Thursday, May 29, 2014

More birds from Irricana area and fox

 This bird had no concern for me. As I stood still it ventured closer though it did assess me at one point and must have deemed me as of no threat. Being about twenty feet away when I decided to return to the truck I slowly backed up till I was at the pavement before turning. When I looked back I was happy to note the bird was still feeding.

 Marbled Godwit flight. I spotted this bird lift off from the marsh in the distance and luckily it flew closer heading to the field. I quite like the soft blur of the landscape behind the Godwit.

 Ibis sunset.

 White-faced Ibis foraging in flooded roadside ditches. An excitable moment to say the least as I've only seen these colorful birds from a far distance at Frank Lake a few years ago.

 Amazing iridescence these birds possess. I'm now wondering how best to represent them in paint. May have to consider doing a large 3x4 foot canvas. Oh ya, another winter project coming up, but for now its camping and birding, time to gather reference and enjoy being in the field watching and soaking in the essence.

 Have no idea what this bird is, but it flew above the campers every night chattering and making a fuss. I must have taken about fifty photos but as it flew so fast and being dusk this was the best shot the camera could capture. 300 prime lens and extremely heavily cropped as this bird was quite a ways up.

 Red-winged Blackbird female? 
I have never seen one with such bold markings before, hence the questioning.

 Another special surprise, a Swift fox hunting in the pasture, behind to the left a duck pair can be seen.

 We watched him or her catch and eat a few rodents before trotting off with one in its mouth. I figure it must have a den in the area.

Say's  Phoebe
Even though I have many bird books its sometimes its hard to figure out who's who. I am thinking  Kingbird though the underside looked quite cinnamon rather than yellow.

 Savanna Sparrow. Such a lovely wee bird.


 Another who am I; this one was very difficult to spot, I saw the garbage and peered through my lens to see what it was and behold, saw the bird. Solitary Sandpiper identified by John, thank you.

  Chipping Sparrow in the rain.

 Clay-colored Sparrow all puffed against wind that blew cold on this drizzly monday morning.
Want to see more? 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

photos as promised

Though I'm still busy working on the painting submission as well as a proposal I could do no more today due extreme tiredness. A darn squawky pain in the ear male house sparrow woke me at 5:30 am. Now as it takes hours to drift into sleep at night an early awakening I could do without. Seems we have three species vying for the same dead stump, a single wren whom is attempting to sing in a mate is provoking two nuthatches whom have cleared out a hole with a front and back entrance by going in and out of their construction site, and a damn introduced foreigner; the house sparrow. I admit we spend a lot of time chasing the house sparrow away as I refuse to give ground to the aggressive beasts. As for the nuthatches and wren, well they will have to decide who gets the nest site. Last year the nuthatches nested first then the wren, but this year the wren has showed up earlier.
But this post is really about birding in Irricana AB, so on we go.



I would think this is a yellowlegs but the strongly defined eye ring has me confused.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, male.
Yellow-headed Blackbird, female.

Yellow-headed Blackbird landed on a fence post right beside the truck gifting me a wonderful close-up pose.

Then a Meadowlark flew in, and seemingly took no notice of my big lens peering out the truck window.

Male and female Brewer's Blackbird.

American Avocet, this wee blue legged bird is smaller than I initially realized. Another than I was able to capture without leaving the truck-blind. She was foraging in the ditch right beside the road and took no mind to us at all. This photo is not cropped, she just fits in the viewfinder. You may wonder how I assume female as both gender look the same? Well, the female has more pronounced recurved bill, a bent beak.

I spotted this wee leggy one and called out for Gerald to pull over. As the pond was right beside a rail track he stopped up the road while I walked back, and being so focused on this fella that I missed seeing one in between us it till it flew, hence this one left with it. Note to self; do better scan of an area before proceeding. I do try to leave quite a bit of space between myself and the birds with concern not to add extra migratory stress, but I blew this time.
If anyone knows which shorebird this is please do tell, as I am not up on the shorebirds yet. It seems as though the bill is yellow with a black tip.

A vulture scouring the treetops. 

A vesper sparrow. These birds are so tiny I have to use manual rather than spot focus to capture them.


  Wings level, check.
 landing gear out, check.

And we have lift off.
I love the that in one day I was able to capture a Mallard male landing on a pond in front of me as well as later in the day capture a Mallard lift off from a pond. The lift off was a treat, its as though he jumped into the air and was air born, absolutely amazing.

A sure sign of spring, the warblers are back.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Myrtle, male. Don't you just love his lone ranger mask.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, female showing her yellow topknot. Notice her coloring is softer compared to the male.

Two snipe flew over my head landing in the marsh, and I could not see them till I looked through my 300m prime lens. I would love to have a binocular but man-o-live a good one is way out of my price range, so I will continue using my camera as a spotting scope.

And again, Snipe.

More to come, so stay tuned.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Irricana, founders campground

Hello dear ones, it has been a wonderful week.
We ventured down to Irricana on the May long weekend for our first camping trip of the season. Having never stayed in Irricana we were delighted to find the campground hosts to be friendly and a joy to be around. The flavour of the water was, to say the least..UG, reminder to self, always pack lots of fresh water. But that aside everything else was great, right down to the gentle rain on monday.
Irricana Sunset.
Friday evening we enjoyed bison burgers loaded with Hutterite sweet tomatoes while basking in a spectacular sunset.

Monday morning we awoke to drizzle, so while sipping sweet brew of campers-wide-eye I pulled out the watercolors and attempted to capture the soft morning haze fostered by moisture laden air. Thank you Robert Sinclair for valuable advice heeded from the previous posted about workshop. I feel I captured the essence of the moment. Now you are probably wondering what happened to saturday and sunday, well stay tuned as there will be some fantastic bird photos to come.

Now I must get back to work as many exciting ventures are in process. Presently I'm busy painting a 24 x 30 inch canvas for a submission that is due by next week as well as writing proposals. So back to work I go. Oh, also I've been accepted into the Master Naturalist Program put on by the City of Edmonton which I will post about as I go through the program. So as stated, stay tuned, more to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Robert Sinclair Workshop

When I lived in Brule AB eons ago I took a fantastic 2 day watercolor workshop with Robert at the Blackcat Ranch so when The River Valley Alliance and VAAA teamed up and offered a free 3 hour pleinair workshop May 4th, I gratefully took the opportunity. Of course Gerald had no idea he was signed up till we got there, but like a trooper he jumped right in and worked alongside me sharing the paintbox.

As it was a workshop I took the opportunity to Play, play, play and heeded Roberts Zen advice to stop a painting before you start it. He encouraged laying down color without consideration of a finished painting. Robert advise us to ground ones self in place with the earth, to feel the energy come up through our feet and to breathe with the understanding that we are all within the cycle of life. While out painting pleinair to realize that the trees are absorbing our breathed out carbon dioxide that they then convert and expel as oxygen for us. Yes we really are part of the glorious cycle, aren't we.

Top left is the first one painted. It looked much darker when wet but I had sopped the whole 300lb Arches paper with way too much water and drew into the puddles with watercolor pencils, which of course then bled to became a soft gray. Which in reality worked as it was snowing out so the bridge and landscape really did look soft in the distance without much definition. I drew into the wet again with watercolor pencil to define the bridge, it looked great, then it dried so soft the lines almost all disappeared. The yellow in the background are the willows in full bloom. Workshops are wonderful to encourage one to step outside of their habits and to experiment.

Next to the right, also a pleinair, except I was indoors looking out as mentioned as it was snowing and I did not want to get chilled. There were a few hardy souls that went out to paint in the snow, though I was thankful they opened the building which has lots of windows to view the landscape from. The second painting was started with watercolor washes which were then drawn into with watercolor pencils to accent the snag tree. This one was more successful as a painting, yet also successful in that more control was used in working with the water and pigment.

The bottom left image was worked from a photo of pussy willows. I basically drew with watercolor and inktense pencils which were then splashed with a wash of water to soften and blur the drawn lines.  So yes I greatly played and had a joyful time. Upon viewing my 3 pieces Robert teased and said "go home" we both laughed cause I was really taking his advice, from which I greatly benefited.

For the last image bottom right I decided to tackle the bridge once again but to push the pigments using both watercolor washes and inktense pencils.  I brought along the pencils as I'm not quite sure I like working with inktense pencils yet, but I do love aquarelle watercolor pencils though find them a bit on the soft side.

Surprisingly I prefer the first bridge painted, which is interesting as anyone who follows this blog and my blog with my paintings posted realize I paint to a high degree of definition and detail in acrylics. I do also work highly defined in watercolor though for some reason never get around to posting images of my watercolors on line.

As I mostly work detailed and layered with semi-dry brush work it was engaging to realize how much dilution of pigment happens experimenting using ample if not too much water. All in all a very successful and playful workshop for me. I'm excited about the idea to do more pleinar paintings this summer.
Hugs to all and happy sunshine days.