Thursday, December 26, 2013

Not as Planned

A tiercel Peregrine falcon, sketched from one of our photos
            Last night I wandered through my new book, “Lars Jonsson’s Birds” -- a beautiful book full of Jonsson’s field sketches and paintings.  His birds make my heart sing, as do  John Busby’s and Eric Ennion’s.  Some of Jonsson’s field sketches of birds in the sunshine made we want to head right out the door and find some birds of my own.  Fortunately we were planning to find a little sunshine on the Oregon coast today.

            According to the weatherman, today sounded like the best day in the next week for a jaunt to the coast .... BUT, we awoke to warnings about freezing fog making the roads slippery.  The announcer seemed particularly determined to stress the danger.  It takes nearly two hours to get to the coast, so our hopes for an early start were dashed.  It just didn’t sound like the day to go. 

            We live inland about 75 miles, in the land of winter fog and cloudy winter skies.  Mother Nature offsets our endless days of summer sun with endless days of winter greyness.    It’s damp, forever damp.  It is supposed to be our rainy season, and even though we are sadly breaking records for lack of rain, it is still damp.  The coast often offers better weather than our inland valley.

            Our fog soon lifted, leaving grey skies and no danger of ice in our valley.  By midmorning I suggested to Dale we at least get out of the house.  Painting grey day subjects has it’s charm too.  Plus there is a wonderful little bakery and restaurant about 20 miles away where we get the best whole grain breads and lunch too.  We head up there about once every two weeks and stock the freezer with Tyee Mountain, sourdough rye, and Seven grain bread.  Yum!

            Our first find was a great blue heron at River Forks County Park.  We pulled into the boat ramp parking lot about 11:30 AM.  A great blue heron was flying up the river, towards us; but before flying past, he landed on a tall boulder next to the river.  

A moment later I told Dale, “I think he is going to cough a pellet!”  (Owls aren’t the only birds that regurgitate pellets to rid their digestive systems of indigestible materials.  Herons, kingfishers, corvids, hawks all do too.) 

            We waited.  We watched.  The heron kept gulping and swallowing and never quite closed its bill.  At 11:35 AM I started timing.  I estimated we started watching at 11:31 AM.

            For fifteen minutes Dale stayed glued to the camera and I watched with binoculars, hoping to alert him when I thought the pellet was coming.  The heron fidgeted and gulped, but no pellet.  Finally I started drawing.  BUT that meant I was no longer watching quite as carefully. 

            For ten minutes all went well.  I drew and peeked, the heron gulped and gagged.  I assumed Dale still watched. 
            All too soon we realized the heron was looking too relaxed.  We must have missed the coughing of the pellet. Darn! By now Dale was hoping for a Stellar’s jay so we continued to sit in the same spot.  The heron just stood for half an hour and then started preening.  We were ready for lunch so we headed on.
             Half a mile from the bakery the road hits a ‘T’, right to the bakery, to lunch; but I suggested a quick look at a snag a peregrine likes to perch in -- half a mile to the left.

          Sure enough!  There sat a peregrine.  They sky was still grey, but a light grey.  We parked and Dale aimed ‘Big Bertha’( our long lens) on the peregrine.  We know this pair.  It was the male sitting up there-- lighter breast, darker head and smaller than the female.  Most raptor males are smaller than their ladies. 
            Dale started clicking away and I started sketching.  My good sketchbook was out of reach and I wasn’t about to get out of the car and spook the bird just to get it– thus the many wobbles in the paper on the above sketch.

            And then magic happened.  The sky behind the little peregrine started grey ... lighter grey ... grey with a hint of blue .... blue!  Sunny blue sky!  For at least an hour we had sunny light.  He preened he stretched, Dale photographed, I painted,  and the hen peregrine even joined the tiercel in the snag.

            Our lunch was fashionably late and ever so good.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are enjoying the Holiday Season!

and Best Wishes for the year ahead

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sketching A Great Blue Heron: Bandon, Oregon

            Last time we were at Bandon we found a great blue heron resting in a shore pine snag at the edge of a little pond.  He spent a couple of hours at midday, when the tide was high, preening carefully.  At little scratching was in order too. When it was time to feed the heron flew a short way to the exposed rocks in the tidal zone of the Coquille River estuary. Hunting for small fish was good in shallows amongst the rocks. 
            Today a stiff wind blows.  A heron, probably the same one, is at the same pond.  He walks slowly out of the shadows of the trees and into the pond. 
This is the only sketch in this post that isn't a field sketch ….. sketched from one of our photos.
            The heron straightens his neck, carefully watching the water beneath. Hunting isn’t very good.  Dale photographs and I sketch for a good hour without seeing him catch anything.  His luck probably wouldn’t be any better on the estuary where the wind is whipping up a choppy riffle in addition to big waves rolling in.  Some days fishing looks so easy for these herons, but not today.