Saturday, January 20, 2018

Norwescon: my spring art show

I'm starting a new group of dancer pieces using the phrase "Dancing with the Stars" as my theme.  While I'll be talking about them and some of the pieces will have silkscreen prints in my etsy store as I make them, the new work will debut at Norwescon at the end of March.  Norwescon is a volunteer run Science Fiction & Fantasy convention that's held on Easter weekend every year in SeaTac.  It's very popular with artists so I was only able to get one panel this year so I'll have a 4ft by 4ft panel of new art to show.   I'm basing the new work on older pieces and doing variations on these pieces shown below. 

Original 'Space Dancers'

This piece was my first combination with the dancers and astronomy photos.  That worked somewhat but I'd like to simplify the composition by reducing the elements and not have as many textures and colors going at once.  One of my other pieces that sold almost immediately has that simpler color palette.

Infinity & beyond

The problem with this piece was the funny size.  This was 20" wide and 10" high and was a pain to frame.  I'm going to try this piece with a more square finished size and we'll see how that goes.

And finally, the piece that got lost in transit while I had 2 studios, one public and one at home. 


I really like the central figure with the marbled fabric streamers swirling around the globe, the dancer and then off into space.  I was so sad about losing this piece that it's been hard to do another one but it's definitely on my list for this year's work.

Things I want to combine in these new pieces:  glow in the dark paint, some new celestial fabrics I just ordered this morning,  and using paper to work out the compositions before doing the textile pieces.   I'm excited about the ideas I'm getting as well as finally having the studio set up so I can work easily.  I got in some studio time every day this week which is also a good thing. 

I'll be posting as I make progress on these and I look forward to sharing them with you all. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

My top ten blog posts of all time

I seem to mostly be over this horrid flu, having lost at least 3 weeks to it. This post, about my top 10 blog posts ever, was intended to be done around Jan 1 since that's when lots of folks look back on what's been accomplished in order to help plan what's coming up.  So, almost 2 weeks late, here it is.

Top of the heap with 1096 views is Quilt labels.  I wrote about how to use word and clipart to make pretty quilt labels in September of 2008.  This is one of the posts I'm planning to redo sometime this year as I think it needs updating to what I'm doing now which uses gimp and my photos instead of Word and clipart.  Still getting lots of views, mostly due to links from other blogs and websites. 

#2.  The most popular of my non-art blog posts.  Because who doesn't love cookies?  Especially for the winter holidays.

This is the other blog I'll do an update on.  I did much more stamp carving after this article and I'm planning on using some of those stamps this year for etsy store products.  The photo below shows the large size of the carved stamps that I used to make several pieces of art so I'll talk about carving those stamps and show my new uses of them. 

#4.  The first blog post about news sources and where they sit on a spectrum of ideology and accuracy.  It was done recently, 12/1/16, and has been viewed 192 times.  (For context, I get 300-400 views per month so that many in essentially a year makes this a very popular blog post.)

#5.  One of my most technical artist business posts is still very, very popular.  And I'm still using the same system so I am confident in its utility.

#6.  The second blog post about news sources, done 12/14/16.  Some quibbling about exactly where sources rank but in general, very similar to the earlier one.  

#7.  I am still not sure why Virtual Vacation in Chiliwack was so much more popular than my other virtual vacations posts but it was.  It's been 7 years (and a bit) since I went to Chiliwack and now that I live closer, I'm planning to go much more often.  

In 2012 I did several art experiment posts.  #8 was about experimenting with discharge paste and #9 was some dye experiments.  I was looking to do a fabulous gray and tried some things out.

#10 was about upcoming shows in Edmonds which is pure history at this point.

So what did I learn?  Six out of the 10 were art related which is a little bit higher than the percentage of posts I do about art.  So I guess people like hearing about my art, at least the experiments and how-to's.  I had already decided to do more of that type of posting so I'm happy to have the data to support that decision.    

Some other things I got by looking at the statistics blogger provides is that regular posts mean higher traffic.  (All together now "Duh".)  And links to other blogs/sites matter.  Again Duh.  My goal for this year is to focus & practice in my studio and part of that will be blogging about what I'm doing.  So here's for meeting goals in 2018!

Friday, January 5, 2018

National Bird Day - share and enjoy the birdiness

I'm so glad it's National Bird Day.  This gives me a really easy thing to blog about as I go down for the third time with this blasted flu.  So while I curl up with my iPad and look at birds online, drinking ginger tea and opening yet another bag of cough drops, here's some of my favorite local birds that I am quite pleased to share space with.

2009 - Langley beach flyby
This fav great blue heron shot was taken during an early morning walk on the beach while at a quilting retreat in Langley.  I only wish I had had a better camera so the picture would have more pixels.

2005 - bushtit babies

This great shot of a group of young bushtits was taken through the greenhouse window in the kitchen from at least 25 feet away.  I got very attached to the bushtits in my yard because they would come perch on the holly bush outside my studio window, lining up in a row and peering through the window like a group of toddlers asking "Whatcha doing?"

2005 CA trip - cactus wren

Another favorite old shot of a cactus wren.  I love the light hitting him, the spot of red, the shadows on the cactus.  A friend and I did an intense birding trip to various areas of Southern California in 2005 and that's how I discovered I really like traveling to bird.  It reminds me that all birds are local somewhere no matter how exotic they seem to me.

2009 - Lake Sammamish SP - eagles

And what look at Western Washington birds would be complete without Eagles?  It's so funny to go to, say, Louisiana or the Texas coast and have the local birders want to show me the bald eagles that have shown up unexpectedly.  Yea, thanks, backyard birds for us....  How bout a grackle?

May 2018 be healthy and birdy for all of us.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Hummingbird heater and photobombing

I got a new heated hummingbird feeder which I like mostly because it means I can sleep in during the winter without worrying about my hummers.  I hung it up last week and so I've been spending more time checking on the backyard during the current cold snap to be sure the hummers have adjusted to the change.  Yesterday, when I went out to the backyard to check, I noticed this really peculiar icicle sticking up out of the bird bath and decided to take a picture of it.  Apparently, Bob, the primary hummingbird, noticed me and decided to keep an eye on my activities.

Bob photobombs for the win

I didn't see him in the shot when I took it but I also got a couple of good shots of him in the plants in between the bird bath and the unheated feeder.   He's apparently fending off multiple other hummingbirds so he spends a lot of time buzzing about the yard.  

Here's the daytime shot of the heated feeder.  A feeder this size holding 16 ounces of sugar solution costs about $20.  The heated one was $32 with shipping.  And 2 days after I put it up, someone shared their DIY solution on FB in the Western Washington Bird group.  They used a large red solo cup, carabiners, and paper clips to put a small lightbulb inside the cup and attach the cup to the bottom of their feeder.  

The wiring on both the purchased one and the DIY one is not weatherproof so that's why it's hanging under the porch eave.  And it seems to be working pretty well, judging by how fast the level of sugar solution is going down.  I gotta admit, the best part of it was seeing it at night, when the little bulb lights up the whole thing.  "Look, Ma, it's a UFO!"  

Here's hoping your winter holidays are happy too.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Birding BC: Englishman's River Estuary

After two days of heavy fog, we finally got a clearer day.  Still overcast and cold but much better for birding.  And since this is the last birding day for this vacation, we headed for Englishman's River Estuary at high tide.  This meant the river birds were further up the river and there were lots of birds at the mingling zone.  The drawback to the weather was that lots of the birds were sleeping in or waiting for it to warm up.

I did get excited about seeing a whole group of Northern Pintail ducks.  Their breeding plumage is elegant and distinctive with the male having a white streak extending from the breast up the neck and then curling forward on the head.  I got some nice close shots of one who was doing some preening and morning bath stuff.

Both sides of the river have public park access so we started with the further side (off of Shelly).  It's mostly forest and has more of the marshy part of the estuary.  Apparently the cold kept everything but ducks, gulls and geese from being out although we heard a couple of birds in the woods but didn't pursue them because of the mud.  The walk back was unproductive of birds and fairly chilly so we took a small side trip to Tim Horton's in Parksville which does not have lattes in decaf.  So I had hot chocolate instead.

Fortified by our trip to Timmy's, we proceeded to the Plummer Road access side where there were many more birds and a viewing stand which gave me excellent views of gadwalls, wigeons and the already mentioned pintails.   It was a good finish to this vacation and now I can turn my birding attention to the reported Painted Bunting in Bellingham.  Here's hoping the bunting hasn't moved on yet and I can find it easily when I get back.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Birding BC: condo day 2

I had all kinds of plans to join a local birding group on an outing this morning, but apparently my back disagreed.  So, after appropriate amounts of aspirin, heating pad and sleeping in, I went out to check out the bay just a few feet from our condo.  Again, I missed the high tide but got another shot of a female merganser fishing close in and since she was apparently trying to drown it, or wash it really well, I got several good shots of her with her fresh caught lunch.  But first, I have to share the new bird for the year, a small red-breasted sapsucker.  I heard the pecking on the tree and spent a few minutes trying to find him.

Once I found him, I had to try and get the camera to focus on the bird, not the branches.  As you can see above, there are a lot of branches.  I threw away about a dozen bad shots before I got the technique I needed down pretty well.

And here's a nice one of the merganser having lunch.  Once I figure out how to crop my photos in gimp, I'll probably do a post with the series of photos of her fussing with her fish before she eats it.

I'm hoping to add a few more birds to my year list while we're here.  I'll be doing some research on ebird and see what the group saw today and see if there's any birds I'd particularly like to see.  Right now, I'm going to go search through the scoter pictures and see if there's a black scoter lurking amongst all the surf scoters.  Here's to getting lucky on vacation!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Birding in BC: Parksville area

Having left our house and cats in the capable hands of our son, Jeff and I are off on a week in Canada.  Just outside Parksville, BC to be exact.  This is one of our favorite spots because the condo we use is right on the water.  So I got to walk down to the water and watch lots of birds.  Unfortunately, I missed the high tide this morning so most of them were too far away for a good photo.  But not this red-breasted merganser.  I snapped several shots to help identify him and was lucky enough to catch him with a fish in his bill.

There are more pictures, lots and lots but I have gimp instead of photoshop and I'll have to figure out how to crop the pics.  Zoom in on this guy to see the fish.

The restaurant on site has changed their menu again.  We decided they must change chefs and let them redo the menu but they keep the name.  This year, the menu features tapas which seem to be entrees without the sides.  For example, 5 shrimp wrapped in bacon on a skewer with bbq sauce for $14.    We also got the seared scallops with a nice sauce and the cheese plate.  There are also full dinners on the flip side of the menu so I'll be trying one of those later this week.  

And tonight, we go out to try the steakhouse restaurant in Parksville, Kalvas the Loghouse.  The grocery store manager recommended it as having good food and a nice fireplace so we'll see how the food and ambiance are in a couple of hours.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

exploring PDF patterns for sewing

A friend of mine for over 30 years sews her own clothes.  She's a definite pear shaped plus size so finding clothes that fit is a significant challenge.  And she's a lawyer so she pretty much had to learn to sew her own clothes to have professional clothing that fit and wasn't just a boxy suit.  She often shares patterns she thinks I'd like and that led to me looking at some websites and then joining a couple of FB groups because of the free patterns.  Now that my studio is mostly functional, I'm starting a couple of projects using these PDF patterns.  One is the Relaxed Raglan shirt from Patterns for Pirates and the other is a wristlet wallet to replace my teal leather one I loved that was stolen in June.  

I've of course continued to buy patterns and some fabric even tho I haven't made my own clothes in decades.  One of the fabrics I bought is the lovely feather print next to the patterns in the photo below.  I'm going to use it for the sleeves on the raglan top and go get a nice blue knit in a similar weight for the body.  

So, what's a PDF pattern?  It's a PDF file that you can download and then print out on printer paper or have printed at a plotter shop if you don't want to spend the time taping/gluing the pages together.  Some of the newer ones are even done in layers by size so if you don't need to modify the fit, you can print just the one size you need.  Here's a shot of the sleeve for the raglan top after I glued all the pages together.  I printed all the sizes since P4P has no problem with people selling things made from their patterns and I have an etsy store and some plans to make fabric and sell both the fabric and clothes made from it.

So once I buy the blue knit for the body of the shirt and wash it, I'm ready to cut out the shirt and see how long it takes to sew.  The general comments on the FB group are that the shirt is really easy so the only issue I should have is remembering how to sew knits.  

While I'm cutting, I may also cut out the fabric for the wristlet.  Again, this is a possible item to go on my etsy store besides being something that I want for myself.  The fabrics I'm using for the wallet are to the right of the pattern picture.  I also have some scrap turquoise leather that I may use for the next one once I've done one and decided if I like the pattern.

The batiks I've picked are a different color than my beloved teal wallet but these are certainly colors I have a lot of in my wardrobe.  I'm planning to get both of these projects done over the long weekend so maybe I'll show the finished pieces in the next post.  

Happy Turkey Day to everyone and I hope you're doing something you enjoy as much as I am.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Totally treehugger life is now possible

I've been furiously working on the unpacking and simplifying going on after our move in my attempt to get it all done by Halloween so you might have noticed I haven't been blogging about my art, or my reading or even sharing some very green post I've spotted. made that come to an end today.

I have to admit the lede alone made me LOL.  I have such a weakness for Greens with a sense of humor....

"What more can we say; here is a single post on TreeHugger that has  a tiny house that is powered by solar panels and a big Powerwall battery, and it is clad in wood, and it is towed by a Tesla. We will just say that there is a folding e-bike in the trunk of the car to make it TreeHugger perfect. Dress up the vegan driver in ethical clothes and we have nothing more to write."

Here's the link to Tesla's tiny home, totally solar powered.  You have to go to Australia to see it now but I look forward to the caravan making it here someday soon.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Gluten free apple fritters, oh yea...

My plans for this weekend got derailed by a major allergy attack (and those new GF crackers went in the trash, pronto) so after using up 3 boxes of tissues and taking double doses of anti-histamines, I fell back on cooking to let me feel productive.

Last of 10 fritters only 3 hours old

Someone posted a link to a recipe on line for Amish Apple Fritters.  I love apple fritters more than any other fried pastry thing so I printed it out and put it on the make list.  First, we bought some apples.  The organic Gala's were on sale at the co+op so I grabbed a bag of them even though the recipe calls for Granny Smith or Gravenstein. Jeff reports they're meh as hand fruit but they worked just fine in the fritters.  

And I subbed some things out:  the Namaste brand of GF all-purpose baking flour from Costco, and 2 duck eggs from my daughter's flock of ducks instead of the chicken eggs I am allergic to.  More notes about how it all went below with my current version of the recipe (the original can be found at


For fritters:  

3-4 cored, peeled and chopped apples to give a heaping 2 C of apples in my pyrex measuring cup
2 tsp lemon juice, drizzed over apple pieces after chopping (I used the bottled frozen lemon juice)

Vegetable oil for deep frying, enough to come halfway up the pan ( I used a cast iron skillet with about a pint of  organic sunflower and canola which was strained and stored after frying to be used for the next time).  Put on high on the stove top to reach at least 375F by the time you mix up the batter.  If you have an electric skillet or deep fryer, of course use that.

Cream in stand mixer for 1-2 minutes: 

2 eggs
2 TB sugar (organic granulated from TJ's)

In a small bowl, combine:
1 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I buy organic cinnamon sticks and grind them myself.)
1/2 tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to the mixer along with 1/4 C milk.

Mix well.    Take the paddle off the mixer and watch the rock, paper, scissors match for who gets to lick the beater.  Add the apple chunks and stir them into the batter with a spoon.

Set up a paper towel lined tray (I used 3 layers) to put them on as they come out.  Set up a good way to sprinkle powdered sugar on them when they're hot.

Now you are ready to fry.  Check the oil temp.  Once it hits 375F, scoop out a full spoonful of batter, flatten it slightly with a small scraper and scrape it into the oil gently.  My skillet took 3 or 4 at a time but I did them a little too big to start.  When they get to a true golden brown color, flip using 2 spoons and brown well on the other side.  You might need to flip them again to be sure they cook all the way through.  The whole process should take about 5-6 minutes.  (I should have done a test one to be sure my size wasn't so large that they wouldn't cook thoroughly.  I'll do this next time and maybe increase the oil level.  This is why I say to flatten them slightly so they aren't a big mound.)  Remove from oil to paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar unless you plan to glaze them later (see original recipe.)  Repeat until all the batter is fried.  Share and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scudder Pond: appreciating the common birds

I did my approximately weekly trip to Scudder Pond yesterday, early in the damp & chilly morning.  Unfortunately for me, the birds aren't used to fall yet, so they took the chill and cloudy skies to mean it wasn't daytime yet so they slept in.  Fortunately for me, one of the birds there was a female mallard who was taking her time doing her morning bath and breakfast quite close to the trail.  She was so close that I had trouble not cropping off her beak or tail when I zoomed in to get lots of detail.

That much zoom made the patterns in her feathers very clear.  At a distance, through the binocs, she would normally look like a brown duck with some shading.  Here, her patterning is clear and now I understand why the female gadwall is described as looking like a female mallard only smaller and with white secondaries instead of blue.

Next up was a loud red-wing blackbird perched most of the way across the pond.  I'm  still figuring out the camera and I'm not sure why the back of the blackbird is purple but the camera was very consistent about this as I saw later with other shots of the mallard.  He's black, like a crow not purple.  

On the way back out,  I got to focus on practicing with my camera and appreciating the textural beauty of the mallard's feathers especially against the log and leaves in the water.

Other local birders are reporting warblers and shorebirds migrating through so I'm hoping next week's trip will give me some more camera practice with more birds.  For now, it was nice to have the artistic exercise of seeing all the textures in play in an ordinary scene.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Scudder Pond birding delights me!

Since it's been sunny and warm here in Bellingham, I decided to try out some other birding spots for my morning walk.  And last week, I went to Scudder Pond (connected to Whatcom Falls park by a lovely trail) not once but twice with fabulous birding experiences both time.  And I added 3 birds to my 2017 list bringing me to a total of 85.  New birds for the year:  Wood Duck, Pileated Woodpecker, and Black-throated Grey Warbler.

Scudder Pond is a wonderful birding experience.  The trail starts with the pond to the right and a wooded area to the left that sits between the trail and the water flow from Lake Whatcom to the falls.  So there's lots of habitat for birds and lots of water.  It's also a great place to see wildlife other than birds as I know from previous encounters with a beaver and a couple of deer this time.

The Wood Duck was my first bird of the trip as he was at the end of the pond hanging out on a log and doing his morning bath routine.  His breeding plumage is not grown in yet so I had to identify him mostly by the partial white outlining of the non-breeding plumage plus I got a really good look at his lovely red eye.  Checking my field guide just now, I am happy to realize that the breeding plumage comes back in September so the fabulous wood duck markings will be seen soon.

Least blurry shot of preening wood duck

Next up was the wonderful time spent watching the Pileated Woodpecker work his way up a snag.  The photos I took of him on the trunk of the snag are too blurry to show the bird because I'm still learning how to work with my new camera.  It insisted on focusing on the branches in front of the bird.  Once he got up to the top, I got some great shots but the sun was so bright that much of the brilliant red crest was washed out.

Pileated on his way up to the top of the snag

Here's one with some of his crest.  

I had Pileateds as regular visitors to our backyard in Bellevue and this is one of the birds I've missed seeing regularly so it was nice to watch him for a while.

Other birds seen at Scudder Pond last week (2 trips total):
  • 3 hummingbirds
  • goldfinches
  • Stellar's Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee, many
  • Cedar Waxwings
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird, many
  • Bushtit
  • Robin
  • Orange-crowned warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Junco
  • Song Sparrow
Unsurprisingly, I got no photos of the warblers.  I was lucky to id them all and to have a 3 warbler day on my second day at the pond.  All in all, it was a great week of birding and I look forward to more as we head into the fall migration.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Making orcas happy by going green

I'm struggling with some health issues so no new art stuff this time.  Instead, I'm spreading the word about changing some of the ferries in Washington to hybrid or electric.  Norway has already done this successfully and here's a couple of articles about current plans to go that direction here.

In Skagit, there's this about an all electric ferry.  Again, we see the initially higher upfront cost to convert to electric and the compelling significantly lower maintenance & fuel costs.  The big bonus is lowering the noise level for the orcas.

Norwegian electric ferry, photo from Nor-Shipping

Even closer to home for me, our local shipyard has landed a contract to build a hybrid ferry for Red and White Fleet of San Francisco.  Read about the details here.  Lots of progress going on and I am glad to see it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Robinson Crusoe Island, or where the firecrown lives

I've decided to pursue the endangered hummingbirds as my first art work for my new studio.  I'm going to start with a classic hummingbird at a flower design.  Obviously, first step is to research the flowers found on the Juan Fernandez islands.  Since I have never been to the Juan Fernandez islands and have no photos of my own, I am forced to rely on using photos from the web as references.

A little research told me that Robinson Crusoe Island is one of the islands in the cluster and that led me to a wonderful webpage,

This page has all kinds of info about the islands such as it being a National Park since 1935.  Here is where I found the name of 2 of the flowers that the Firecrown uses for food.  The Cabbage Tree (dendroseris litoralis) has large yellow flowers which will go perfectly with the teal & cobalt colors of the female Firecrown.  The first photo shows the foliage well and the drape of the flowers.


And here's a closeup of the flower from the same webpage.

This will be a fun flower to do because of the long skinny petals which will fit perfectly with some traditional methods of piecing.

The other flowering bush that feeds the Firecrown is the Juan Bueno (rhaphithamnus venustus) tree.  It is at a much higher altitude, and has much smaller leaves than the cabbage tree which will give me some variety in the textures of the foliage which I plan to use for the background.

I've picked these 2 flowers because the colors set off the 2 colors of the Firecrown hummingbirds.  Complementary colors cause the feel of the piece to be more energetic rather than soothing and this is exactly what I want for the feisty hummingbirds.  Next step, doing the design sketches so I know what poses I like for the hummers and what the overall composition will be.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

August goals made explicit

I am a list maker.  I have a nice big white board in my studio where I list the projects I have in progress and ones I want to do next.  As I come into the final stretch on unpacking and setting up the studio, I decided to make my next month's goals public.  Because external deadlines are easier for me to meet.  So, here's what I want to accomplish in August.

First, of course, finish the unpacking & setup.  This was my goal for July and got delayed due to a nasty summer cold made worse by the last few days of smoke hanging over Bellingham like winter clouds.

Next, in no particular order, finish the Green Eco-chicken.  This is the fourth or fifth chicken I've done and while doing this one, I'm taking notes so I can publish a pattern for it.  It's also the only goal for August that I have a picture to share which is why it's being mentioned early on.

When I was doing research for the first chicken, I realized chickens came in an amazing array of colors but not green.  And since I'm in the PNW, green can also mean Green so I started thinking about what an Eco chicken would look like.  So far, I've picked the fabric for the chicken from sea to mountain (right to left in the photo).  What's left to do?  The stitching on the edges between colors, some stamping or painting added on to most of the stripes to make the sea to mountain more explicit, and creating the background.  I'm of 2 minds about the background:  a single piece of patterned fabric or a background with realistic photos collaged onto fabric to suggest the whole Seattle/Green idea.

My other major project for this month is to do some silkscreening with the new soy wax pastes I bought for myself in January.  Due to the whole packing/moving thing, I haven't had a chance to play with them yet.  I have a large plastic bin of thrift store shirts to upcycle in some way so my goal for this area is to do a dozen shirts this month.  I'm going to use the screens I have already made so that probably means leaves or dragonflies.

Along with making the shirts, I'm going to reactivate my etsy store and update my webpage.  I'm still deciding what goes in which place but I definitely need to redo my webpage to reflect all the sales I did at my moving sale in March and the changes I'm making to what I'm working on.

Longer term, I have my endangered species piece to start.  My goal for August is to do the paper sketch which will include picking a flower for the hummingbirds to hover near and what pose I want them to be in.

And in the personal life area, we are putting a storage shed in the backyard.  My motivation is that moving storage stuff from the garage into the shed will give me room in the studio to do demos and consultations.

I have a tendency to try to do too much when doing my goal setting so I tried this month to rein that in a bit.  We'll see how I did in 4 weeks.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Inspirations for developing new series

I was out most of the last week with a multi-day migraine so I had lots of time to think.  And since I'm really, really close to having the whole studio unpacked and set up, I started thinking about what kind of bird series I want to do this year.

My initial thought was to use my photos but since I just got a new camera there are some issues with setting up the process of sorting, moving and keywording the new pics so that they fit in with the old pics.  And I'm only partway moving all my photos into the cloud so big gnarly issue there.

I went back through my ideas & inspiration notebook and checked my wishlist on Amazon.  On my wishlist was a very expensive book about extinct birds which is now 2/3rds of the price it was originally. Excellent!  Put that into my cart.

Next, I thought about researching endangered species of birds so the googling began.  There are at least 1200 (out of the 10,000 species of birds) that are endangered and most of the top 100 were not very colorful.  With the notable exception of the Juan Fernandez Firecrown.  The males are orange with a fiery crown but the females are teal which originally led people to believe they were 2 different species.   Isn't she a beauty?

 Photo by Fabrice Schmitt, from

Further googling led to this list of endangered hummingbirds.  There are 30some endangered hummingbirds which could be a series all by itself.  I also found the Washington State list here.  That is also possibly a whole series of its own.  So I'm narrowing it down and I'm excited by the idea.  I just need to wait for my book order to arrive and make a decision.  I like all of these ideas so I think I might end up listing 6 ideas so I can just roll a die to pick one.  Or I could do a poll.  Which idea do you like best?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Birthday toys: new camera & bubbling bird fountain

Yesterday was my birthday and I've been getting presents from friends for over a week.  One of them was a camera that I was scheming to get sometime soon;  the Nikon Coolpix.  And my present to myself, bought with some of the money now freed up by not having to buy the camera, was a hanging bird bath with a floating solar fountain.  But back to the camera.

Mischa gave me the camera just before we off on one of our mid-week birding trips.  We went to Squalicum Beach  because the new camera has a much better zoom option and I wanted to try it out on the nest I spotted out on the pier.  And it worked a treat.  These are ospreys not eagles which I know because while I taking the pictures, the one not on the nest opened his wings and showed me his mostly white underside.  And the nest is on a pier not in a tree which is much more likely to be an osprey.  I saw a smaller osprey earlier this year in the trees near the beach so I will now have to investigate how many broods osprey do per year.

It's still hard to see the details on the birds but it's way better than I was doing with my binoculars or old camera.  So my goal of being sure there were ospreys on the nest is accomplished.

I also tried some closer shots of the birds who were out and about that day.  I got a good one of a crow taking a branch somewhere despite his being at the top of a tree that was about 100 feet away from me.

And then I got a couple of much closer shots of a sparrow singing at the top of a young conifer.  He likes this tree which is next to the path and is fairly comfortable with people getting close to him.

My first shot was a singing side view.

And then he apparently decided he didn't like the picture taking and gave me a direct look before taking off.

Given that I haven't read the manual yet to understand what functions the camera has, I'm pretty pleased with the shots I got.

Today's mail brought the Audubon bird bath and the solar powered floating fountain I ordered.  I had the hook it is hanging from already on hand having tried to use it outside the kitchen window.  (It was too short for that window.) The hook is about 84" tall and with the chains, the bird bath hangs just about eye height for me so I can easily check the water level and do any other maitenance needed.

 It bubbles quite nicely with the fountain cap removed.  With the cap, it empties the bird bath in about 5 minutes since the water jets so high it goes outside the bird bath.

 I foresee some nice times sitting on the porch, reading or writing, and watching to see the birds visiting the fountain.  I'll almost certainly be adding some bird feeders to the yard in the near future.  But I want to give the fountain some time to draw the birds by itself first.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Planning where to put what roses in our new yard

My cold/flu bug is hanging on so I'm spending time planning things as I run out of steam too fast if I try to actually do them.  Today, I went for a short walk to the Cornwall Rose Garden where all the roses are blooming quite nicely.  I have had roses in our gardens since we lived in a house in Pasadena that was a test garden and had 75 rose bushes in the front yard, ten along the side of the house and another 5 in the back yard.  Each place we've lived has had a different climate so I've had to investigate which roses were better suited.  And I figured the Rose Garden here would be a good place to start.

Our front yard faces west and has nothing blocking the sun to the south so it will be a fabulous full sun area for roses and herbs.  Right now, there's a lilac bush, another flowering bush with purple blossoms, a yellow leafed bush and some flowering invasive viny things.  So we already have some colors going on.

I'm currently thinking about a yellow/orange multicolor rose and a lavender one to start.  Those are my favorites and Jeff likes the traditional very lush red rose.   Unfortunately, of the 3 roses I picked as possibles at the rose garden, only one had a label with the name.    That one was one of the two multicolors to think about. The other multicolor might be a  hybrid tea...

And the labeled one is a floribunda.  I have mixed feelings about the floribundas because I always end up cutting a whole cluster which means buds that don't always open get cut too.

And the only one that came close to my desire for a lavender rose, was this one which was not doing well yet and was in the heirloom section.

It photographs as more pink than it looked in person.  Clearly, I have more research to do.  Since I have lots of raised beds to put in before I can even think of buying the plants, it's just as well.  But shopping for new plants is almost as much fun as planting them and watching them grow so good times ahead either way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Birding photo backlog: bushtit vs Bewick's wren

I'm down with some nasty bug that's going around so when I'm not sleeping, coughing, sneezing or staring into space, I'm doing small things on my computer.  Today's small thing is processing some of my bird photo backlog.

These are from March 28.  Mischa and I were at Squalicum Beach Park and when we spotted this little grey-brown bird,  our first thought was a bushtit.  Breeding season is pretty much the only time you get to see bushtits by themselves as they're usually tumbling through the air in groups of a dozen or more.  So I got my camera up to see if he'd sit still for a pic.  And I got this shot.

Then he decided to really make his presence known, tilted his head back and started singing.  That's when I saw the distinctive big white eyebrow and realized this was a Bewick's Wren.

I've never before considered these 2 birds to look much alike so this was a learning experience.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cedar Waxwings at Tennant Lake Park

On May 31, Mischa and I went birding at Tennant Lake Park in Ferndale.  Unfortunately for us, her gps had the same address for Tennant Lake Park and the wildlife refuge area at the other end of the lake  so we ended up at the wrong place initially.   After driving around to the other end of the lake, we set out to see what birds were still around as we were less than an hour from dusk.

Mischa always gets distracted by the fragrance garden so there was some lingering there before we went out on the boardwalk.  When we came to the fork in the boardwalk, we took the right hand path that was not wheelchair accessible.  And we found a plethora of waxwings.

Since it was getting dark, it was hard to see details and this is the first photo that had enough light to show the yellow tail tip and the black eye band.  I was focusing on the one in the lower left when the second one flew in.  Since waxwings are fairly social and interact frequently, I was looking forward to seeing some fun bird behavior.

The new one decided to edge closer to the original bird.

And then there was an exchange of some tidbit which looks a lot like a kiss.  Waxwings are known to sit in a line on a branch and pass berries up and down the line so I guess this is what they do when there's not so many of them in one spot.

And then a third one flew in to join in.  They decided to relocate after this, so I didn't get more photos but the group followed us as we headed back on the boardwalk so it was definitely a waxwing trip.  I'm looking forward to going back when there's more light.  I'm getting lots of quality photos and great birding moments at this park.  I recommend it as a birding destination for forest and water edge birds.