Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Killing Time

The weather is finally going to improve a bit today.  I am ready for some sunshine and blue skies but we will have today with mostly overcast skies before sunshine returns.

I officially retired from the military on 5 October with a little over 30 years service.  The last ten years were busy, trying years and I have been adjusting to the new life and enjoying some free time.  I have done very little artisitc in the last 10 years and had not painted during that period (or nothing serious).  One of the first things I did was go and purchase art supplies and have been trying to re-learn techniques long lost and retrain the eye, hands and reconnect the brain synapse between the two.

While I spend more time repainting the canvas and starting over, that is what I expected as I am learning but still very much enjoying the process.  I decided that one of the shots of the hawk that I took on 24 October was a good practice subject.  A little blurry which is best to apply some filters in photoshop to get more "artsy" looking.

So, being stuck inside over the last few days, here is the beginning of the painting attempt.  A long way to go on it yet and for sure, photographing canvas does not come out well.  I suspect in the end it will be white-washed with an attempt at something else but practice, practice, practice! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Audubon Works

Slow day.  The weather is terrible for any outdoor activities.  Rain and wind all day with temperatures plummeting late this afternoon.

I spent most of the day playing chauffer for a friend who had day surgery.  I left the hospital for a bit and spent some time at a nearby book store.  Wallking by the "specials" section and spotted this book first thing.  It is a beautiful book.  There is just something about holding a book and being able to closely look at the artwork that you can't get from looking at on the internet.

Bonus....the book was just under $20.00.  This is a huge book and well worth the price.  So pleased with it that I picked up another one for a Christmas present.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's Good to Eat? (for the birds)

Over the past week I have been observing what the birds are eating.  I am actively working in the yard and want to include things that provide a food source to the birds.  Unfortunately what I am finding is that a great deal of what the birds like are the very things you do not want growing in your yard.  That being their growth is too agressive and spreads easily.  I would like to stick with native plants but that is limiting also.  One definite is the Wax Myrtle.  Birds are going nuts over the berries and they provide wonderful cover.

The weather for the next several days is going to be non-conducive to being outside due to the remnants of Hurricane Sandy that will be coming up the east coast.  Skies today are gray and overcast and are projected to be that way for the next several days.  So sad.

By far, the most favored by many species is the berries from the poison ivy plant.  The foliage is beautiful in the fall but who wants poison growing in their yard especially when you have a high sensitivity to it.

The Purple Beautyberry has wonderful bright green leaves and bright purple berries but again, the non-cultivatal species spreads rapidly.  For sure in the fall the birds love the dried berries.   Once they turn dark and shrivel is when the birds like them.

Staghorn Sumac offers beautiful fall color foliage and the seed clusters are bright red in early fall but again is agressive in growth.  This is one of the later dried berries the birds eat so offers food well into winter.

Porcelin berries.  Sorry but I could not find my close up shots showing the full color.  Again, birds love them but the vine is considered highly invasive.

Dogwoods.  A must.  A native species and once the berries turn red, they are one of the first that the birds go after. 

Virginia Creeper.  Bright red foliage in the fall and the birds love the berries.  Native species which is a plus but the climbing overtaking nature is not practical for a yard.

Another highly preferred berry is the cedar berry.  Loved by Cedar Waxwings, Robins, Brown Thrashers and Mockingbirds just to name a few.  Another native, it offers shelter so is a good choice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sharp-shinned or Cooper's?

Every now and then you have one of those experiences where you are in the right place at the right time.  The only negative I can say is that it was in a shaded area and as luck would have it, shooting into the sun.  I would not dare however risk getting in a better position for fear the hawk would fly.

Late this afternoon I was getting the camera out of the car, having been disappointed by an extremely slow morning when out of nowhere, the hawk flies in.  This hawk showed up last year and has been a regular however I have never been able to get any good shots of it.

It was focused on some birds in the rose bush and Lantana plant so I was able to ease up close to the fence without being noticed.  I sat down on the ground and at one point, during the chase the bird was within six feet of me.  My heart was beating and hands shaking with excitement.  Thank heavens for image stabilization particularly since I was having to use a high ISO and still could not get much shutter speed.

I have debated on whether this is a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk and studied descriptions of both.  Based mostly on the small size (it is a very slender bird) and a higher pitch call,  I am leaning towards Sharp-shinned however the rounded tail as shown in this photo makes me think Cooper's..  Any positive ID's would be most appreciated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

I was surprised this morning to already see a RC Kinglet.  They normally do not arrive until well into November.  A gentleman I see at the park some said he spotted a Golden Crowned Kinglet last week.  We have not even had a first frost yet and daytime temps this week are in the 70's.  Makes me wonder on winter weather prediction for this year.

Late this afternoon I was heading out the door to take the dog for a walk and noticed something on in the carport.  I couldn't believe it there in the shade...a copperhead.  About 14-16 inches in length but not much girth so probably a young one.  Too bad but it had to go.  I just can't risk the dog getting a bite.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Fallish Sort of Sunday

It is definitely beginning to look like fall and today, the air has a coolish breeze.  It is an absolutely beautiful day with blue skies and not a cloud in sight.  The trees are beginning to take on color making for a pleasant vista across the pond.

The Kingfisher was on its favorite tree snag watching the pond.

Quite a few Palm Warblers were out this morning.  Several of us had a debate on this particular bird however I believe the mornings "golden hour" was distorting the actual color.

There were several Yellow-Throated Vireos hunting in an old pecan orchard.  The birds are looking very different in their winter plummage and some now are not quite as easy to identify with a quick glance.

Plenty of Eastern Bluebirds along the fences and hunting insects at the edges of fields.  Always a pleasant sight.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Philadelphia Vireo

 The lack luster fall migration continues.  Not much out this morning but it was a beautiful day to be out.  The most interesting birds were several Philadelphia Vireos that were searching for insects.

Not sure what is going on with the lack of birds. 

Since the arrival of the YR Warblers, there is no shortage of them.  They have swarmed in eating everything in sight.  A group of Wax Myrtle bushes were their latest target of attack.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nephew's Fair Entry

A little diversion from my usual post but being the proud aunt, I wanted to share my nephew's entry in the state fair this year.  We have been trying to encourage him in things other than the usual 8 year old boys likes of rough and tumble and  that it is okay to like other things.

At least we got him outside to go pick leaves and appreciate the variety and texture of the leaves and by that, the variety in nature. 

We worked on this piece the first day of autumn this year.  His hands did the work with just a few recommendations from his Mom and I.  Several trips outside (breaks) to find that next perfect leaf were required.

I think he did an outstanding job (can you tell I am proud of him?).  With this comes a gift certificate for the purchase of art supplies.  Perhaps a budding artist?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yellow-Rump's Arrive

Out for a bit Saturday morning but it was very cool and windy.  Large numbers of Yellow-Rumped Warblers arrived almost overnight.  They flocked to several large poison ivy vines and were going nuts over the dried berries/seeds.  Last year with such a mild winter, very few YRW's came.  With the huge numbers I saw Saturday, I wonder what that says for the winter this year?

To add to the question of the winter prediction, lots of Mallards have also begun arriving at the pond.

Worked in the yard Saturday afternoon and hit a yellow jacket nest.  They hit me so fast that I dropped the weedeater in place and took off with it still running.  Inside to nurse stings on both myself and the dog.  I think I had a little reaction because I had chills most of yesterday. 

Monday, October 8, 2012


Gray days have been ruling the weather.  A quick outing late Saturday before more clouds moved in again on Sunday.  But like all things, there is a bright spot coming.  From Wednesday forward, the weather should be beautiful for the peak migration week.