Chestnut -Collared Longspur (Draw a Bird Day)
boundless blue, rimmed by
far horizons–an ocean
of windswept grass—wings
rise above the waves,
singing in constellations
of sky-feathered light
My choka envisions the American prairie as it once was–a diverse grassland ecosystem ideally suited to its variable climate, supporting hundreds of species, including migratory ones like monarchs. Less than one percent of the original prairie remains, its deep rooted grasses and wildflowers–as many as 200 different species per acre–replaced by suburban lawns and huge farms that grow only a few different crops, crops that lack the ability to replenish the soil and protect against drought. You only need to read about the Dust Bowl to see the results of destroying the native ecology.
Species that have mostly disappeared from the American prairie include bison, foxes, ferrets, elk, wolves, pumas, grizzly bears, beavers, prairie dogs, numerous insects, and all kinds of birds–prairie birds have suffered greater population losses than any bird group in North America.
The chestnut-collared longspur, like many prairie birds, eats seeds from native plants, and walks or runs along the ground to flush and capture insects to eat as well. It particularly like grasshoppers. Its name comes from the extra-long hind claws which help to navigate the uneven ground. Longspurs spend the summer in the northern prairies of the United States and Canada, and winter in southwest grasslands in the US and Mexico.
Gilt Edged Tanager (Draw a Bird Day)
I Dream of Brigid
In the beginning I was alone, carefully unwinding the wormlike stem of a large plant. It seemed like a cactus to me at first, but gradually it reshaped itself into a huge iridescent flower. I was surprised to suddenly find that instead of tendrils I was in possession of two glittering aqua and golden wings. They opened my arms like bridges in the street of the sky.
Night walks, scattering poems, uncoiled in a spiraling serpent around me. Feathers became flaming scales became feathers again, mercurial rainbows scattering glowing seeds, crossing and recrossing the portal that explored every direction between the darkness and the light.
My blood began to sing, an echo of bells vibrating, calling my name. All the words I had lost or abandoned returned to me, transformed into candled threads sailing like a sea of flames on a river of stars.
I really did have this dream, at least the first part, which led me to look for a bird that fit those wings. The gilt edged tanager came closest. Native to Brazil, its habitat is fragmented, and though not considered endangered, the population is found primarily in protected reserves of moist lowland subtropical forests.
There are close to 400 species of birds in the tanager family. A few species live in the United States, but most of these colorful birds live in Central and south America.
Tanagers are associated with the goddess Brigid, which seems odd since they are not native to Ireland. But many cultures, including the Japanese, consider them to be messengers from the spirit world. They do look magical.
The story of my dream was written for dVerse prosery, where Linda provided a line from ee cummings, in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems, to be included in what we wrote.
I was not really happy with any of my renderings of this bird when I did them, but they are growing on me. In order: colored pencil, gouache, inkpen with watercolor, neocolor. It’s been a long time since I painted with gouache.
Blue Winged Goose (draw a bird day)
to reveal blue sky
The blue winged goose, native to Ethiopia, looks greyish brown when its wings are folded, but in flight the reason for its name becomes evident. They live in wetlands with adjacent grasslands and are largely herbivorous, serving an important role in the ecosystem by keeping aquatic plants in check. They are considered endangered, due to loss of habitat and poaching for Chinese consumers, although no one is sure of their exact population numbers.
I could find out little else about them. Every piece written about them claimed this is because they are largely nocturnal, but I found plenty of photos of them online, obviously taken during the day. Their coloring is lovely. Perhaps they just haven’t been well-studied because they have a limited range.
I’ve written my poem for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday where the first Tuesday of the month we include color in our verse.
Blue Tailed Bee Eater (draw a bird day)
bridge of wings
joyful rainbow dance
into fields of energy
Bee eaters are, not surprisingly, often called rainbow birds. The blue tailed bee eater is a resident of South and Southeast Asia, preferring open habitats near water. Like swallows, they eat insects on the wing, especially bees, wasps, hornets, and dragonflies. During breeding season they also eat shells and sand for calcium.
Bee eaters live in extended families of up to four generations in complex social systems of 100-200 birds. Known for their cooperative behavior, they build their nests in tunnels in sand banks, alternating between being breeders and helpers from season to season. This ensures that more chicks survive to adulthood.
Once again I’ve used Colleen’s #TankaTuesday #Taste the Rainbow prompt to write a shadorma about this beautiful and colorful bird.
Venezuelan Troupial (draw a bird day)
loud and clear
whistles penetrate far–
inside a dry tropical forest,
a bird sings perched upon a cactus–
under a clear sky, sun relentless–
orange, black, wings flash white when aerial–
kin to the oriole–
The Venezuelan Troupial is the national bird of Venezuela. Besides that country, it is found in Columbia and on some Caribbean islands. A relative to the oriole, its feathers stick out unevenly, often making it look ruffled. The troupial like to perch on high visible places to sing. They eat insects, fruit, and small birds and eggs.
Native to coastal desert scrub and thorn forests, they prefer arid lands, although they have proven quite adaptable to other ecosystems. Who knew there were cactii in Venezuela? Above is a photo from Mochima National Park.
The Venezuelan Troupial is a nest pirate, often poaching nests and driving off the original residents when they can’t find a suitable abandoned one to adapt to their own needs. They are not considered endangered, though some of their habitats are, and they are also captured to be sold as cage birds.
I had a lot of trouble focusing to work this week, and was not wholly satisfied with any of my drawings, but I do think the cactus one captures the personality of this bird fairly well. I keep reminding myself of the drawings of Matisse, who was always rearranging his lines, and letting the errant ones remain to show where he had been.
My poem, for Colleen’s #tastetherainbow Tanka Tuesday challenge is in the Trois-par-Huit form, which you can read about here.
Weekend Drawing 4/11/2022
I think it’s the first time in two years using white paper. It was fun sitting down and drawing for no other reason than to draw.
Two versions of a bird’s claw. The claw was a gift to me many years ago. I’ve always liked it.
My mom’s nautilus shell. I have a large container of her shells and beach glass.
The models for these drawing were right in front of me. It was fun drawing again and I think I’ll make it a regular practice.
Husband is going to work today 10-3. I’m a bit worried but I know he wants to go back and I’m glad for him. Tomorrow is our 41st anniversary. Have a good week! Nina
Drawing a horse
A policeman and his horse on Garrett Mountain overlooking Paterson, NJ. I used to draw a lot of horses as a kid. I even painted a life sized one on the Nature Shack at Camp Nah-Jee-Wah where I was a camper and then a counselor…back in the day.
My husband continues his battle with Covid. We have oxygen in the house which helps. He has fallen a few times, badly. He’s on a blood thinner which makes things worse i.e. a huge hematoma on his left side and a swollen left hand from his fall on Friday. He still has a good attitude but it’s been a long haul. (The doctors don’t call it long haul Covid yet as it’s only been three months).
Have a good week!
Baltimore Oriole (Draw a Bird Day)
my eye attempts to join
with wings, lifted
by an unseen wind–
a blurred displacement
of air expanding the horizon
beyond all sense of limits–
the sky trembles, held
in a featherlight embrace,
as if it, too, would rise,
into the cosmic sea
A quadrille that includes the word eye for dVerse, hosted by Bjorn. It’s not specifically about an oriole, but in the spirit of Draw a Bird Day.
The Baltimore Oriole, named for its orange and black feathers that are the same colors as Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms, summers in the Northeastern and Central United States and Canada, migrating to Florida, the Caribbean islands, and Central and South America in winter. New World orioles are not related to Old World orioles, but are part of the blackbird and meadowlark family.
Residing in forest edges and open woodlands, the oriole’s diet includes insects, flowers, and fruits. They especially like ripe fruit, and can be attracted to bird feeders with orange slices or sugar water. They weave unique hanging nests that look delicate but are remarkably strong. You can see photos and read more about their nests here.
Females and young males have a subtle grey and golden coloring although females grow more orange with each molt, and may end up close to the bright male coloring as they age.
Orioles are not endangered, but they are in decline, partially due to their preference for nesting in elm trees, which have been devastated by Dutch Elm Disease.
Orioles are the second of my orange and black birds for the Year of the Tiger. You can see the first one, the Rufous Treepie, here.
Honeycreepers (Draw a Bird Day)
“The forests are getting silent”
–Hanna Mounce, Maui Forest Bird Recovery
always more words, less
vast human wasteland
Eight birds from the Hawaiian Islands were on the official extinction list released by wildlife officials last week. Honeycreepers, descended from finches, are only found in Hawaii and have been losing species ever since explorers started bringing in invasive animals and diseases and destroying habitat in order to profit from the land.
Almost all the remaining honeycreepers are endangered. Besides their visual beauty, they pollinate native plants and keep insect populations under control.
Mosquitos, which are not native to the islands and arrived in the early 1800s, are one of the biggest dangers. They are hard to control and impossible to eliminate. The Avian Malaria and Avian Pox they brought has decimated the lower forest dwelling birds. As honeycreepers have retreated to higher elevations, climate change has followed them, raising the temperatures of the upper forests to levels that mosquitos can tolerate. The Maui Forest Recovery Project is working to save forest habitats and the plants and animals that live in its unique ecosystem.
I’ve written a shadorma this week for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.
Ibis (Draw a Bird Day)
keeper and creator
measuring magic by the moon
For Colleen’s #TankaTuesday poet’s choice and for Draw a Bird Day, a didactic cinquian.
The Egyptian god Thoth was often represented as an ibis, or an ibis-headed man. Like the sacred ibis bird, he was associated with knowledge, wisdom and the moon, but also much more. Scribe to the gods, he taught men to write. He was the reckoner of time, “he who balances”, a scientist and magician.
Millions of ibis birds were mummified in Ancient Egypt as offerings to Thoth. The sacred ibis is now regionally extinct in Egypt, although it is still found in other Sub-Saharan African lands.
One species of ibis found in eastern American coastal regions is the glossy ibis. From a distance it appears to be a mostly uniform dark color, but close up its feathers become an iridescent rainbow.
Today is #WorldMigratoryBirdDay. The glossy ibis flocks that breed along the NE coast migrate to the Gulf of Mexico for wintering. As with all shore dependent migratory birds, saving our natural shorelines are one key to their survival.
Also linking to earthweal open link weekend.