Monday, March 30, 2015

Looking for Cranes

Over the weekend my husband took me to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in Othello, Wa. to look for Sandhill cranes. Every year at this time they migrate through central Washington and stop in this unique refuge to rest and eat as they continue on to their nesting grounds further north. The refuge is a staging area for many birds during migration and is an important nesting area for waterfowl.
The refuge is a shrub-steppe desert with wetland potholes. It was carved out during the Ice Age as massive glaciers scoured the land as they moved leaving basalt cliffs, gouging out coulees, creating gravel bars, depressions and nooks for water to pool in. Add to that man-made irrigation and reservoirs and this unique habitat was born.
Great Egret - Columbia NWR  Othello, WA
After traveling through the refuge we finally located a small flock of cranes resting in Marsh Unit One. They usually head out to feed in the surrounding farm fields in the morning and evening and rest in the refuge during mid-day, but the wind was howling at 25 - 30 m.p.h. making it difficult for the cranes to fly so they were holding in secluded areas out of the wind. We were never able to see them very close and not without the aid of spotting scopes or binoculars, but seeing them at all was a great treat.
Sandhill Cranes

 Before we left three large flocks battled the wind to land with the others in Marsh Unit One. As they circled above us we could hear their unique call all around carried on the stiff wind. I was able to get some photos, but even with my super telephoto lens it was a challenge as they were a good distance off and the wind made it difficult for me to stay steady. Still, I left there grinning from ear to ear and even my non-birder husband had enjoyed the show.

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's an Upside Down World

Red-breasted nuthatch-watercolor and gouache on Mi-teintes paper   6" x 8"
It truly is an upside down world if you are a nuthatch!
These acrobatic little birds spend their days foraging up, down and around tree trunks and branches. I have rarely seen one in an upright position though they can perch that way. They seem to prefer the position in my painting, clinging from the side of a tree. The noise they make is comical as well. It has been described as a tiny tin horn, though I think it sounds more like a nasally "yank, yank".

This little sketch is for purchase through an auction at my Daily Paintworks online gallery. Click below to bid.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Barn Owl on Mi-teintes

Barn Owl-watercolor and gouache on mi-teintes paper  6" x 8"

Here is another owl in my series of quick studies on toned paper. This one is a barn owl. He was a captive bird that was being kept by the Washington State University Raptor Club because he had been injured and could not be returned to the wild. WSU has a fantastic veterinary teaching hospital on the campus and injured wildlife of all kinds ends up there to be cared for. The Raptor Club uses some of these injured birds at schools or community events to educate others about them. It is always a great opportunity to see these birds up close as many are nocturnal or not very approachable in the wild.

Barn owls are another owl species with dark eyes. Their face is heart shaped and as their name implies they roost or nest in barns, buildings and dark cavities. 

This sketch is for sale through my Daily Paintworks online gallery via an auction. Click here to place a bid.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sketches on toned paper

Barred Owl - watercolor and gouache on toned paper 6" x 8"

As I continue to count the days when I can join my husband I have been continuing to play with painting on the toned Mi-teintes paper. I am enjoying the process and the results so much that I am thinking of doing a series starting with some of my favorite subjects...owls! I am making these available for purchase through my Daily Paintworks online gallery via an auction format. I have been doing other birds as well, but the owls seem to be a favorite of many people besides myself so I'm starting the auctions with first this barred owl and then a barn owl. You can view the auction or make a bid here

I got to view this owl this winter when a friend called to say he had located one roosting in a bare tree along the river. The bird was very approachable and unconcerned by the three bird watchers below it snapping photos. At one point it blinked slowly, closed it's eyes and yawned! I took several reference photos, thanked the bird kindly for being so cooperative and then let it have it's nap for the day.

Barred owls are one of the few owl species with dark eyes. They are similar in looks to the endangered spotted owl and their range and habitat overlaps as the barred owls territory expands. It has been discovered that the two species hybridize and the spotted owl may be declining due in part to this and being killed by the barred owl. 

I currently have four bird sketches up for auction, with another one starting in a few days. Keep watching here or visit my Daily Paintworks gallery.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Patience and Playing

Work in progress-white throated sparrow
The days are getting longer and the weather is getting least in my part of the country! We've just turned the calendar to March, can spring be far behind?

While I try to have patience for better weather so I can join my husband in his little trailer without being locked inside with the windows covered to stay warm, I have been amusing myself with doing quick bird studies on toned paper. I have done this technique before (see this post) and liked the results so I decided to try a few more.
White-throated sparrow (5" x 7" watercolor and gouache on Mi-teintes paper)
I found this little sparrow scratching in the leaf litter under some blackberry brambles. At my approach he promptly disappeared into the tangle of vines, but after I made some "pishing" noises he popped out and posed long enough to snap a few reference photos. I decided that painting him on green toned paper made me think of spring and new adventures!