Friday, January 6, 2012

Oregon Coast, USA: December 22, 2011

I had good intensions of getting this posted a week ago, but I had trouble finding time to finish the drawings.
Lovely still day. Sunny for awhile, but clouds are coming in and it is getting dark all too soon.

I can’t eat lunch in peace! We picked up shrimp cocktails at Chuck’s and a cup of hot chowder at Port of Call; then parked where we could see a grand expanse of Pacific Ocean. In a moment two whale spouts poof out of the grey water. It is migration time. Female grey whales are heading south to their calving grounds off the Mexican coast. I juggle binoculars, chowder and shrimp cocktail until I’m about four bites from done. A more immediate interruption pops up. Little birds are flitting across the opening in front of me. Is it a flock of bush tits? No. The first one I identify is a chestnut-backed chickadee. Hmmm. I’ve never seen so many together. This must be a winter flock of mixed birds.

I gulp down the last of my shrimp, an indecent way to treat a good seafood lunch, grab my camera and hop out of the car. When I catch up with the birds I verify there are at least three species: chestnut-backed chickadees, Townsend’s warblers and golden-crowned kinglets. I see a flash of color on two kinglets who almost bump into each other. Wow! My photos are fuzzy, but they catch the yellow and red on his crown. Part of the joy of being an artist is trying to capture moments of my life that I want to save. My fuzzy photos are enough to verify the intense color on his little head. I’ll paint him at home.

I try to keep up with the flock, but the little birds move all too quickly as they check out one food source after another. I have to be satisfied with having gotten close for a few minutes.

We’ve moved on and are now parked next to a clump of dogwood. At least I think it is a dogwood. The bush is laden with bright red berries. Off in the distance I hear the barking of California sea lions and occasionally the deep rumble of a Steller’s sea lion. Nearby a robin calls out.

The robin and a hermit thrush feed on the dogwood berries. The robin tends to just land on a branch, lean over and pluck one berry after another. After he eats a few, off he flies, only to come back a couple of minutes later.

The hermit thrush is shyer than the robin, less apt to be out in the open. He flies out of the thick undergrowth and plucks a berry while on the wing. Then back into a sheltered spot.
We’ve got a chickaree here too. He sits high on a shorepine limb and munches on a big mushroom. I think it is the darkest chickaree I’ve ever seen. His coat is brownish black and his belly burnt orange. Usually chickarees are a warm brown with a creamy belly. Cottontail rabbits are dark in this area too.

I love it when the photography is on Dale’s side of the car and I can concentrate on drawing and writing. Of course I do get interrupted to make squeaky noises, pass equipment, pour tea, turn the motor off when he moves the car just a little, etc.

The chickaree finishes his big mushroom and comes back with a small truffle. Maybe someday I’ll finally get to taste a truffle.
Once done eating a good grooming is in order. He carefully works through the fur on every part of his body.
Keeping his fur in good order is especially important during this damp, cool season. His coat has a lovely soft sheen.
* * * * *
One of my loyal readers asked to see a photo of the chickaree ... so here is one from the same day. Some of you will look at it and say, "But that is a red squirrel!" They are very similiar, but chickarees are found along the West Coast. Their belly is cream or orangish instead of white. They are also called Douglas squirrels Tamiasciurs douglasi. ... so, Shris, you've almost surely have seen a chickaree and didn't even know it!


  1. Oh my, this was so interesting and delightful. Love those little chickadee sketches.

  2. I have never heard of a Chickaree..Would love to see a color photo of him or drawing. :) I was inthralled from the moment I started reading this. All wonderful Art work as usual.

  3. Ah the amazing adventures and tales of Elva!! I love them. I giggled at the thought of you juggling your lunch and trying to do art and help your husband with the photo supplies all at the same time!! Your sketches are fantastic, and are made even more fascinating by the stories you tell!

  4. Loved the golden-crowned kinglet sketch!

    On our local Christmas Count, my highlight was a ruby-crowned kinglet which had flown down to the paved back road we were on. It was odd to see one on the ground - I had always seen them poking around in trees and shrubs before, where the ruby streak is usually out of sight from below. Then the low eastern sun peeked out below a cloud bank, and that red crown was backlit. Oh, my!

    But sigh, no camera, no sketchpad - just captured as an extraordinary memory.

  5. Elva, I love reading about your bird encounters, and the sketches are always such a refreshing portrayal of the species, filled with exuberance and motion. Love those squirrel sketches!


  6. ....aaahhh! I love your series of squirrel sketches. So cute and characteristic! I saw Golden-crowned Kinglets displaying today too. Such a surprise! I love your painting of the kinglet...

  7. Continued admiration from me for these posts. Love your artwork & husband's photography. It's getting lost in the details of the natural world that expands us into it.

  8. Wat heb je een mooi blog! Voel me er thuis. Hoe je schrijft en tekent en schildert...! De natuur is zo mooi.