O Is For Oriole–Baltimore

I had a lot of company today, some expected and some not, so I’m talked out ;-).  Some days when you read my blog and I’m long-winded it’s pretty much because I have spent the whole day or possibly two days mostly by myself.  Not the case today–so here is my offering–the brightly colored Baltimore Oriole.  I just think these are beautiful birds and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to paint one.  The Oriole we see around here is a Bullock’s Oriole but I decided to break yet another of one of my rules and go rogue–paint a bird outside of my territory.  They’re only MY rules anyway–besides, some of my friends from the East Coast may want to purchase a bird painting or two as well.O is for Oriole_Baltimore_painted Oct 23

Besides painting an Oriole, I started on the painting for tomorrow–here’s a sneak peek.  I’m sure it’s obvious what it is.  If not, you’ll just have to be surprised.

L is for Loon_started 10_23My friends who were here to see my studio and have lunch with me were interested in what these pieces look like in real life.  I decided that it would be good to share with all of you.  Here is the display I created for these little 5″x7″ pieces–thank you Ikea.  It’s a great way to let them dry and also it kinda dictates what bird I will do next or what color background.  I don’t want them all to be the same.

A-Z Display

Eventually, hopefully before Open Studio, I will have note cards made from these.  I’m trying to decide if I should sell them as individual cards or as a full alphabet.  Any input?  I won’t tell you which way I’m leaning until I get some feedback (IF I get feedback)–hypothetically, if you were buying these cards, would you rather have 2 of 4 different paintings packaged together (my choice), the option of buying them individually or packaged in an A-Z (one of each) format?  Or all of the above–All these decisions!!!

Z Is For Zonotrichia Atricapilla

AKA Golden Crowned Sparrow–As I’m winding down on my quick paint birds it’s becoming more difficult to find birds to go with some of the letters.  I was considering painting a Zebra Finch for the Z (which I don’t have a reference picture of) but upon checking the index of my trusty bird book to see what birds started with Z, I was delighted to find that the scientific name for a Golden Crowned Sparrow starts with a Z!  I had this cute little picture of a Golden Crowned Sparrow sitting in my hydrangea bush just outside my kitchen window from this last spring in the que and had hoped to be able to paint it.  We get a lot of these perky birds, along with White Crowned Sparrows.

Quick block in.
Quick block in.

Today I decided to show you my process again.  The first one is about 15 minutes in.  I got a phone call at the next phase I was going to photograph and completely forgot it so I’m jumping to the finished product.

Golden Crowned Sparrow
Golden Crowned Sparrow

This little guy took me right at 1 1/2 hours.  The angle of his beak drove me crazy–it was a matter of stepping away again and letting the paint setup so I could accomplish the curve and shadows.  However, don’t look too closely.

I don’t have much info besides their scientific name today–I thought that in itself was pretty impressive.  I had my granddaughter much of the day and now that it’s time to post my blog my brain seems dead.  It was definitely worth the time with her though. ;-).

G Is For Great Blue Heron and V Is For Virginia Rail

Each of the paintings I finished today have interesting stories and both of the reference pictures were taken at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge.  Since G comes before V and I started the Great Blue Heron first, I’ll start with it.

G is For Great Blue Heron
Strutting Great Blue Heron

To date, this has been the most challenging due to the many layers of feathers and fluff and stuff on this strutting heron.  I’m not sure why I can’t just paint a predictably smoothed out bird, walking through a field with his neck stretched out in a profile position.

When I found this guy he was tiptoeing along a log, submerged in duckweed, his legs were covered in mud from his trek to the log.  For some reason, even though I was pretty close, he just kept walking along the log toward me, feathers fluffed.

This is the second Great Blue Heron I’ve ever painted–the first was last month for the Ridgefield Wildlife refuge.  The next one I paint will be in the 4th painting for my Bird Watcher series–my winter project.  Over the past couple of years I’ve been watching them a lot.  I posted about the rookery in Woodland a few months back–I’m still fascinated that these long, gangly, prehistoric looking birds can fly through the treetops with long branches in their beaks and not get hung up somehow–and yet they do.  Then, they go from their high-rise commune of hundreds of birds to living a solitary life, separate from friends, save for an occasional egret or two.  Although, after witnessing the squawking of the rookery, I do understand the need for quiet.  When my children were young and squawking, it was rare that I would even turn the radio on in the car when I was alone.  It was my time to “reset.”  Possibly they can only put up with that sort of noise for so long and only once a year.

Interestingly, it takes upwards of 105-120 days before the young are ready to live on their own.  27 days to incubate, 55-80 days to fly and begin to forage on their own–returning to their nest to be fed each evening–and continuing on with that routine for about 3 more weeks.  Compared to many other bird species, raising their young requires a lot of time and attention.  A Great Blue Heron can grow to be anywhere from 38″ to 54″ with a wingspan of 66″ to 79″ and weight approximately 5.5 pounds.

V Is For Virginia Rail
Playing Peek a boo.

Now for my next subject–V is for Virginia Rail.  I chose Virginia Rail for a couple of reasons, I had a photo of one and I’m trying to use all my own reference material for this project and two, they are reclusive and not commonly seen but commonly around, so I thought I’d show you one.

These pudgy birds with the little head are, what should I say, odd-looking.  The first time I ever saw one was a fluke.  My husband and I had decided to walk the mile long path down at the refuge.  My camera was new so I never expected to get any good shots of anything, but one has to practice, right?  Anyway, all of a sudden there was what I call a “Yellowstone” moment.  Everyone on the trail was all bunched up in one spot, peering into the swampy area beside the trail, pointing here, then there, exclaiming, “I hear it, it must be there!”  So we asked, “What are you looking for?”  Several people exclaimed in excitement, “A Virginia Rail!”  Of course the fact that he’d come all the way from Virginia impressed us (Admittedly, smart remarks from the new “bird watchers” were shared between us), but we had no bird book with us and no way of knowing what this illusive bird looked like.  So we walked up to a guy with the biggest camera lens (it was HUGE)–he looked like he’d had a little birding experience–and asked him what we were looking for.  Pulling out his cellphone he Googled it and showed us a picture.  At that, we thanked him and parted ways.  The crowd had mainly dispersed, giving up on finding the little critter.  We decided to stroll back to the spot of interest, stood there for a few seconds when my husband calmly says, “Is that it?”  Sure enough, there he stood, maybe 15 feet away.  Poking his head out of the grass and moving forward.  I crouched down, focused and took a few shots, hoping for something.  Then of course, we walked over to the man with the huge lens and pointed him in the right direction.  I have no idea if he was able to find him but for us, it was “beginners luck.” Most importantly, my photos were sharply focused and very usable.  The problem was, who would want a painting of a Virginia Rail?  Since these paintings are meant to be quick and unrefined I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to put this little fella in the limelight.  BTW, we saw another V Rail last week on our bird watching trip up North.

About the bird–I know nothing other than they are very private, secretive birds, however, they are quite common.  They live along shores poking the ground, eating grubs, insects, small fish and such.  The rest I’ll Google–not much on Google.  Here’s what I found.  Apparently they are permanent, year round residents in our area, they lay 5-13 eggs in a nest built on a platform of old cattail, both parents care for the young which are able to fly in less than a month.  They have a harsh kuk, kuk, kuk voice which is usually heard at night.

Personally, I think they have a beautiful bill and legs to match.  Their colors are fascinating but their body seems so out of proportion.  But hey, some of us humans have heads too small for our bodies as well–or maybe it’s the other way around–who knows.  Variety is the spice of life.  🙂  Have a good evening.

T is for Tern

I’m a little behind on my bird paintings–sorry folks!  I was hoping to have two to post today but there was a catastrophe outside my studio today–someone ran over the mailboxes and it seemed to draw a crowd, which led to talking which led to not getting both of the paintings done.  I have no idea where the mail was delivered but it was nice meeting some of my new business neighbors.

T is for TernNow back to the Tern–they are cool looking birds and that’s why I chose to paint it.  As for knowing anything about them, I’m too tired to learn anything so it’s just going to be a picture tonight. 🙂

On the easel–a Great Blue Heron–very difficult to paint on a 7″x5″ format, but it’s almost done.  The other painting is a Virgina Rail.

Till tomorrow–good night.

A is for Anna’s Hummingbird

We are very fortunate to live in a part of the world where hummingbirds live.  Although we do not have nearly as many dramatic species as there are in the tropics, we have one who lives year-round–the Anna’s.  This morning as I was wiping the sleepiness from my eyes, stretching my muscles and contemplating the possibility of going to the gym, a little Junco caught my attention.  The little guy was doing us a favor and just munching away on the one dandelion in our yard that had gone to seed.  It looked so cute plucking the seeds and eating them I thought, “Get the camera.”  As I was picking up my camera in the family room a Towhee caught my attention hopping around on the spire of our bird house feeder.  Just as I was focusing in on the Towhee I saw a flash of green and was again distracted–this time by a lovely female Anna’s.  For the life of me I can’t think of the name of the flower I have outside my window, but the hummers love them.  She was going to each individual flower, periodically sitting on a small stem to lick nectar, but mostly hovering.  Her tiny green feathers shimmering she eventually flew up to the nearly leafless tree near our house and delicately landed.  Tummy full, she began to preen.  Continue reading “A is for Anna’s Hummingbird”

Y is for Yellow Rumped Warbler

This last summer as I was walking through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge (first section by the blind–for those of you who know the refuge), I kept seeing little flashes of yellow flitting all about me in the tree tops.  It was difficult in the light and with all the leaves to discern what was causing all the commotion so I began to do what I do best, point my camera and shoot.  This may seem like an odd way to identify a bird but it has worked numerous times for me and until I get a good pair of binoculars or a scope it will probably remain the best way.

Y is for Yellow Rumped Warbler_painted Oct 15 and 16Since I have not taken the opportunity to walk through that area much due to laziness–I enjoy my car ride–I did not really know what birds lived in that particular area–which means Warblers were a new discovery for this somewhat inexperienced bird watcher.  The same day that I saw this little beauty I saw several other varieties of warblers (Yes, I.D.’d through my camera lens), Varied Trushes and Spotted Towhee’s, a Brown Creeper, a beautiful Robin (the Robin I already painted), and the cutest of all was the White Faced Nuthatch.  I did get a picture of him but since I already did a Wren he is being saved for a later date to paint.

My timer is going off, which means I must finish washing brushes and head off to an art show where some friends are showing art.  I have an Anna’s Hummingbird blocked in for tomorrow–one of our residence at our house.  He stays all winter.

Have a lovely evening–till tomorrow–

What I Discovered About Myself Today–And Two New Paintings

Today my husband and I got up at 0’darkhundred, jumped in the car at 5:40 a.m. and headed North to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour and a half from our home, to join a group of people for their weekly 8 a.m. bird walk.  We have talked about going up there for years and finally bit the bullet.  I discovered this–I’m a real bird-watcher!!

I know that sounds odd to write on a blog called The Bird Watcher, but it’s true.  Oddly, I’m the kind of person who usually doubts something about myself until I’ve had affirmation or permission to be that person.  For example–in 1995 I took an intro to drawing class–free credits, I was working for the University.  I discovered I knew how to draw.  I remember when the teacher was showing us how to look for shapes and masses and compare distance, values, etc. and all the sudden I thought to myself–“I already do that!”  That’s when I learned to trust myself drawing and that I knew what I was doing naturally.  Almost everything I do in life has been a process of giving myself permission to be or do what comes naturally.  Today was no different.  Somehow I’ve thought I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to bird watching.  As an adult I’ve never been with a group bird watching.  I tend to like to do those things alone, so somehow I figured I wasn’t a real bird watcher–but I am ALWAYS watching birds.

B is for Belted Kingfisher--in progress.
B is for Belted Kingfisher–in progress.

So today as we headed out to the orchard area of the refuge I was thinking to myself, “This looks like home.”  Then people began exclaiming, “There’s an Anna’s! Look, another!  Up there is a downy woodpecker and the next limb over a flicker–I’ve never had a flicker and a downy in my binoculars at the same time!”. . . I’m thinking to myself (I do a lot of thinking to myself), “I see flickers and nuthatches and spotted towhee’s and robins and juncos, etc. . . all the time together.”  One day I watched a hawk fly through our feeder station, flush the birds and slam against the window with one in its talons.  That’s serious bird watching!

Later on, I was walking along with the gentleman leading the group, taking him to see the Virginia rail he’d missed and talking to him about the great horned owl we’d just seen. I began to bemoan the fact that I can’t seem to ever see owls.  He was saying that he struggled with it as well and that one had to “think like an owl–owls are quiet and usually cuddled up against a trunk”–as he continued to describe his birding technique he said that he sees movement and hears sounds and that’s how he finds the birds–again, the light bulb came on.  I realized he was describing exactly what I do and I discovered–I am indeed a bird watcher.  I do what they do, I love what they love and I know way more then I give myself credit for and what I don’t know I do research and try to find the answer.  I also discovered–I want a spotting scope–a serious one!

Enough about bird watching–I started the Belted Kingfisher yesterday and got it almost finished today.  It’s a little like that crazy Steller’s Jay and giving me some fits.  The bird I painted today, start to finish, is the little Downy Woodpecker.  This little feller has been destroying the trim on the side of our house.  I will go out and scold him, telling him that he is destroying our house and he will just look down at me, hop to the other side and start pecking.  He is so cute I hate to scare him off but I’ve discovered he is not affected by me shooing him away to badly because he’s right back hammering away.  Yesterday I heard it out there and decided that the least I could do is get a picture of him and use him in this series.  So, this was him, in between hammering away I’d talk to him and he’d look around with this cute little innocent face and my heart just skipped a beat.

D is For Down Woodpecker
D is For Downy Woodpecker

N is For Northern Cardinal (And Don’t Forget The Finished Steller Jay Is Here As Well)

I’m on a roll with birds that have top knots–more technically called a crest.  I didn’t mean to be but I felt like doing a bird that does not live in the Northwest yet a favorite to many–my husband is one–the Cardinal, and it just so happens to have a crest as well.  While I was working on this bird it dawned on me that bird feet are about the ugliest things I’ve ever seen on a body.  Some say that human elbows are bad, but there is no comparison to the homeliness of bird feet–especially on this Cardinal.  I must say, the feet weren’t my focus today.

N is for Northern Cardinal

Due to a low battery and my power cord being at my studio I am keeping this blog short.  No real info about either of these birds.  However, I am much happier with Mr. Steller–letting the paint dry a little gave me the ability to paint the correct blue over the top of the existing paint without blending in and changing the color.

I hope you enjoy these birds as much as I’m enjoying painting them and loosening up with my brushes.  Possibly I will go in and do some small touch ups after the paintings have dried but overall I consider them done.  I also may change the background color on a couple of them.  Some don’t have enough contrast.

Finished Steller
Finished Steller

C Is For Common Yellowthroat

With the name Common Yellowthroat, you’d think these little songbirds would be a more common sight.  A couple of years ago while observing the rookery of Great Blue Herons while they could still be seen–all the leaves had not yet come out–I heard an odd little buzzing like sound in the tall grass.  Every once in a while I’d hear what sounded like a low warning chirp.  Taking my camera closer I looked and looked but couldn’t see anything.  Eventually I saw a little movement in the grass and blindly pointed my camera in that direction and took a few shots.  I didn’t know what that little masked bird was but it was so fluffed up and cute I could hardly wait to get the bird book out and I.D. it.  This year I found a pair of them not far from our house.  Sadly, a housing development was coming in and they mowed all the grass where they were living.  I hope they were able to get at least one brood raised.

Speaking of their broods–they raise 1-2 per year with 1-6 eggs.  In less then a month the chicks leave the nest.  Eggs are incubated 12 days, and in 12 days they’re ready to leave the nest.  Common Yellowthroats migrate and are found breeding all over the US accept Alaska but winter over in the Southern states and Mexico.  Maybe that’s why we don’t see them much around here.

Today I remembered to take pictures of the process.  They are posted after the finished painting if you care to see them.

And it's done
And it’s done
First phase
First phase
quick blockin
quick blockin

R Is For Robin–American Robin That Is

How can we do a series of birds from A-Z and leave the Robin out?  Being the second most common bird in North America, a part of the Thrush family and State bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin–it is obviously a favorite of many.  Lately our backyard has been a popular stopover for migrating birds.  They are actively keeping our worm population down and gorging themselves on fallen apples.

Male American Robin--a different view ;-)
Male American Robin–a different view 😉

As promised, Orin collected some interesting facts about Robins while I painted.

Robins like to be first–they are first to arrive in the Spring, first to build a nest, first to lay eggs and first to get up in the morning to sing and first to get the worm.  (Mind you, this is not exact science so don’t quote me on this.)  Robins are also intelligent enough to know a Cowbird egg from their own eggs and shove them from the nest. Maybe they can see color?

This is something that was interesting, they can live up to 13 years, however, only about 25% of all the birds that fledge actually survive their migration and some have the opinion that every 6 years there is a new population of robins.  You might say, it’s a good thing they lay 2-3 clutches of 3-5 eggs a year.  If you think about it, they’re kinda like the rabbits of the sky–reproducing a lot but with a short lifespan.

Well, enough about robins for now.  Don’t stay up too late, I know it’s Friday night but you don’t want to miss the robin singing in the morning.