Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stewart Pond Sketches

I’ve hardly had time to breath lately, but I still have been getting out and sketching.  Our local pond provides a wonderful place to sketch and photograph.  Here are some recent field sketches from there: 
Lots of activity at the pond.  One double-crested cormorant sits on top of a post while the other chases after a common merganser with its fish.  I had to chuckle because just a few days earlier a similar merganser stole a fish from a hooded merganser (which is quite a bit smaller).  This time the cormorant won and the merganser had to give up its fish.  

Also a seven ducks come 'slipping' in to the pond.  I love how they twist sideways when they want to loose altitude quickly.  …. and one great egret flies by. 
Canada geese squabbling on top, mallards in the middle, and a ring-necked diving on the bottom. 
 The whole page of Canada geese.  Sketching a variety of poses is such good practice.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We Call Him Flitter

Ruby-crowned kinglets have got to be one of the hardest birds to photograph!  The little stinkers never stay still.  They flit, bounce, twist, and pop off to the next spot.  Dale and I call them ‘Flitter.’

Today, March 7, Dale and I have found a busy winter flock of little birds – more ruby-crowned kinglets than we’ve ever seen together (6?  12?).  They flit about too much to really count.  They just seemed to be everywhere. At least two chestnut-backed chickadees, and some black-capped chickadees bounce about too, but in a more sedate manner, if one can call a chickadee sedate.  Spring warmth has opened the pussy willows and spring showers have watered all gardens of mosses and lichens.  This stretch of the Umpqua River flows through dark forest, but along the river edges are patches of alder, willow and maple.  The willows are a-buzz with bees and a few flies.  The flock of birds pick about in all the trees, sometimes pounding away on something hard; three times I saw one with a little caterpillar about an inch long; mostly he is busy, busy, busy moving from one spot to another. 

Dale and I each spent about two hours doing our darndest to get sharp photos of Flitter.  The biggest challenge is to get a peek of the male’s red crown.  He can hide it entirely – which he usually does.  When aggravated he raises a bit of red and he can flare it into a glorious patch of red. 

Finally I had Flitter close and a little peak of red was showing ….. click!  I was sure I’d gotten that little feller until I looked at the image on the back of my camera – tail feathers!   Click! More tail feathers!  Three times in a row all I got was tail feathers.  I began to think of a few other names to call Flitter. 

Sometimes being an artist is really handy.  I went back to the car and loaded up with my stool, sketchbook and paint.  By now I had been watching kinglets for about two hours and had them pretty well sketched in my brain.  I sat down and drew what I couldn’t get with the camera.  Dale had more picture patience and kept on photographing. 

This photo of Flitter was taken in Yellowstone, one of the places ruby-crowned kinglets breed.  I well remember the day we heard something blasting forth from the top of a Douglas Fir and about broke our necks trying to figure out who had such a big voice -- a ruby-crowned kinglet.  They don't breed near home and so we weren't familiar with their song.  Fortunately sometimes they come down to lower levels to sing too.  This little guy was tucked in bushes near a pond.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Twee, Twee, Twee, Twee

March 3, 2014:  Roseburg, Oregon

Friends in Wisconsin and family in New Hampshire are still talking about below zero weather, meanwhile we just finished our first mowing of the lawn. If we had waited any longer we’d have to get a hay bailer out there.  Our lawn is lush and green all winter, then dry and crunchy by mid summer.  The spring challenge is to find a day when the grass is dry enough to cut, dry enough so we don’t stall the lawnmower more than just a few times. 

Daffodils are blooming and my ornamental cherry just popped into bloom. 

And today nature surprised me with a bird call I wasn’t familiar with.  Dale and I were walking about a block from home and heard, “Twee, twee, twee, twee” – about four insistent calls, a brief pause and then four more.  I’d just heard a junco trilling his little heart out, the first of the season, and now this strange call.

Fortunately the little bird had the decency to show himself.  He spooked to a new location.  Even though all I had was a silhouette, I knew immediately I was looking at a white-breasted nuthatch. He clung to the side of a birch in proper nuthatch fashion and then flew to the tippy top of another tree to sing.  There he sat, way up above the neighborhood singing his little heart out. 

When we got home I did a little searching and found white-breasted nuthatches sound a little different in different parts of the country.  Mine sounds very much like a recording from Monterey Bay, California that I found on is a wonderful web site for checking out bird songs.