Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Ray of Light

Back in December I took an evening stroll around the nieghborhood with my camera to photograph the winter scenery. About half a block up the road I was inspired by the way the light softly touched the snowbank above the road.
Right away I knew that I would incorporate this scene into a painting at some future time. I have so many reference photos and ideas just waiting for me to find the time, and energy for them..
This 8x10" Snowshoe Hare is really just a study for a larger painting that I will do one day. I'm sure that I will make many changes. For one thing I need to make more space to the right of the hare. I may change the hare into some grouse, or ptarmigan, or maybe a Red Fox. Who knows. It's good to let these ideas mature over time like waiting for a fruit to ripen.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Latest Projects

Sometimes my artistic momentum seems to grind to a halt. It has'nt been quite that bad with me so far this year, but it has taken awhile to get cranked up. The first painting I did after returning from Africa was this 11x14" rendering of a pair of Tufted Puffins on a typical coastal cliff face. Not too good, but the painting is much richer in tone and detail than the photo indicates.

I just finished this painting about an hour ago. The varnish is still drying. The colors in the photo are way off because it's too dark to photograph it in natural light. This is an 8x10" Coyote called, A Sea of Grass. I like it well enough.
These colors are more accurate, but still not quite right.
This is a re-working of an old 8x10". I dont think I improved the painting much, but once again the photo is weaker than the painting.  It will sell eventually because all my bear paintings sell. I'm working on another 8x10 right now that shows real promise of being something good. Look for it on this blog soon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Admiring Kingfishers

Here in Alaska, and in most of the United States, there is only one species of Kingfisher. The Belted Kingfisher is fairly large and impressive though not particularly colorful. Near the Mexican Border and to points south, there are two other species of Kingfisher, the small, Green Kingfisher, and the massive Ringed Kingfisher. Still further south there are 3 more kingfishers, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Green and Rufous Kingfisher, and Amazon Kingfisher. All of them look similar to Green Kingfishers. I have seen them all except for the Green and Rufous Kingfisher.
During my recent trip to South Africa, I was impressed by the 6 species of kingsfisher I saw there. Woodland, Brown-headed, Mangrove, Pied, Giant, and the brilliant Malachite Kingsfisher. There are many other species in Africa, and most are very colorful.
Asia is the place that really has some spectacular kingfishers. Too many to mention. One of the kinds of Kingfisher that I really hope to see one day is the Kookabura of Australia.
Alaska's Belted Kingfisher.
This is a Green Kingfisher that I photographed in San Blas, Mexico. The photo was originally a slide that was scanned into my computer. That's why it looks a little odd.
Another bad slide, this is the only photo I have of the biggest Kingfisher in the Americas, The Ringed Kingfisher. Somewhere I have a bad photo of the smallest kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, but I can't find it.
Like the last photo, this Amazon Kingfisher was photographed at Cano Negro, in Costa Rica.
Europe, like most of North America, has only one species of kingfisher, the Common Kingfisher. It is small like the Green Kingfisher, but much more colorful. This photo does'nt do the bird justice. It was photographed in Phang Nga, Thailand.
White-collared Kingfisher in Krabi, Thailand.
Here is a bad photo of a magnificent bird. Black-capped Kingfiher.
Another Black-capped Kingfisher in Krabi.
One of the largest Asian Kingfishers is the wonderful, Brown-winged Kingfisher. This one was also in the Mangrove Swamps in Krabi. I also got a few bad photos of White-throated Kingfishers, which are also very colorful, but I can't find them.
This is a digiscoped image that my friend Gary shot of a female Banded Kingfisher in Khao Yai N.P. Thailand.
This is my photo of the same bird. Banded Kingfishers are like Kookaburas, and the next species, in that they don't fish. They live in the forest, and eat small creatures, mostly insects. The male of this species is beyond description, but would not sit for a portrait.
There are a half dozen African kingfishers that look similar to this Woodland Kingfisher in Kruger N.P. If you look closely, you can see that this bird has been raiding spider webs. It has spider webs all over it's body.
Another view of a very cooperative bird.
At the far north of Ndumo Park in South Africa, this river seperates South Africa from Mozambique. These Pied Kingfishers were on the South Africa side. There was another pair on the Mozambique side.
Another Pied Kingfisher on a bridge in Kruger.
This Giant Kingfisher was on the same bridge. You can compare the size difference between the two species by looking at the width of the concrete rail in relation to the two birds.
One of the smallest African Kingfishers is probably the world's prettiest, the Malachite Kingfisher. This photo is terrible, but it's the best I could get.

Monday, March 15, 2010

South Africa, it ends in the Drakensburg.

The legendary Drakensburg Mountains are certainly the most scenic part of the country that I visited. They also had the most pleasant weather.
Like everywhere else, the Drakensburg had many interesting birds. This is the male, Pin-tailed Widow.
The male Village Weaver builds the nest, and hopes it attracks a female. They end up building several nests, before one passes muster.
One of the most colorful birds we saw, was the male, Greater Double-collared Sunbird. The female of this bird, and the previous two species, were far less colorful than the males.
The highlight of our visit to the Drakensburg was the day we spent with Jaco, the vulture researcher. Here he stands overlooking his study area. Notice the animal bones around his feet. These are the leftovers from his subjects.
We waited in the hide for hours before the first Cape Vulture glided past.
The main focus of Jaco's studies are the Lammergeier,(Bearded Vulture), an endangered species. Two fo them flew past without stopping.
One of the first birds to land was the Red-winged Starling.
At about 1:00 pm, The Cape Vultures finally landed.
White-necked Ravens were antagonistic towards the vultures.
In no time, Black-backed Jackals arrived on the scene. The ravens and vultures were not happy to see them.
It was interesting the way a jackal would slink up to something that caught it's attention.
After we left the Drakensburg, we had a long drive back to Johannesburg.
We saw several Long-crested Eagles at lower elevations below the Drakensburg.
I saw many more species of birds on this trip than any other exotic destination. My health was better than it has been for a decade. There was very little trash in South Africa, and amazingly we could drink the water everywhere. I would happily return to this wonderful country.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Lucia and Isimangaliso

Other than Kruger N.P., St. Lucia was my favorite part of South Africa. It's a laid back, little town on the east coast. The area is the closest thing there is to rainforest in the country. A river runs through town that is full of hippos, and crocadiles. Red Duikers, and Banded Mongooses run through the streets, but the abundant birdlife is what attracted me most.
A common bird in St.Lucia is the beautiful, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.
Banded Mongooses like to travel in groups. This individual is no exception, it's cohorts were so hyperactive, they would not sit still for a photograph. They remind me of ferrets.
Duikers are another species of small antelope. In Kruger I saw Gray Duikers, and in the Dzlinga Forest I saw Blue Duikers.
The number one target bird species I had in mind before coming to South Africa was the Green Turaco. I was happy to see Purple-crested Turacos in Ndumo, but I was really anxious to see Green Turacos in St. Lucia. On one magical morning in a forested park in the middle of town, I saw a medium-sized bird fly into a nearby tree. It was the elusive Green Turaco. It was soon joined by a companion, and I had to use a lot of patience just to get a few mediochre shots of one of them.
I first saw Trumpeter Hornbills in Ndumo. Those birds were so wary that I could not even get a distant photograph. Right after photographing the Green Turaco I turned around to see a large bird fly into another tree. It was followed by another, and another. Six in all, Tumpeter Hornbills. They had little fear of us, and allowed us to take many photos. We saw many other great birds on that morning like, African Broadbill, Narina Trogon, Lemon Dove, and Natal Robin Chat.
North of St.Lucia is the extensive Isimangaliso Wetlands Park. One of the endangered inhabitants of the park is the Samango Monkey. They look just like Vervet Monkeys to me, but have a very restricted range. They are certainly not hard to find in the park campgrounds.
Chacma Baboons are common in much of Africa.
Greater Kudu, and White Rhinos are also commonly seen animals in Isimangaliso.
This Blue Duiker was photographed in the Dzlinga Forest south of St. Lucia.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

South Africa, Ndumo and Umkuze

Ndumo and Umkuze are two parks administered by Kwazulz Natal, a semi-autonomous region of eastern South Africa. We spent two days in each place. There were far fewer people in these parks, than at Kruger.
This is the quintissential image of birding in Africa. They are ignoring the giraffes and peering into the brush, hoping to spot some obscure bird. Tom is on the left, our guide Santo in the middle, and I forget the name of the woman. Her husband, and herself joined Tom and I on a wildlife walk in Ndumo with an expert guide.
One of the many interesting birds we spotted in Ndumo was the Crowned Hornbill.
One of the highlights of the whole trip was the morning Tom and I spent in a hide built over a mud wallow in Umkuze. The wildlife that approached the rapidly drying mud were very wary at first. They would approach, then panic and run off, only to come right back. Eventually these wildebeest came in trying to lap up a little moisture from the surface of the mud.
Eventually the Wildebeests relaxed enough to lay down.
Even a Leopard Tortoise ambled past.
These Ring-necked Doves sip a bit of water from an animal footprint in the mud.
The poor Impala were near the bottom of the pecking order when it came to getting a drink.
The male Nyala is an impressive beast.
I assume this behavior has something to do with scent marking.

A mother Warthog escorts her young to the mud.
The impressive male Warthog.
Everyone makes way for the big boys, White Rhinos.
Mother and baby. We saw 6 Black Rhinos, and at least double that many White Rhinos on our trip.