Tag Archives: birds

Visiting Nature in Siouxland, Frost Wilderness Wildlife Area, Vermillion, SD

2 Sep

A Cedar Waxwing sits on a branch at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like visiting new areas outdoors that I haven’t been to or seen yet. Although I have been to Frost Wilderness wildlife management area previously, I just didn’t know it. When previously visiting, there wasn’t any signage and this time I also found another entry that lets a visitor get a bit closer to the Missouri River that separates South Dakota and Nebraska. Plus I got to photograph a bird I have seen fleetingly but never long enough to make an image. Those Cedar Waxwings can be quick little birds, and prefer staying within the shelter of their surrounding trees. This time though one of them made me feel at home while other species also checked me out.

A Cedar Waxwing eyes a visitor from a branch at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A juvenile bald eagle takes another pass overhead looking at a visitor and if it would be of any interest to it at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Orchard Oriole sits atop a tree at Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two Orchard Orioles sit atop a tree at Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular wildlife area has mowed pathways which made walking much easier. And as one near the border between the two states another turnout with a pass through gate makes it easy to access the river and surrounding area. One thing though, the area appears managed more for the avid hunter than it does for the hiker and bird enthusiast. Signs are posted about the hunting availability and I would be shy to go walking early morning in the area looking for species as a visit a year or two ago I heard a very loud shot not more than 100-200 yards away. It wasn’t a shotgun, but a more robust type of rifle. Myself and some students with me made a quick beeline to our parked cars. Bullets have a way of traveling where not directed and sometimes folk don’t look beyond their target to see what lies beyond as the intent of bring down an animal occupies the senses.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird looks about a meadow at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American White Pelicans sit on a sandbar across the Missouri River at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Informational signage about the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trail markings signage at the Frost Wilderness wildlife management area near Vermillion, South Dakota, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Summer’s Day Birding, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve, Westfield

11 Aug

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living in Siouxland for some is a bit of luxury in that the rural area has a number of places that “birders”, such as members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society, can get together and enjoy their common interest in finding and recording the feathered creatures that inhabit Siouxland, as well as those passing through during a migratory flight depending on the season.

And sometimes I am lucky to go along with the folk and explore a new area or revisit one I had forgotten about. Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve is a large acreage in Siouxland that contains the largest remaining prairie native to Iowa, along with a couple hundred bison that roam the preserve. The birders this day were driving the rim of the preserve and looking for whatever creatures they might find and recording their finds later on their website.

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A member of the Loess Hills Audubon Society takes a photo of scene while birding off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For me as always, it’s more about the photography and documenting what occurs, a practice I can’t seem to shake after working for small daily newspapers and weeklies for 3 decades. I enjoy watching people enjoy their passion and taking the time to pursue it, even on what turned out to be. muggy kind of morning and more so as the day wore on. But once out and searching one can forget the discomfort of the weather in trying to find those elusive little feathered neighbors. The birders recognize the bird song, of which some I do, but not near enough, and it’s probably time for me to download one of the many bird apps to use to know what bird is singing while outdoors.

A lonely fence post seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of several bison grazing on a hilltop off at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wildflowers seen off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I can easily get sidetracked while out as I see various visuals come into view. But it’s always fun, and a little morning walk after a couple cups of coffee preps one, and of course, thinking about lunch later. I am learning through friends how a day might be planned and I must admit, the planning around fun activities and eating always sounds like a good day to me.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve seen from Butcher Road Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Members of the Loess Hills Audubon Society spend time looking for birds off of Butcher Rd. that abuts the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve Saturday morning, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A wooden bench allows visitors a place to sit and watch and listen at the Nature Conservancy Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve off of Butcher Rd. Saturday, July 16, 2022 near Westfield, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating 25 Years in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

9 Aug

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This month a local park and preserve will be celebrating its 25th anniversary as a nature preserve, park and general nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve has grown into a local place of peace and solitude and to help celebrate its milestone I have put together a small book to commemorate its existence and to showcase some of the residents that hang out there.

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have taken many walks and hikes over the years and seen changes to the preserve and am always happier after a walk. Although these days I am looking forward to cooler temperatures as the heat and humidity even in early morning can be stifling.

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the book “Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, 25 Years” by photographer Jerry L Mennenga, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North Sioux City, South Dakota park, taken Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The preserve will be hosting a celebration day in August with some events and a chance for people to explore and enjoy the place to recharge themselves. Maybe get to see some of the residents of whom a few appear below. Although the cast and crew may change in nature, the joy of seeing and photographing them always remains a high point on any day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bashful Red-headed woodpecker tries hiding sitting atop a dead tree stump at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A downy woodpecker looks for a meal at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A mourning dove sits quietly in a tree at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve on a chilly Friday, December 24, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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

An Eastern Kingbird takes in its surroundings at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Hanging Out with Friends in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

21 Jul

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are some days in Siouxland I like hanging out with friends, maybe going on a photo safari and seeing what types of images we can find. And I am certain that is true for animals as well. At the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, there are a couple of burros and sheep which pasture together at the preserve. They can generally be found in the same vicinity of one another of which I don’t particularly pay close attention. But recently, while photographing the group in the pasture I took note of another critter hanging out as well.

A birder friend informed me that cowbirds will often accompany larger animals and feed on flies and parasites that might normally afflict the four-footed beasts. And so it get a comfy cushioned seat while munching at the same time. Reminds me of some human couch potatoes I have known along life’s journey. It’s nice to have friends.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A female cowbird sits on the back of one of the burros at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 27, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographing the Best Side in Siouxland, Sioux City

29 Jun

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the recent heat wave and high temperatures I haven’t been sitting outside much to watch my backyard friends in Siouxland. Although I keep them fed and watered and really early on those mornings when the temps are hovering in the 60’s I sit outside listening to bird song before the temperature spike to the 90’s as the day wears on.

It’s just fun to watch these creatures, some of which I think are conscious of being watched as they appear to keep checking and posing, which I guess is my cue to only capture their best side, the famous quote mentions, “Ready for my close up, Mr DeMille.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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

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