Tag Archives: seasons

Keeping an “Eagle Eye” out for Birds in Siouxland, Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area, Little Sioux

30 Jan
An adult bald eagle perches in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When driving about in Siouxland I generally have a destination in mind when looking for birds. A particular park, nature preserve or refuge where I believe I will have a good chance of seeing birds, or deer or whatever else might appear. When just driving around looking for landscapes and such I will just drive and look. But the success of photographing birds one needs to be more specific.

Adult and juvenile bald eagles perch in a tree at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle watches a crow fly by as it perches on a rock at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. Both species are scavenging for food in the river. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent excursion to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge I happened to glance over toward a small river that feeds into the Missouri River and a place I had previously visited, although I didn’t know the name of the place at the time. And previously I has found a couple eagles gliding over the river looking for something to eat. The Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area is 200-300 acres of woods and wetland. The Little Sioux River runs through it and out into the Missouri River, and it was there that I saw some “large birds” sitting atop a small, very small, spillway. Am guessing they were juvenile bald eagles feeding along with some crows and seeing that before the place’s exit ramp appeared made it possible to detour from heading further south and to see what might be found.

A not quite adult bald eagle flies overhead at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two juvenile bald eagles attempt some aerial combat over theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes serendipity prevails as I found maybe 40-50 eagles hanging out, feeding, flying, practicing aerial combat maneuvers. It seemed a lot of the birds were juvenile bald eagles, possible on their migration flight with parents in tow checking locations along the way. I was happy having the chance to photograph these creatures although I still working to achieve in flight images that are in focus. So even though it was a grey, overcast kind of day, one works with what one has. Blue sky and brighter light might have been nice for taking photographs, but the birds didn’t seem to mind about the weather and in fining them, who am I to complain.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An adult bald eagles flies along a tree line at the shore in theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An adult bald eagle perches on a rock surrounded by crows who are also scavenging for food at theThree Rivers Wildlife Area along the Little Sioux River where it empties into the Missouri River at Little Sioux, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 14, 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©)

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Ice Fishing at Moorehead Park, Ida Grove

14 Jan
Ice fishermen try their luck for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When growing up I did a little river and pond fishing near my home. It was fun, challenging, peaceful. Sometimes I spent more time just looking at nature and letting my imagination run away while sitting there fighting off bugs and mosquitos and waiting for some fish to bite.

In Siouxland when out and about I see people fishing at various places I traverse. But I never understood the appeal of ice fishing. It’s cold out, and colder still when one is not moving about and seated on ice. I have photographed a few hockey games in my day and was always glad to get away from the ice as it was sometimes colder during the winter indoors at a game than going outside to return to a newspaper office.

Whenever I see folk trying their luck I am always reminded of that movie with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, “Grumpy Old Men”. A too funny comedy, at least I thought so at the time. Although art and life and life an art imitating one another may or may not be true.

A fisherman walks out onto the ice to try his luck at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ice fishermen chat while waiting for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But enough people do ice fish and seem to enjoy it. I never asked though if they catch the same fish summer or winter. And if the time of year made a difference to the taste. Change of seasons and food source available for the fish, like honey bees near a clover field or a field of flowers. Different types of pollen affects the end result of the honey produced. But maybe fish aren’t that complicated.

I prefer to just stomp around the woods and trails, trying to keep warm while walking and looking for critters, when moving on four legs or two, each make for a good subject depending on the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An ice fisherman joins a couple others who are waiting for some action at a pond in Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Dec 31, 2022. (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

Freezing One’s A__ Off in Siouxland, Sioux City

27 Dec
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as a squirrel feeds on corn while covered in blowing snow flakes trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like much of the Midwest and other parts of the country the Siouxland region was in an arctic freezer recently, with temperatures dipping to -44 degrees with windchill and wind gusts of 30-40 mph. I bundled up to clear sidewalks, which later covered again with the wind blowing, and filled feeders. I feel bad for the little critters spending the cold outdoors and so like to see that they have something to eat. And also filled some water bowls I keep outside, which froze over in just minutes. Even heated water bowls I keep outside during the winter were freezing over with just small areas visible without frost or ice. It’s pretty amazing and scary it’s so cold.

As temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, house sparrows drink from a heated pet water bowl outdoors in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, photographed through a doorway window pane.
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as house finches and sparrows feed at a backyard feeder then fly to nearby bushes with puffed out feathers trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographs of the birds eating do not really tell the story of the frigid weather. Interestingly enough I had to wait a few minutes for the lens to acclimate outdoors as my first set of photos appeared not sharp, and luckily I could stay in a corner area outdoors that was somewhat protected from the wind. The birds though were thoroughly enjoying themselves and the eats and I was happy to see that.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as sparrows feed on fallen seed from a backyard feeder as they try to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A house finch flies to another feeder as temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022.
Frigid winter weather has temperatures around a -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind gusts up to 40 mph making the windchill feel like -44 degrees Fahrenheit, as sparrows puff out their feathers on a fence line in between trips to backyard feeders trying to stay warm in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
As temperatures for the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and Northeastern Nebraska are expected to remain at -30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind wind gusts still up to 40 mph, house sparrows drink from a heated pet water bowl outdoors in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, photographed through a doorway window pane.

Making a Photo Choice in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, South Dakota

17 Dec
Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times while out photographing in Siouxland I come across various scenes and shoot a number of photographs, worrying at the time about capturing or creating an image and deciding later which ones I should work up in the post processing. Much like developing rolls of film and scanning through the negatives with a loupe or looking at a contact sheet and then deciding which one(s) I should spend time on in the “darkroom”.

During an outing at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve this fall I was lucky to find some Canadian geese hanging out at a small lake area in the park not having yet left for the day to find a nearby corn field to eat and maybe spend the day. The lake area is bordered by trees and brush and I was at one end or part way down to the end and was photographing through a break in the trees without branches obstructing my view or appearing as an aberrant line that is visible but looks like something on the camera’s sensor.

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found the geese flying through what remaining fall foliage more appealing that past bare branches, but the ability to get a clear angle to photograph them was limited and frustrating in that the color helps tell part of the story, as the geese are migrating to a an area for winter. I much prefer the line of the geese in the second and third photographs as they show the line of ducks in flight but believe the colorful foliage helps set them apart from their background although the flying geese’s formation began changing at that point, and would soon be leaving the grove of trees and wetland area. Shooting with somewhat of a super telephoto lens gave me a very slight and limited angle of view, in addition to the photographing through a break in the grove tree’s branches that line this wetland area. Sometimes one has to made do with what one has and be happy for a decent image as compared to telling maybe an interesting story ending with that famous line, “Trust me when I tell you………”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Holiday Spirit in Siouxland, Christmas Decorations, Gene Leahy Mall, Omaha, NE

9 Dec
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With Thanksgiving past along with Black Friday, the Christmas holiday is beginning and many places are already decorating for the upcoming day. Recently I visited a newly renovated park in Omaha, NE, the Gene Leahy Mall. Formerly the place had a few lagoons, but those have been filled in with new landscaping and different design and now sports and Christmas decorations and other accoutrements for the upcoming holiday.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The park is much more family friendly these days with many folk coming out to view the decorations and take photos, either by themselves or with a professional photographer in tow to capture this year’s memories to cherish later. And the magical effect of the decorations as the sun began to set made the area almost magical.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors enter the Gene Leahy Mall Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And it’s always challenging to photograph the fading light and the Christmas light together, trying to find that fight balance of ambient and artificial light to create a photo that has a little impact and hopefully catches a viewer’s eye.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nap Time in Siouxland, Sioux City

7 Dec
A squirrel tries to nap in the crook of a tree on a windy, bone chilling day in the backyard of a residence Thursday, November 17, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. Temperatures are predicted to fall into the single digits before a warming trend that is more seasonal begins next week. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©) (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days when the weather isn’t cooperative, and is cold, breezy and with a heavy hint of winter in the air, a course of action might be to take a nap. This little guy was nestled in a tree nook, the wind buffeting its tail and I watched as its eyes kept closing. Doing its best to nod off even with strong wind gusts and a cold chill in the air. But tomorrow will be another day and with a tummy full from local eats, it might be good to forgot about the weather for a bit, and dream of spring, freshly dug up peanuts in a shell and a warm breeze.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Continuing Drought in Siouxland Creates Wetless Wetlands, Wilson Island State Recreation Area, Missouri Valley

19 Nov

A Lesser Yellowlegs snatched a meal in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The last couple of years or so, the Siouxland region like other places in and around the midwest and other states has been dealing with drought conditions. Little rainfall during that normal season or snowfall during the winter months. Areas that should have water now does not, and slowly the lack of water will affect all, humans and animals in nature.

I have driven past a sign on a local interstate highway for years, one for Wilson Island State Recreational Area. I understand from some friends that it used to be a wonderful place to camp and spend time. A major flood in 2011 inundated the recreation area and killed many of the trees and irreparably damaged the site, as the flood did to other areas in the region as well.

Just a few lily pads remain in a dry pond at the Wilson Island State Creation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Barren trees seen at the Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For the longest time the park was closed. For years it seemed as clean up work apparently was slow going with the removal of dead trees and restoring of camping areas after the flood water eventually receded. I visited the park while in the vicinity of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. With the current drought conditions, shore birds and other life in nature is struggling to find needed food sources that have since dried up or changed from previous years. And some signs seen in the park appear absurd considering the current conditions.

Apparently a Lesser Yellowlegs looking for bugs in a pond didn’t read the sign at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Lesser Yellowlegs looks for a meal in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A dry pond bed is all that is left at the Wilson Island State Recreation Area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With winter seemingly coming earlier this year by indications of recent temperature changes and snow and rain storms passing across the U.S. maybe the drought conditions will be dented. But the Siouxland region is almost 14 inches below normal for annual rainfall. And so moisture is needed to replace what is disappearing and which will eventually affect controlled plant farming as water is needed for growing corn and soybeans and other agriculture crops.

I do hope it snows this winter, and also hope the frigid temperatures below freezing and those well below zero with wind chill take a year off. Snowshoeing and being outdoors in the winter time is not so bad. But feeling 20-30 mile an hour wind on your face with temperatures reaching -20 and -30 degrees is not so much fun.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A small a pond of water is all that is seen at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Barely a trickle of water seen in a pond at Wilson Island State Recreation area near DeSoto National WIldlife Refuge outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, October 3, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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