Long Time Coming



It’s been a while since I posted anything here on WordPress and even longer since I have done any artwork. I was recently asked to give some watercolor tips, which ordinarily would not be a problem for a retired art teacher, but for some reason I felt my technique (in both painting and teaching) had become a bit rusty.

After organizing my goals, I decided the best way to handle my dilemma was to dive in. In the classroom I used to describe watercolor as controlled spontaneity.  The controlled part comes from an understanding of watercolor techniques. The spontaneous nature happens (for me) when the outcome celebrates those techniques without becoming overworked. Like anything requiring skills, the results should look easy and should capture an essence.

Anyway, although my first attempts are somewhat labored and overworked, it feels good to do something creative beyond my bird photography.  Hopefully things will improve.

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This young male Hairy Woodpecker may have thought our umbrella was his parent.

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New Kids on the Block

It is always fun at this time of the year to watch the fledglings of different birds attempting to learn how to maneuver the bird feeding options in our yard. There is a lot of flapping and repositioning- sometimes to the trees, sometimes to the ground and sometimes just anywhere there is room for them. The parents still often feed the fledglings for quite a while. This is the case with our resident Northern Cardinals.


The most recent photographs I was happy to take were of a male adult feeding a female adolescent (or maybe a fledgling about to be an adolescent.) The black beak is seen on the youngsters…both male and female adult Cardinals have bright red-orange beaks. I was also pleased to see the return of a yound Tufted Titmouse. His/her tail was noticibly shorter than the usual adult length. The Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cow Birds are finally moving on. They have made room for the smaller birds and their exit also eased the constant need to refill the feeders. It was still fun to see all of their ‘new kids,’ too. They just have incredible appetites and no regard for my wallet.

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Carolina Wren Family

Each year I look forward to finding where the Carolina Wren couple will build their nest. This year was a return to the driveway gate and fence posts. The couple busily gathered and created a comfy spot to lay their eggs and keep them warm until

and after hatching. The post closest to the house provided a four inch wide area, protected by the roof eave and barely visible between two posts.

Once I heard the faint chirping of the nestlings, I attempted to photograph the residents. One shot, although not very clear, did suggest there were four chicks in the very small nest. As the nest noise grew louder and the parents continued to feed them non-stop, I suspected it wouldn’t be long before they would have to fledge. The nest was really not very big.

One day, after doing errands and leaving the house, I returned to see one of my cats intently watching some patio activity. To my surprise I saw a Wren fledgling…then another…and then two more! They were in the company of their parents and there was a lot of flapping and hitting of surfaces.

They finally exited through the gate, or actually under it, and expanded their departure to include the driveway and surrounding trees. Before long they were gone and into the woods. I happily spotted them all several times in the woods next to our house. Noisy but sweet, I look forward to next year’s family. Hopefully they will return.

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Mosaic Birdbath

It’s been a while since I posted here at WordPress. This past June I took a mosaic class at the Trumansburg Conservatory of the Arts taught by local artist and friend, Denise Milito. While teaching art for many years, I never attempted any projects with mosaic. The class with Denise was great although I struggled with both the physical demands of nipping tiles and keeping the work and my hands clean.  I managed to complete a planter and a small frame.

My motivation to take the class was to eventually repair and apply mosaic  to a broken ceramic birdbath. I collected plates and pieces I thought would repurpose nicely in the mosaic medium, and dove in, knowing well my limited experience would pose many challenges. Using both my recycled pieces and store bought baubles and tiles, I did somehow complete the project.

Once it joined the birdfeeder area in our yard, it took at least a month for me to see any brave birds wanting of water or bathing. The first noticed bird was a Blue Jay, but unfortunately I was not the person to see it. Reminded of the fact that the first step taken by one of our kids was seen by the daycare babysitter while we were at work, I again did not witness the event firsthand.

Since then a Mourning Dove, a Grackle, squirrels, and many Blue Jays have been attracted to the brightly colored basin.  As instructed by Denise, the birdbath will join us indoors for the long Ithaca winter. I might be looking for a piece of plexiglass to cover the bowl in order to use it as a side table. If that comes to be, it will probably have to be secured in a corner where my cats cannot knock it over. Good luck to me with that.




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Robin Update

On June 1st our tree service arrived to remove three dead trees from our front yard, and five dead pine trees along the driveway. The willow tree didn’t have much time left and our Pink Flowering Dogwood just didn’t make it through the drought of last summer. Reluctantly, we decided to cut them down. Worried that our birds would have less perching possibilties, we felt the many trees in the woods surrounding our home on three sides would still give them plenty of landing and nesting sites.

Our American Robin family was nesting along side our driveway in a dense forsythia shrub. I was allowed to get fairly close in order to  document their growth. On the day of the tree removal I estimated them to be about 11 or 12 days old. Since we had no intention of disturbing the shrubs, I was hopeful they would remain in the nest.

Of course, I forgot that a chipper would accompany the sawing, causing some very loud noise. When I went to check on the nestlings, I found an empty nest. Not sure they were actually ready to fledge, my motherly instincts took over and I felt ill. One of the men came over to take a look and actually spotted one of the chicks on a nearby branch. I chose to believe they all made it out and continued their growing on the ground until their flight feathers grew, allowing them to fly a number of days later.

Having no proof or sightings, I feared the worse…until today, ten days later, when one of the adult Robins and two of the juveniles showed up on our lawn, not far from their nest. I managed to get a few photos and also saw them later in the day on the opposite side of the yard, under the newly pruned forsythia. When they saw me approach they all flew into the woods.

I am hoping the other two nestlings were out and about with the other parent. Until I actually see all four, I will just imagine they are well and happy doing what Robins do!

On a positive note, the tree service found three more nests, unoccupied, in the forsythia that was pruned, and were careful not to disturb them. There may have been a better time to address my dead tree problems, but scheduling is tight and I knew the downed trees held no nests. Some part of me still regrets causing the Robins to flee. The Black-capped Chickadees that nested in a camper birdhouse on our front porch had no problems with the events of the day. They continued to feed their chicks and I am happy to report the nestlings have fledged. Unfortunately, I missed their big moment. It was enjoyable to watch the Chickadee parents feed their chicks, non-stop, for many days. The quiet peeps turned into almost recognizable Chickadee songs. I love Spring.

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Almost Too Big For The Nest

Earlier photos showed only three Robin nestlings.  Although varying in size, there are definitely four little Robins in the nest. Also looks like it’s getting a little tight in there. Parents are still very busy feeding them. The Black-capped Chickadee family is also doing well. So far, I have only photos of the parents during non-stop feeding of the nestlings.  I can hear the chicks from inside the camper birdhouse. Hopefully they will be peeking out soon.

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