Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lively October

October is so lively, so full of change and energy. Weather is changing. Leaves are changing. And almost daily, new migrants are visiting the trees in my yard. I can't keep up with them all. I want to paint each and every one of them.I love the chance to meet a new bird, read about where it nests, see where it travels, where it will spend its winter. I marvel when we have a chance meeting, that the wonderful oak tree in the front yard provides rest and foraging along his journey.

This is my sketch of one of these birds, the Magnolia Warbler (probably a male) created in my new Brenda Books sketching journal. It's a beautiful new journal with real rag watercolor paper. I'm finding it intially a bit intimidating--so brand new and inviting. You know, the feeling. You don't want to mess it up.
But that's watercolor and journaling. You plunge in. You make a mess. And altogether, it doesn't turn out so badly. And on top of that you have this wonderfully intimate experience, with a bird, with its lifestyle, with the magic of October.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Miss Those Beautiful Faces

Today it happens to be the Carolina Wren family I'm speaking of, though I've said that about other birds recently, too. Birds do have such compelling faces. Sometimes they catch my attention because I happen to be at the banding station, seeing the beautiful details for the first time. But mostly, its my camera that brings them close enough for me to notice, to see their faces like I've never seen them before.
And today I had some help from another Carolina wren, just a few yards away, singing on the same side of the house, making me wonder if it was one of this year's juveniles. When the male in the image finished singing in response, he flew up over my head to the deck. But before I show you the next wren, I want you to notice his bill, its length and curve. Right after the image of him below, you see the image of the wren that was foraging beneath him in the holly. Look at her petite little bill, a wholly different look!But now, lets zoom out so you can get the whole look. Check out that position, especially her left side!
I got such a chuckle out of these images. Even wondered if this is a juvenile but couldn't find any tell-tale yellow around the mouth corners.

A poster bird for sure!Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #60 at, to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Whooping Crane Activity Book Is Happening!

The distribution of Operation Migration's Craniac Kids Whooping Crane Activity Book is underway! As the volunteer author and illustrator, I couldn't have received a more wonderful gift for my birthday (the 13th) as I read the announcement this morning, in Operation Migration's field journal. More than two years in the making, the book inspires young imaginations with the fascinating story of Whooping crane ultralight-led migration and entices children to get out in nature, observe and find out what their own imaginations have to offer.

Teachers may click the field journal link to order complimentary books for their classroom ($10 shipping fee). Shipping begins Nov 1st. Individuals may purchase the activity book for $3.00 on the merchandise page (not including shipping), availability beginning Nov. 1st.

Find out all the details by visiting Operation Migration's field journal , Oct 12th (scroll down to the first entry on that date).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time Out for Woodpeckers

It isn't unusual for me to do that--drop everything, grab my camera, and run out the door to see if I can find the woodpecker that just announced his presence. My camera is my trusty companion on these ventures, like a third eye, allowing me to see more deeply and freeze the moment so I can savor it and comprehend more of what it means. Time and time again, this leads to an intimate connection with the subject. And of course, when that happens, I want to share the experience and sketch it.
As often as I hear Red-Bellied woodpeckers, this week was the first time I've had an opportunity to get close enough or had long enough to capture a few good shots. (My favorite is in the previous post.) And wouldn't you know, I had to leave before he did in order to keep an appointment--but not before he gave me this surprising look at his tongue!
He didn't appear to be yawning, simply stretching his mouth the way we might try to loosen up some peanut butter to swallow this case it would be, loosening up some grubs. But what was really fun happened later, after I returned home. He came back again with a berry snack in mind. In the image above he is looking up at the limb of berries, and faster than I could focus, he flew up and grabbed one and returned to the Dogwood trunk again.Only because I had this series of images to review, did I notice the size of the berry in relation to his mouth and that he was swallowing as he perched. Since the images below are frame by frame, seconds apart, it appears (and I emphasize appears--one can only guess) that he stretched his head back to aid swallowing.Feat accomplished.Just before parting he gave me this wonderful look at his beautiful red crown and nape, set off by his stunning black and white plumage. A day-making encounter.Coming up: Some catching up--Red-headed woodpeckers at Necedah and more on my Ijams Nature Park meadow walk .

Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #59, at to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bird Lifestyles Through An Artist's Lens

If you are within driving distance of Knoxville, TN come join me Wednesday night (Oct 7th) at the Knoxville Chapter, TN Ornithological Society (KTOS) monthly meeting for my presentation: Bird Lifestyles Through An Artist's Lens. I'll be talking about how I use my camera to help me see more deeply into bird's lives and, at the same time, find the inspiration for the next work of art.

Without a doubt, I will also be giving an update on the Whooping crane ultralight migration class of 2009, scheduled to depart on their fall migration Oct 10th.

The presentation/meeting will be at 6:45, Wed. Oct 7th, Room 117, UT College of Veterinary Medicine Knoxville, TN. For more information, click the link to see the KTOS Newsletter or visit the KTOS website.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Confusing Beauty of Fall Plumage

There is something magical about standing near a tree and having a beautiful bird pop out on a limb, asking to be photographed. The tree is an American Dogwood easing into fall with a colorful mix of leaves and ripened red berries. And on its branch is a Summer Tanager, photographed on September 28th.

Look how all those colors blend to make her practically disappear! (And according to Peterson's field guide, this is year-around plumage.)But that wasn't the only magic that happened. I decided to post this sighting on the TN-Bird List (sponsored by the TN Ornithological Society), along with a fall warbler sighting. And that's when the real adventure began.

I called the warbler you see below, a Blackpoll, with some ID help from out-of-state birding friends (a brand new bird for me). And that remains a possible ID, but here's the catch. Historically, the Blackpoll is a rare sighting in our area. The reason why, from a local veteran birder, "...most Blackpolls migrate eastward across the northern parts of the continent until they get to the coast and then turn south migrating over the Atlantic Ocean. They are rare in the south in fall. In almost 30 years of birding, I've probably seen around a half dozen Blackpolls in East TN in fall and its close look-alike, the Bay-breasted, is common."An interesting bit of information about a striking bird that only gave me a brief look. I've since shared the three images I had of the bird (all of them poor), but maybe they will lead to a definitive ID.

Summer Tanager, above.

After this warbler exchange, I began to wonder about my tanager ID, as well, and decided to ask for confirmation on whether this bird was indeed a Scarlet Tanager, as I had initially thought. The response: "Actually, the large bill and orangish-yellow coloration means this is a Summer Tanager. Either a female or immature (likely an immature). A Scarlet Tanager would have a much smaller bill, greenish coloration and darker, more contrasting wings."Ah, I am glad I asked. Don't you just love mistakes, especially public ones! But each time a mistake flags interest from an experienced birder with a willingness to help, it leads to new friends, new birds and an endless amount of learning and enjoyment. And in this case, a special 'thank-you' goes to Tennessee's TN-Bird list for making this possible.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

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