Friday, May 25, 2018

Winter Redpoll

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

The day before more than a foot of snow fell on April 15th, a flock of Redpolls visited my feeder. These soft, fluffy birds congregate in the dozens and sometimes hundreds, when visiting. Alongside the Common Redpolls was a lovely Hoary Redpoll, perhaps a painting for a later date. Just a week later, 30-50 Dark-eyed Juncos flew in and stayed for a few days. Redpolls, which dip down into the northern United States from Canada in the wintertime, are lovely little birds whose presence I don't take for granted, especially because if I lived in the south, I'd never see them.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ivory

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This is the rarest bird I’ve seen, an Ivory Gull. It’s a migratory bird that lives in the Arctic and breeds only in the Arctic Atlantic sector. The American Birding Association (ABA) considers it a Code 3 bird, which means it’s a rare bird in my neck of the woods. Specifically, Code 3 birds occur in very low numbers, but annually, in an area essentially encompassing North America north of Mexico. The ABA’s classification system ranges from Codes 1-6, with the latter indicating birds which cannot be found, are extinct, or are found only in captivity.

The bird paintings I’ve done, except for this one, have been either Code 1 or Code 2 birds, i.e. fairly common. To put Code 3 birds in perspective, birders in the midst of their big year, trying to find the most species of birds in a certain geographical area will, in all likelihood, immediately stop whatever they’re doing, hop on a plane, or drive many hours, to add a Code 3 bird to their year’s list. Extremely passionate birders will do the same, because rare really means rare.

Luck was responsible for my sighting. This bird visited Duluth, MN, early January 2016. News had gotten out of its presence in Canal Park, flying amongst other gulls, along Lake Superior’s shoreline. There were plenty of bird enthusiasts around, making the bird easy to spot simply by watching where the photographers were aiming their lenses. Unfortunately, this bird was found dead days later, and the cause of death remains a mystery.

A year later, another Ivory Gull was spotted March 9, 2017, in Flint, MI. It, too, allowed birders a rare opportunity to see it, but also died within days. Unlike Duluth’s Ivory Gull, this one was sufficiently intact for necropsy results to be performed by the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. “The final diagnoses were: West Nile Virus; Renal Tubular Degeneration; Renal Tubular Mineralization; Pulmonary Congestion, Pulmonary Edema, and Malnutrition (Reported),” (Petoskey Audubon, 2017).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Ivory Gull as near threatened. Its current population trend is decreasing with possible reasons being “climate change, pollution, and increasing human intrusion or hunting within breeding areas” (IUCN, 2018).

I may never see another Code 3 bird again. It takes one to be observant in the first place to simply recognize these rare birds within our midst, so I’m grateful to the person who first saw the Ivory Gull in Duluth, and told others, whomever that was. So, keep your eyes and ears open. There may be a Code 3 bird near you. 





References
American Birding Association. n.d. Checklist Codes. Retrieved from http://listing.aba.org/checklist-codes/

Petoskey Audubon [Washtenaw Audubon]. (2017, August 29). Update on Ivory Gull. [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/PetoskeyAudubon/posts/1822446937783282

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. Retrieved May 17, 2018 from https://www.iucnredlist.org



Friday, May 11, 2018

Fryderyk II

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This is the second painting I've done of this bird, a Ruddy Turnstone. The first one was completed in 2013. Both paintings were chosen because I felt this bird had swagger. There are birds that I have marked for paintings that go back years, some of which I will never get to before I die.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Little Big Show Opens Friday!

"Resting Willet at Algiers" - Original Oil



2018 Little Big Show
405 NW 1st Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Opening Reception:
Friday, May 4, 4-7 pm
FREE AND OPEN TO ALL
Exhibition Dates: May 4 - 26, 2018
218-326-2697

Come to the show! My painting of a Western Willet will be in MacRostie's 11th Annual Miniatures Exhibition. This is my fourth year exhibiting in the show, and those that are familiar with my work know I love miniatures. I'm grateful for shows like this. All works are under one square foot in size. Don't miss out!

In addition to the Miniature Exhibition, several of my new works will be on display for the first time ever in the general gallery area of MacRostie. So if you browse, you'll see more of my work available throughout spring/summer. Please visit when you get a chance. Your support is welcome.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Marx

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This is Marx, a very friendly, albeit injured Snowy Egret from Cocoa Beach, Florida. 122 years ago, this species was almost wiped out because of the millinery feather trade. Hat production in London and New York relied on the slaughter of whole rookeries to collect prized white feathers from herons and egrets. When two socialite cousins from Massachusetts became outraged and began their own campaign to stop the trade, things began to change. Simply by encouraging their friends to stop wearing feathered hats, Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall created a movement strong enough to have lasting value, first with the Lacey Act in 1900 and later, with the more powerful Weeks-McLean Law in 1913. Consequently, the plume trade collapsed when it became illegal to kill migratory birds outside of regulations.



Friday, April 6, 2018

Laughing Gull on Wood Piling

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This is an oil painting of a breeding, adult Laughing Gull. These birds are found in large groups along shorelines in the United States, mainly along the southern and eastern coasts. Appropriately named, they sound like they’re laughing when they call. Since I don’t live in close proximity to these birds, I never tire of their constant clamor when I’m around them, but I can understand those that might. This particular gull was grouped with dozens of other Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Western Willets, and Royal Terns along a stretch of wood pilings, remnants of a dilapidated dock possibly destroyed by hurricane Nate last October. Taking a break from the flock for a little while, this gull took some time to rest on a piling near me. The plumage on this bird indicates it’s at least three years old, because first and second year Laughing Gulls lack the black head and reddish beak. In fact, all North American gulls take 2-4 years to establish adult plumage. Young Laughing Gulls could easily be characterized as simply gulls without one paying close attention to subtle differences in markings between species. In North America alone, there are around 30 species of gulls, making gull identification challenging, especially before their plumage reaches maturity.



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

September Blue Jay

Oil - 5 x 7 inches

Two years ago, a small flock of Blue Jays descended upon my feeders in September. Family units of Blue Jays often begin migrating at this time, and although I’ve never seen Blue Jays stay all winter here at my current home, I saw one overwinter at my former home around eight miles east, closer to Lake Superior. A few degrees of warmer temperatures along the lake can mean survival, even in Duluth’s harshest winters. This particular Blue Jay was most likely a youngster, watching its elders and learning. What it seemed to be contemplating was how to execute a fifteen-foot vertical drop from a small pine limb to a hopper feeder below.


Friday, February 23, 2018

Six Days Before the Tempest

Oil - 30 x 15 inches

This female, red-winged blackbird may appear insidious, but she is anything but. Capturing her expression and pose was made possible thanks to the invention of Dr. Harold Edgerton. Also known as Papa Flash, he pioneered what is commonly known today as fast shutter speeds in photography. Granted, I have seen birds with this expression many times without the use of a camera. In fact, quite a few birds look mean naturally. The Bald Eagle immediately comes to mind. However, the array of photographs taken both before and after she held this pose revealed a strikingly beautiful, and curious blackbird, in perfectly fluffy plumage. The decision to paint this particular pose was deliberate because it spoke loudest to me. 

Coincidentally, as I was finishing this work, Duluth received hoarfrost in late January, revealing all of those spider webs normally invisible underneath the eaves of my home. And even though the original reference photograph for this painting showed a mangled, almost unrecognizable web in approximately the same spot as the one in the painting, I didn't plan on including it until that early morning in January. One never knows what inspiration awaits outside of the front door. The late addition of a more discernible web seemed the proper complement to the painting as a whole. As for the spider itself? Well, that lies in your imagination :) 



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

"Apples for June" Wins Honorable Mention

Oil on Belgian Linen - 24 x 30 inches

Winning its third award, “Apples for June” took Honorable Mention at Wolf River Art League’s Mid-winter Art Show in New London at Crystal Falls Banquet Hall this past weekend. This Gray Catbird is getting around and tweeting up a storm, in a good way. Crystal Falls hosted the event this year, a new venue for the art league. A big thank you to all who attended the show in support of the arts!


Friday, January 5, 2018

Slā

Oil - 4 x 4 inches


Juncos used to be known as Snowbirds, something I never knew until today. In the 1936 book, Birds of America, the author writes the following:

The scientists have taken hold of our friend the Common Snowbird and done so many things to him that ordinary bird observers and the scientists themselves are quite distracted. First they are disputing over the various races of Snowbirds, not sure just how many different species and varieties to list. They have agreed upon the scientific name “Junco” for the whole group or genus and imposed that Latin name upon the English-speaking world as the common name in place of Snowbird. Maybe the children of the newer generation will look out of the windows on a Christmas morning and say “Oh, see the Juncos !” but the charm of the word “Snowbird” seems to be more worth while in childhood and in poetry at least. Bird students are taking very kindly to the new name but no one seems to know how it started and what it means. Coues says that it is derived from the Latin juncus meaning a seed. It was after 1830 that the word “Junco” was first brought into scientific use.

"Coues" presumably refers to Elliott Coues, an American ornithologist, 1842-1899.


Pearson, T. Gilbert. Birds of America. Garden City Publishing Co. Inc., Garden City, New York, 1936. Print.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Still time to see "Birds!"

NEW! "Novem" Oil - 4 x 4 inches

American Robins stick around fairly late into the fall and winter and I always wonder when they're going to head south. This year, we had an early snowstorm in October that brought over 10 inches, but down by Lake Superior just a stone's throw away, they got a lot less snow from the same system. So, this year's robins had places nearby to search for food that wasn't covered by all that snow. And of course, trees that are beneficial to wildlife give these birds sustenance before their migration to warmer climates. Some robins stick around all winter, but I haven't seen that at my home. I'm always looking for native plants that are beneficial to wildlife, especially birds, so any native tree or shrub with berries is a hit with me. Areas of my yard that are left to grow wild bring me so much more joy and entertainment than a well-manicured one, so every year mowed areas become fewer and fewer as natives start taking over. I try to help nature with new plantings every year.

In other news, thank you to all who attended the opening of Birds! now showing at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN. What a wonderful turnout, thank you, thank you, thank you! I met so many wonderful people! I liked answering questions during the Gallery Talk segment, which I found a lot easier to do than just talk about myself. That's hard for me. If you haven't seen the show, there's still time. It runs through December, so check your calendar and the weather and make the trip, if you can. I haven't shown my work on such a grand scale since 2011, so I am thankful to MacRostie for the opportunity, including First National Bank of Coleraine (Minnesota Gallery sponsor) and Edward Jones (Marketplace sponsor). A very special thank you to my Mom for making the long trip this week. Herbie, what a good friend and driver you are!

Below are recent sales from Birds! There is no better word that I can think of other than bittersweet in regards to sales. I want my bird paintings to go to good homes, if they aren't in mine. I've been with some for many years. My paintings are my home. 

Happy holidays everyone.




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Birds! opens Friday


Birds! opens this Friday at MacRostie, and is showing throughout the month of December. If you're interested in seeing my work in person, then this show is for you! I don't show my work very often, so if you've been waiting for an up-close-and-personal look at my bird paintings, please consider a visit to MacRostie.


Birds!
Dec. 1 - Dec. 30
405 Northwest 1st Avenue
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
218-326-2697
Opening Reception Friday, Dec. 1, 4-7 pm
Regular Hours M-Sat 10 am - 5 pm
Closed Sundays
Free admission





Friday, November 17, 2017

Pine Grosbeak in Northern White Cedar

 Oil - 20 x 20 inches

Pine Grosbeaks have shown up already this winter and are busy eating crabapples from the tree in my front yard. Just feet away is a Northern White Cedar that hugs my garage. It provides a little more protection for these cold-weather birds. This female grosbeak was seen on January 10, 2016 in that tree, a frigid day when the high was zero degrees Fahrenheit.

This painting took months, and the detail turned out to be more than I bargained for. I’ve said this before, that when I start a painting, I really don’t know how involved it’s going to be. Of course, I have some idea, but it’s not really until the first application of paint that tells me where it’s going. That’s just me, I guess. Less detail would have taken this painting less time, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been happy with it.

Painting foliage is tricky. Part of me likes the challenge of figuring out how it all comes together, the other part drives me mad.

I had never seen a Pine Grosbeak until I moved to Duluth. Now, they seem as common in winter as Robins in spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bowman's Willet

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

Here's a Western Willet from the shores of Sanibel Island, FL. These large shorbirds are somewhat accustomed to humans and will simply walk, or quickstep, around you if you're in their way of hunting for food. All birds have their own characteristics, and as far as this one goes, I like its low-keyed nature.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Palm Warbler on the Skunk Cabbage Trail

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

This past summer, I've spent a significant amount of time working on a larger piece which will be posted soon. In the meantime, I'll catch you up on some smaller works that have been drying in my drawer for a couple of months now.  

I almost named this painting Hot Potato, except that would’ve been more of a reflection of my experience shortly after I saw this Palm Warbler at Banning State Park in Minnesota. It was May of this year, and even though it was a pretty nice day to go for a walk in the park, the ground was very wet in many areas, especially on the Skunk Cabbage Trail. Birding was a bit disappointing overall. I expected to see a lot more than just this warbler and a couple of robins, but that’s how it goes sometimes. After catching glimpses of this bird bathing in a puddle in the woods, it flew to a branch to preen. With disheveled feathers, it had a lot of work to do. But I didn’t stay long on the trail at all because I soon discovered a deer tick on my pants. After removing it, I hightailed it back to the paved road as if the trail were on fire, zigzagging through muddy puddles, fallen logs, and patches of grass as fast as I could. My feet were like hot potatoes trying to keep those nasty arachnids away from me! When it comes to those critters, I'm a wimp.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Now Showing at 2017 'Birds in Art'


A highlight in any artist's career, this was my inaugural year to have a painting accepted into this prestigious, internationally renowned "bird art" exhibition. Blackbird on Washington Island is one of 94 works of bird art selected from over 800 entries to be included in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's 42nd annual Birds in Art exhibition. The show runs September 9 through November 26, 2017.   lywam.org

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Now Showing at the MN State Fair


NOW SHOWING AT THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR
Fine Arts Building
August 24-Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2017
Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul, MN
1442 Cosgrove St. inside the State Fairgrounds
Free Admission with your paid admission ticket to the State Fair 


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Blackmoon

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

I’m quite taken by the toughness and tenacity of the male, Red-winged Blackbird. Have you seen this bird's aerial karate when chasing away predators like hawks or eagles five times its size? Perhaps you’ve gotten dive-bombed by one protecting its nesting territory. If an expression about humans could apply to this bird, it would be “Good men are plenty, but strong men are few.”


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Good Times at the Bistro

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Here is a little painting of a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. These birds come through my neck of the woods in the spring and fall, and this spring they seemed to hang around a little longer than usual, around 2-3 weeks.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Popsicles and Lolly Pops

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Last year’s garden gave me quite a few opportunities to watch hummingbirds feed from something other than my store-bought feeder. They visited my zinnias and sunflowers the most, and of course, my oregano. Near the front of my home, a female in my honeysuckle vine attracted a male’s U-shaped swoops, his mating behavior. I didn’t know this at the time, but it was thrilling to see.