Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some Recent Happenings

One of my co-workers showed me where a pair of Merlins was nesting near his home. The nest was well hidden but I got a few mediochre shots of an adult against a bright, volcanic ash filled sky.
The distant volcano has since calmed down and we have no more ash to contend with. I believe that this is the female, but who knows?
The Arctic Terns are still at Westchester and various other places around town.
Seriously elegant birds.
A simple portrait of a Red-necked Grebe.
For about the last month or so I have been experiencing one of my frequent creative dry spells. I took one of my old paintings, 'Otter Lake Trumpeter',18x24", that sat unsold in a gallery, and decided to remodel it.
I had a few ideas for changes to make. First I thickened the neck a tad. Then I put in some atmosphere to create mood. That part did not improve it. I intended to add tall grasses in the foreground that will partially overlap the swan.
Before I got to that, I got burned out on this painting and decided to set it aside for awhile.
A detail shot of the head.
Last Wednesday I had the urge to paint something else. I got an idea for a Solitary Sandpiper. This is as far as I have gotten on it so far. I know that it does not look like much, but it actually is proceeding well. I have the advantage of knowing what the painting is intended to look like. You can only see these foundational layers to judge it by.
The head that I sketched before applying paint.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beauties From Southeast Arizona

All of the photos on this post were taken by Maggie who lives in Tucson. This Red-faced Warbler was on Mt. Lemmon, which is a Sky Island above the desert city of Tucson.
Red-faced Warblers are different from most other species of warblers because they nest on the ground. This photo reminds me of an experience involving Red-faced Warblers that I had on the slopes of Volcan de Fuego in the Mexican state of Colima. I was with Scott and Jean and we saw some Red-faced Warblers in a small ravine. There were Painted Redstarts with them which occupy similar habitats. We also saw a red breasted, Slate-throated Redstart with them. (incredible bird)
A little further up we saw the near mythical Red Warblers on the same day. Four of the most beautiful of all warbler species right in the same area. I remember asking myself which of the four was the most beautiful?
In my mind, the Painted Redstarts take the prize; not only for their looks, but also for their magical dance. They must be seen to be believed.
Another warbler from Mt. Lemmon, the Black-throated Gray Warbler.
Like the Red-faced Warbler, the Yellow-eyed Junco has a restricted range north of the border. Only occurring on the Sky Islands, (isolated mountains surrounded by desert) of Southeastern Arizona.
Going back down to the desert; the rest of the photos of this post were shot by Maggie in Sabino Canyon outside of Tucson. This is a Black-necked Garter Snake. 
An adult female, Desert spiny Lizard.
This is a younger version of the photo above. Just look at those beautiful scales.
A big male, Desert Spiny Lizard.  These guys can display some incredible colors in the right conditions.
See what I mean? This is a pair of Desert Spiny Lizards. They belong to a large family of New World lizards, (sceloporus) also called fence lizards or swifts. They are known colloquially as 'blue-bellies'. Not all species have blue bellies, some have, pink, orange, or yellow bellies. Spiny Lizards are the largest of the bunch.
Another interesting lizard, Greater Earless Lizard. That's right, no ears. just incredible speed. It also has a strikingly marked underside.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Meeting the Master

A few weeks ago I was on the coastal trail with Chris and Betty looking for a Red Knot that had been reported. Another birder told us that Lars Jonsson was sketching a Short-billed Dowitcher at the slough next to Westchester Lagoon. Both Chris and Betty knew who Lars Jonsson was, but he was not one of their heroes like he is one of my heroes. I have admired his artwork for many years. 
I was very impatient to get over there before he left.
Lars Jonsson is a very well respected Wildlife Artist from Sweden. He is greatly admired in the wildlife art world for his talent at sketching and painting, (watercolors) birds from life. He has illustrated bird guides and many magazine articles etc. He is most famous for his superb book, 'Paintings From a Near Horizon'.
There he was sketching a bird right in front of me. I was thrilled.
I have sketched wildlife and scenery from life before but it is not my usual method of working. It was so fascinating to watch one of the best at work.
He was very methodical, observing the bird in the spotting scope for 10 or 20 seconds, then sketching for a similar amount of time. He was willing to chat with us while he worked.
The Short-billed Dowitcher that was the subject of his sketches.
He did not hesitate to use an eraser as much as a pencil and he made little notes as well.
 I wanted to hang around him like a stray puppy dog but we still needed to find the\Red Knot and I did not want to pester the man with endless questions.
We did find the Red Knot; too far away for photos so I'll include photos of some of the other things we saw like this, Green-winged Teal.
I am not sure whether this is a Greater, or Lesser Scaup.
I am pretty sure that these are Lesser Scaup although Greater Scaup tend to far outnumber the Lessers around here.
A nice look at a male, Gadwall.
The mama Mallards are towing around a bunch of eagle snacks these days.
There is a nesting pair of Bald Eagles at Westchester Lagoon and it is thrilling to watch them snatch a baby duck or gull chick every so often. The adult birds try to mob the eagles when they fly past but their efforts are ineffective. The duck broods gradually shrink in number as the season progresses.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Bay and Back Home

We continued on the boat tour of upper Kachemak Bay and entered an isolated inlet where we saw three, Yellow-billed Loons. This is only the second time that I have seen Y B Loons. They are large birds, bigger even than Common Loons.
Harlequin Ducks rested along the rocky margins of the inlet.
The ducks were joined by a few Pigeon Guillemots.
In more open water we saw a number of Sea Otters. Plenty of other things that did not care to be photographed. It was a great boat tour and a great festival.
I got back home to Anchorage in time to enjoy good migratory bird action along the Coastal Trail. Black-bellied Plovers are not very common in Anchorage.
On the other hand, Greater Yellowlegs are abundant and confiding, especially early and late in the season.
Lesser Yellowlegs stay to breed and remain abundant throughout the Summer. Apparently their numbers are declining in many areas but you could not prove it by me.
Hudsonian Godwits are here as well. Always a welcome arrival.
Someone reported finding a nesting pair of Semi-palmated Plovers and gave precise directions of how to spot the nest by triangulating off of some small rocks on the mudflats. Can you see the nest?
 Neither can I.
Even with the bird sitting on the nest, it is impossible to distinguish any semblance of a nest.
We also saw other not so common Anchorage shorebirds, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstones, and Marbled Godwits. The usual crowd of shorebirds are here as well.
The Arctic Terns are also back, yippee! They survived another marathon journey from the bottom of the world to the top. Did you know that there are also, Antarctic Terns? They never come up here.
These birds always look so graceful, even when they strike an awkward pose.