy open water and ice at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the few times I venture out I see some waterfowl in various open water areas but not nearly as much as previous years. But then I read about others who have seen scores of birds around the Siouxland area so figure my cold weather reluctance might be a factor.

Two women view Canada geese, a variety of ducks and other waterfowl near an open water area at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese, a variety of ducks and other waterfowl enjoy open water and ice at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But getting out and enjoying nature and attempting to photograph these creatures is all part of enjoying the day or moment until the next opportunity arises. I just keep wishing that the little rodent Phil had seen or not seen his shadow, whichever it may be, and that winter would end earlier than the little critter predicted.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An eagle watches for movement from atop a tree along the Missouri River at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese, a variety of ducks and other waterfowl enjoy open water and ice at the DeSoto National Wildlife Area Monday, January 31, 2022 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park, rural Woodbury County

1 Mar
Canada geese fly in and out from open water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Just recently I learned that a park in rural Siouxland was once again up and running. Snyder Bend Park had some surreal visitation in 2020 but with drought conditions and some other issues, the water area was drained and only recently refilled and stocked with fish, which brought with it the return of waterfowl. A number of Canada geese on a blustery day were doing touch and goes with one group landing on the water while another took offer and soaring on the air currents around the park.

The cacophony of noise was somewhat deafening but understandable with a large flock of geese. Some of the waterway was iced over, but a decent portion had open water and the waterfowl were making the most of it. Maybe happy to return to a favorite stop over spot on their migration route.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canada geese on open water at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese do a fly over at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese at Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County near Salix, Iowa, Friday, February 11, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Weather is not Delightful in Siouxland, Sioux City

27 Feb
A Starling bird flies off with some dried fruit from a feeder in a backyard on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter has blasted Siouxland with some pretty harsh weather as of late, with air temperatures in the single digits and wind chill driving the temps down below freezing, in most cases -10 or more below zero with it getting even colder overnight.

I always try to keep a few bird feeders filled with eats for those creatures that visit during the colder months and when it’s extremely cold outside I see starlings showing up looking for some warmth and eats.

Starling birds huddle together to stay warm on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Starling birds huddle together to stay warm on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These guys hang out in groups and except for the few single brave ones that dashed and dined at the feeders, most came in small groups, staying just long enough and then darting off to someplace they felt a bit more safe. Watching the these birds and other species is interesting and always makes me smile is how all creatures share some common traits even if we don’t really believe it. And hopefully overnight when the temps and wind an be more brutal, they find a safe haven to hunker down and wait for a better day that will come soon according to the weather prognosticators.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Starling bird eats a kernel of corn near a feeder in a backyard on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Starling bird lands near some others looking for food within a small woodpile in a backyard on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Starling bird drops in to join others huddled together to stay warm on an exceptionally cold blustery day when windchill creates a temperature of -15 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 22, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring Wishing in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, South Dakota

13 Feb
A female eastern blue bird sits perched in a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though February has barely begun in Siouxland and elsewhere, the current warm weather spell has increased that longing for spring to arrive, early even, for an opportunity for early morning walks and searching for song birds again at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve.

A photographer searches a wetland area for a specific species of songbird at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A young robin puffs out its feathers sitting in a bush near a wetland area at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The fresh air that doesn’t freeze the air passage on the way in and sunlight early in the morning is a delight that some folk enjoy. Plus it makes getting exercise easier when one doesn’t think about frozen toes walking on one the preserves many trails. And if one happens to linger a bit to just enjoy the moment, hot coffee doesn’t pop into one’s mind giving incentive to hurry back to the car and a warmer space after a brisk walk.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A robin sits in the shade of a tree at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Spring Day in Winter in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

11 Feb
A couple walks a board walk nature trail as the day’s temperature hovers in the low 50’s at the Hitchcock Nature Center in rural Pottawattamie County Monday, January 31, 2022 near Honey Creek, Iowa. Although spring-like Monday, Western Iowa is seeing this winter’s temperatures swing from from highs in the 50’s and sometimes 60’s to below zero with wind chill of -30 but very little snow. The temperature will be dropping to zero by Wednesday of this week. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An unusual winter continues in Siouxland this year, a bit different from other parts of the country. Normally the area is covered in snow, sometimes a lot, but a drought trend seems to be continuing for this part of the Midwest with little to no snow accumulations happening in the immediate area. Spring-like weather with temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s make it very pleasant to venture outdoors. The temperature has been bouncing from around zero to minus zero for a few days and then jumping back up to the 40’s and 50’s. Sometimes making it possible for almost a 50-60 degree mood change in the climate.

And the dry conditions may hamper farmers when it comes to spring planting with many worrying about enough moisture in the ground for the planted seeds to begin germinating.

A couple walks a nature trail with the temperature in the low 50’s at the Hitchcock Nature Center in rural Pottawattamie County Monday, January 31, 2022 near Honey Creek, Iowa. Although spring-like Monday, Western Iowa is seeing this winter’s temperatures swing from from highs in the 50’s and sometimes 60’s to below zero with wind chill of -30 but very little snow. The temperature will be dropping to zero by Wednesday of this week. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A red-headed woodpecker fast at work on a tree at the Hitchcock Nature Center in rural Pottawattamie County Monday, January 31, 2022 near Honey Creek, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But having lived a good portion of my life in the Midwest it’s nice not to freeze any extremities going outdoors if just running to the store. Some days though this winter season and local newscasters and weather prognosticators warn people that exposing skin for more than 30 minutes during the extreme cold spells will result in frostbite. But it certainly does spoil a person wearing a sweater and heavy fleece rather than a parka. And it was nice while visiting the Hitchcock Nature Center to actually see trails I have not hiked before because of lack of foliage and snow on the ground covering the trails.

So sometime in spring or early summer when the land is dry a little longer walk to some distance hillsides will be necessary to check out the scenery and see what lies beyond the hill.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Distant park trails are seen from the watchtower nature to the nature center at the Hitchcock Nature Center in rural Pottawattamie County Monday, January 31, 2022 near Honey Creek, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes the Best Laid Plans in Siouxland, Aren’t, Prairie Heritage Center, Peterson

9 Feb
A bald eagle sits in a tree by a waterway near the Prairie Heritage Center Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent outing I joined some other folk for a jaunt over to Peterson, Iowa and the Prairie Heritage Center where a local bird expert was going to lead the group about the area in search of the Cedar Waxwing bird species.

I am new to birding as a hobby or vocation as some may prefer, and just enjoy getting out, walking, hiking woods and exploring new areas. Or at least new areas at places I previously have visited in the past.

If one wasn’t paying attention, the bald eagle sitting in the tree by a waterway might be missed and seen near the Prairie Heritage Center Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Birders looking for signs of the Cedar Waxwing at the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the best laid plans, a variation on a line from a John Steinbeck novel, sometimes best describes an adventure, or trip that somewhat becomes an adventure. I was looking forward to seeing a bird and maybe photographing it, a species I have not had the pleasure of an acquaintance yet. And it was an early morning rise for the 2-hour drive to Peterson.

For some reason of which I didn’t hear, the local birder who was to lead the group could not make the outing. But I have learned that intrepid birders are not to be deterred and set out with some direction after a phone call to find the Cedar Waxwing. Friends of mine know I am more of a park and walk about kind of person as opposed to driving here, stopping, looking, then driving some more. While it’s true that I do cruise about Siouxland looking for images, I must prefer exploring on foot because I can see so much more. So I passed on joining the birders on their quest.

A hillside of interest for birders seeking the Cedar Waxwing species near the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Austin Hill Prairie area near the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I was lucky though, as a couple who drove north about the same amount of time had car problems and had to call Triple A for assistance to get their vehicle back on the road. I never heard what happened there or if they were able to return home under their own power or via tow truck. I once had a car break down 2.5 hours away from home and it was a long, and rather pricey return trip, not including the work on the vehicle.

So not wanting to begin my 2 hour drive back too soon I spent some time looking about the area and deciding a return trip in early summer and possibly fall might yield some nice images.

A snowy scene along a waterway at the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snowmobile tracks on a waterway in the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Peterson, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One just never knows what adventure may await on a journey, be it a short one or a longer one. One can only hope it will be a pleasant journey that becomes memorable in a good way. And gives you a chance to tell a story sometime down the road which will probably bore family and friends to tears, but hopefully a smile to one’s own face.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A meadow and grove of trees not far from the Waterman Wildlife Management Area in rural O’Brien County Saturday , January 12, 2022 outside of Sutherland, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snowy backroad in rural O’Brien County Saturday, January 12, 2022 outside of Sutherland, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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