Seal Engraving


January 20, 2010

I have a small collection of natural history engravings. These antique prints are a combination of a few of my favorite things: nature, art, and intaglio printmaking. I was going through my flat files yesterday and came across my little collection. I have been working on another batch of watercolors for the Sebastian Foster site, and was nosing around for some inspiration. This is a very old book engraving of a seal that someone had given to me and my husband as a gift some years ago. I've always loved it. It's delicately hand painted with watercolor. There is a richness to the line quality in an etching and engraving that can be found in no other traditional medium. This print has that richness, as well as some charming archaic rendering of the seal and its watery surroundings.

Citizen Science


January 18, 2010

I'm a nerd, and I'm pretty excited about it. I just signed up for this program: Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Feederwatch. I haven't had much time in the last couple of years to go out in to the field to bird watch, and so this is the perfect solution to being housebound in winter. I have a couple feeders in the backyard that at the moment get mobbed by too many House Sparrows, but almost daily I am treated to a visit from a Hairy Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker and a couple of Black-capped Chickadees. Last week I witnessed a Cooper's Hawk swooping in to pick off one House Sparrow from the feeder. I am hoping once my Feederwatch kit shows up, I will have some other worthy events and species to record.

I Bring You Stone.


January 14, 2010

The last issue of the New Yorker had an extensive article about Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), and how they are being affected by global warming. Significant amounts of ice melt in the Southern Ocean are forcing Adélies to abandon ancient breeding grounds. When people think of penguins, the image that usually comes to mind is that of an Adélie, with their stark, tuxedo black and white plumage. Their courtship behavior involves a male presenting a female with a stone. Stones are what Adélies build their nests out of, and apparently stones are in enough demand in the Antarctic that sometimes a male will present a stone that it has stolen from another's nest. A gift is a gift, right? Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard became very fond of the Adélies and their antics while on expedition with Robert Falcon Scott. Garrard returned to England from that fateful expedition, and eventually met the woman that would become his wife. She enjoyed hearing Garrard's tales of the Antarctic, and especially the ones involving his favorite creature, the Adélie Penguin. One day they were sitting on a park bench when Garrard leaned over, picked up a small stone and placed it next to her. She understood that a proposal of marriage would follow.

This is a little watercolor study I made for what will be a larger painting for the Sebastian Foster site. Have a lovely weekend!

Missing Green


January 12, 2010

Pots of tea and the wood burning stove have been my staunch allies in relaxing winter's grey, icy grip, during this most recent cold snap here in Chicago. I find myself dreaming of spring and green mossy patches. This last fall while cleaning up the yard and stacking wood, I turned over a big chunk of bark. I crouched down and marveled at the little micro ecosystem of moss, fungus, lichens, pill bugs, and snails. I don't know how snails and pill bugs fare during cold months, but I'd like to think they'll be waiting under that piece of bark once everything thaws and the world begins to green up again.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax


January 11, 2010

Last year I donated a couple of prints to University of Ilinois Wildlife Medical Clinic's annual fundraising auction Doodle for Wildlife. University of Illinois is where I got my B.F.A., and I generally make my way back down to Champaign-Urbana once or twice a year. This year for the auction I am donating an original watercolor of a Black-crowned Night-Heron.

The first couple of years of living in Chicago after graduating from U of I, my husband Jay and I would often take late night bike rides downtown along the lake shore. It was a great way to spend summer nights. We almost always ended up at museum campus where the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are located. We'd ride to the outer sidewalks surrounding the Shedd and planetarium, and get a great view of the city skyline. One night we rode to the outer, lakeside edge of the planetarium, and were startled to see about 8 Black-crowned Night-Herons sitting in a line along the stony rim. They were looking out in to the blackness of the lake, and didn't seem too disturbed by our being there. We watched silently and then got back on our bikes and rode home.

It is one of those moments that even now, 10 years later, for which I am grateful. I loved living in a big city like Chicago, but sometimes it was overwhelming. Riding to and along the lake provided a chance for some open space, and to reconnect with nature. Happening upon a group of ethereal looking herons, provided a moment of silent communion between two very different species; each trying to cope with the big city in their own way.

Black-crowned Night-Herons are (surprise!) nocturnal, and gregarious in nature. They are colonial breeders that favor swamps and island habitat. While widespread in North America, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.

Winner of 2010 Bird of the Year Watercolor


January 06, 2010

So, on January 1st, 2010, I grabbed my binoculars and set off on a winter hike to spot my first bird of 2010. I will admit, I tried to focus my gaze towards the ground until entering the woods. Secretly, I think I was hoping to spot a White-breasted Nuthatch, and my chances were greater in the woods rather than near the cottage. As I approached the path that leads in to the forest, I glanced up to see a bright red Northern Cardinal fly across the trail up ahead. At first, I thought "No, not the cardinal! Why not a Plieated Woodpecker or a Cooper's Hawk, or even a Dark-eyed Junco, and not a bird that is so ubiquitous in it's overuse as a symbol for the holidays?" And then I thought, what is my problem? What's not to like? Why get all elitist about this? There is a reason why they grace thousands of greeting cards: cardinals are beautiful! They are a splash of color and life in the dead of winter. They are feisty. They herald the coming of spring with their beautiful song. They are my theme bird for 2010, and I accept!

I tallied all of the names from the comments section of the contest post, and the names of those that emailed. I wrote each name or blogger i.d. on a slip of paper, which was then placed in to a bowl. There were roughly 100 names. Thanks to everybody that stepped forward to participate and say hi. It was a lovely response, and I wish I could give a painting to everybody. Alas, I only have one, and it is going to the winner: Michael Graham.

Many thanks to all for checking in to Tiny Aviary and supporting my work over the last year. Warm wishes for a great 2010!

Happy 2010


January 04, 2010

Hello and Happy New Year to you! I have returned from my several days of lovely winter hikes, and ringing in the new year with friends at a cozy cottage in southwestern Wisconsin. I have my theme bird for 2010, and am working on the watercolor for the giveaway. I will announce the winner this Wednesday, January 6th. I can't wait!

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