Thursday, June 28, 2018

Spring is Alright

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


Original Oil on Panel, 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

Original Oil on Panel, 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

Original Oil on Panel, 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 <>