Friday, May 29, 2009

A Bad Hair Day?

It looks that way. But actually, I think she's just had a bath.
Though I should be accustomed to it now, I still marvel at the silence of a Red-shouldered hawk's movements. It's not that I'm doing nothing while waiting for hawk activity. I may be photographing other birds or working on a sketch.
But I keep watch over the roof line and the tree limbs and I listen. There was nothing hawk-like happening, or so I thought. In the next minute a loud piercing call filled the air. I looked around and there she was perched on the roof. How long had she been there?
Still feeling some unease, I picked up the camera and started shooting. It's certain that is how it is most of the time. They see me well before I notice them.
On the other hand, it felt nice to be treated like scenery again. I took a good look at her through the lens and couldn't help but whisper, "Look at you, you're all wet!" Hawks bathe just like other birds, but the change in their appearance is more dramatic!
Time to get this mess preened up.
The nestling is ready to fledge any day now. I visited the nest today and briefly heard a nestling call softly. I wish I could show you an image, but I couldn't locate him through all the leaves. I think it's likely he was on a branch near the nest. Whether I'll see him fledge or after he fledges will be a matter of luck and timing. But I'll be sure to give you a final report.
To see my previous posts on this family of Red-shouldered hawks, click the link.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An American Robin Nestling and His Pop

I refer to the male Robin as Pop because he seemed to be the most vigilant about the youngster. The female was nearby also, but perhaps her efforts were focused on young still in the nest. Pop was busy gathering food for this nestling and when I saw him coming with this mouthful of earthworm, I thought, wow! And decided to watch for a while. Not, 'just a robin', he was a parent with a mission and none too happy about my presence.In the series of images below, you can see how he communicated this in several ways, raising his crown feathers, flicking his tail and issuing wing flicks along with sharp warning chirps. Above he spreads his tail feathers and below, he's in the midst of wing flicking.
I was at ground level with him at this moment, so I moved to a different position to reduce stress. I also wanted him to feed that baby. So I retreated up an embankment. With more distance and a tree between us, my new position caused no concern and the meal he brought was quietly delivered in small pieces.
One final, lingering look before departure.
The male awoke the nestling with greeting chirps as he approached, but not a sound was made by either the parent or the nestling during feeding. In fact, the whole time I observed the nestling, he never made a sound. He watched the world around him and listened. Secretive silence, camouflage and stillness are the only protections for this nestling, too soon out of the nest. Somehow, he seems to know that.After his meal, the nestling had more energy. A blue jay had been overhead earlier, tapping something against a limb as if attempting to break it. I wondered if he had a snail. I both feared the nestling would attract attention by moving and wished for a better hiding place for him. And my wish happened. When he took a notion, he toddled and stumbled with determination to a new location with Pop delivering encouraging chirps the whole way.
In the images above you can clearly see his blood feathers with blue sheaths supplying the blood to newly developing wing feathers. I don't know how long it takes these feathers to mature, but hopefully in only a few days. These are the flight feathers he needs to fledge.
The nestling headed into a dense bamboo stand, definitely a better spot than under the hemlock where the jays hang out periodically.
I decided to end my observations here. But just outside my window, I'm continuing to send this nestling wishes for a safe and speedy fledging.

Monday, May 25, 2009

American Robin Nestling

I have to celebrate the American Robin today. This beautiful male just popped up in front of me while I was looking for another bird. He was alert and occasionally let out a sharp chirp.
And here's what came toddling after him, a nestling that should still be in the nest. But that isn't the way the journey goes sometimes. Don't miss those tuffs of down around his crown. So cute!This nestling, by the way, matches the parents, unlike the fledgling with Cardinal parents that perched on my patio recently. This youngster has Robin coloring and attitude with pale red under wings and reddish feathering on his breast.
He quickly tired, found a spot among the leaves and twigs and settled in for a nap. I could see him from a small embankment above and came back several times to see what they were up to. I learned a lot from watching this nestling and his pop.
More about this Robin family, the Bluebirds I promised and our Red-shouldered hawk family coming up.

Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #39, at to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Downy Portrait Day

There seems to be something magical about rain. I love to step outside while it's still dripping, while everything feels and smells so fresh. The world comes alive with activity.
This was one of those moments. There were so many birds singing, flying from perch to perch, chirping that I felt like I had stepped into a wonderland. When I heard this female Downy's chirps, I thought she might be headed for the suet feeder, and she was. But not before pausing to take it all in and give me these lovely poses. My, I think she's hungry! Or maybe this is her dessert attitude.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Children are the Future of Our Planet!

Whooping cranes have been the inspiration for my art and conservation efforts for the past ten years.

I'm not alone in this passion. Lots of peoples' hearts have been captured by the come-back story of a big white bird that was on the brink of extinction in the 1940's and still faces many obstacles to survival in both eastern and central North America.

If taking care of endangered species on our planet touches your heart and ignites your passion, then you've got to see this video created by the imaginative teachers at Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, VA.

Laurie Sullivan, Kindergarden Project Discovery teacher at the school, contacted me in September of 2008 and asked if she could use some of my art and photography to help with her school's kindergardner's Whooping crane study project. What an honor! Of course I said, yes. Recently she sent me an update with a link to her website and this awesome video. Be prepared to laugh, feel in awe and maybe even shed a tear for the hope of our planet's future. This is where love for our Earth and its wildlife begins!

Visit the website, "Kindergardener's Journey with Whooping Cranes" to see more of what these creative teachers and children did to learn about Whooping cranes. You'll find endearing fun and inspiration that will surely touch the kid in you!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Cardinal Fledgling?

Do Northern cardinal fledglings really look like this? I would have known this was a fledgling even without the parents nearby. It's persistent peepish rattling was of the cannot-be-ignored variety. But if I had seen him alone, I never would have guessed this was a juvenile cardinal. Wouldn't you expect olive or brownish feathers? [Don't miss the last paragraph of this post. It explains this unexpected occurrence!]
Me too. But I took a jog around the internet (where else?) and found some images that looked just like this one. Some of the juveniles had rust feathers but there were also these gray little guys. (The above images were taken through the window.)
And here's proud papa. He was singing in these first two images but I was a second or two too late to capture it. He's perched in the spot where many birds pause to look around before advancing to feed.
Both he and the female have been coming to the plate for suet and sunflower seeds and today I happened to hear the juvenile and looked out to see him sitting under the plate being fed.

The plate is pictured here with a blue jay patron.
And below papa is back to hunting up meals for that fledgling.
Busy time of year!
Note: Jeff Gordon to the rescue again. Jeff is a very experienced bird field guide expert and presenter from Delaware. This is not the first time Jeff's seen something amiss in the bird ID department on my blog. I'm grateful he noticed this one and straightened out who this strange looking fledgling actually belongs to. Read Jeff's note in the comment section. The fledgling pictured above is not a cardinal at all, but a very hungry cowbird fledgling, a species that parasitizes other bird's nests, that is, removes the other bird's egg and lays their own in its place. Sigh. Thanks Jeff...
Take in some interesting field experiences, fun humor and beautiful images at Jeffery A Gordon's blog.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #38 and Birdfreak. com to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Glimpse of the Nestling

I think I had the most fun creating this sketch of any thus far in my red-shouldered hawk sketchbook. Partly, this is because it is a recreation from memory and imagination. But the rest of it, I'm sure, is that I saw the nestling again for the first time since April 26th. Seeing the nest is a complicated matter now. First, I had to understand the vast change in the hawk pair's attitude once the nestling hatched. Then the rains came.
After weeks of frequent rain and warm temperatures, the deciduous trees leafed out with a lush, thick canopy and there is now only one spot, and I mean a spot, that is open enough to view a small portion of the nest edge. And that's only to get a view of the nest. Seeing the nestling is a whole different matter. You have to be there just at the right moment when he happens to be active, and on that side of the nest!

I viewed the nest from this spot after I arrived on my May 15th visit and concluded that I wasn't going to see much from this angle. I refer to this as the back of the nest, a more narrow place between two limbs. The larger entry to the nest, where I caught the image of the nestling, is 90 degrees further around to the right of this view.

But conclusions come and go. Don't hold too tight to them. Just as I was about to leave, the resident called me over to ask if I had seen this view. I had my binoculars in hand so I took another look thinking, 'but you can't see anything.' Wow! Did I get a surprise treat. There was the nestling stretching and flapping those tiny little wings. It was 87 ยบ F and humid on this visit. Both hawks were off the nest at least some of the time. From the neighboring property, I spotted the female perched on a low limb on the far side of the nest. My view of her was actually from down hill in a wooded area looking up, with the driveway nearly at my eye-level.

The female is never far away but sometimes she hunts while keeping watch. She flew past me once and landed at the base of a tree but I couldn't see if her strike was successful. Another time she landed on the roof for an instant and lifted off toward the nest. This is when I heard a series of eager peepish calls to which she responded. At first I thought it might be both adults but then I heard the male calling in the distance. I spent four hours on this visit, observing the hawks and listening from the neighboring property. Well worth it. I will have my recorder ready next visit.

There are many other birds to watch as I'm sitting with the hawks. The cardinal in my last post is one of them.
Next, I'll show you the bluebirds in red-shouldered hawk territory.
To see all my posts about these red-shouldered hawks click the link. The first post will be at the bottom.
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For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham