Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NC Birding Trail Books

Shortly after the series of books came out, I purchased the book for the Piedmont area as these are generally closer to home and more easily visited without much planning. The dog shortly thereafter shreaded the book, stretching the ring binder and chewing pages. I had never gone back and gotten another.

My Mom gave me money for my birthday to get what I wanted so on my way home from work, I went by the Wildlife Resources Commission and picked them up. Not only the Piedmont area (central part of the State) but also the coastal plain trails and the mountain trails. The State is somewhere around 547 miles at the most distant points. The saying is from Murphy to Manteo (mountains to sea). The highest point in the State is Mt. Mitchell at 6684 feet and the lowest is sea level. The diverse topography provides a variety of birding opportunities and possible encounters in each different area.

Each region is broken in to groups then sub-groups. Each birding hot spot includes a brief description of the habitat, anticipated birds you may encounter each season, general directions to the area and any pertinent information such as if the land is open for hunting, prone to flooding, best time of year to visit, etc. For $10.00 a book, they are nice guides. Despite all the new high tech electronic media toys, there is still something to be said about holding a book in your hands. No batteries required.

I had considered taking off tomorrow and Friday and heading down to the southern coastal area of the State to go Painted Bunting hunting. As it is more fun to have a birding buddy, I called my friend to see if she could go but unfortunately other obligations. With already questioning traveling to that area this close to the July 4th weekend this trip will have to be delayed.

Next weekend would be perfect but unfortunately I have to work then so three weeks is a long delay. I may have to rethink this and go ahead and suck it up and work this weekend so I would have next weekend to go.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Catching Up On Weekend

My internet has been disrupted for the past couple of days and phone service iffy so I am catching up after several days. It was a truely excellent birding weekend. Hot but the humidity was fairly low so it was tolerable.

After already disturbing a doe nursing her fawn when I arrived (which I felt bad about), I decided to park off a ways and walk in to make best advantage of the quiet. As I was walking along the road, something caught my eye. A doe had put her fawn down and there was a pair of eyes peering over the tall grass. My friend came up about that time and we grabbed a couple of shots and walked on. Shortly after we could hear the doe snort announcing her displeasure with us in the area. When we finally walked back, she had retrieved her fawn.

The big excitement was the arrival of a Dickcissel. None of my weekend shots were really to my liking but I kept a couple hoping for a better. The place where it was spotted is quiet on the weekend but extremely busy right now during the week due to logging to clear downed trees from the tornado a couple of months ago. I decided it would be my second stop and the park my first. Am I glad! I guess because of the logging and noise, the pair had shifted over. I got this shot of the male this morning. I later got one of the female at another location but will have to keep trying. I did however count five that flew back over to the park area.

There were several Orchard Orioles flying about in one area. The young ones are in various molt stages of getting their adult feathers so their coloration was interesting. "Dad" Oriole was scolding the young ones with their raucous behavior.

The Indigo Buntings seemed numberous and were singing to their hearts content. I think I will head down to the southern part of the coast over the coming weekend. Several sightings of the Painted Bunting have been made and I have searched a couple of years for one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Project Complete - Folkart Stone Owl

Pretty much everything had been put on the back burner to complete this project as I wanted to have it finished by Monday. Only thing left to do is get some very fine steel wool and do a light over to cut down the sheen of the clear finish. I thought I had satin but it was gloss so as soon as it has a day to set really well, a light once over should do it.

I was not satisfied with the gray I was originally going with on the chest and back so another coat of black and start over. I have definitely lost some of the knack but I think it came out okay. Should look very nice in the log cabin on the fireplace mantle.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stone Owl Part 3

Making progress. I have to add details to the front and back feathers, re-work the eyes and beak then a clear coat of protective spray that will make the colors pop. Hopefully tonight I will make good progress then off for some birding in the morning before the heat becomes too oppressive. I should be able to post a completed photo tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stone Owl - Part 2

The base coat is completed however there will be touch ups all along once feathers are lined in. The face looks like a big orange pumpkin but it is really golden brown. Not really happy with the beak placement and will have to go back and re-work it. The eyes - I can never, ever get the eyes even. I do just a rough placement but without fail will work them at least three times. They are always the last thing I finish.

I start with the face first. It has been almost two years since I painted one and it has definitely been a struggle getting back into the knack. In part one when I estimated time left to complete - WAY WRONG! I remember now why I quit painting. Extremely time consuming. I am now at the 12-14 hours to finish. When I start adding the feather detail, slow going as I try to get lines very thin and evenly spaced. Front and back depending on what design I decide on will probably take 3 hours each.

It still looks a little rough but once detail starts getting added, things just meld together.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Stone Owl - Part 1

The lady I work with is getting ready to deploy and I wanted to do something special for her. We have worked off and on together for many years and her husband helped me out tremendously when I first got in to photography several years ago. In the past I did quite a few owls but life became incredibly busy and something had to give. Last week I went to my favorite stone store and looked through finding an appropriate "owl shaped" rock.

I begin by washing the rock and letting it dry well. The next step is to start filling in the base to create a standing platfrom. This is a trial and error process. It usually takes a couple of days because I have found it is better to build a little at a time versus a lot of thickness at once. I use a pre-mixed concrete patch. After much experimenting with various brands, Ace hardware brand is what I prefer.

Once you have a well balanced rock, I then take very rough grit sandpaper and sand down the cement and entire rock including any imperfections I may have filled in. I don't try for a perfectly smooth surface. It is after all, a rock. Once sanded, I give a base coat of black paint, let dry and do a rough outline of the design. I start with the base colors which will take a couple of coats. I am not too worried about perfection at this time. On the next coat I will start tightening up the lines before I start laying in details.

Before you begin detailing, you have to decide what style you will paint. I prefer what I call a detailed folk art style versus and accurate depiction however I have done both. This is where you have to know the taste of the person who will be receiving.

At this point, I figure there is at least 8-10 hours of work left on this piece. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding a Cool Spot

Heat, heat and more heat. Day after day of 90+ weather has made the fountain/birdbath/watering rock the place to be. There has been a constant stream of birds perched waiting their turn. The Robin is quite the hog visiting several times a day and often just sits in the water.

A Gray Catbird has started visiting but is very timid. I was sitting on the deck very still trying to get some good shots and it spooked first go round when I moved but was a little more acceptable of my being there a few minutes later.

Among the many finches that were there at one time, this bird that I believe to possibly be a young Oriole of some sort was mixed in with the bunch. I am guessing Oriole from the shape of the beak. I hope it hangs around for a while and brings the parents with it next trip.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Early Sunday Outing

Clouds gathered early last night darkening the skies which soon released welcome rain. The rain and thunder lulled me to sleep early so by 0400 this morning I was well rested and ready to go. Off to a leasurely breakfast killing a little time to let the skies lighten up. Some residual cloud cover remained but was quickly giving way to sunshine.

Driving down a dirt road, Eastern Meadowlarks seem to be adornments on almost every fence post. Their melodious song wafted across the fields announcing a new day. Morning glories growing against the fence also greeted the morning sun.

Heading to a specific location trying to photograph a pair of Summer Tanagers, I passed a group of Goldfinch's enjoying a breakfast of dandelion seeds. Could hear the distinctive call of the Tanagers but never saw them. Getting close to 0800 by now and time for the park to open so I headed that way.

Finally able to get a decent shot of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I have heard it for the last couple of weeks but had not been able to see it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nature Oddities - Those Insidious Cowbirds

Back in the early part of spring, my friend and I watched as a pair of Common Yellowthroats were obviously building a nest. We watched them flying in and out of a blackberry patch bringing in nesting material. A week or so later when in the same area, we witnessed a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds lurking about watching. My friend commented potential trouble.

More truthful words had never been spoken. Today I watched in amazement at the result of what happens when a nest has been parasitized. I stood for at least 45 minutes and watched the spectacle. What caught my attention was the considerable size difference. The fledgling Cowbird is twice the size of the Yellowthroat. What an absolute bizarre sight. A fledging Yellowthroat was also nearby but got no attention.

The adult Yellowthroat was working tirelessly trying to feed this young Cowbird whose appetite seemed endless and stomach bottomless. On a few occasions it would stop short trying to get the fledging Cowbird to move. It however was pefectly content to sit and wait for food to appear. There was the occasional preening to remove molting feathers and a stretch every now and then but would soon settle back down resting on the branch.

During one of the extended hunting trips by the Yellowthroat, the fledgling Cowbird stood up looking about then started makings its little pitty calls and ruffling wings. The term slothenly came to mind. This shot gives a good prespective and how large the young Cowbird is.

As it appeared it would be an all day feeding event, I took my leave. Whether it is imprinting or some other unknown connection of nature, it surprises me that the adult Yellowthroat continued to feed such a large bird leaving its on species off-spring to fend for itself. You would think that something in nature would signal that this is a bird of a different feather. I guess that instinct to feed when a mouth is gapping open is just too great.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hot, Hazy, Humid Day

My initial plans this morning was to visit a nature park north of Raleigh. Awaking later than I intended, I changed my plans because I simply did not want to face the horrendous traffic on that part of town, particularly on a Friday when everyone is already in a hurry to get where they are going so they can hurry and get back home.

I went to my usual park and after I got there was very glad on the change. I never saw anyone until I was walking to the car to leave. Love it! The Chat was chatting up a storm this morning and since I was by myself, once again decided to chat back. Five different times I got the bird to come close enough to get some really great shots. I probably spent 30 minutes mimicking the bird and getting it to come close. They are generally very elusive preferring to stay in the shadows and hide yet are very vocal and animated in their calls.

As I was moving to another location, I came across this squirrel on the bridge railing. I stood
looking and thinking something about this squirrel was different. The tail!!! I have never seen such a long tail. At first I thought it was just an illusion but when another squirrel came up beside it, it became obvious that the tail was at least 6 inches longer than the other squirrel's. It also had a very reddish tone to the fur versus the generally predominately gray squirrels we have in the area. What a small variation in genetics can do.

Lots of Swallows out and about chasing insects. Barn, Tree and Rough-winged Brown. They lined the railing of the bridge and would take off all around you when you finally got within about 3 feet of where they were perching. Something about them, they are just very sweet looking birds to me.