Friday, February 26, 2010

Walking my Chihauhau

Cheering elephants, hatching dinosaurs, dancing birds, and more flow from our daughter’s brush and pencil. She actually orders pencils by the gross. When I explained my goal to sketch at least 100 wolves, coyotes and foxes in about 10 weeks, Lita suggested I try some in pencil and with a technique I haven’t used. When she finds the form of an animal, she holds the pencil quite differently. My best description of the technique is to hold the pencil as if I have a dainty Chihuahua on a leash, a leash that doesn’t have a loop for a handle, but rather just a little ball on my end. This position means I am holding my knuckles down and thumb up; and I hold the pencil fairly far back. It encourages me to draw loosely and find the line. I can see more of the drawing. My normal, ‘writing’ position hides much of the drawing when I’m working on the left half. It’ll take some doing, but I’m practicing “Walking my Chihuahua.” This wolf, drawn from one of our Yellowstone photos, is drawn a la Chihuahua.

We just had a wonderful week with our daughter, Lita, and her husband, Dave. Oregon was kind to the weather worn residents of New Hampshire and produced sunshine in the middle of our rainy season. We bought beads, sniffed flowers, petted an elephant (at Wildlife Safari), got a lot of computer help, hiked, and watched the Olympics. I think Lita is as excited as Dale and I are to see me painting again.

To see more of Lita’s work go to her website: To see some of her pencil drawings, be sure to click on “Illustrations” and then on “Sketches.” To see some of Dale and my photographs, click on her “Yellowstone Moran” book and then on “Wildlife.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feb 16, 2010 Hart Lake, Wildlife Safari, Winston, OR

Note: Hart Lake is a pond, about the size of a big grocery store. It was created as part of the wetlands associated with Wildlife Safari where we are docents. Many native species take advantage of this large drive-through park.

This kingfisher is most co-operative for me. He has been sitting still for over half an hour. Since Dale is photographing, he’d like more action. The kingfisher must have just fed when we arrived. He isn’t taking any interest in the water beneath. I drew him standing and now he is getting more comfy, fluffing his breast feathers and snuggling down over his little toes. He barely moves, a wonderful opportunity for me to draw.

Hart Lake is a mellow spot this sunny ‘winter’ day. Hard to call Feburary in western Oregon ‘winter’ since the grass is lush green and daffodils are opening. A noisy pair of Canada geese fly in for a noisy splash bath and a pied-billed grebe fishes quietly. The grebe comes up with a minnow that looks too big to swallow. No problem. Several ring-necked ducks are here too.

Finally our kingfisher is perking up. He eyes the water below from his lazy position. Stands and smoothes his crest back a little … and drops like a rock into the water. No catch, but that is good news for us as long as he continues to hunt from this long dead oak snag. This is our favorite perch for him to sit on. The snag stands not too near and not too far, drowned in the water when the pond was made.

Dale’s photo (isn’t digital wonderful) shows me something too quick for my eye, much less my pen. As he dove, the kingfisher adjusted his trajectory by flaring and twisting his tail and by flaring one wing. What a great twist! (Dale showed me the photo in the car and this sketch drawn from the photo after we got home).

This little guy is either has a rotten success rate or is catching such tiny minnows that they go down with one flick. During past winters we have spent many hours kingfisher watching here. Usually the success rate is high and the prey large enough to trigger several whacks before swallowing. Heavy rains and construction have muddied the waters. Visibility may be hampering his efforts.

Many dives later the kingfisher flies over to the little island in the middle of Hart Lake, probably to his pooping pole. He slipped by me while I was drawing and would have pooped immediately upon landing. The kingfisher we watched last winter always went over to the island to poop, and always pooped on land, not into the water.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Drawings for Wildlife Safari

This is off the subject from what I normally plan to post, but a friend, Teri, ask for a peek and this is a good way to show her the project I’m working on. This batch includes alligator, bobcat, cougar, blue and gold macaw, ellipsen waterbuck, maned wolf, Indian porcupine, wetlands, white-cheeked gibbons and white-nosed coati. Click on the image and the drawings will be a little larger.

Dale and I are docents for Wildlife Safari, a nonprofit drive-through animal park near here. We take a lot of their photographs and I do some drawing for them. Each of these drawings will be reproduced about an inch tall in a little booklet called “The Passport.” The Passport was first published about 6 years ago; it’s a small booklet designed to let kids check off animals they see in the park. The booklet hasn’t been updated for about three years so there were lots of new animals to put in. I still need to draw a walking stick, an Anatolian sheppard (a dog), and a cheetah. The best part of a project like this is that we need to photograph each animal first. It is a treat to spent time with the animals. My heart is where the wild things live, but this gives me a glimpse of some critters I’ll never see in the wild.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feb. 5, 2010 Tahkenitch Lake

Note: Takenitch Lake is just north of Reedsport, Oregon. It is only about five mile inland from the coast and mostly surrounded by timber company lands. It is fairly large, but never seems large because it consists of long arms.

Tahkenitch is very different from the spot we fell in love with 20 years ago. Private timber land surrounds the narrow, five mile long arm we frequent. Virtually all the timber has been cut during the past ten years. Some slopes are poxed with silvery stumps, others are a blush of new trees – all Douglas fir. There are even tree planters out here today, ensuring another harvest. Piles of bundles of young trees are piled next to the roadside in two spots. Each bundle is wrapped in heavy paper and is about the size of a 50 pound sack of potatoes.

The difference between this land management and the Umpqua National Forest land management is what saddens me. The U. S. Forest Service is mandated to cut on a sustainable yield, only in areas than can grow another crop of trees, cut smaller areas, and manage for multiple uses. Other than just harvesting they take into consideration wildlife, recreation, water quality … . They manage with a much gentler touch.

At least Tahkenitch’s slopes haven’t been cut right down to the water. Alder, Douglas fir and Sitka spruce grow out of a thin edging of evergreen huckleberry and salmonberry. Once I’m at the water edge, I’m back to the Tahkenich I love. The water is clear and dark, full of water weeds, islands of cattails, and scatterings of lily pads. Soggy areas already have a crop of bright yellow skunk cabbage.
Four ruby-crowned kinglets are foraging in the brush next to me. They scold me gently, then resume their search for tiny insects. We’ve nicknamed these constant energy machines, “Flitter.”

Yellow-rumped warblers and chestnut-backed chickadees are feeding above me in an alder; song sparrows pop in and out of the thick tangle of brush just below me. Out farther are a few double-crested cormorants. Some dive amongst the mallards and ring-necked ducks after fish; other cormorants stand on a floating log, drying their wet wings. A lone kingfisher flies low over the water. His ratteley call carries far in the still arm of Tahkenitch.

Friday, February 5, 2010

100 Paintings Challenge

Just a short note to let you know I am now linked to "100 Paintings Challenge" which I am a member of. You should be able to access that blog by clicking on the blue "100Paintings Challenge" button at the right, or go to:

For more information about the challenge go to my Feb. 1 post, "100 Paintings Challenge."


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wolf Moon

Jan 31, 2010: Full moon last night. I thought the cloud cover was going to be too dense to see it, but when I went out about 11 PM it was shining bright, partially covered with a thin veil of clouds. A flock of killdeer called as they flew nearby ... a good way to start my next journal, Volumn 36.

The moon will always have a special place in my heart. My mother, Frances Hamerstrom, wrote "Walk When the Moon is Full" over 35 years ago. The book takes my mother, my brother and me on a walk during the full moon for a whole year, all thirteen moon. I look forward to each full moon.

National Geographic News says this will be the largest moon of the year ... 14% larger and 30% brighter than any other full moon this year! The moon will be full and at perigee -- the nearest it gets to earth during its egg shaped orbit.

Jan 31, 2010 Dunning Ranch

Note: The Dunning Ranch (near Roseburg, Oregon) is a large chunk of public land set aside for horseback riding, hunting, bird watching, etc. ….. The road is gated but access on foot or horseback is welcome. Most of the ranch is a mix of large open areas and oak groves. We were off road for three hours – a major milestone for Dale. After ten years of severely limited mobility his two new hips are giving us back a long missed world. It has been over ten years since we’ve been able to wander for so long. One of the things I missed most has been studying tracks with him.

Jan 31, 2010: Still lots of Lewis woodpeckers out here at the Dunning Ranch. Green grass, green mosses, lush lichens. Occasionally a soft breeze stirs long strands of lichens on the oaks. Dale and I are here with camera and sketchbook enjoying winter sunshine, damp air, and the rustle of the creek.

Dale stops to show me an alligator lizard also capturing the sun’s warmth. The ten inch long lizard is frozen in place, on the dark tire lane on this seldom used road. Pale yellow eyes keep a wary watch on us. Sometime in the past, half his tail broke off(a defensive measure) and is now nearly regrown. The new half is a little shinier and richer in color.

Some of the road has long skinny puddles. A coyote has trotted in and out of the puddles, leaving fresh tracks left since we first passed. I bet he is watching us. The tire lane puddles yield more surprises for us. The shallow water is full of very small black water beetles, and small backswimmers. We never expected them to be out in January.... and finally mysterious tracks in the silt bottom of a shallow puddle. The total width of the animal is about three inches. Our best guess is shrew mole or pocket gopher.

Monday, February 1, 2010

100 Paintings Challenge

I’ve just joined Laure Ferlita’s “100 Paintings Challenge.” Actually it was joining that challenge that made me realize how easy it is to start a blog. I’m going to give it a try. I won’t promise to post on any set schedule, but I will say it will be mostly about watching nature and a few art comments along the way. For those of you very interested in art, be sure to go to the “100 Paintings Challenge” blog. Already I know joining her challenge will good for me because it has me thinking about where I want to focus my art time in the coming year. Until last November I had only painted one painting of any significance in the past ten years …. And those of you who have known me for a long time know that I spent most of my adult life painting one painting after another. Back to painting! But painting for the heart, not the market.

My introductory painting for the challenge is of ‘Mortimer,’ a barred owl raised by my mother. When Mortimer was old enough he was allowed to fly free and to softly become part of the wild. An old screen door is a strange perch for a barred owl, but it is a memory from the heart for me.

Lewis Woodpeckers Jan 23, 2110

We seldom see Lewis woodpeckers in Douglas County, yet this winter at least 20 have taken up residence in the oaks along N. Bank Road. These woodpeckers are distinctive in several ways – they are larger than most woodpeckers, but not as large as pileateds. They are usually found in groups, as are acorn woodpeckers. Their wingbeat is slow and straight, not the undulating flight of most woodpeckers.

At the end of the day we ended up at the large pond near Whistler's Bend Park, Douglas County, Oregon. The sky had turned grey and cool, but it was still light enough to see well. I immediately spotted splashing near the far shore. At first I thought it was a Canada goose bathing, but then I suspected otter. Dale was still parking the car and I couldn't get my binocular on the commotion.

By the time he parked, all was quiet. We checked out the ducks and saw our fourth and fifth bald eagle for the day.

Serendipity was with us. More splashing. This time I could easily see it was two otter. One had a large fish. The adult bald eagle swooped low over the otter, sending him scrambling. Lucky bums! A nearby hunter's blind stood on spindly legs over the water. The otter ducked underneath where we could barely see them. Lots of business under there, but we couldn't see much. Just enough to know they had a safe place to enjoy their meal.

Serendipity continued. A great horned owl started hooting in the trees just west of us. Too dense to see him, but he almost seemed in our lap. Dusk coming. Very light sprinkles or rain. time to head home.

First Moon Jan 1, 2010

Last night was special in that it would have a ‘Blue Moon,’ the first in nearly twenty years to fall on New Year’s Eve. I knew I’d have to be satisfied in just knowing it was there. Oregon rains were in full force.

This morning the new year held a special treat for me. While my husband and guests slept, I slipped out of bed to stuff a turkey. Just before the moon set the rain clouds lifted enough to give me a peek of a glowing full moon ready to slip beneath the western horizon. The rising sun gave it an orange glow, mostly hidden by more rain clouds … a beautiful way to start my new year.