Tag Archives: birds

Close, Closer, Closest in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

5 Feb
A barred owl watches its surroundings while also trying to nap in a tree at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

My attempts over the last couple years or so in photographing animals, especially birds, has taught me that I need to become more patient. And to walk more slowly. Yet be ready to photograph when it’s possible otherwise the opportunity will be missed. Photographing a barred owl on a couple different occasions at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove meant moving very, very slowly. Not even nonchalantly, but more like a glacier. Millimeters at a time until one is in position. Others might have a better technique than I. But I have to rely on my skills.

When formerly working for various news publications I learned long ago that when the opportunity presented itself, photograph the scene. Then move to a better position and photograph some more. Even in the days of shooting film. One never really knew when something might go awry and the opportunity would be lost. Things chance in moments and animals like birds error on the side of cautious, flying away for safety rather than being curious. Probably a good strategy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.
A barred owl sits and sleeps in an open tree cavity in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This owl is a nocturnal hunter of small mammals.

Foraging for Food on a Cold Day in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

3 Feb
Deer forage in the afternoon on a cold day at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a fairly recent cold day in Siouxland I visited Bacon Creek Park to see what might be about and a chance for a short, quick walk. The weather not really conducive to spending long periods outdoors if didn’t have to, but also having a bit of cabin fever, sometimes short trips and a quick look about is in order.

As I saw these deer looking for some sustenance on this day in snow covered terrain I knew I didn’t have it so bad, leaving a warm house, a meal to return to and a chance to see some nature in action, as limited and calm as it was. Some days are made for a second cup of coffee and contemplation of all that is right.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer forages in the afternoon on a cold day at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out in Siouxland on a Cold Winter’s Day, Sioux City

28 Jan
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days recently in Siouxland it’s been extremely cold and like the winter’s tale involving Santa Claus’ trip around the world, “not a creature is stirring”. Upon a recent visit to Latham Park, a local private park, birds were hanging out about in the bushes that surround the park. While the green leaves and foliage is gone, the bushes still offer some refuge on a cold day sheltering the little feathered friends from gusts of wind. Probably dreaming of spring and warmer weather themselves. Patience oft thought of as a virtue, can sometimes be in short supply.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two sparrows sit on an iron wrought fence which surround Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Downy Woodpecker looks for lunch on a tree at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A male cardinal sits nestled in a bush harboring during a cold blustery day at Latham Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Pausing in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

24 Jan
A deer casts a quizzical look at an early morning walker at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on where one walks at times it is possible to meet and greet another trails in Siouxland, my hope is always that it’s a critter of some kind. Of course, coming across them in warmer weather is always a plus and sunshine makes the images snap a bit more that shooting on an extremely cold day with a grey overcast sky.

Turkeys loiter on a cut path looking for snacks at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But it’s also true that I won’t meet any passersby on a trail if I am not actually walking on the trail looking for them. Temperatures have recently been creeping upwards towards the mid 30’s and the hard, crusted, ice encased compacted snow has begun to melt a little bit. But then, weather folk say more rain, they snow is on the way. Winter is still here and thoughts of spring will continue to be just that, thoughts and dreams.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A young deer pauses to check out a visitor at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Turkeys on parade at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two deer make their way through a harvested corn field at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday April 28, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Birds on a Stick in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD and Sioux City

22 Jan
An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A black capped chickadee sits on a branch as summer winds down and fall begins in the backyard of a residence Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I began photographing more birds both near home and in parks around Siouxland I began to pay more attention to the perches these feathered folk use. Sometimes it is very sturdy and at others it seems to follow that phrase “any port in a storm” where they may situate themselves as they take stock of the surrounding area. Birds in some of the parks have sometimes more choice for perches, as often times these places also provide a kind of prairie habitat which is generally not available in neighborhoods within a community.

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow watches from a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And photographing in these two different places create their own challenges. In a neighborhood one can sit a spell, especially near feeders and birds will come and go and possible give more opportunities to photograph them as they rest on a perch before heading to a feeder. Whereas in the park’s meadow area the birds can see you coming from some distance off and I have found one is only able to get so close necessitating the use of a long lens often times with a teleconverter to make an image of the bird “in the wild” so to speak. And of course as in so many things, timing is everything. Sometimes the act of bringing a camera to one’s eye will spook a bird so one needs to be aware and judge how close and how long one wants to hold a lens up into a position to get a photograph of a particular subject.

In the meadow areas using a tripod or monopod is just another piece of gear to carry for some distance, possibly a few miles while hiking, which is not always fun and tiring. So trade offs are made while one “enjoys” oneself out in nature with possibly the benefit of a photograph of some creature also enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a plant stem at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house finch sits on a branch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sparrow looks directly at a visitor in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An Eastern Kingfisher studies its surroundings from a tree branch overhanging Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still Life in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

12 Jan
A still life of drift wood covered in snow and frozen in a pond at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes life can be simple and uncomplicated, even in Siouxland. A quiet walk in a park covered in snow when it’s cold. Not many folk about, and sometimes few critters. Which then may make it simple looking for images. Or not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Just Saying “Howdy Neighbor” in Siouxland, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

10 Jan
A Blue Jay looks a little cross while a barred owl tries to get in a little nap time at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it just good manners in Siouxland to acknowledge a neighbor and go on one’s way, even if begrudgingly. On a visit to Moorehead Park looking for owls I found the Barred Owl sunning itself in a tree cavity. This is something I don’t often get to photograph but then was surprised, pleasantly so, when a Blue Jay showed up and apparently was not pleased to see the owl.

As it danced a little jig on the branch, the owl slowly opened its eyes then closed them again, apparently thinking its nap time was more important than his feathered visitor, who eventually left. I guess it’s better to ignore small annoyances sometimes that get worked up about them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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

8 Jan
Two Lesser Yellowlegs look for food in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out photographing in Siouxland I attempt to see subjects in a different way. It doesn’t always work, although some days when an idea occurs to me the elements needed for creating the images are not there, or are fleeting. The last couple of years has been trying in regards to photographing waterfowl or other birds around ponds and small lakes in the area. With an ongoing drought that is serious some ponds have dried up, hopefully returning when it begins raining again in combination to sufficient snowfall.

A reflection of a nesting pod at Mud Creek at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, October 4, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A blue-winged teal makes its way in a pond at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And then there are those conditional elements where one hopes for a calm day the wind picks up and that nice calm body of water fades. Or the waterfowl, shore birds pursue the insects with a bit of gusto. Causing ripples that disturb an otherwise calm body of water. Life happens, and one does the best that is possible at the time. Ever hopeful for a nice image while just enjoying the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A turtle suns itself on a branch sticking out of the water at Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, July 18, 2022. The animal seems unaffected by the high heat in triple digits and humidity that the Siouxland Region will experience the next few days. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Lesser Yellowlegs hunts for a meal at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A wood duck floats in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Perseverance and Luck in Siouxland, Saw-whet Owl, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

13 Dec
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

Some times when I am out and about in Siouxland I feel lucky in that I was able to photograph something I previously had not, and able to create some images I am really happy with. Not all folk might agree with my photographic choices, but I am not them, and they are not me. During a recent outing I was with friends trying to find and photograph a saw-whet owl in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove. The 500 acre park is mostly timber with some pine trees, where occasionally saw-whet owls will winter, coming south from the Boreal Forests of Canada to a “warmer” winter climate.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I would not have gotten so lucky had it not been for a local photographer and nature enthusiast, Don Poggensee. Mr. Poggensee has been photographing these and other owls in the area and elsewhere for years. Probably decades, but who’s counting. After the previous opportunity to photograph the small 6″ inch owls didn’t pan out, I had planned to go back to the park. In corresponding with Mr. Poggensee he mentioned he would let me know if the owls might show up as he tends to check the area every morning, and undoubtedly has thousands of images of these owls. He also said that over the years he has probably escorted a few thousand people who have travelled hundreds of miles to come and photograph the small winter visitors.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.

I was guided back to a place I and others had just been too two days prior. As we reached The small stand of pine trees Mr. Poggensee stopped and asked, “Do you see it?” I was scanning the tree and remarked that the first time out (and probably more) I could stand right in front of the tree and look right at it, but not see it. And sure enough, we were standing in front of it and I didn’t see it. But eventually I did. And I was thrilled. I had seen tight photos of this owl for a couple of years and thought it would be fun and “cool” to be able to photograph it myself. Sometimes one gets lucky, with a little help.

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in a pine tree in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. It has a prominent white V on its face.
A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is satisfying to be able to photograph such a majestic little bird. While not an eagle or equally large raptor, the cute little guy was cooperative and allowed itself to be photographed without darting away. We kept a respectful distance and I worked slowly positioning myself. The sun was a little higher in the sky but was pleased with the highlights of the surrounding vegetation that help set off and distinguish the owl from its surroundings. Mr. Poggensee said that if you get lucky and can photograph the bird with its eyes closed, the feathers on the eyelids look like snowflakes. And going forward this Christmas holiday season I believe I will continue to see snowflakes dancing in my mind.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A northern saw-whet owl sits nestled in an evergreen in Moorehead Park Monday, November 21, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. This particular owl winters in the area originating from the Boreal Forests in Canada. It feeds nocturnally on small mammals like field mice and rests during the day. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Day out in Siouxland, Owl Searching, Moorehead Park, Ida Grove.

1 Dec

A photographer walks about Moorehead Park as he and others looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I joined some other photography enthusiasts searching for what seems to be illusive owls that winter in Moorhead Park in Siouxland in the community of Ida Grove. A local nature photographer and birder, Don Poggensee led the group around the park looking for barred owls and a northern saw-whet owl that comes from the Boreal Forests of Canada and winters in the “warmer climes” of Iowa and elsewhere. I always enjoy being outdoors although it was a brisk morning with temps in the teens and a stiff enough wind that was to become stiffer as the day wore on.

An empty tree cavity where nature photographer Don Poggensee said a barred owl generally occupies at Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee leads a group of photographers on a walk about Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee leads a group of photographers on a walk about Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mr. Poggensee told the group about the two species of owls while I came up empty on the barred owl, one member of the group was able to photograph it in the empty cavity of a tree. The rest of the time the group walked about search different pine tree stands looking for a 6″ owl that really blends into its environment. This particular day it seems its natural camouflage was working overtime, or maybe it was just wearing a cloak of invisibility. Even our guide told us that finding the little guy was hit and miss and it might be in a neighboring field next to the park enjoying its time while visiting the area.

One of a group of photographers walking about in Moorehead Park looking for owl species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A cut trail in Moorehead Park where a group of photographers spent half a day looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A group of photographers walking about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee points out a possible area where an owl might situate itself as he leads a group of photographers on a walk about at Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though the group wasn’t successful in finding and photographing the smaller owl, or even a chance to photographer the larger owl, it was a very nice park to hike through. Cut trails make walking easy in parts and deer paths allow easy walking through the timber. Although during summer and early fall that might be different as green plants and ticks could make a barrier to some intrepid souls. But I find it’s always nice to get to see another place not too far a drive and getting tips and locations from an experienced nature photographer and area local who knows the “hot spots” to find bird species.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Nature photographer Don Poggensee talks about an experience looking for saw-whet owls as he and other photographers check Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee and another photographer pose for a quick image while on a walk about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature photographer Don Poggensee with a group of photographers on a walk about in Moorehead Park looking for various bird species Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Ida Grove, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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