Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas

Western Bluebird

Merry Christmas all!  
and may your new year be full of creativity, 
good happenings and whatever else is dear to your heart.  

I decided to paint something typical of winter in western Oregon, only I'm stretching it a little by adding the snow.  Usually we get just a hand full of snowy days in the western valleys.  We can always drive into the mountains and get more snow than any child could possibly wish for.  When our girls were teenagers our favorite way to spend Christmas day was to drive to the rim of Crater Lake and cross-country ski along the rim.  

As I type, big foofy flakes are falling.  They aren't sticking yet, but it does give a Christmassy feel to our soggy world.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Once Hidden

Winter comes slowly to western Oregon.  A few leaves start to turn yellow in September, others wait until October and November.  Even now, in December, sycamore leaves are a medley of of rich crimsons, reds and burnt gold.  Other trees are bare, including this maple above me.  

How many times have I walked under this nest and not seen it?  It’s two blocks from home and on my regular jaunt around the neighborhood.  This nest remained hidden until the winds stripped the maple leaves and tossed them into the rain.

*    *    *    *    *
While I was posting the above nest I got to thinking about other nests I've painted in the last couple of years.  ... Nests are always of interest, whether active or sitting empty, their job done.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile you may have seen most of these.

The snowy one was inspired in Yellowstone .... probably a robin's nest.

Double-crested cormorants nest in colonies.  This colony is near the Oregon coast.

I was searching for dragonflies just a few miles from my home when I found this mallard nest tucked in a blackberry tangle.  I wouldn't have intensionally gotten so close.  I only paused for a moment, then sketched from memory.  

House sparrows usually take over bird houses or nest in nooks and crannies of buildings.    I was surprised to fine they are very capable of building a very sturdy home for their eggs.  I found at least a dozen nests in long line of Lombardy poplars which at been planted in western Washington, an area devoid of natural trees for miles and miles.

One of my very favorites nests is a bluebird nest in an aspen which has been scarred by a bear many years ago.   Some sort of woodpecker probably dug the hole.  One year I know a flicker nested there, but several years a pair of bluebirds have taken up residence.  Unfortunately the tree was reaching the end of its life when I sketched this.  It has since fallen.  There are plenty of other holes for them to choose from.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peanut Butter and Toast

Black Oystercatchers have bills so bright they look as though they are made out of fire-engine  red plastic -- Nov 15, 2012
I used to wrinkled up my nose at the very thought of peanut butter on toast.  But, like Pavlov’s dogs, I’m trainable.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pavlov’s dogs, a Russian researcher named Pavlov found that a dog trained to hear a bell before he was fed, soon was salivating when he heard the bell.  My peanut butter on toast is my bell.  I call it ‘my Yellowstone breakfast.’  Whenever we head out the door early we take with us toast, hardboiled eggs, juice, coffee and maybe a turkey sausage.  Usually it means we are heading out for a day of discovery --- and those are special days. 

While I smeared peanut butter this morning I realized it had been nearly a month since we had a Yellowstone breakfast.  Finally last night I felt both projects mentioned in my last post are under control and I can return to my own life.  There will still be some loose ends to tie up, but the mother-load of work is done.  It has been so rainy we wouldn’t have gotten out much more anyway.  

So today the weatherman promised partly sunny on the coast.  We took off with cameras and sketchbook.  Never did see the sun ..... but, oh! it felt delicious to get out.  I napped most of the way to the coast and most of the way back.  It’s a two hour drive each way so that is a lot of napping!  

A bald eagle flew out onto the rocks and waits ... and watches -- Nov. 15, 2012
Peregrine -- Nov 15, 2012
Today we went to Bandon first and then on to Simpson Reef.   It happens that the last trip, nearly a month ago, was also to Simpson Reef.  Both days were mellow and grey and gave me a wonderful opportunity to sketch.

Today's notes:

I think of a favorite haiku written by Phyllis Lesher:

Pewter sea and pewter sky
Sandwich filling
Gull and I.

Only this pewter sea and pewter sky is filled by hundreds of sea lions barking and growling.  Gentle waves lap in.  The tide is way out; about to turn and come back.  

Several star fish are bright against dark rocks.  Even lower on the rocks I see long blades of aquatic vegetation exposed by this very low tide.  I don’t often see that.  

These three cormorants have been fishing.  First one and then another spreads its wings to dry, then preens a little, then dries some more.  A pair of harlequin ducks float in a shallow bay nearer to me. 

Beyond the cormorants, the sea lions jostle for space.  To top things off a bald eagle lands nearby.  We can’t see where he perched but he sings for us, the silly warble typical of adults.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Projects

A prairie chicken cock 'booming,' i.e. dancing his heart out to attract a lady.  

Now that our rainy season has started with a vengeance I’m supposed to have lots of time to hone my blog .... right?  --- Wrong!  My umbilical cord has become attached to my computer, but I’m helping others rather than working on my blog.  I’ve had two projects on the back burner and somehow they they both came to a head at basically the same time; and both involve my parents, Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom.  My parents were well known ornithologists who spent their career developing the management plan for prairie chickens in Wisconsin -- and are credited with saving the species in that state.  
My mother, Fran Hamerstrom with her golden eagle.  She is ready to throw her eagle into the air and call her back with a whistle and a lure.
One of my projects is the re-issue of an anthology of stories I put together after my parents’ deaths, “Hamerstrom Stories.”  Deann De La Ronde, a friend and dear woman who lived with my mother for the last two years of her life successfully twisted my arm and we collected an armful of stories about my parents written by friends of my parents.  Stories included topics such as: ‘Half a Cow is Better than None’, ‘Footed by a 7-Pound Snowy Owl’, and ‘A Hunter I Wasn’t.’ 
My father, Frederick Hamerstrom, was a much quieter person.  He was the foundation of the prairie chicken research.
"Hamerstrom Stories" was never intended for the general public.  Even so, I sold 350 copies ... at cost.  Now I’ve granted permission to the people who run the Prairie Chicken Festival in Wisconsin to reissue the book along with stories by eight new contributors.  I’m nearly done with that project.  
My Mother

The second project is another book.  Susan Tupper has had a manuscript for young readers accepted by The Wisconsin Historical Society, “Frances and Frederick Hamerstrom, Pioneers of Wildlife conservation.”  The press wants lots of photos and drawings .... and guess who has them.  I’ve been searching for photos, scanning and editing until I’m cross-eyed ... but I’m getting there.  Susan’s book is going to be a wonderful way for young people to learn about the early conservation work done by my parents.  

My Father

Aldo Leopold, mentor to my parents when they were his graduate students. 
My father got his Phd under Aldo Leoplold, “The father of Ecology;” and my mother was the only woman to get a degree under him, her masters.  

.... I just thought I'd let you, my readers, know what has been keeping me busy.