Saturday, July 7, 2018

Birthday birding: Downy at Scudder Pond

This week I went to Scudder Pond a couple of times.  The first time I just took my binoculars because of the eye troubles.  I didn't want to get a headache from trying to do too much focus change by using my camera.  This was the second time in a row I left the camera behind and once again, I had some birds do amazing stuff right in front of me.

Let me explain.  Once the trail gets past the pond and into the area between the pond and Whatcom Falls, there's a trail that heads down to the water to the left.  Right at the intersection of these 2 trails there's a dead tree trunk.  As I walked past it on Tuesday morning, a Downy Woodpecker flew in and entered a big hole at the top of the snag.  I stopped because downys are always cute and there might be fledglings.  While I was waiting and watching, the other Downy flew in.  They were both being very active so it took me quite a while to be sure they were Downys rather than Hairys and the whole time I'm standing there watching, I'm thinking I should have brought my camera.

Picture from my yard
So I went back, on my birthday, with the camera, all ready to get some fabulous shots.  Not only was the place swarming with mosquitos, but nary a woodpecker to be seen on that snag.  So you'll have to be satisfied with a backyard shot of the Downy woodpecker to show you how small and cute they are. But the camera is back on the regular birding kit list and I'll be checking again in the next couple of weeks to see what happens at the Downy home.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Baby stepping to success

I'm spending some of my down time right now thinking about what do I do if this eye thing is permanent.  And the fatigue thing.  How do I manage to be happy & creative within these limitations?  And one of the things that is helping me right now is a blogger/writer named James Clear.  More about him in a few paragraphs. 

One of the other things that is resonating in my head is this quote:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi


And then there was the movie "What about Bob?" which introduced the phrase "baby steps" into our family.  

What about Bob?

I've long found the baby steps approach to work.  Just keep plugging and you'll get there.  And certainly, both my career as a software developer and my years as a quilter have shown that persistence pays off.

How do I apply these now is my current question.  And James Clear's most recent blog post has some excellent information and ideas about how to create change and keep it.  Identity Based Habits discusses how to make sure the changes stick by starting with changing how you view yourself.  And do it in a small way so that it's easier to be successful.  See how the quote above and the movie connect in?    I think I'm heading in the right direction as I am changing my definition of myself as an artist from one who creates lots of work and exhibits it often to someone who regularly creates work that matters.  But it's going to take time to see how this plays out.  In the meantime, I'll just keep on baby stepping...


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Miss Zukas tidies my brain

I discovered a couple of decades ago that I turn to mysteries for reading material when I'm feeling overwhelmed by life.  Given the current & ongoing ankle and eye medical problems, it's not surprising that I recently started reading the Miss Zukas series again. 

There are multiple appeals to this series by Jo Dereske.  Miss Zukas is a professional librarian who is amusingly precise in her manner.  The series is set in the fictional town of BelleHaven which bears a certain resemblance to Bellingham:  on the bay off the San Juan Islands.  Now that we live here, it adds another dimension to reading the descriptions.  The series was written in the mid to late 90's so there is also a lovely layer of nostalgia.  And the writing is perfect for a cozy mystery. 


I'm about halfway through the series (a dozen in total) but the one pictured above is my favorite of the ones I've read so far.  Miss Zukas grew up in Michigan and her uncle made her a wooden canoe.  I grew up in Indianapolis and my family had a fiberglass canoe.  And I spent my teen years going canoeing on the White River with my best friend on the weekends.  It's the top thing on my list of things I was supposed to do in Washington but haven't yet.  So I really enjoy Miss Zukas canoeing in the Snow to Surf relay race in this book. 

I recommend the series if you're looking for some nice scenic mystery reading.  No gore, interesting characters (I especially like her BFF Ruth, a very tall artist with unruly hair), and writing that occasionally takes a gentle poke at society or otherwise steps outside the genre's expectations.    I am certainly finding this series a refreshing break from reality that is recharging my sorely depleted energy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

when eyes go wonky

I'm going to be even more erratic in my blogging for the foreseeable future as I'm having a medical problem with my eyes.  The prognosis is good for no permanent damage but right now I'm getting headaches from trying to do things with printed pages, either paper or digital.  So, not too much typing in my immediate future.  I'm much more likely to be posting to instagram (lizcopelandartist) while on my walks or while I'm in my studio doing some small stuff.  I'll also be trying out my new electric scooter which is supposed to help me go on longer birding walks so here's a picture of it. 



That's the ever supportive and helpful hubster Jeff in the background.  He not only helped me unpack and assemble the scooter but went out for an eyepatch to see if that helps prevent the headaches.  I am always grateful for him but especially when life tosses us something difficult.

Any good thoughts, wishes, energy or prayers gratefully accepted.    And may you also have supportive family and friends when life wacks you with something like this.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

best of this week's birding

I got out twice in the last week, well, actually 8 days but it's close, and Pauline and I found several of the sought after birds.  The best of the lot was the Wilson's warbler we got shots of yesterday.  Pauline moved here from the east coast less than a year ago, and the wilson's is a lifer for her.  It's also a tiny little bird, all yellow with that black cap on its head and moves around a lot because warblers do that.  So usually hard to see anyway.  This one got annoyed enough at us chasing it about that it came out into the open and yelled at us.  We apologized profusely and took pictures.  I hope we were all satisfied with that outcome.

From cornell webpage cause mine were too blurry


I didn't take many shots on the earlier trip this month but I did get an interesting series of Common Loon shots.  It was a fairly sunny day and the loon was close enough in that I thought I had a decent shot at catching the green ring around his neck just below the white ring.  The green is usually right at the water level so it's hard to see well but I thought I had a chance with these.

zoom in & see green ring on neck

Then he switched direction and gave a better view of his back.




And then he spotted lunch.  Usually, when the diving birds are diving, it's pretty common to get lots of photos of their backs at the end of the dive just like this one. 



All of these are cropped, of course, to delete all the water around.  This last shot is uncropped to show the expanse of the water and  unexpected second bird (almost to the rocks) I caught without intending it.  The lovely thing about digital cameras is you just keep shooting.



Saturday, May 5, 2018

Birding fever begins

Now that I'm past my scheduled art activities for early spring, I can concentrate on birding.  While I'm getting a somewhat late start (earlier is better because leaves are in the way now), the reports coming in from other birders about warblers and western tanagers have me fired up to go walk in the woods.

Yesterday, Pauline & I tried the Chuckanut Pocket Estuary which has a history of having many birds in May.  We got there just at high tide which brings the seabirds in closer and would have had a fabulous day except for the wind coming in off the water.  The smaller birds were not coming out of the bushes and who could blame them.  So we heard lots of common yellowthroats for example, but mostly saw ducks and other water birds.  We did see a small flock of house finches before we gave up because the birds weren't the only ones who didn't like the wind. 

We ended up hitting Marine Park where we finally found the elusive green heron and then going to the other side of the railroad tracks to pursue the warblers we were hearing but couldn't quite get bins on to get a good look, with the exception of a couple of yellow-rumped warblers who crossed the tracks to tease us.  Our first bird on the dog trail/heronry side of the tracks was a bewick's wren doing a fabulous display of singing style. 

Bewick's wren belting it out

We got a nice number of species of birds on that trail but not many good photos mostly because I was having so much fun looking that I forgot to snap photos.  I totally failed to use my camera on good shots of herons in the heronry, the 2 black oystercatchers grazing along the rocky shore of the lagoon, and a fabulous kingfisher who spent a couple minutes flying back and forth between the rails on the tracks and the snag on the far side of the lagoon.  The sun was out, the wind was calmer here and it was one of those days that sparkle in my memory.

I'm looking forward to several more days like this during May.  I hope you get to enjoy spring as well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Golden workshop on pouring & marbling acrylic paint

Barbara de Pirro is the Golden rep/artist in Western Washington and she does regular workshops & lectures at art stores in the area.  I've attended a couple of her lectures/demos in Bellevue at Daniel Smith so when this class came up in her newsletter, I jumped on it despite the drive from Bellingham to Seattle for a 5 hour workshop.  And it was well worth it.

We started with a demo/talk about the different mediums to use in pouring acrylics and why it was a bad idea to do some of the things seen in various YouTube videos on the subject.  (Short answer:  some of things added can break down the acrylics over relatively short periods of time.)  We each got a folder of info about the materials and she demonstrated several techniques and styles of pours.  Then we got turned loose with our own bag of mediums and *huge* bags of fluid & high flow paints to experiment. (We got to take the sample sizes of the mediums home but could borrow the paints.)  I love marbling so I tried that first.  Here's my most successful attempt at using marbling techniques with acrylics on canvas board..

Calling this one twinkling stars


This was actually my second attempt, the first one turned to mud as I tried to swirl the paint around. But the one above is going to be the starting point for my next batch of experiments with this technique.  I'll be using the results in two ways.  First, I can silkscreen dancers on top of them and voila, I'm doing paintings.  Second, I can get a good photo of the marbled acrylic and print it on fabric and then make a quilt version with fabric dancers collaged on top.  This will give me a direct comparison of my two choices right now for creating small dancer pieces.  As part of my current process of figuring out what parts of creating give me joy, this direct comparison of paint vs fabric should be quite informative.

I started with my basic blue & yellow palette which is what I favor for the dancers.  Darker blue, teal, golden yellow and bright yellow were my starting point.  And if you don't put down a layer of acrylic first, when you drop the colors on a canvas board and swirl them, well, here's some mud.



Note how the blue and yellows combined to give me some streaks of green.  There's only a bit of recognizable swirls on the left but otherwise, an epic fail.  I am really pleased that I so quickly diagnosed the problem and corrected to get the twinkling stars above.

Having one success and one failure, I then attempted to get the swirling marbling that I like so much in my traditional marbling work.  I did two different attempts, adding more blues and some greens to my palette.  The bottom blue one was an attempt at sky horizon and the second was adding more colors and seeing how well the swirling worked with greater contrast.



These satisfied me on the marbling techniques.  I feel I've got a handle on what works and I will be working further with it in the next month or so.  The rest of the class, I spent playing with the pouring technique and creating acrylic skins which was all kinds of very messy, drippy fun.   As I play further with the skins I created, I'll share what results from those.

Regardless of the future experiments, this was a hugely successful experience for me.  I got into that creative joyful spot and enjoyed myself tremendously.  May you do the same real soon!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fiber artist #3: Carol Bryer Fallert(-Gentry)

Yes, I know, the #FiveFemaleArtists thing was for March but life happens, no?  I'm going to finish anyway.

Carol Bryer Fallert came to my attention in the late 90's when she started her feather studies series.  I share her love of color & curves,  and appreciated the change in perception of zooming in on a familiar object.   Here's the first in that particular series.



But it wasn't until she did a large dancer piece at the same time I was beginning my dancer series that I decided to keep an eye on her.  Her work dealt with similar concepts as mine while differing in treatment enough to generate interesting ideas for me.




She not only has an extensive body of work which can be seen  at http://www.bryerpatch.com/ but has reached the point in her life/career where she is mentoring the rest of us with her free articles and tutorials.

I'm spending part of this week exploring what she offers at http://www.bryerpatch.com/faq/faq.htm.  I appreciate her offerings not only because of her decades of experience creating and teaching but also because this is a wonderful collection of articles relevant to my work in one convenient place.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thinking of birds while doing taxes...

Norwescon was wonderful except for the walking more than 12 miles and trashing my ankles.  Then getting the flu.  And then starting on the taxes, almost done, huzzah!  But during this tsunami of life stuff, I took half a day to go to Canada so I could go to part of Washington:  Point Roberts.  Where Pauline, my local birding pal, and I got to see 36 Harlequin ducks bobbing about.  And a sea lion.  And almost a dozen eagles.  I'm thinking there were some schools of fish out there somewhere...

But the Harlequins!  They are gorgeous birds and I've never seen that many of them in one place nor heard them make so much noise before.  I particularly enjoyed the group that came up almost onto the beach and played in the surf.  My camera battery died, so this picture is courtesy of Pauline.

Waiting for the wave


These guys were riding the waves as they came on shore and playing in the surf.  One of those amazing birding experiences that keep me going out there as much as possible. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fiber artist #2 - Esterita Austin

Continuing my #5femaleartists posts about fiber artists who have influenced me with Esterita Austin.  Esterita teaches nationally (mostly at quilt stores) and I was fortunate enough to take her class about using paint on fused applique compositions.  The class I took is no longer listed on her page as she's developed new and more interesting classes. 

For me, that class was an eye opener.  It was in the early 2000's and I had not yet discovered silkscreening or even painting on quilts.  I was doing everything with fabric and thread.  The class used a composition she had developed with rocks in the foreground and a couple of tree trunks on the right.  The fabric requirements specified multi tone and color fabric.  And I learned an amazing amount about letting the fabric carry the values of shadow and highlight and adding emphasis through paint. She was originally trained as a painter and all of her classes use that training skillfully to teach quilters to use an artist's eye. Clearly this workshop was important to me since I'm remembering so much detail 15 years later.


Workshop result with some additions

After the workshop, I was in complete love with the tree trunks.  Most of the texture on them was added by some delicate painting which really popped them as 3D.  I later added the sunset sky by printing on sheer fabric from a nice photo I had.  And there was some other experimentation with shiva paint sticks and rubbing plates done that added visual texture to the water. 

Several years later (2013/2014)  I took a second workshop from her on doing fabric self-portraits.  The piece that came out of that workshop (see below) is the only piece ever displayed in my Georgetown studio that had someone walk into the studio, make a beeline to the piece, and ask loudly "Whose is this?  How much does it cost?"  That was a thrilling moment for me but I told him it wasn't for sale. 



I found the emphasis on tone rather than color freeing and have used things I learned from her regularly in my work.  I haven't browsed her class list in a while but looking at it for this blog is making me think it's time for another workshop.  This time I'll go for the paint on sheer fabric one as I already had using sheers on my experimentation list for this year.

I heartily recommend browsing her gallery and her students gallery for some other samples of this type of colorful work.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Fiber artists who influenced me - Deidre Scherer


It's Women's History Month and the National Museum of Women in the Arts is doing a  #5femaleartists  thing on social media.  So, this is me joining in while I am in the final week of assembling work and finishing the papers for Norwescon.

I'm going to post about one artist a day from a list of 5 fiber artists who had a big influence on me.  Today's female fiber artist is Deidre Scherer whose name I can never spell right the first time. 

In Thought

It's not even that her work inspired me altho her use of thread to create line and shadow on fabric opened up possibilities for me.   I was at my in-laws house for Thanksgiving and Dr. Doug was talking about a trip to the east coast and a museum.  He started describing these amazing detailed stitched portraits but couldn't remember the artists' name.  I looked at him and said "Deidre Scherer".  And he was amazed I knew of her.  This was in the late 90's when I was just starting to exhibit so it really made me feel like I was truly an artist.  Because even if I wasn't producing lots or exhibiting lots, I knew my field and the fellow artists.

She's added paper and lino prints to her work since then and you can see all of her work at her webpage, dscherer.com.  The work displayed is still focused on elder portraits regardless of the technique and I find both her woven paper pieces and lino-cuts intriguing.  Looking at the variations she has done gives me some ideas about ways to vary my dancer pieces while I experiment this year.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

destashing my studio

"Money doesn't buy happiness, but money buys fabric."  And here's your chance.  Or at least, your chance is coming later this week.

I'm in the final, I swear, really truly LAST,  bit of decluttering my studio and this time I'm ditching lots of patterns and fabric.  It will all be posted on my etsy store, link here.  I thought it only right to let the people who follow my blog get advance notice, so that's what this is.  Here's the current stack of stuff that needs to go.  Patterns will go first, Folkwear patterns first of all.



And here's the closeup of the Folkwear patterns that I have left and that I don't plan to use in the next 12 months.  (That's my ruthless criteria for this final purge.  Will I use it in the next year?  If the answer isn't an absolute Yes, it goes.  Because I get ideas faster than I can do them.) 


Last time, I sold these for $9 a piece and that still seems reasonable for the uncut ones. (Brand new from the webpage prices are $15-20.)  The cut ones may be somewhat less.  I plan to have them up today but we're off to an Oscar party at 4pm so I'll have to hurry.

I'd really love to finish the purging by the ides of March so please send good thoughts, energy, etc my way that I don't have yet another bout of the flu before then.  And may your projects go well too.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Craving Spring

There are 2 reasons why I'm really craving spring:  first, more birds.  Of Course.  And second, I really want to be past the tree pollen & sinus infection time of the year.  I'm going to visit the doctor later today to try and take care of this years' sinus problem which should improve my life considerably.  But to enjoy the birds, I'm going to have a wait a bit.  For now, I'm going back over recent bird photos and here's one I took on a walk to a local park. 



I particularly liked the hardy fuschias in the foreground.  Here's hoping I see more birds soon and am finally over my marathon of flu, colds & sinus crud.  Because all of this illness has made it really hard to get much of anything done.

Up later this week:  photos and descriptions of the destashing going on in my studio.  Fabric and patterns will be going up for sale on my etsy store as I feel better in the near future.  Here's hoping you and yours have made it through this flu season with ease.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Reifel Bird Sanctuary (Delta, BC) where chickadees eat from your hand

After a severe allergy reaction to dental molding compound (Jan 22) and a small sinus infection caused by the congestion from the allergy, I was *finally* well enough to actually go on the local Audubon trip to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Canada on Feb 1.  Reifel is famous among birding circles as having a large variety of birds but I'd never been before.  Now that it's a daytrip,  I felt it was time to rectify this problem.  And it was definitely worth the effort. 

One of the secrets to the sactuary's appeal to birds is they sell bird seed at the visitor's center.  This means there are wandering groups of ducks who gather around if you stand still for any length of time.The groups we saw included mallards, wigeons and wood ducks.  I was particularly pleased that I got such closeup views of the wood ducks as I love their plumage.  Here's the best shot I got of one duck.



In addition to the roving bands of ducks, there are flocks of small birds including chickadees, towhees, sparrows of all types and red-winged blackbirds who will gather if you stand on the trail with seed in your hand.  The chickadees are the most fearless in grabbing some food but if you stand long enough, all but the towhees will venture onto your hand too.  It's amazing to feel how light the birds are and to be that close to them.

There are several bird species seen at Reifel that are not easy to find here in western Washington.  Black-crowned night herons and sandhill cranes are 2 of them that we saw.  The night herons were roosting with their heads tucked under their wings so not that photogenic but the sandhill cranes were right out there with the ducks grabbing the free food distributed by the school field trip there at the same time as we were.   I usually have to go to Othello in eastern Washington to see them and even there, it's not as close a view as we got at Reifel.




The black bird with the white beak to the left of the crane is an American Coot and the bird on the right side of the photo in the background is an American Wigeon.  The white stripe on their forehead is the giveaway.

If I had had the sense to stop after lunch instead of going back out, my feet & calves would have been much happier.  I walked over 5 miles during the trip and after essentially a month of inactivity due to flu, allergies, etc, this was not a great idea.  To prep for spring birding, I'll be doing more frequent but shorter birding trips.  And I'll try Reifel again later on when the migrants are coming through.  Because I expect it will be amazing.


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. 

'Grounded'

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.  http://lizcopeland.blogspot.com/2009/12/december-baking-and-gluten-free.html  The most popular of my non-art blog posts.  Because who doesn't love cookies?  Especially for the winter holidays.

#3.  http://lizcopeland.blogspot.com/2011/10/stamp-carving-or-another-way-to-make-my.html
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.  http://lizcopeland.blogspot.com/2010/11/shows-entry-tracking-system.html  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!