I have always been impressed by the elegance of terns. Terns in flight have pointed wingtips and some species have deeply forked tails. Today I’m sharing a stylized pencil sketch I did of a Forster’s tern. These wetland birds can be spotted in much of North America at certain times of the year.
Here are a few Caspian terns I saw at The Narrows in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, south of Burns, Oregon. They don’t have the black-tipped bill and forked tail of Forster’s terns, but still have the elegance of ferns.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? If so, include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
If you’re looking for something artistic to do this month, consider participating in Inktober. Create a pen-and-ink drawing every day for a month based on prompts. Fun and challenging!
When you travel the backroads in this part of the country, it’s not uncommon to see cattle herds movin’ down the road guided by cowboys. We saw a couple cowboys on horseback moving this herd near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
You’ll see dust clouds long before you see the animals.
The cattle often stop in the road until they are pressured into moving. Watch for signals from the horseback riders to their dogs herding the cattle. Do your best to stay out of their way.
Slowly push your way through. They will move, but they’ll complain about it the whole time.
While waiting to get through a herd, I often look at the unique markings of each animal and guess what their personalities are like. The cow and calf pictured above are big talkers, always willing to give their opinions. The one closest to us in the shot below is bold and sure-footed. She leads the others in the right direction.
A part of the Old West lives on in the present when you see cattle movin’ down the road, guided by riders of the range and their remarkable dogs.
One of the challenges of photography is capturing images of elusive birds. Sometimes certain species are not considered difficult to photograph, they only elude YOU. Here are a few of mine.
Intelligent & elusive birds
I have been trying to get a decent photo of a black-billed magpie for a long time. These intelligent birds usually take flight when I approach. I finally captured the essence of a magpie recently near my home. This photo shows its long, elegant tail, striking markings, and iridescent plumage.
Slide the slider to the left to see the type of photos I have taken in the past of magpies. This one was near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. It teased me by hiding behind the sagebrush.
Shy & elusive
I’m lucky because mountain bluebirds nest in my yard. When I visit Glass Buttes, an hour away, during the spring months, the bluebirds pop out ready to be photographed.
However at my home, the birds are especially shy, as you can see in the second shot. They somehow sense I’ve picked up a camera and fly away or turn their back towards me.
The challenge this week is to show photos of birds seen over the past two weeks. As spring progresses, more and more birds, and tourists, are showing up.
Here’s a California scrub-jay perched on an interpretive sign in Bend, acting like a tourist. They change the flags displayed on this bridge throughout the year. On this day, they happened to match the jay.
I’ve been seeing this lone swan near the flag bridge for several weeks. It was hard to figure out if it was a tundra swan or the less common trumpeter swan. It finally got within a few feet of me last week. It’s a tundra swan. See the bit of yellow near the eye? They don’t always have the yellow patch, but it’s the best clue.
For comparison, here’s a trumpeter swan we saw this week at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The skin between the eye and bill is thicker and all black.
The Migratory Bird Festival was cancelled this year so I had to look in my archives for these photos. One of my favorite field trips in past years was the Circling Steens Mountain Tour. Lots of opportunities to see birds of the shore, fields, and mountains.
Avocets look much different in the fall. Their cinnamon-colored plumage fades to black and white.
I saw these avocets in November at Summer Lake Wildlife Area in Central Oregon. Can you see the dust storms in the distance? I have featured Summer Lake in several past posts. It’s a great place to see waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.
This interesting Double O Ranch sign is on part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. At one time this 17,000 acre ranch was privately owned by Bill Hanley. The U.S. Government purchased most of it in 1941 and added it to the refuge. The ranch was originally owned by Amos W. Riley and James A. Hardin. It was established in 1875 and was one of the first permanent pioneer settlements in Harney County.
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.
You may have heard this bird flying overhead making a “peent” call. The common nighthawk is most active in the hours around sunrise and sunset. Due to their cryptic coloration and silent behavior during the day when they roost, they can be difficult to spot.
Common Nighthawk at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
This old building may appear dull and pedestrian to some. If you look beyond the peeling paint and overgrown yard, you will experience an environment alive with color and song. This building is one of the dorms at Malheur Field Station located near the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Birds, and birdwatchers, flock to this oasis in the High Desert of Oregon.
Many people have learned about this area through classes at the field station and visits to the refuge. Stop on by if you are ever in the area!
Western Kingbird at Fort Rock, Oregon in April 2017
Western grebes doing their mating dance, Malheur NWR, OR
If we learn to focus in on things and look closer, we sometimes find the unexpected.
In this case, it’s a double-crested cormorant and great blue heron rookery. These birds look and act so differently yet they manage to get along.
This rookery is located at the Sod House Ranch at Malheur NWR. It was built by cattle-baron Peter French in the late 1800’s. The ranch was the headquarters of the French-Glenn Livestock Company that at one time covered 140,000 acres.