Thursday, December 5, 2013

Endangered Beauty . . . Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak breeds in the Eastern United States among conifers and deciduous trees. They occasionally visit California and other Western states and migrate to Central and South America.

Beneficial to farmers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks consume many destructive insects and are known as potato-bug birds in Colorado.

Unfortunately, Eastern populations are declining. Their song sounds like an American Robin in an especially good mood:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Endangered Beauty . . . Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls were once widespread over western North America.  Populations have declined and in some cases disappeared due to the changes that humans have made to the owl's habitat. Federally listed as endangered or threatened in a number of states, they're considered a Species of Special Concern in California. Seventy to 80 percent of Burrowing Owls found in California reside year-round along irrigation canals in Imperial County.

The Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society works to reverse the trend in their area:
Saving Burrowing Owls:

A Burrowing Owl family in action: 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Endangered Beauty . . . Cerulean Warbler

A bird so dazzling that it's been called a flying piece of the sky. The number of Cerulean Warblers fell by 70 percent from 1966 to 1996. In the Appalachian mountains, long a breeding stronghold, large stands of prime habitat have been lost -- fragmented, heavily logged, converted to agriculture or destroyed.

In 2005, a 540-acre Cerulean Warbler Reserve was created in Colombia, providing a protected habitat for migratory birds from North America as well as local threatened species.

Henry David Thoreau called the Cerulean Warbler's song ethereal:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Endangered Beauty . . . Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush populations have seen a continent-wide decline by almost 2% per year from 1966 to 2009 due to forest fragmentation and destruction.

Wood Thrushes will nest in suburban areas but breeding success is reduced by cowbird parasitism and nest predation from jays, crows, raccoons and domestic cats. Tropical deforestation has reduced wintering habitat, although shade-grown coffee provides a welcome winter environment.
The Wood Thrush has a haunting, flute-like song:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bullock's Oriole

The Bullock’s Oriole hybridizes extensively with the Baltimore Oriole in the Midwest where their ranges overlap.  Seasonally monogamous, their breeding season lasts from May until July.

Bullock’s Oriole males and females sing different songs. Before and during nest-building, the female sings regularly and may sing more than the male. Mated pairs weave deep, pendant baskets made of bark, fine grass fiber and animal hair.  The interior is lined with down, hair and moss, and three to six eggs are laid.  Both sexes rear the young and defend the nest from predators and parasites.
Bullock’s Orioles prefer habitat edges, riparian corridors, open deciduous woodland and scrub forests of cottonwood, pecan and willow.  In dry areas, they prefer salt cedar and mesquite.  Their diet consists of insects, berries and nectar. In California, eucalyptus trees are major sources of nectar. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Number five: The Blue Jay

Common in eastern and central states, Blue Jays are extending their range to the Northwest. The proportion of jays that migrate may be less than 20 percent.

They lower their head crests when hanging out with their flock or tending to the nestlings.

When approaching birdfeeders, jays frequently mimic hawk calls. This may either warn other jays of a hawk's presence or clear the feeder of other species, who are deceived into believing that a hawk is approaching.

In the wild, jays consume acorns, nuts, seeds, eggs, nestlings, dead or dying adult birds and small vertebrates.

Independent nestlings are often found up to 15 feet from the nest and are mistakenly thought to be abandoned. If restored to or near the nest, the parents will resume feeding the nestling. The entire brood leaves the nest together at approximately three weeks old but will continue to be fed by the parents for up to two months.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Number Four: Largest eye of any land animal

The Ostrich does not bury his head in the sand .  .  .
it just looks that way when in a defensive behavior.

This ratite (flightless) is the world's largest bird at 220 pounds and 6 to 9 feet tall. Ostriches don't need to drink - they generate water internally from the plants they eat.  Hunted in the wild nearly to extinction in the 18th century, ostriches are now farmed for meat, leather and feathers. One ostrich egg weighs as much as two dozen chicken eggs.

Ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles an hour with a 10 to 16 foot stride. A kick from a clawed, two-toed foot can kill a human or a lion. See an Ostrich on the run:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eye number three . . .

The much maligned seagull.

During a recent Giants game, scores of seagulls began swooping over the field in the middle innings, releasing their ordnance from above. Usually a baseball fan tries to catch any falling object that comes his way, but this was not one of those times. Most nights there are at least 500 gulls in the left-field bleachers alone.

After the game, in a matter of minutes, gulls rip through every discarded food scrap. Fans have suggestions about what to do: umbrella hats, owl statues, hawk statues, hawk calls over the loudspeaker, bobblehead hawks, a platoon of shot gunners in boats on McCovey Cove. One kid said everyone should bring a Super Soaker and fire at will.

"Without the seagulls," said one of the many custodians, "there would be no seagull poop. And without that, there would be a lot less of us."
Thanks to Steve Rubenstein, SF Chronicle

Friday, May 31, 2013

Did you recognize eye number two?

A Great Horned Owl's distinctive colors and patterns serve as very effective camouflage. Soft feather edges cut the air like a comb, allowing for a silent, stealthy attack. Efficient predators, even in total darkness, owls also rely upon their sensitive directional hearing. A family of seven owlets requires a daily diet of 100 small rodents.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who correctly identified eye number one?

It's the bald eagle, chosen as our national emblem in 1782. Bald eagles live up to thirty years. They eat fish and carrion, can lift four pounds, are strong swimmers and fly at 30 to 35 mph to an altitude of 10,000 feet. And what majestic good looks: weighing in at 10 to 14 pounds with a wing span of six feet. Removed from the Federal Endangered Species List in 2007, today there exist about 9,700 pairs of bald eagles.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The eyes have it

Okay, this is a test, all you bird lovers out there
Who can correctly identify the type of bird by eye alone?

 Each week, I'll reveal one complete portrait.  
The completed series will be shown and for sale this summer at the Santa Fe Art Show presented by the Morgan Oakes Gallery.

 My first show! I'm stoked.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Immature Raven

Sketching with John Muir Laws can be inspiring! Here, therefore, the raven. Ravens can be distinguished from crows by their heavier, more curved bills. Eye color is light blue in hatchlings, grey in fledglings. Feathers of immature ravens have a duller, dark brown coloring.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sketchbook Project 2013: Memoir

My Sketchbook Project 2013 is in the mail, on its way to the Arthouse Coop in Brooklyn. A show of all the sketchbooks submitted this year will be touring the country this year with a stop in San Francisco July 26 - 28th. My sketchbook was inspired by American choreographer, Twyla Tharp and her book, The Creative Habit. 

"The real secret of creativity is to go back and remember . . . connecting what we're experiencing now with what we've experienced before."

See my archived sketchbooks from 2011 and 2012 (and thousands of others from around the world) at