I saw this decorated tree near Sisters, Oregon. There was a nice contrast between the rough brown ponderosa pine bark and the delicate tufts of fluorescent green lichen.
Today I’m sharing close up photos of marvelous malachite. According to geology.com, malachite is a “green copper carbonate hydroxide mineral.” The site also refers to its striking green color and that’s why I collect it.
This first piece has a rough texture and interesting shape. For scale, it measures 1.5 x 1.0 inches.
The second piece is opposite of the first – rounded shapes and smooth textures. It measures 3.75 x 1.5 inches.
The third piece is a cube that’s got interesting lines viewed from different angles. It measures 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 inches.
The last piece is an antique watch with a malachite face and band. Malachite has low hardness so it’s relatively easy to work with in making jewelry, carvings, etc. The watch face measures 1.0 x 0.75 inches.
Can you understand why I collect pieces of marvelous malachite? I love its green color and variety of textures.
What birds do you C in this post? The Bird Weekly Photo Challenge this week is birds that start with a “C.” Can you guess what each bird is? Answers are at the end.
1. This hawk likes to hang out around bird feeders to pick up a quick snack of songbirds. It’s a medium-size accipiter that lives in forested habitats
2. This songbird’s name comes from its habit of foraging through piles of discarded grain. It’s common throughout parts of Europe and Asia.
3. This songbird lives in colonies; usually near a water source. They collect mud to create unique gourd-shaped nests.
4. This seabird, with its striking black and white plumage, is often described as a “flying penguin.” Other species in this family of birds include puffins and auks.
5. North America’s largest shorebird is often seen inland, far from any ocean shoreline. Its name reflects a distinctive part of its anatomy.
Answers: 1. Cooper’s hawk 2. chaffinch 3. cliff swallow 4. common murre 5. long-billed curlew
Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Birds that start with a C
A blooming cosmos is one of my favorite sights to see in a garden. We had several colors of cosmos in our garden this summer, but this magenta-colored flower was my favorite. I love how the color contrasts with the bright yellow center. The bees appreciated them as well.
It’s time to share special photos from the past year. Please enjoy this selection of nature, history, and art photos from Bend Branches.
One day, while playing around with editing effects, this mirror image of autumn leaves sparked my imagination. I saw a woman wearing a crimson cape in the photo below. The short story I created, The Tree People of Autumn , is based on edited photos of trees.
I tried to turn my camera towards things in my yard more this year. Here’s one of my prickly pear cactus in bloom.
We created a big vegetable garden this year. Some of our produce may not have won ribbons at the fair, but it was entertaining. 😊
This fence lizard blended in so well with the bark of one of the western juniper trees in my backyard.
We took more short trips nearby this year. I added to my collection of rocks and featured some of my treasures in my I Like Rocks! post.
I visited Ireland and Northern Ireland last winter, prior to the world locking down. This European eagle-owl at the Dingle Falconry Experience in County Kerry, was gorgeous.
In May, I stepped back in time four decades with photos illustrating my account of the eruption of Mount St Helens. Here’s the mountain before it blew it’s top.
I showed a glimpse of local history with this picture of headdresses at the High Desert Museum in Bend. The craftmanship of these is amazing. This photo also includes a ballot box, something many of us made use of this year.
I emphasized the many shapes and textures of artifacts in the Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. This site, built in the 1860s, was an important gathering place for Chinese immigrants. Doc Hay, the resident doctor, gave local people an herbal decoction during the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. Though some still became ill, all were able to continue working and not a single person died.
When I visited the Kindred Spirits sculpture in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, I was touched by the story behind it. In 1847, people of the Choctaw tribe in America shared a gift of $170 with the Irish people during Ireland’s Great Famine. That action was reciprocated this year when people of Irish descent sent financial help to Native Americans suffering from the pandemic.
The world this year seemed to be full of disasters, but many of us found comfort in art. This was one of the interesting sculptures at Winterfest in Bend. See the guy photobombing my picture?
We created art in new ways. These are face masks I made from customized fabric. Who knew they would make a fashion statement this year?
I finally filled up an empty wall by creating a mural featuring characters in stories I’m working on. Can you see the pronghorn, ground squirrel, magpie, and badger? High Desert Mural features close ups of each critter and more on the creative process.
After the local galleries were shut down for the monthly First Friday Art Walk event, I decided to share more of my own art under the First Friday Art tag. Here’s the first piece I shared in May. I created this feather on scratchboard during a scientific illustration course.
Leaping towards the future
I remembered sights seen on past adventures and look forward to future travels. This dolphin sculpture is in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. It expresses the joy many of us will feel at being able to travel once more.
I hope you can venture out more in the upcoming year and that you’ll share special photos a year from now. 😀
Here’s a black-necked stilt drawing I created with pen-and-ink. The rushes surrounding these birds echo their tall slim form.
Here’s a stilt I saw in the spring in Harney County, Oregon. Black-necked stilts have an almost regal quality to them. They move as if in a procession, slowly and deliberately.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
I’m representing my feelings towards 2020 by showing it being struck by lightning. Yes, there were some great moments, but I’m glad to be saying bye to this particular year.
See how all the other western juniper trees around this tree are thriving? Can you see the sliver of blue in the distant sky? Once the dark clouds dissipate, we’ll have a brighter future where more of us can thrive.
Happy New Year!
I saw this visitor in the cottonwoods in Fields, Oregon. Great horned owls like to hang out in this particular stand of black cottonwoods. I was on the Circling Steens Mountain tour that’s a part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival.
The trees weren’t leafed out yet on this April field trip, but that made it easier to see birds. Cottonwoods like to have wet feet, as you can tell in this photo.
If you visit this area, be sure to sample one of the famous milkshakes at The Fields Station.
Oregon grape up close in my yard dressed in seasonal colors. The prickly leaves on this semi-evergreen shrub get burgundy highlights in the fall. Oregon grape plants have yellow flowers in the spring and purple berries in the summer. It’s striking year-round.
At this time of the year, you see a lot of waterfowl on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. I paused to look at this group of mallards until…
This happened. No he didn’t hit me, but I thought I better continue on my way.
Then I saw this big gray-white camera shy bird next to a pair of common mergansers. What is that?
Oh! It’s a trumpeter swan, not a species I see very often here. It was all by itself.
When I was almost at the end of my walk, I saw this group of buffleheads and mallards. I’ll just zoom in a little since they’re going in the same direction.
Well the Canada geese and common goldeneye cooperated, but this bufflehead decided to go his own way.
You never know what waterfowl on the Deschutes River will do next when they know you’re trying to photograph them. 😉
Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Birds near or in the water or snow
Peering through a branch-lined portal at the softness of snow.
Where frosty starbursts emerge from the desert soil.
And wise elders rejoice, reaching to the sky with arms contorted by the years. Ancient trees collect the bountiful flakes falling from the sky to share.
They tuck the next generation under downy crystalline blankets. When spring awakens them, they will change into new beings who will continue the cycle and share the softness of snow.
Monochrome Monday (MM)
One of my favorite local trees is the western larch, Larix occidentalis. This conifer tree is unique because it drops its needles in the winter. Before they litter the forest floor, the needles turn a distinctive golden-yellow color. They stand out from the deep green shades of surrounding trees.
They have a delicate, almost lacey, growth form. Look at these needles radiating out in little groups of 15-30 on this branch. They are softer and more flexible than some of their pine tree cousins.
A home for wildlife
A wide range of wildlife relies on larch for food and cover. Squirrels feed on the cones and cache the seeds for future use. Songbirds nest and forage in their branches. They are especially important to pileated woodpeckers. This tree is an important food source for several kinds of grouse. Large mammals forage on the needles as a last resort since they are not as tasty as other trees.
Western larch trees reach a height of 98-197 feet. They can live up to 1,000 years. You may know them by one of their nicknames – tamarack.
The many uses of the western larch
People value the wood of this tree for burning and in construction. It’s a favorite firewood because it burns hot and has a sweet fragrance. We use larch wood in fencing, flooring, exterior trim, and cabinets. Thin strips of flexible larch wood are sometimes used in yacht construction.
Indigenous people used this tree in several ways. They used an infusion to treat laryngitis and tuberculosis. Resin was used for healing cuts. Resin tea helped relieve coughs and colds. They ate the cambium and sap. Native peoples chewed a gum from larch trees to ease sore throats. People made baking powder and medicine from galactan, a natural sugar in the wood.
We currently use the gum from the tree in lithography, paint, ink, food, and pharmaceuticals. Resin is used in producing turpentine and other products.
The photos above were taken near Sisters, Oregon. These trees are in the southern tip of the range for western larch. They occur north to southeastern British Columbia and east to western Montana.
I took the photo below in the Blue Mountains near Baker City, Oregon. Larch are common along stretches of the highway there. They grow at elevations between 1,600 and 7,900 feet and can tolerate temperatures as low as -58° F.
I’ve always wanted a western larch tree, but they grow too tall for my yard. Maybe I should settle for a bonsai version, like the one shown in my last photo. Hint hint… 😀
Aspen trees in the fall are beautiful from far away and up close. I’m featuring autumn portraits of aspens in central and eastern Oregon.
A far away aspen stand glowing in a blaze of color on Hart Mountain.
Moving in closer to… an aspen-lined meadow at Aspen Day Use Area near Dillon Falls.
Taking a step closer to… a golden-leaved aspen in Pine Nursery Park in Bend.
Edging in closer to… the many-eyed bark of aspen trees in the Old Mill District of Bend.
Focusing up close on… frosty aspen leaves near Sunriver Nature Center.
I saw another lovely lichen begging for me to photograph it. This fluorescent green lichen was on the forest floor in a ponderosa pine forest near Sisters, Oregon.
The following images of igneous rocks up close were taken in my yard near Bend, Oregon.
What’s an igneous rock? Geology.com describes them as being “formed from the solidification of molten rock material.” For example, granite, gabbro, basalt, scoria, and obsidian are all types of igneous rock.
You probably notice some of these rocks have round bubble-like holes in them. These “vesicles” form when gas is trapped within the melted rock at the time it cools and turns solid.
As you can see, there is a lot of variety in texture and color in the igneous rocks in my yard. The rocks pictured are small enough to fit in the palm of my hand – the perfect size for collecting. 😉
Sunday Stills – Texture
This year I went on a quest with the goal of finding fall colors. Here’s a 4-part haiku story based on pictures taken on the Mount Hood Scenic Byway in Oregon.
Deep in the mountains
Mount Hood surveys the landscape
Draped in mossy robes
Rooted in shades of autumn
Fall’s gala begins
Cliffside rocks rejoice
Baring their columnar arms
Dancers cast in stone
Settling over the foothills
Autumn’s party ends
To view another story I created from finding fall foliage, see The Tree People of Autumn.
On a distant shore
Rushing away from the flow
Resting in the ebb
These colorful flowers are on a goldflame honeysuckle plant. Hummingbirds frequently visit this vine’s gorgeous flowers. In North America and Eurasia, 180 species of honeysuckle have been identified.
Like the rest of you out there, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. This week I’m featuring photos taken in a High Desert yard near Bend, Oregon.
If your gaze is focused downward lately, look at the elements of earth in a new light. This layer cake rock is interesting in color and form.
As your gaze moves up, notice the textures you may have overlooked. The multilayered bark of juniper trees always catches my attention.
Though we can’t be together right now, we get the opportunity to watch those who can. These Eurasian collared doves are sharing a tender moment.
We can smile at those taking advantage of the situation. These two mule deer bucks are pausing to share a drink while my dogs are inside.
And when all seems bleak, we may be rewarded by lightness at the end of the day. Spectacular sunsets are a surprise worth waiting for.
If we keep looking up, things should get better. In a High Desert yard, this splash of color emerged after a dark storm – a special gift from Mother Nature. 😀
This feather is about 12 inches long – maybe from a large raptor such as a hawk or owl. The feather rests on a pinecone pillow and bed of ponderosa pine needles.
Sepia tone image with selective focus.
In the morning light
Fireworks light up the fall sky
When the day breaks bright
We find our comfortable place
Basking in its warmth
In the light of day
Our differences stand out
Yet we share our songs
In the morning light
Snow melts from prickly branches
Revealing warm hearts
California scrub jays are usually a loud and active kind of bird. I shared this painting I did of a calm jay exactly four years ago today after a hectic political season. I wanted to show that a sense of calmness can return even after a time of chaos.
The jay pictured above, and the one below, appear calm on the surface. But underneath those calm exteriors, there is a flurry of activity. Their minds are running through a lot of “what ifs” and their bodies are ready to spring into action.
Today we are facing many challenges and “what ifs.” It may be difficult, but I hope you’re able to capture moments of calm, no matter how brief, before you flutter to your next destination.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
This delicate beauty is sweet alyssum. Sweet to see and sweet to smell. Most common as a white flower, this dwarf variety has lavender purple blossoms.
When the warmth of summer slips into the shadows, the tree people of autumn emerge. No one notices them at first. Their queen guides them concealed beneath a cloak of crimson leaves.
The tree people camouflage themselves as creatures of the forest. Their colors shift as their power increases.
Sometimes they appear as deer, leaping through the forest with antlers of glowing gold.
Sometimes they appear as butterflies, unfurling wings to capture the scarlet of the setting sun.
And when the tree people prepare to rest, the storyteller puts on his towering yellow hat. He raises his arms and tells tales that lull them into a deep sleep.
So when you pass by a stand of falling foliage, remember the tree people of autumn. They will emerge again next year to amaze you with their color and power.
This peninsula of flowers was seen in the Old Mill district of Bend, Oregon. The gardeners do a great job maintaining these picturesque flowerbeds. They brighten up even the darkest of days.
I took some pictures of a varied thrush drinking yesterday. I’m posting them for the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge and Sunday Stills challenge. My previous post, Backyard birding adventures, shows other birds in my yard.
One or two varied thrushes always visits us in the fall season. They travel with the American robin flocks.
You can see how they’re closely related to robins. To hear the eerie song of varied thrushes, scroll down this page to Songs and Calls.
We have a water feature in our yard so we have lots of backyard birding adventures. This summer I bought a special mount to take digital pictures through my spotting scope. This process is referred to as “digiscoping.” Unfortunately, many of the pictures I first took turned out blurry. I’m having much better luck with my brand new mount.
Here’s a photo of one of our California scrub-jays taken with my Google Pixel phone. Isn’t it a beautiful bird?
I used my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix camera for this one. It was a little tricky to hold it in place on the mount. This a European starling and an American robin.
We get tons of robins at this time of the year and they chase other birds away.
This image is blurry but it captures a frequent visitor, a robin, next to an infrequent one, an evening grosbeak. Glad I got a quick glimpse of the grosbeak!
Here’s another infrequent visitor, a hermit thrush, and, you guessed it! – a robin. Five different thrushes are in our yard at this time of year.
Mountain chickadees are a common visitor.
Lesser goldfinches are also common. Here’s a group shot of these little lemon-colored birds next to a house finch. We also see American goldfinches occasionally.
Dark-eyed junco are frequent visitors. They aren’t afraid of the robins.
The pygmy nuthatches are a bit more shy.
The house finches, on the left, and northern flickers, on the right, are not shy at all.
Backyard birding in action
One day I took a lot of pictures through the spotting scope (with the old mount) that didn’t turn out great. Google turned them into a GIF and I like how it turned out. It gives you an idea of how fast these birds actually move. 😀
I’ll share more of my backyard birding adventures as I get better at taking pictures through the scope.
Rounded river rocks
Solitary standing snag
We recently took a short drive west from Bend to visit Dillon Falls. Splashes of color border the river near the falls.
Temperatures were cool and we didn’t see anyone else on this early morning trek.
The short trail to the falls is lined with manzanita shrubs – one of my favorites! They have so much character.
Tangled Ponderosa pine branches also caught my attention.
The Deschutes River winds its way through colorful foliage and cascades through lava rocks. Newberry National Volcanic Monument is located just east of the falls. The Lava Lands Visitor Center (opened seasonally) gives visitors all kinds of info about this region.
We visited Dillon Falls as a treat for my birthday. Here’s a short video taken from the top of the falls and panning to the south. It’s a peaceful spot to see some of our local wonders.
This week I took a walk into fall at Pine Nursery Park in Bend, Oregon. Saw lots of beautiful fall colors and a comfortable bench along the way.
Pull up a seat photo challenge Week 43