Friday, September 21, 2018

Swainson's Hunt

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

A very good number of Olive-backed Swainson’s Thrushes have migrated through in the last two weeks, but now they've mostly moved on, replaced by the larger, more obvious Northern Flickers and Blue Jays pecking at the ground. Each September, when these thrushes come to visit, they hunt insects like crazy. I’ve noticed their behavior is similar to American Robins, another type of thrush, in how they hop through the grass, pause, tilt their heads, then nab their prey. Oftentimes, if a low branch is nearby, they’ll fly up to it for a few moments to get a better view, then fly down to catch what they’ve spied.

Swainson’s Thrushes are much less noticeable than Robins due to their smaller size and lackluster color, but they have the most beautiful songs in the world. Not alone in my opinion, I would describe their calls as being similar to a flutist playing notes inside of a hollow metal tube. I have often wondered how such lovely sounds can come from any living creature. Spring and summer are when their musical magic happens, usually deep in the woods. As much as I love their calls, I have never seen a Swainson’s Thrush sing in person, except in captivity while visiting Green Bay’s Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary a few years ago. If you’re hoping to hear a Swainson’s Thrush, you’ll probably have to wait until next spring if you live in my neck of the woods. Right now, they’re on their way to Central and South America for the winter. Now that’s quite a long migration route, wouldn’t you say?

Friday, September 14, 2018


Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

"How do you know that I don't have a soul
How can you look me in the eye and tell me no
A soul is a soul is a soul is a soul"

-Charlie Parr, From the album 'Dog'

Friday, September 7, 2018

May's Robin

Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 inches

Dear Robin, Will you please eat all of the black flies that bite me so in the springtime? Maybe they aren't as tasty as worms, but perhaps you could learn to like them even more than worms. After all, worms are slimy and squirm in your stomach. Doesn't that make you feel weird? I don't think biting flies would squirm after stabbing them with your beak. Try following them up with a clover chaser, there's a lot of that in my grass. Herbed Black Fly hors d'oeuvres, now doesn't that sound delicious?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Grackle with Asters

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Common Grackles usually display smooth glossy feathers, and in the right light, they'll appear iridescent. However, this particular Grackle had slightly fluffed out feathers drying from an all-day rainfall on July 1st. There were a lot of active drenched birds that day with unkempt feathers, many feeding their young. Asters and an orange sky added color to this painting, a juxtaposition to what was a dreary day but an interesting one nonetheless as far as bird watching was concerned.

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Oil, 4 x 4 inches

White-crowned Sparrows are migratory birds that pass through Minnesota on their way to Canada in the springtime, so their biannual visits are noticed and appreciated. Every year, they have been visitors underneath my feeders and sing their somewhat buzzy tunes from the pines. Slowly, their song is seeping into my memory, having learned it just a few years ago.

Last September, this particular bird came through with a juvenile, so I was able to get some good photographs of what was most likely its offspring. Young White-crowned Sparrows are browner overall, and have caramel head stripes versus the adults' bold black stripes. 

Personally, I’ve noticed these birds most often around the second week of May, right around tree planting time.

Monday, July 30, 2018

MacRostie's 26th Annual Juried Exhibition Opens Friday!

Oil on Linen, 20 x 20 inches

MacRostie's 26th Annual Juried Exhibition
MacRostie Art Center
405 NW 1st Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Exhibition Dates: Aug. 3 - Aug. 31, 2018

Come to the show! Off the easel and out into the world for the first time, my oil painting of a Pine Grosbeak will be showing in MacRostie's 26th Annual Juried Exhibition which opens Friday. The show is free and open to all, and is part of Grand Rapid's First Friday Art Walk from 4 - 7 pm. MacRostie Art Center will have food by Applebees, wine and other refreshments. Thirty-five artists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota were selected to participate in this year's event, which celebrates variety and rewards excellence among this group of regional artists. Thank you for supporting the arts!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Winter's Caper

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

April 15th brought just over a foot of snow to Duluth, and this White-breasted Nuthatch faced the first flakes from the storm as it came rolling in. Just as some people can’t imagine winters without ice skating, skiing, or hockey, I can’t imagine winters without these hardy visitors. Technically, it was spring, but now that I live up here in the northland, I’ve become accustomed to calendars with asterisks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Flowers for Chester

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

When Chester got back from flight school, he saw the flowers, but he wasn’t in the mood for condolences. And, as it turned out, he wouldn’t sing for months. This was typical of birds that returned from the academy, for it was there where they learned about Fermi's paradox, that it, in itself, wasn’t a myth. Sadly, it was true that two humans, not being able to see themselves as they really were, had a conversation about aliens and why they hadn’t visited Earth yet.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Marello's Willow

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Marello ate a katydid but it wasn’t on the menu, so he choked it up, but not before Charlie came back with a broken sunflower in her claw. It was too late. She saw it. Later that night, the giant willow came crashing down and landed at the base of the apple tree. All of Marello’s stargazes turned into sawdust. A few hours later, after the static let up, Marello begged for forgiveness. As it turns out, that wasn’t on the menu either. At least not yet.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Spring is Alright

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Conifer needles quiver when the White-throats sing and carry their tunes like sugar to my tongue. Spring is alright when these birds arrive. And now, on the backside of the solstice as birds fall silent when sleep is near, every now and then a White-throat pierces the air with one last song. Like frogs in the springtime, their tunes I’ll never tire.

Friday, June 15, 2018


Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Repeat, repeat
Going here, or there?
Staying here, staying here

If it bears repeating, it must be important?
True, true
For me, for me
Not you, not you

This spring, I was bamboozled by mistaking the Brown Thrasher’s song with that of a Gray Catbird’s. Worse things have happened. I’ve ridden my bicycle through red lights. Lots of them. What Gray Catbirds have to say once, a Brown Thrasher says twice. And its song is beautiful, but not twice as beautiful as a Catbird’s, nor fifty-percent that of a Mockingbird’s. All on its own, it’s just beautiful.

Por, Por
And favor
Keep singing
Conquer, conquer
Fallen, fallen
Sword, sword
Quiet, quiet
Ter, ter, 
Melting, melting
Jumble, jumbo
Wait, wait
Tumble, tumble
Better, better
Cello, jello
Por, por
Ible, ible
Not here, not here
Handi-, handi-
Coo, coo
Tippy, tippy
Cap, cap
It’s her, it’s

And flew the Thrasher into the shrub.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Rimshottin' Bugs

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Finding bugs under leaves is what this Yellow-rumped Warbler was doing. In an area of my yard that has been left to grow wild, balsam poplar shoots are emerging all over the place, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s where this warbler was feasting. I find nature quite interesting when it comes to yard surprises, and I never used to be like this, you know? I never gave a darn about plants, but they’ve grown on me over the years. Chuckle. Yesterday’s surprise visit from a yard service company gave me a good laugh. My best guess as to why he stopped is because of our unkept ditch where weeds, shrubs and smaller trees have been left to grow. In a few years, I don’t think anyone will look at this area with consternation, or as a place to pitch lawn service.

Fifty five new native shrubs were added to our yard last month: dogwoods, ninebarks, and highbush cranberries. My favorite plant story of the year so far is about a once monster-sized elderberry that re-emerged from the brink of death after a contractor took it out last fall. All spring, I have been looking for signs of life, to no avail, until yesterday. Poking up from the ground are two small sprouts saying hello to air and sunshine. Yay.

A Red-eyed Vireo and an Eastern Phoebe are singing, blue skies are shining, and a distant wren chatters somewhere further out. I hope you enjoy this new painting.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Red-bellied at the Marsh

Oil, 4 x 4 inches

Three things stand out to me regarding Red-bellied Woodpeckers. The first is their call. It’s a familiar sound of my childhood. Now that I live just a bit north of their territory, I don’t see or hear them anymore unless I visit my mother in Wisconsin.

Secondly, even though Red-bellied Woodpeckers have red feathers on their abdomen, they are hardly visible. So, their given name of Red-bellied Woodpecker gives me reason to scoff. Normally, I’m a fan of bird names that aid in identification, but I prefer the bygone nickname of zebra bird.1 However, no one in their right mind would know what bird I’m talking about if I were to use that old-time alias.

Lastly, there was a fascinating study done recently by Eliot Miller, Cornell Lab of Ornithology postdoctoral associate, to see which birds are the most dominating at feeders. In other words, which birds are most likely to cause others to fly away upon their approach? I hesitate to use the word bully, but in a sense, it’s appropriate. The scientific term is called successful displacement. “Oh look dear, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has successfully displaced the Blue Jay.” I’m poking fun, of course.

Anyway, when it comes to the king of feeding stations, according to 7,653 observations by a group of volunteers, the Red-bellied Woodpecker outranks all of North America’s top 13 feeder species. So, which birds does the Red-bellied Woodpecker intimidate? You might be happy to know that two pesky birds, the European Starling and House Sparrow are among those commonly displaced. Others that cry uncle are the Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, and the White-breasted Nuthatch.2 To see a fun, interactive diagram, click here. Had the Red-headed Woodpecker been in the top mix of feeder species, the Red-bellied Woodpecker would’ve been the one to throw in the towel.3 


1. Pearson, T. Gilbert. Birds of America.Garden City. Garden City Publishing Company Inc., 1937, II160.
2. Haigh, Alison. “When 136 Bird Species Show Up At A Feeder, Which One Wins?” The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 1 June 2018 <>.
3. “Who is the toughest bird?” Project FeederWatch. 2017. E. T. Miller, D. N. Bonter, C. Eldermire, B. G. Freeman, E. I. Greig, L. J. Harmon, C. Lisle, W. M. Hochachka. 9 Oct. 2017. Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. 1 June 2018 <>

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


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. 


American Birding Association. n.d. Checklist Codes. Retrieved from

Petoskey Audubon [Washtenaw Audubon]. (2017, August 29). Update on Ivory Gull. [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. Retrieved May 17, 2018 from

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!

2018 Little Big Show
MacRostie Art Center
405 NW 1st Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Opening Reception:
Friday, May 4, 4-7 pm
Exhibition Dates: May 4 - 26, 2018

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


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, 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


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!

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.

Dec. 1 - Dec. 30
405 Northwest 1st Avenue
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
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.