|Snapping Turtle, Barkers Island, Superior, WI. Photo 9/11/2020.|
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021
It's interesting to watch where Ruby-throated Hummingbirds seek out nectar besides my feeders. One thing is for certain, they really love Monarda. This particular variety with showy red petals is called Cambridge Scarlet. In August of 2020, as our summer season was nearing its end, the petals took on some fun shapes and added to the beauty of this hummingbird – as if hummingbirds could get any more beautiful. Also called bee balm, this plant has been a reliable source of natural food for hummingbirds in my yard besides honeysuckle vine, jewelweed, and more.
Monday, April 5, 2021
“The Connecticut Warbler is a strange rare bird ; a walker instead of a hopping bird ; a bird that is hard to find even when it is in the neighborhood ; a bird which comes north by one route and returns by another, and is almost lost to the world in both breeding and winter feeding seasons.”1
Information from the All About Birds website, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Connecticut_Warbler/maps-range, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
Information from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website, https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/peatlands.html, © 2021 Minnesota DNR. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
Kaufman, Kenn. n.d. Connecticut Warbler. Audubon. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/connecticut-warbler. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
National Geographic Society. (1999) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. (3rd ed.). Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society.
1Pearson, T. Gilbert. Birds of America. Garden City Publishing Co. Inc., New York. 1936.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Friday, March 5, 2021
|Female Pileated Woodpecker in her nest. |
Photo taken May 20, 2018, at my home in Duluth, MN.
|A gray squirrel occupying the same nest on July 10, 2018.|
Krajick, Kevin. "Defending Deadwood." Science, vol. 293, no. 5535, 2001, pp. 1579-1581. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3084585. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Here I have painted a Clay-colored Sparrow sitting atop an old log at Carlos State Park in western Minnesota. These birds come through my neck of the woods in Duluth also, and I love their buzzy calls. For a bird, their sound is unusual and reminds me of a bird coming down with laryngitis trying its hardest to sing like the rest. It's what makes this bird so adorable in my opinion, because it's just not like the others.
These birds breed in the upper midwestern states into Canada, migrating from Central America and Texas. While I was observing this bird, I noticed a gopher nearby keeping its eye on things from the security of a wood pile. Below is my photo of that gopher, an animal that is also the University of Minnesota's mascot.
|A gopher in a wood pile near the Clay-colored Sparrow|
Friday, February 12, 2021
|12/14/19 7:08 am, a terrible photo but this is my |
first predawn photo of the owl sitting on the banister
after losing the rabbit
|12/14/19 7:13 am, owl on utility wires after giving up on finding the rabbit|
|12/14/19 early afternoon, showing bloody breast feathers|
|12/14/19 tuft of rabbit fur found near porch|
|1/8/2020 The suspected 'lucky' rabbit with a limp. |
Possible puncture scar on cheek nearer the nose.
Monday, January 25, 2021
Butcher, Sterry. "The Art of Racing Pigeons." Texas Monthly, January 2020, www.texasmonthly.com/being-texan/texas-homing-pigeons-fly-home/. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
Capoccia, Stella., Boyle, Callie., and Darnell, Tedd. "Loved or loathed, feral pigeons as subjects in ecological and social research." Journal of Urban Ecology, 2018, 1-6. doi: 10.1093/jue/juy024, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.
"Cockfighting." aspca.org/animal-cruelty/other-animal-issues/cockfighting. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
"Greyhound Racing FAQ." www.humanesociety.org/resources/greyhound-racing-faq. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
Griffin, Jonathan. "Cockfighting Laws" Vol. 22, No. 1, January 2014, www.ncsl.org/research/agriculture-and-rural-development/cockfighting-laws.aspx#:~:text=Cockfighting%20is%20illegal%20in%20all,2007%2C%20is%20the%20most%20recent.&text=Although%20all%20states%20ban%20cockfighting,cockfighting%20and%20attending%20cockfighting%20events. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
Mehlhorn J, Rehkaemper G (2016) "The Influence of Social Parameters on the Homing Behavior of Pigeons." PloS ONE 11(11): e0166572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166572. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
Soniak, Matt. Nov. 14, 2016. "The Origins of Our Misguided Hatred for Pigeons." audubon.org/news/the-origins-our-misguided-hatred-pigeons. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.
Friday, January 8, 2021
Free and open to all
25% capacity limit due to Covid-19 restrictions
Thank you for understanding
Showing "Mirador" and "Barred Encounter in Minnesota's Northland"
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Society of Washington, D.C.
87th Annual International Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020
|NEW! "Waiting for Raspberry" Original Oil, 4 x 4 inches|
|"Raspberry" Original Oil, 4 x 4 inches|
My newest miniature painting of a female, or juvenile, Purple Finch is shown here, above the colorful male I painted a few years ago. Because juveniles look similar to females, I can't specify with certainty the sex of this bird. One thing is certain however, it is not an adult male. Adult males, like the one depicted above, are colorful. They are the shade of ripe red raspberries, but definitely not purple. I am posting both of these paintings because the following paragraphs refer to the nomenclature of the Purple Finch.
In my attempt to understand why the Purple Finch is called such a name without having a shred of purple in its feathers, initially my research took me back to the beginning of time when purple was first discovered. But for the purpose of my investigation, going back that far wasn’t necessary since I couldn't find any documentation referencing both the origins of the Purple Finch’s namesake and the color purple until the 1700s.
On its own, purple has a long and storied history. Think of the cave drawings of the ancient world. That’s how far back the color purple has been used. Purple textiles were expensive, difficult to obtain, and laborious to produce, which is why they were associated with royalty and worn by the rulers of the world. The greatest Dons of Spain and the noblest of Romans wore purple garments as status symbols to indicate their high rank and leadership positions.
Without needing to dig that deep into purple’s past, my findings regarding why the Purple Finch was called such a name went back around 300 years. Studying the color purple around the time the Purple Finch was recognized in literature seemed to be the key. In other words, detecting early mentions of the Purple Finch in journals or scientific publications and connecting that time in history with the color purple became the focus of my research. My goal was to gain an understanding, and perhaps reach some sort of loose conclusion, as to how the Purple Finch got its name.
For some, it might be ample to dissect the Latin version of Purple Finch, which is Haemorhous purpureus. Haemo means “blood” in Greek, purpureus means “purple, or dark red” in Latin. Piteously teasing a rudimentary outcome, this translation provided little satisfaction and was hardly conclusive as to why this bird got its name. Why wasn’t it called the Dark Red Finch, or crimson, old-rose, scarlet, or raspberry? All of those colors have been used to describe the male’s feathers, one of three finches in North America that are undisputedly reddish. The others being the male House Finch and male Cassin’s Finch.
Although I was unable to positively identify who discovered or named this bird, its namesake is associated with the German malacologist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789. During Gmelin’s lifetime, the seat of the purple industry where such colorful textiles were produced was Nicoya, Costa Rica; and it was there where a specific color named Tyrian purple was manufactured and used to dye clothing.
So what is Tyrian purple and how is it different than the purple we are accustomed to today? Tyrian purple is actually a crimson color and was derived from certain rock snails, specifically the murexes. Another shellfish from the same family of seashells called dog whelk can be located throughout the rocky shores of Europe and the northwest Atlantic coast of North America. Both shellfish have the ability to render variants of purples and reds from their mucus. Tyrian purple is most closely associated with the murex genus of mollusks.
As mentioned earlier, the color purple, including Tyrian purple, can be traced back to ancient times. Its use has spanned centuries from early cave drawings BCE to the 1800s. One can assume it was discovered by accident, as most things are. Perhaps a person curiously disassembled, or tasted, a few snails on the seashore, inadvertently splashed a bit of snail onto his clothing, and later noticed his clothing was splotched with various hues of red.
Or, perhaps in more recent times, it was rediscovered by a dog.
In a 1636 painting by Peter Paul Rubens titled Hercules’s Dog Discovers Purple Dye, the artist depicts Hercules on a beach with a dog. Lying on the shore are various types of shellfish. The dog, standing next to Hercules with its paw resting atop one of the mollusks, is featured with a red substance dripping from its mouth. One can assume the dog made contact with the snail. Had the painting’s title been different or unknown, a viewer might have thought the dog’s mouth was covered in blood; but based on the title of the work, the dog’s mouth is covered in Tyrian purple. Taking a closer look at the painting, the artist’s and/or commissioner’s choice of snail is a bit odd. Instead of painting a spiny murex, the snail associated with Tyrian purple, Rubens portrayed a snail whose shape is more indicative of a nautilus. Nautilus snails do not contain mucus with the ability to dye clothing purple.
Hercules's Dog Discovers Purple Dye by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636
Generally speaking, dyeing textiles Tyrian purple is a thing of the past, although there may be some current production by certain peoples in respect of tradition. For all intents and purposes, the industry has disappeared. In the following paragraphs, I will refer to the purple industry in the past tense.
Several methods were used to obtain the purple-yielding mucus from the snails. The ancient and primitive method was to excessively squeeze each gastropod until fluid emerged from their posterior resulting in the snails’ death. Not only was this highly destructive, the dye wasn’t as pure as later methods would prove. Great heaps of murex shells have been found on the coast of Crete, Greece and in Sidon, Lebanon.
Another method involved boiling large quantities of snails in vats. An undesirable side effect of this process was that it yielded fishy-smelling clothing. As a consequence, Roman emperors used perfumes extravagantly to mask the odors of their noble garments. In time, the industry became unsustainable. When a Roman emperor forgave all taxes to those who labored in collecting murexes, the mollusks were most likely in decline, or near extermination.
The third method was used by the Nicoya Indians in Costa Rica as late as the mid 1700s, the century that intersected with the life of Johann Friedrich Gmelin, the person associated with the Purple Finch’s name. It involved squeezing the gastropods once, occasionally twice, before returning them back to the oceanic rocks from which they came. This more conservative method was likely formed from centuries of experience. Even still, great quantities of shellfish were being used just to dye a few ounces of thread, one aspect that had never changed.
The final method closely related to, if not interchangeable with the third, was also utilized by the people of Nicoya. Using cotton as their primary textile, they simply ran the thread across the mouths of the shells. With experience came knowledge and those who worked in the industry became experts at their craft, recognizing differences in Tyrian purple hues based upon the hour in which the materials were dyed. In all likelihood, there was an art to obtaining consistent results.
While it’s possible, and dare I say likely, that Johann Friedrich Gmelin was referring to Tyrian Purple when describing the Purple Finch, I am wholly bound by the inconclusiveness of my research. To assume, and in brevity know, what Gmelin was thinking at that time is preposterous. However, given that one of his many titles was that of a malacologist (the study of mollusks), along with the history of Tyrian purple and time frame therein whereby its production in Costa Rica overlapped Gmelin’s lifespan, there is evidence to infer Tyrian purple, also known as crimson, was the reddish color attributed to this bird’s name.
Just in case you’re wondering, purple is created in laboratories and produced synthetically these days.
In other news, as August comes to a close, signs of fall are widely present. The Purple Finches, which numbered around a dozen at my feeders recently, are slowly dwindling in numbers and heading south. Northern Flickers are calling and so are Blue Jays, except while spearing nourishment from apples in trees. Black bears, groundhogs and white-tailed deer are all benefiting from this fruit as well. I have never seen a single apple left on the ground to rot here at my home.
Most birds, including neck-straining warblers and everyone’s favorite, the hummingbirds, are migrating. Sparrows are especially abundant and noticeable. Common nighthawks were numerous over a marshy field close to my home on August 23rd; and just like the barn swallows that I love so dearly, these birds fly similarly by zig-zagging back and forth, nabbing bugs mid-flight. They are mesmerizing to watch. Belted Kingfishers came through on the 11th and 18th, and a pair of house wrens raised their presumed second brood of the season nearby. Fledging occurred on August 15th from a rather unusual home: an industrial black sleeve attached to cable wiring that overhangs the ditch in front of my house.
In the woods, one of my favorite plants, the red baneberry, is holding onto its dark red fruit in shadier locations, but those closer to the forest’s edge reveal berries that have shriveled up like raisins. Asters are blossoming in pretty whites and pale violets. Goldenrod is tall and striking in masses, covered with hundreds of buzzing bees. In particular areas of my yard, there are robust patches of it, strong and tall, proving that my efforts to eradicate common tansy are paying off. Bringing back native ‘weeds,’ as some like to call them, is truly a labor of love unfit for those who prefer, and understandably so, not to have their faces buried in tall grasses, ferns, thorny thistles, asters, and ivies just to accomplish what is surely a daunting task. If my chore coat, boots, gloves, and hat weren’t all doing their jobs, I’d be covered head to toe in pricks, pokes, scratches and rashes, not to mention laden with a sour mood.
With the arrival of fall and the changes the season has to offer, I hope you are all doing well. And if you haven’t driven your car in a while (in my case due to the pandemic), this is just a friendly reminder that it’s spider season. You may want to check for webs and dangling spiders inside of your vehicle before heading out, especially near the front window or steering wheel. A yellowish, translucent, hanging arachnid wasn’t a particularly calming sight when I noticed it ten inches from my face, ready to drop from its thread onto my lap while driving to the post office today. Next time, I’ll heed my own advice before potentially causing an accident. One would think I’d be used to close encounters with creepy crawlies given the number of hours I spend in the woods, but I expect to see them in the woods, not hanging from my car’s windshield. For me, today’s brush with this eight-legger reminded me just how permeable our world is to nature; and in these trying times, I found comfort in that despite this spider’s unwelcome appearance.
Byzantium (color). December 27, 2019. Byzantium (color).Wikipedia.
Hercules’s Dog Discovers Purple Dye. June 5, 2020. Hercules’s Dog Discovers Purple Dye.Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules%27s_Dog_Discovers_Purple_Dye
Johann Friedrich Gmelin. February 20, 2020. Johann Friedrich Gmelin.Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Friedrich_Gmelin
Kaufman, Kenn. n.d. Purple Finch.Audubon. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/purple-finch
Mahoney, Kevin D., et al. n.d. Latin definition for: purpureus, purpurea, purpureum.Latdict Group. https://latin-dictionary.net/definition/32351/purpureus-purpurea-purpureum
Meaning of purple in English. n.d. Lexico. https://www.lexico.com/definition/purple
Nicoya. April 18, 2020. Nicoya. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicoya
Nuttall, Zelia. “A Curious Survival in Mexico of the Use of the Purpura Shell-Fish for Dyeing.” Putnam anniversary volume; anthropological essays presented to Frederic Ward Putnam in honor of his seventieth birthday, April 16, 1909, by his friends and associates.G.E. Stechert & Co., NY. 1909. 368-384.
Purple. August 31, 2020. Purple. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple#In_prehistory_and_the_ancient_world:_Tyrian_purple
Purple finch. April 24, 2020. Purple finch.Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_finch#:~:text=The%20purple%20finch%20was%20originally,purpureus%20and%20H
Schultz, Colin. (2013, October 10) In Ancient Rome, Purple Dye Was Made from Snails. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/in-ancient-rome-purple-dye-was-made-from-snails-1239931/
Trotter, S. (1912). “The Names “Purple Finch,” “Mavis,” and “Highole.”” The Auk, 29(2), 255-256. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4071400
Tyrian purple. August 2, 2020. Tyrian purple.Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple#Modern_hue_rendering
Waldert, Peter. n.d. Purpureus/purpurea/purpureum, AO.Latin is Simple. https://www.latin-is-simple.com/en/vocabulary/adjective/7222/
Friday, August 14, 2020
Monday, August 3, 2020
Monday, July 20, 2020
Here’s a reason to avoid using pesticides. Last October, my porch petunias were covered with tiny white bugs known as aphids. This Nashville Warbler was feasting upon them, probably the very insects helping to aid its journey southward for the winter. I didn’t mind that my petunias looked worn out and sick from the infestation because it was late in the season. The first frost was just around the corner. A dignified gardener, of which I am not, may have been squeamish, but this bird was having a ball. And in case you haven’t figured it out, I like to keep things a little wild around my home. It’s the first time I’d seen such enthusiasm for this pest. Who knew a Nashville Warbler would devour aphids like a Hoover? But it makes total sense because its diet consists almost exclusively of insects.
This particular warbler seemed playful, even jubilant, for the bug-eating bonanza my flowers provided as it hopped in and out of my planters. It stuck around for a couple of days, a good indicator of just how many aphids were on my petunias. There were so many, I could’ve frosted a cake with them. (ewww…. just a little humor there ;))
The warmth of the evening’s sun and a backdrop of dark-stained wooden planks brought out the warm yellow and orange tones in this bird’s feathers. Under a gray sky, they would’ve appeared a bit more olive-green.
Thanks for visiting everyone! I hope you are enjoying the birds in your neck of the woods.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
The word that comes up over and over in bird books that describes the male Blackburnian Warbler’s striking good looks is fiery. It’s an appropriate description. When you spot one, its identification is unmistakable and always fiery, especially against the forest’s greenery.
My first sighting of a Blackburnian Warbler was in Lion’s Den Gorge in Grafton, WI. It was springtime and the park was teeming with migrants, and it just so happened that I photographed both the male and female Blackburnian Warblers in the trees during a morning hike. At the time, I wasn’t experienced enough to recognize the female, but later a friend’s birding book provided me with its identification. Seeing both the male and female species of one particular warbler on the same outing isn’t all that common for me. I usually see the males, most of which are easier to identify due to a lot of them having bolder colors and singing more frequently than the females.
This painting depicts my second sighting of a male Blackburnian. Located in Scenic State Park near Bigfork, Minnesota, author Robert B. Janssen describes this park in his book Birds of Minnesota State Parks with the following sentence which summed up my experience as well. “June birding is a real treat at Scenic State Park when these boreal species are at the height of their song period during the breeding season.”
Upon my arrival, the sheer number of birds that could be heard from the parking lot alone was noticeable and lovely; and after just a few minutes of walking, this Blackburnian flew across the walking path in front of me not far from the main lodge. It stopped to sing about 20 feet up on a branch in the dense canopy of shade. It was the first time I’d heard its song. A gentleman asked me what I was looking at. I replied with little confidence, “I think it’s a Blackburnian Warbler.” Later, after verifying what I thought I knew, I breathed a sigh of relief. A few moments later, a young woman walked towards me with a large dog. She apologized for interrupting whatever I was looking at. Oh, heavens no, I thought. I wasn’t feeling interrupted at all, and made sure I told her so. I never expect anyone to stop what they’re doing on account of me staring at a bird, especially in a state park. Besides, the patience and habits of a birder can sometimes elicit a non-birder’s eye-roll. I’m aware of that and don’t expect much more, so I appreciated this woman’s unexpected kindness.
As I walked further along the trail, bird activity seemed to decrease. The deeper into the woods I walked, the quieter it got; the Fire Tower Trail was especially quiet. Approaching Pine Lake, sightings were scarce at best, but I was glad to have explored just for the sake of knowledge and experience.
Blackburnians are a medium to long-distance migrant, traveling from their wintering grounds in South America to the northern reaches of the eastern United States and into the southern provinces of Canada to breed. They are rare in the western half of the United States.
If you’re looking for a reason to love this bird for more than just its good looks and migratory prowess, consider its role on the coffee bean farms in Central America. In the environmentally friendly, shade-grown farms of Costa Rica’s Central Valley, the Blackburnian Warbler is known as an insect-eating wizard, one of a few birds helping to rid their crops of la broca, a coffee borer beetle. Just by eating insects, a study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Columbia University found that a single bird can save from 23 to 65 pounds of coffee per hectare on a farm every year. So, if you’re thinking about upgrading your morning joe, consider purchasing coffees that display the Bird Friendly Smithsonian certification mark. These 100% organic coffee beans come from growers that have met strict criteria in regards to shade-grown, plant diversity, and more.
For more information on bird-friendly coffee, click here.
Axelson, Gustave. "Coffee Made in the Shade Can Be More Profitable, Thanks to Birds." Living Bird, photographed by Jeffrey Arguedas, vol. 38, Issue 4, Autumn 2019, pp. 20-22.
Janssen, Robert B. Birds of Minnesota State Parks. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2015.
National Geographic Society. (1999) National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. (3rd ed.). Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society.
Friday, June 12, 2020
Saturday, May 9, 2020
On January 5 of last year, I noticed crows gathering and squawking outside of my kitchen window. I dropped everything and grabbed my winter coat, hat, gloves and camera and headed out the door. The temperature was in the 20s. For Duluth’s standards, that wasn’t too bad. Not far into the woods, I came upon this Barred Owl sitting on a branch about fifteen feet high. Over the next several moments, after the crows left and the Chickadees quieted, it was just me and the owl. The snow depth was around 12-18 inches. Everything about this owl indicated to me that my presence wasn’t bothering it. How was I so sure? I’m never sure when it comes to wild animals, but its posture was relaxed and its demeanor calm. It simply wasn’t paying any attention to me, other than when it first turned its head after I said hello. As close as I was and with its back towards me, I felt it was the polite thing to do. That may sound strange to you, but I purposely and thoughtfully wanted to use my voice as another form of salutation in addition to my approach. I believe birds, as well as other animals, recognize calm, non-threatening human voices from those that are not.
I spent a long time with the owl in the woods, and soon it was time for me to go. Just when I was ready to head back to the house, the owl’s posture changed. It bobbed its head and stretched its neck. Its eyes were wider than wide. Then, it flew right in front of me and landed in the snow just to my left, around 20 feet away. It was hunting! I was astounded. During the time it took me to get a better view of the owl’s landing site, I wasn’t able to see whether or not it had captured its prey. If it had, it was most likely a vole, a common rodent around my home. After several moments in the snow, the owl flew high up into a spruce tree, tucked itself near the trunk, preened for a couple of minutes, then began to fall asleep. This is the story behind the painting, and I am very fortunate to have had this experience with a friendly Barred Owl.