Friday, January 29, 2016

Birding delights in our own front yard.

With excitement I share with you a gift granted to me, the winter birds that blessed us with their presence this past week. The temperature warmed greatly above zero and as the snow melted flocks of birds we had never noticed in our area arrived to gleam seeds from the cones of the fruitful spruce trees that sport a bumper crop of cones way up top.

There are seven White-winged Crossbills in this photo, but if you can spot five you are doing well as they blend in so fine. The interesting thing I've noticed is this is a mixed flock, there are also Red Crossbills, see below photo. 
The red birds are the males, the yellow greenish birds are females.

Male White-winged Crossbills.
 In The Birds of Alberta book it says they rarely flock together, so I guess we were really given a gift. These birds stayed mostly in the tree tops. Two days later they were back, this time many were feeding on seeds dropped to the ground. 
Crossbills top mandible (jaw, beak) crosses over the lower one. The beak is specifically designed to pry into coniferous cones to gain access to the seeds within. What a wonderful experience to watch this female White-winged Crossbill pry out seeds by jabbing her thin curved beak up under the lip of the cone and wiggle her head back and forth pulling out seeds.

Unique specialty designs of nature these birds are, you can clearly see the beak crosses over itself. Got this shot as the bird hopped under the window I was shooting out of.
Female White-winged Crossbill.

While the females were prying seeds from fallen cones the males were a lazily picking seeds from the ground.
I believe this may be an immature male as his coloration is more orange than red.

Mature White-winged Crossbills were elusive as they took flight at the slightest noise so I was lucky to get this clear shot of one on the sidewalk.

Male Red Crossbill, notice no wing bars and softer coloration.

Female Red Crossbill posing on the gutter just above where I was standing. A female flew down and landed two feet away from my head, I held my breath in awe, a gift to behold close up. She peered into my eyes, cocked her head, then took to the air. sigh.

Where the melting snow puddled in the gutter the Crossbills took turns bathing.

May you enjoy the gift of these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Back in the studio testing linen paper

Quite a few years back a commercial printing shop went out of business and I acquired reams of mixed paper for drawing on, printmaking and all round play. So I decided its about time I play with this paper to see how it accepts varied media. The following is Winsor Newton watercolor on 25x23 inch Linen paper. The paper is beautiful, slightly textured which would be great for pencil portraits, but as there is about a one inch pile of it playtime has started. The paper took the water pigment much better than expected. In fact the pigment soaked too well into the paper so I ended up mixing thick pigment fairly dry to get that "pow" strength. 

Play on wednesday led to

Thursday play time. Same theme of bunchberry plants that carpet the forest floor in alberta and BC. A tiny plant pushed to a gigantic size. It was fun, but would I use this paper for watercolor paintings; not likely as it eats up paint. My next test will be to draw on it and test print on the press when plates get designed. So much going on in my head.

Today I realized that I don't paint when depressed, I do other crafts and jot ideas in my sketchbooks, but I don't paint, hmmm. And truth be told I've not painted since we arrived back in Edmonton late Sept. I don't find the city conductive to well being. I find it lonely and well, depressing. 

The daylight is longer now so the studio gets more light which helps get me physically motivated to create again. 

I love that the paper is large as I stood at the easel I held the end of the brush loaded with pigment and played with outstretched arm moved in a loose manner. Side by side you can see how the size of the image was pushed bit more today than yesterday.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to beat the winter blahs

Looking at all the beautiful native flower photos I have taken and remembering the warmth of the sun helps chase away the dreary feeling I get from being trapped inside while the snow falls outside.

Wishing everyone a blessed New Year filled with health and joy.