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.
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.
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.
Owls in the mist
glide into view
on silent wings
Round and wise
Standing tall with
steely grips and
Owls in the mist
focus their vision
towards the future
Bird Weekly Photo Challenge (BWPC) – Owls
This month, for First Friday Art, I’m sharing an American kestrel study I drew in pencil. When I took an ornithology class in college we learned about anatomy by studying specimens in a museum.
These sketches helped me learn more about birds, but they also turned out to be great tools for future works of art. I have referred back to them when working on pen-and-inks and paintings.
Here’s a photo of an American kestrel I saw in Malheur National Forest last year. They have beautiful coloring.
Do you have some artwork you would like to share? Use the First Friday Art tag.
Being able to participate in an encounter with an Eurasian eagle-owl was one of my favorite things on a recent trip to Ireland. You have the opportunity to see various birds of prey up close and personal at the Dingle Falconry Experience, located on the Dingle peninsula.
This bird is a female named “Fluffy.” Eurasian eagle-owls are one of the largest owls in the world. Females, which are larger than the males, measure 30 inches in length. This owl’s wingspan is typically 4 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches.
The guides tell you about the life history of each species at Dingle Falconry Experience. In addition to the eagle-owl, they had an Irish barn owl, a peregrine falcon, and a Harris hawk the day I was there. You stand in a large circle and the birds fly to each participant’s gloved hand.
The Eurasian eagle-owl is brought to each participant. That’s because she is heavy! See our guide supporting my wrist when I’m holding Fluffy? Eurasian eagle-owls weigh 2.7 to 10.1 pounds, with females on the heavier end of the scale. Barn owls weigh 0.9 to 1.4 pounds in comparison.
If you’re ever in Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland, try to make time to participate in this unique experience. It’s one you will never forget! 😀
We have Northern flickers in our yard and everything about them is loud, even their feathers. Here’s a flicker feather up close.
Here’s a look at a barn owl up close. They are such an interesting looking owl. Their white facial discs and undersides contrast with cinnamon colored head, back, and upperwings. An elegant bird with a worldwide distribution.
A Photo a Week Challenge – Anything
It’s already First Friday again! Today I’m sharing a prairie falcon pen-and-ink drawing I created. This drawing shows their dark “armpit” marking. That’s one of the ways to distinguish them from peregrine falcons.
Here are a couple glimpses of a prairie falcon flying high above the 9,734 foot peak of Steens Mountain in Oregon.
Share artwork you or someone else created with the First Friday Art tag.
Here is a crow feather on scratchboard I created long ago in a scientific illustration course.
On the first Friday of every month, the city of Bend usually hosts an art walk through the galleries in town. The galleries serve snacks and drinks and highlight local artists. Since the First Friday event is not happening this month, I thought I would share a piece of my own art.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? You can include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
This sharp-shinned hawk was either cooling its jets because it was overheated or it was pretending to be a piece of yard art to lure in an unsuspecting songbird. 😉 It stood in my backyard creek for a LONG time!
Keeping our distance
Avoiding close contact
Unsure where to turn
On the darkest of days
But one day, we will once again fly with our flocks
Rejoice with our families
And our voices will join together in song
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Distance
I drew this stylized picture of a belted kingfisher in flight several years ago. These interesting songbirds nest in horizontal burrows near shorelines. The tunnels range in length from 1 – 8 feet. Tunnels as long as 15 feet have been found.
This drawing is of a male bird. Belted kingfishers are one of the few songbirds where the female is more colorful. They have an additional orange-colored breast band.
While out walking my dog on the Deschutes River Trail this morning, I caught a glimpse of a male belted kingfisher perched on a tree limb. A lucky sighting! He was kind of far away but I had time to snap a quick shot before he flew.
Granny Shot It – Bird of the Day challenge BOTD
All About Birds describes this bird as “a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume.” A great description of this bird!
I’m lucky that they are common where I live and sometimes even show up in my garden.
Granny Shot It – BOTD
Killdeer in the rushes bordering a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. I assume they have tough feet since we saw them regularly wading into the hot springs in various locations.
Granny Shot It – BOTD
Angles are often used in art and architecture and are also found in nature. Here are several photos that show art and nature from different angles.
This sculpture of a flock of birds zigzags down a foyer and flutters around the corner of a building in downtown Bend, Oregon.
Swallows collect beakfuls of mud to create these nests along the roof angles at Summer Lake Wildlife Area, Oregon.
Columnar basalt forms when volcanic rock cools rapidly. In this picture, at Cove Palisades State Park, the columns formed in different angles. Orange lichens highlight their form.
The supporting beams at the Warm Spring Museum are set at different angles in imitation of how shelters from the past were constructed.
Trails of smoke from passing jets form an angle that points toward a field of flowering corn in Silverton, Oregon.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Angles
I was visiting one of my favorite plant nurseries recently and saw a little sign on one of their grape plants. It says the plant is not currently for sale because it is occupied by a robin and her hatchlings. In other words, this bird is not for sale. You can see her with her beak pointed up in the air at the top of the picture. She is one proud and protective mother!
Granny Shot It Challenge – BOTD
Birds of the shore are common in the spring in parts of eastern Oregon. Why? Because flood irrigation is one of the main methods used to water the crops. As the snow melts off surrounding mountains, it collects in rivers and reaches the lower elevations.
It is released in controlled amounts in the Harney Basin, where 320 bird species congregate. This ancient method of irrigation benefits the rancher and the birdwatcher.
Birds such as sandhill cranes take advantage of all of that water. You can see flocks of them in the photo above and a single bird below.
I love seeing delicate long-legged beauties such as black-necked stilts and American avocets.
If you’re lucky, you may even see a Wilson’s snipe. Yes, they really do exist.
Flood irrigation creates temporary ponds and lakes with miles and miles of shoreline.
I saw quite a few long-billed curlew this spring. I was dive-bombed by one once when I was too close to her nest. That bill is dangerous looking! It can measure more than eight and a half inches in length.
Thousands of Ross’ and snow geese congregate in this area.
Waterfowl are common in the ponds and lakes. Here is a raft of ducks. This image is a little blurry but I included it to show the difference between canvasbacks and redhead ducks. The pair on the far left are redheads. See how the plumage is more gray? There are lots of opportunities to get clear views of many species.
You may see elegant swans as well. Trumpeter and tundra swans have been seen here.
You will be amazed when you spot unique birds of the shore, such as this American bittern. Keep your binoculars handy when traveling through this country in the spring and you will be rewarded.
Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Seascapes and/or lakeshore
I saw plenty of raptors on a Birds of Prey tour in the wide-open country of Harney County, Oregon last April. We ventured briefly into the Malheur National Forest in search of eagles. Though we didn’t see any eagles, we did get a nice view of an American kestrel.
We saw immature and mature bald eagles later that day. It’s always exciting to see them.
Some of the wildlife out there was keeping an eye on us. This herd of elk on a distant ridge top watched us for a while.
Raptors were common and we saw many of them perched on fenceposts and telephone poles.
Ground squirrels hang out in the irrigated fields and the birds of prey congregate there to find an easy meal. They like to perch on the pivot irrigation systems.
Turkey vultures also enjoy some nice fresh ground squirrel. This one was close to the road and we had a great view of it having a little snack.
We were lucky to see a prairie falcon, the only one we spotted that day.
Mule deer were common. This herd had 30+ deer.
We stopped in another spot to take pictures of deer then noticed something else in the foreground. Two burrowing owls! Can you find both of them in the photo with the deer? That was my favorite observation of the day.
This tour was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Ben Cate, from the High Desert Partnership, and Melanie Finch, wildlife technician with the U.S. Forest Service .
Though I know certain species well, I’m no expert when it comes to identifying raptors. I rely on helpful tour guides and field guides. I have field guide books and the iBird Pro app, but this handy fold out pocket guide is really helpful.
This guide includes silhouettes, identifying markings, and different color morphs. It was a dark spring day on this trip and the silhouettes page helped make identifying birds easier.
We saw quite a few raptors so it was a successful seven-hour field trip. Until next year…
“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” e.e. cummings
At this time of the year, I often think of harmony in nature. Every time I go outside, I hear the songsters of spring. Here are a few local songsters whose voices and plumage are full of gold.
Click on the word “song” in the caption below each photograph to hear the harmony in nature these birds share with us.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Harmony
These bold little white-crowned sparrows can raise or lower their “crown”, depending upon their mood. They occur throughout North America, but their bill color varies. It can be orange, yellow, or pink depending upon where they live.
They have a cheery and distinctive song that you may recognize. Listen to it here.
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.Frank Lloyd Wright
Here are a few pictures of wild things resting, feeding, and breeding. They are always reminding me to love nature and share that love with others.
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.George Carlin
Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.Hans Christian Andersen
…When alarmed, their rapid career seems more like the flight of birds than the movement of an earthly being.George Ord
It’s not only fine feathers that make a fine bird.Aesop
Each bird loves to hear himself sing.Arapaho
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Nature
I saw this bald eagle standing in the middle of a field this morning and couldn’t figure out why it was there. Then I noticed a couple magpies flying close by. Hmmm. Upon closer inspection, I saw a deer carcass several feet away. I guess everyone was there for a breakfast buffet.
As you wade through the waters of your life you often end up making a splash. Sometimes you make a big loud splash and other times you need to make a quieter one. Maybe only a ripple. Here are photos of quieter splashes I have seen in Oregon.
Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Splash!