Archive for May, 2008

The Hawk Has Landed

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

and is now finished. I’ll bring him into Irelock Imaging on Monday, have him scanned, and then he’ll fly over to my website as a new addition, along with another painting I finished a couple of weeks ago. (The scanned image will look tons better than this photo, as I don’t have the right lighting.)

Whew! That was challenging but a lot of fun. I really grew to like this fellow as he appeared bit by bit. I hope you do too.

Meanwhile, hope you are enjoying your weekend. We had quite a bit of impressive thunder, lightning, and rain last night. I woke up to a world scrubbed clean and very alive with bird calls.


Friday, May 30th, 2008

I’ve mentioned Sam before in a previous blog. Sam is my large parrot, though he is not as big as, say, an African Grey. Sam is a Jardine’s Parrot, a bright green member of the poicephalus species, originating in Central Africa. As Sam has matured, he has developed fiery orange feathers on his shoulders and head. He is a gorgeous fellow.

I never intended to acquire a larger parrot. Tempted, yes, but my reading about the care of larger parrots gave me pause as I felt the responsibilities would be greater than I might be up to. But, well – things unfold as they will. Long story short, he came to me with a beak bitten through by his cagemate in a pet store, malnourished, with a grief that cause him to cry for two solid weeks. That’s a lot of baggage for a baby 6 month-old bird to carry! I’ll never know exactly why he was so sad, but as he exited the pet store, he bit the manager hard enough to draw blood as a parting shot, and looked even
self-satisfied at his deed.

With lots of good food, Harrison’s pellets (he ate everything in sight and still does), a ton of patience and love, he became what I saw from the first: a happy, sweet-natured, calm fellow that just wants to be with me and share whatever I do, wherever I go.

He has never lost his shyness with strangers. He is devoted only to me (a common trait for Jardine’s to be one-person birds). But he tolerates pet-sitters of the right temperament – calm and unafraid – and growls like a dog at people who come on a bit too brashly for his tastes.

Sam has very definite ideas of proper bird etiquette, and I’ve had to learn his signals and emotions in order to avoid beaky misunderstandings. With respect toward his ideas has come a wonderful mutual understanding. He is extremely reliable and predictable. When I’ve learned what he needs, he relaxes and tolerates my mistakes – unless I act really stupidly, which even I know deserves a nippy reminder.

This is not to say that Sam dictates what I do. I’ve had to show him and the other birds that I am in fact in charge. But – no question – my life flows in rhythm to a birdy beat! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is Sam giving me a kiss and inviting me to rub his head, a sign of great trust in birds.

Crater Lake – Again

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I forgot to provide a link to the National Park page for Crater Lake. So this provides me another opportunity to show you a few more photos from the Lake that I took last August. On one flank of the rim there is a museum with fascinating interpretive displays showing the geological history of the area and the crater; histories of the indigenous Indians living near the former mountain; lists of flora and fauna; interesting facts about the lake water; and scientific research done nearby and in the lake itself. There are still thermal vents in the depths of the lake. This photo is taken of the beach directly below the museum. The blue is even more intense than this photo suggests.

The Pacific Northwest manages to stage some spectacular volcanic action. Do you remember (or recall reading about) the devastation caused by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980? Mount Mazama from which Crater Lake came to be was 42 times as powerful as the eruption on Mount St. Helens. Apparently lava flowed in a 25-mile sweep around the area, and ash drifted perhaps as far south as upper Nevada and as north as Canada.

On the right is one of the many ravens that fly and drift over the lake – a very rakish and fearless fellow he was.

Winters here are very long. According to statistics kept by the park, the Crater Lake area averages 533 inches of snow annually – some of the heaviest snowfall in the US. And that explains the feet-high drifts of snow in June!

Despite its dramatic past (and hopefully quiet future), Crater Lake is a magnificent quiet place that has a way of seeping into my bones. I always feel like I’ve been away for ages after returning from this magical place.

Crater Lake – Magic…

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

It’s been raining heavily for 24 hours here and the deer are totally soaked. Here they are looking in, wistfully, wishing for more apples (Old Mamma is on the top right; notice her right leg with the knob where it broke 3 years ago).

Meanwhile, it’s probably snowing heavily in Crater Lake, here in southern Oregon. If you’ve never been there, I would say that it’s worth your while to see it at least once in your lifetime. I first visited when I was 13 and never forgot the experience.

As you approach the top of the crater rim to get the first glimpse of the lake, the intense blue of the water takes the breath away.

Crater Lake is magical, like a large brilliant blue gem in the middle of a forested nowhere. The lake, formed from rain and snow over the past 7,700 years, is contained in the remnants of the volcano that is known as Mount Mazama. The lake is 6 miles wide and 1,943 feet deep. It is the deepest lake in the US, one of the deepest in the world. The sides of the crater are nearly vertical in most places.

The photos showing snow were taken mid-June; even that late in the early summer there were 10-foot snow drifts in places.

There are many forms of wildlife that migrate through the area, and those that are permanent residents. This beetle was very friendly, and very large! Anybody know what kind it is?

Running on Chipper-Time

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Chipper, being the oldest member of his now-extended flock, has always been very clear about one thing: He’s in charge and he sets the day’s avian agenda.

He has trained me very well. Since he can’t say everything in English, he uses the phrases he likes in order to tell me what he wants with varying intensity, emphasis, and volume. And he has trained every other parrot in the house, except for Sam, to speak the same phrases in English. (Funny enough, he has refused to learn the word “NO.”)

Pippin the peach-faced lovebird fell under his spell soon after she came to live with me. She was hardly weaned and such a tiny being. At the time, we thought Pippin was a male (more later about the shocking discovery to the contrary). Most lovebirds don’t speak, and certainly females rarely speak. But not Pippin! Chipper had her saying the most important words of life: “Chipper!” and “Whatcha doin, Chipper?” and “You be!” (shorthand for “You be good!”) For Pippin, Chipper could DO NO WRONG. (She has since come to see that Chipper in fact does have some shortcomings.)

Charlie No-Toe, under Chipper’s tutelage, speaks Chipperese. And sings, sings, sings. Rarely does Charlie imitate me anymore. No, if Chipper doesn’t say it, it isn’t worth repeating. Chipper doesn’t let on that he likes Charlie and has never called him by his name, but he’d be very sad indeed without Charlie’s company.

And so, I have three birds telling me at different times to “be good,” “see you later,” and they often ask me “whatcha doin?”. When I’m home, Chipper is always up for games and play, and will ask me “Do you wanna go?” – meaning, do you want to go chase me with my book? Or, if he feels especially daring, he may ask me, “Do you wanna go for a ride?” – meaning, do you want to let me sit on my book while you whisk me through the room? And if Pippin is distressed about something, he will ask inquiringly, “What, Pippin?”

Bedtime is also another opportunity to be reminded that Chipper is in charge: he knows when he wants to go to bed and everyone feathered goes to bed at that time. He gets the nightly head-rub and then it’s “Time to go to bed! Good night, little Roo.” And so the day ends.

More Spring Finds

Monday, May 26th, 2008

On my walk today, I came across numerous clumps of this pretty wild iris. It’s called Yellow Flowered Iris (Iris chrysophylla). They were really quite striking amongst the dark green grasses and poison oak.

I took photos of other wildflowers, but they didn’t turn out well.

However, how about this weird find? I would guess it’s an oak gall in formation. Quite odd.

On the painting front, I’ve been steadily working away at the hawk painting. I’ve nearly finished the body. All that’s left is the background (sounds trivial, but it’s NOT!).

When it’s completely done, I take it to Irelock Imaging for scanning and then I’ll put it on my website and this blog. (I apologize for the darkness of the image – it’s been overcast all the weekends I’ve worked on it, so the photos aren’t very bright.) Then on to the next project….

Hope you all had a great weekend (and hopefully all three days of it, if you’re reading this in the US).

Living with Deer.2

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

This painting “Waiting for Apples” was inspired by a family of deer that stick together most of the time (except at breeding and fawning times). After watching deer for five years from my front window, I’ve observed a lot of their life cycle and general and individual behaviors in these suburbanized deerfolk. It’s been utterly fascinating being able to see them up so close and observe nature in this way. Because they feel safe in this area, they feed, rest, groom each other, bask in the sun, and even sleep soundly – behaviors that we aren’t always able to see often. I never grow tired of watching and photographing them – and of course, painting them. (More paintings of the deer are planned in the future.)

I’ve mentioned before the story about the matriarch doe that broke her leg awhile ago. I call her “old Mamma.”  She has raised generations of deer, but she tends to stick with a specific daughter who seems to have learned most of her mother’s wisdom. I take it that she’s going to take on the matriarch role once her mother is gone.

Of all the does I’ve observed, old Mamma seems to continue caring for her daughter and her “granddeer.” At quiet times after they’ve eaten in the meadow next door, she’ll groom her daughter and the daughter’s fawns, even after they’ve grown. They are a tight group, and that tightness seems to filter down through the generations in producing good mothers and proper behavior in the deer world.

The matriarch’s daughter is quite big in the belly right now, carrying twin fawns. Based on her pattern, I expect they should be arriving early June. When I see the fawns I will post photos of them for you to enjoy.

My front yard has become a part of their daily route for this family and they will often stare into my living room window because they know I’m a total softie. “Apples” is the message they’re boring into my skull. It works. They always get the apples!

Hawk’s Progress

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Well, since the last post, I’ve finished one wing on this Ferruginous Hawk. It goes slowly, but am feeling good about my progress.

It is always an interesting and rewarding experience to paint something new. One of the side benefits to painting realistic representations is that I learn, yet again, how to see and observe differently than before: how feathers lay, how light filters through them, how the barbs of the feathers sit, how the amazing coloration -that may seem random at first – becomes a beautiful pattern.

Birds are fascinating to me, especially. They seem so reptilian in many ways. If you imagine them without feathers, you’d see plainly one of those fast-moving ancient dinosaurs that was so pesky in “Jurassic Park.” Thankfully, the birds of our current world are not at all eager to eat us.

Speaking of dinosaurs, how about Sam, after bathing. Scary, huh?

Of Hawks and Brushes

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

In a previous post, I shared some images of eagles and an owl from my visit to Wildlife Images. There we also had the opportunity to see a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Ferruginous Hawk, and an Auger Buzzard. The owls shown to us were Barn Owl, Spotted Owl, and Great Horned Owl.

Here I am showing a shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk. All the animals shown to us are simply magnificent. Being in their presence makes me want to save and protect any and all endangered animals everywhere. I know this isn’t possible, but I keep trying to think of ways to make some inroads, perhaps very small but at least moving in a positive direction.

Wildlife Images is doing what it can by caring for these animals that can no longer fly free, and by exposing them to the public. The education is successful because seeing these creatures inspires us to want to protect them. In turn, perhaps that respect and appreciation for nature we have gets passed on without words.

I just read an article in PsittaScene, published by the World Parrot Trust, about the current wild population of the Blue-throated Macaw in Bolivia. Only 80 individuals are known, though the number could be as high as 200. The article describes how a team of scientists and volunteers spent weeks, round-the-clock, observing and supplementing the diet of the baby hatchlings to reduce the mortality rate of this most-endangered macaw. Typically, only one of several babies survives each breeding season; the others die of starvation or predation. The mission was successful, boosting the world population by another 10 macaws. Such are the small victories when the odds are so large. (The native habitat of these macaws is not protected and is currently being used for cattle grazing.)

Lately, my thoughts go to: “How can I contribute when I don’t have extra to spare? What can I do with my art?”

Well, I paint what I love and cherish. Currently I’m working on a watercolor of a Ferruginous Hawk, using wet and dry brush techniques. This is a shot taken of a small part of that painting that is still in its early stages. It is my hope that when it’s completed, some of you readers will like it enough to buy a print or some cards. This is how I’ve decided to help: a percentage of each sale – and that applies to any item you buy on my art site, original or print – will be donated to groups working to conserve and protect endangered species and their habitats.

I don’t know how you feel, but a world without birdsong and beating wings would be unthinkable.

Peony Time

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

It’s peony time! And they are beautiful. This one grows in my front yard, and I’m grateful that the deer don’t like eating them.

The fields nearby are still green but dotted with lavender flowers like lupine but more delicate – so very pleasing to the eye and spirit. There are strong odors of lilac wafting in the breeze. Summer is coming.

We thought it was here last weekend when temperatures nearly reached 100 degrees F. But today the high was in the 60s. My work boss had snow this morning at his higher elevation. That’s spring in Oregon.

On the less showy and definitely less fragrant side, a volunteer garlic bulb is budding and is quite lovely in its own way.

And on a definitely stinky side, we have our resident skunk out on the prowl. I found him rooting through the grasses below my kitchen window very early in the morning, hoping to find black sunflower seeds that the wild birds did not eat.

Look how beautiful his tail is!