Tag Archives: animals

Watching Crafty Critters in Siouxland, Sioux City

12 Sep
A squirrel slowly makes its way down the side of a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, June 12, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It never amazes me when I watch little critters behave, especially when in search of a treat in a backyard. Squirrels can be quite entertaining, and sometimes animated as they look for peanuts some friendly neighbor has left them or kernels of corn. Some of the squirrels busily obtain and they scurry to bury their treats, while others simply enjoy and chow down on as many as they can.

A squirrel peeks over a fence in search of some peanuts in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, June 12, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Always cautious yet always moving, hoping to score a morsel, one or two of these backyard neighbors put on a show without realizing their entertainment value. And I hope they make it through another winter even though fall is only just arriving. It seems the weather recently has been just as wacky as some these critters’ antics but a little more serious.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A squirrel lowers itself to reach some nuts in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, June 12, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A squirrel leaves with a prize in its mouth after visiting the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, June 12, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Morning out in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

10 Sep
American wild turkeys and their young forage for food in morning light at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like many in Siouxland enjoy a nice morning walk when the weather’s nice and the sun is just coming up. That activity is not exclusive to humans but also wildlife when it might be a bit safer to take the family out for a stroll and morning brunch. I consider myself lucky when I happen upon such a “family” and I don’t spook them too much and be patient while they make their way to whatever destination they choose. Have the fun is just watching their behavior and seeing nature up close and somewhat personal, each being on it way to start a new day and to see what awaits.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young wild American Turkey chick stretches its wing while out walking with its parent at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American wild turkeys and their young forage for food in morning light at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Speeding through Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

4 Sep
A turkey chick cranes its neck to look for a possible predator after flying into the branches of a nearby tree near a trail along with several siblings at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I used to run nearly everyday when I was younger, pushing myself on the various routes I would chart on trails, streets, tracks, various places always trying to change up the scenery and impact different surfaces had on my body. Until that is my doctor told me my knees would no longer sustain that kind of activity. These days in Siouxland I chart various places to walk, but mostly contain myself to nature preserves and other places where I might see song birds, deer, other critters and where I can walk at ease and not feel in a hurry and enjoy myself “on the journey” as opposed to the journey’s end as I did when I finished my 4-5 mile (nearly) daily run as I did in the past.

Taking a run at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A turkey flies into a brushy area looking to avoid a passerby at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a morning bike ride at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve I envy those I see out for a run. I just truly enjoyed the exertion and the movement, especially when I found myself in that runner’s “groove”. These days I think of the missed opportunities some of these folk miss when speeding down a trail or path getting in their daily exercise. Making a noise before reaching a point along the trail that might spook critters getting a morning snack or heading to a spot they will bed down for an afternoon nap during the heat of the day.

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 deer and turkey spy a passer-by in a meadow area and then take off in different directions after seeing a passerby at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

My slower pace has led me to other discoveries and enjoying nature in a different way. And I am not saying folk out running or biking are not enjoying nature. A friend rides a bike all the time and and is able to photograph some pretty amazing scenes while out and about. Although he is scanning the area he is in as an avid birder, and looking to document what he sees. I try to walk softly when on the trails since I am actively looking for critters to photograph and much more moving along than sitting in a blind waiting for creatures to come my way. Although recently I acquired a blind and will see how that works out and whether my patience and ability to sit still for more than 15 minutes will help me.

A Western Meadowlark sings from its perch along an open woodland as it watches a visitor using a walking trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cooling down after a run at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a walk at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And maybe my adjustment to my enjoyment of nature has changed since I can no longer run and must confine myself to footfalls as I traverse various trails and places. And I was never a really big biking enthusiast, even less so after some close encounters with drivers who probably aren’t good drivers even without traffic on the roadways. And I am content with that, enjoying the morning, learning animal behavior and seeing if my photographic reflexes will allow me the chance to capture a critter in motion or in its habitat as I quietly and slowly move into a better photographic shooting position without alarming or stressing the animals.

Regardless of one’s reason being outdoors and in nature, it’s good for a person to put down the electronics and just enjoy those moments of quiet and scenes that don’t include buildings, vehicles or other “manmade” items other than bird blinds. Solitude and space has its rewards and I hope to enjoy more of them down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A doe and its fawn make their way down a mowed walking trail at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a Walk with Nature in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

6 Jul
A deer pauses to watch another early morning walker at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In recent months I have spent some early Siouxland mornings out walking at local nature preserves. Enjoying what I see and also the cooler temperatures that one finds as the sun barely peers over the horizon. A young self would never have guessed that I have become an early riser. Although naps later in the day are never a bad thing, either.

A deer feeds on corn leaves in a field near Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A deer enjoys a little corn leaf snack in a planted field that borders the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a couple of different occasions walking at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve I found a deer eating corn stalk leaves in a field that abuts the preserve. Someone said with lack of recent rain in late spring and early summer the deer probably find the corn leaves tastier than the dry grass they encounter. And I can’t swear to it, but on two different walks I spied a deer in the same location munching away, thinking he/she must have found a new breakfast spot to get the day started.

A deer stands still in a shaded area as it makes its way across a meadow at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Weather forecasters predict a heat index of 100 with severe storms to move into the area overnight into Friday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s fun to see the creatures in their habitat, and fun as well to be able to photograph them without them being one or two miles in the distance. Standing and watching and not being in a hurry, the deer generally continued their browsing and eventually moved on into deeper shade areas to await the still rising sun and temperatures that were sure to follow. Other creatures were also enjoying the morning cool temps greeting the new day in song, and then some prefer their water element to stay cool on yet another steamy, summer’s days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a barbed wire fence in the shade at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Weather forecaster predict a heat index of 100 degrees Thursday with severe storms overnight into Friday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two turtles sun themselves on a log sticking out of Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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

18 Jun
A sleepy lion fights to keep its eyes open for a noon time nap at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I visited the Henry Doorly Zoo south of Siouxland this past spring. Although temperature wise it could have been considered summer by normal standards. The big cats were lazing about in the sun after having eaten earlier that morning. Looking at them a nap sounded good. The zoo sprawls over a fair distance and I must admit, some days I am feeling rather tired. But it’s fascinating watching the animals and then watching the people watching the animals.

An Asian tiger walks across its compound at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Enjoying a look at the Asian tiger during a public school spring break at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In April it was already shorts and tee shirt weather. The animals staying in the shade except when tempted out, ignoring the humans straining to get a look as they admire the big cats and other animals. I want to visit the zoo again this summer, but already weather forecasters are predicting heat indexes of 100 or better, and the Siouxland area has had numerous 90 degree weather days already, without much rain. Like the big cats, I don’t feel overly energetic on these days, and driving an hour to see them in 90 degree or higher temps isn’t as inviting as it might once have been.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Serenading the Neighbors in Siouxland, Sioux City

8 Jun
A cardinal wonders why his audience is not listening to his song in a backyard in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

backyard birds in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently a cardinal saw the chance to entertain residents in a backyard and pranced about and prepared for his performance. Checking around to see if those nearby were paying attention or not.

backyard birds in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

backyard birds in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not all residents were obliging though as it apparently interfered with other, more pressing matters.

A napping cat ignores the singing of backyard birds in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But performers know the show must go on, with or without a willing audience.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

backyard birds in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And the concert begins as a cardinal sings in a backyard in Sioux City, Iowa Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nine Lives in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

25 May
A young cheetah looks for a squirrel who scampered up a tree in its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I visit a zoo just outside of Siouxland and focus more on observing behavior of the animals and folk around them, the more human nature and animal nature seem to show through. On a recent visit when the animals were a bit more active on a cool, yet sunny day, a number of people were gathered about a cheetah exhibit. As I was walking up I saw two younger animals quickly encircle a tree. While not quite fast enough to raise my camera even though I was still a bit too far away to capture a decent image, a squirrel scampered up the backside of a tree escaping for another day and expending one of its nine lives and out of the reach of a couple of “curious cats” that tried climbing the tree but were foiled because of a metal barrier around the trunk. Guessing in place for this explicit purpose as all cats like to climb trees.

A young cheetah sniffs for the now scared witless squirrel that escaped up a tree in the enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A cheetah pauses before laying down for a mid-morning nap at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ever vigilante, it took a while before the younger cats decided they expended enough energy on this fleeting morsel and hopefully the squirrel realizes that this particular enclosure is not a good place to store nuts for the winter or any time of year. And probably thankful for another nearby tree with limbs reaching into the exhibit compound and giving it a chance to enjoy another day of life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young cheetah relaxes after chasing a squirrel up a tree within its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Siouxland Day at the Zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

17 May
A young giraffe eating a morning snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I want to get out and about in Siouxland and yet not certain where I should go, I go long. Taking a drive down to Omaha and then visiting the zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo has quite an extensive array of animals in its keeping and is laid out fairly nicely, both for the visitors and the animals themselves. I find it fascinating, yet sad, to see these creatures in captivity. Although I know many are born other places as well as locally, and returning them to “the wild” is not feasible. It is an opportunity to watch them though, and folk who come to visit and see them.

Taking a pause in a morning snack at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Parents and children abound during a public school spring break at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Because of the drive I never arrive too early, as that would require seeing the sunrise on the drive down. And I would miss my second cup of coffee. Going midweek I find the crowds are a bit less, unless of course one happens to go during a public school break. But one does what one can. Not all creatures at the zoo are confined. Some drop by to snack while others preen a bit. It’s a fun place to stroll, relax and observe.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Even local sparrows look for snacks at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple take a selfie in front of a large elephant statue at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ah the Little Birdies, Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa

3 May
A great blue heron looks for a landing spot in a marshy area at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while driving about Siouxland I will “duck” into an area I am familiar with never really knowing what I might find. The Lewis and Clark State Park is a nice place to eat a sack lunch which I did recently. And then driving into the park proper saw a little show with some American Coots and a great blue heron.

Nature always surprises sometimes, and being quiet, patient and observant, one might even get lucky.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A great blue heron lands in a grassy marsh area at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An American coot squawks while it and its brethren eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A flock of American coots fan out and eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A flock of American coots fan out and eat grass at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
American coots float in the lake at the Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Making Friends at the Zoo in Siouxland, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

16 Mar
A child doesn’t see that a curious penguin has come to visit through the glass portal at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun to watch people interact with the animals at the Henry Doorly Zoo. During this past year with the pandemic I read an article where zoo people said they could see the animals there were missing “time” spent with people who come to visit. I thought that an interesting observation.

A child waves at a penguin at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As spring arrives and temperatures get warmer more people will be getting out, enjoying sunshine and a chance to be outside without freezing temperatures. But it will also be interesting to see if people still heed some caution as the pandemic continues, even with vaccinations ongoing everyday. I would guess the animals would hate to see a pause in folk wanting to visit them because of carelessness and not remaining safe until everyone is safe from the coronavirus.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A child watches a penguin swim inside its enclosure at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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