Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chicks and Sticks

I did this small watercolor as a gift to one of the naturalists at Brookside Nature Center, who recently left in pursuit of higher goals (such as world travel!) I learned a great deal from her in the year that we worked together, and I'll be forever grateful for her tutelage.

This is a Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) in a Sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum.) The bird is approximately life-sized, around 4" from head to tail, painted in watercolor with gouache highlights on BFK Rives (printmaking paper). I could rhapsodize about the merits of this delicious, cream-colored paper for hours. (It does come in other colors, but this one is the best!) If you ever find yourself in a fine art store, find where they keep it and run your hands over it and you'll see what I mean!

Bluebird and Redbird

More pieces for the NEA! The cardinal, obviously, is a directional marker, now installed on the path leading up the hill from the nature center.

It doesn't look it, but this tree cookie is massive--a real pain to lug up and down the basement stairs and hill! (You can only get away with rolling the tree cookies when there aren't small children in the way, which, given that it IS a nature center, there usually are!)

The second piece is a bluebird, painted approximately actual size (about 7" from head to tail) on another scrap of wood. This will be mounted, like the owl and the flying squirrels, somewhere in the NEA for a little extra color.

I haven't been doing too much in the way of painting for the NEA, since my current project is digitally coloring those pond brochures I did last year--they're going to be made into signs for a small display down by the pond! I'm having fun exploring Photoshop and using Frans' Wacom tablet, but am still rather baffled by all of it. Nothing beats traditional media!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great Front Yard Bird Count

It's amazing to think that mere weeks ago, the DC-metro area was covered with 3+ feet of snow. This was the view from our front porch:

And here's one of the feeders we have hung from the fruit tree in the front yard. To get an idea of how deep the snow cover was, keep in mind that I whang my head on that feeder on a regular basis. Therefore, it is approximately at least 5 feet off the ground.

Most fortuitously, the Great Backyard Bird Count overlapped part of that snowbound week, and was a great excuse to gaze out the window all day long.

A mourning dove peers at me from his perch in the feeder tree. I love the look of soft little bird-bellies!

As you can see, the blizzards afforded us with plenty of birdwatching opportunities. Not only were we stuck in the house for a week (three days of which we didn't have power, and only survived thanks to the newly-installed woodstove), but the birdies needed plenty of extra sustenance, which I was happy to provide.

Fortunately, CatTV does not require electricity:

(Here Yoda studies the delicious sparrows, as if choosing prime cuts at the deli counter. I always point out that House Sparrows are the most delectable--imported from Europe!)

The only time Yoda and Audrey will tolerate each other's close company is while they're watching Primetime in the front yard. At these moments a sort of peace settles over the household and we all enjoy the sport of birding together, as a family.

By far the coolest bird to grace our front yard with its presence was this hawk, which landed in the red maple in the yard just steps from the front door. (You can bet the cats stopped salivating when they saw it....a raptor makes for no easy snack.)

Excuse the blurry pictures! Understandably, it remains unidentified. (I've asked all the naturalists at Brookside to weigh in, and everyone's still undecided as to whether it's a red-tailed or a red-shouldered hawk.) ID or no, it was still a breathtaking event, and not a bad way to commemorate my first Backyard Bird Count.