Tag Archives: birds

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©)

Getting a View in Siouxland, Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park, rural Woodbury County

4 May
An adult bald eagle watches waterfowl below at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While many folk have access and the ability to visit a number county and regional parks in Siouxland, I for one feel lucky that I can enjoy the various trails and sights and scenes I come across. But that might not be true of all residents. When I visited Brown’s Lake earlier this year I noticed that the Woodbury County Conservation group installed a small deck that is “handicapped” accessible, now making it easier for some people to stand or sit over the water. To watch the waterfowl, maybe fish, or later, enjoy a summer’s evening, notwithstanding the mosquitoes who might also be visiting.

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have enjoyed a few outings to the lake and the chance to see various migrating waterfowl passing through the area. Although I braved the colder temps and winds gust of 30mph and higher in doing so. Call me crazy, but it was still worth it to watch nature and enjoy the show at hand.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A number of Canada and greater white-fronted geese lift off after being spooked at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese take off from Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Greater white-fronted geese lift off at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (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©)

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©)

Yikes! Nature Upclose in Siouxland, Sioux City

9 Mar
A Cooper’s hawk sits on a crossbar of a clothes line in a backyard on an exceptionally cold day with windchill creating a temperature of -8 degrees in Sioux City, Iowa, Tuesday, February 23, 2022. All the normal song birds had left and stayed away until the hawk departed. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I must admit I enjoy photographing nature when out and about in Siouxland. I have learned a lot of birds and trying to capture an image with some success and a lot of misses. But I continue to improve my ability to record what I see. I have visited a number of nature refuges around Siouxland looking for critters, winged and four-legged.

But sometimes one only needs to outside one’s front door, or in this case, back door. And nature appears a little too close. Recently I was trying to figure out why my cat was intently staring out into the backyard. I looked and a couple of squirrels seemingly agitated and then noticed there were no song birds about at any of the feeders I have.

Upon closer inspection I spied the raptor, a Cooper’s hawk perched on the cross are of a clothesline just taking in its surroundings. I have notice a hawk flying about this past year and can hear its call or cry at times. The noisy squirrels were in a bush with many branches so not ideal for the hawk to retrieve either of them and they wanted to get to the seed on the ground that smaller birds had spilled earlier. After stepping outside to photograph the large bird it flew off. Maybe 15 minutes later song birds were again eating on the ground and at the feeders. Sometimes certain guests are just not welcomed, especially the predatory kind that will pick off the smaller birds to feed on as well as other small animals.

Nature unclose and personal is sometimes too close.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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©)

A Day out in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

30 Jan
A man ice skates on a frozen Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when the weather is a bit warmer in Siouxland and more congenial without a north wind and windchills driving temperatures to the double digit minus degree area, it’s just nice to get out and enjoy the day and the moment. A little exercise doesn’t hurt as well as winter months can sometimes make one a bit sedentary.

A woman rides her bike on a trail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hunters pack it in late morning along the Missouri River and across from the the river Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Humans and creatures try to enjoy a brief respite in the weather roller coaster as it careens from cold to warm back to cold again. The only difference is that people have a bit more of a refuge to shelter in than the critters as the winter continues and the temperatures begin to plummet to their normal seasonal range.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young deer cautiously watches a figure up ahead on a trail at the Adams Homestead Nature Preserve Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A young deer decides a detour is the right choice after spying another trail user at the Adams Homestead Nature Preserve Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese begin their descent to a field near the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese circle about a field as a landing area near Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Counting the Little Birdies in Siouxland, Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Sioux City

27 Dec
Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Jerry Probst programs a portable speaker to emit barred owl sounds as he spends the morning participating in the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes one has to have faith that you will find what you seek. Even if you feel you are walking in a dark wilderness and feeling your way, metaphorically speaking. But starting the day before sunrise looking for birds can feel that way. And in the end, one may or may not be successful in the endeavor.

Every Christmas the Audubon Society conducts an annual Christmas bird count where chapters of the Society, like the Loess Hills chapter, throughout the U.S. during a two-week period in December look for whatever species happens to be there and record their findings. These may be birds that are indigenous to the area as well as those migrating to another clime to winter at.

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Jerry Probst places a portable speaker in some brush to emit barred owl sounds as he spends the morning participating in the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

City lights from Sioux City is seen past the dark trees before sunrise as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was difficult photographing this bird count which I previously had done, but then it was later in the day and I actually had light to be able to accomplish the task. But two Audubon Loess Hills chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle were looking for owls. At least they were “looking” to hear owls at Stone State Park and had brought along a small portable speaker to start a dialogue with these elusive creatures.

And one never really knows what you might find go bump in the night (dark) or, literally, stumble upon as the pair made their way along one of the roadways in the park.

A woman walking her dog in total darkness called out as she saw the red light the two used to check their footing and avoid fallen limbs that littered the roadway due to recent storm activity that brought some F1 tornado activity throughout Iowa and not that far from Sioux City, damaging buildings and downing trees and limbs.

A woman walks her dog in Stone State Park as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in the park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A woman walks her dog in Stone State Park as local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst and Warren Dunkle spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in the park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

She seemed genuinely surprised that other folk were out so early in the morning walking trails in the park, as were Probst and Dunkle. But then not many folk probably venture into the park in total darkness. And try as they may to get whatever owls might be around to respond to the calls made, not a sound could be heard, not even a “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight” from these furry creatures.

But with the recent weather activity with the recent warming periods and then dip into cold, it seems even these creatures have had to learn to adjust their formerly normal activity that might also include a new normal. But as an annual event, the bird counting folk can always look forward to next year.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Warren Dunkle, right, moving to stay warm, as he and Jerry Probst and spend the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter members Jerry Probst said he’s been involved in the Audubon Christmas bird count for over 20 years as he spends the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Local Loess Hills Audubon chapter member Warren Dunkle says he mostly is a second pair of eyes as he spends the morning looking for barred owls for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird count in Stone State Park Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 in Sioux City, IA. The pair didn’t find any owls while out looking. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A View from Above, Under Watchful Eyes in Siouxland, rural Nebraska, South Dakota

29 Nov
A Turkey Vulture flies over a field and a copse of trees seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I see raptors and other large bird species flying or hovering overhead in Siouxland it gives new meaning to “flying the friendly skies” as these creatures look for their next meal. But it is fun to watch them soar, swoop and soar some more as they gracefully glide on the air stream looking for their next snack.

Approximately 25-30 Turkey Vultures fly over a field seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A red-tailed hawk sits perches on a branch looking or a snack at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday Oct. 22, 2021.

A turkey vulture perches in a tree top at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These birds contrasted with waterfowl as they make their way on a twice yearly migration and looking for stops in between to take a break from their trip. Seemingly never crossing paths and yet reaching whatever destination they are attempting.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canada geese fly over a field and a pond seen Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 near Winnebago, NE. (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©)
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