flashes of yellow
Last fall my daughter and I were sitting on Columbia’s campus, talking and drinking coffee and tea, when we noticed a tiny yellowish bird looking for insects in a tree nearby. It looked a lot like the wood warbler I’ve drawn, above.
We didn’t see it well enough to positively identify it, but a birder friend suggested from my description that it was a warbler. Many species migrate through the area, in addition to common local residents like the yellow warbler.
The Blackburnian Warbler can also be found in New York, but I haven’t been lucky enough to see one. I would like to watch the intricate aerial dances they perform when protecting their territories.
I first drew the yellow warbler by itself, and scanned it, as backgrounds are always a problem for me. I’m still not sure about this one, although I like the colors.
give and take–
from both sides
Cedar waxwings are social birds, known to gather in large flocks for eating, where they can often be seen feeding each other. Their food sources include cedar cones, fruit, and insects, and they migrate in groups when all the local fruit, their favorite meal, has been consumed. They are also attracted to the sound of running water, and can be found bathing in both creeks and fountains.
A group of waxwings is called a “museum” or an “earful”–they can be quite loud.
I also posted about the cedar waxwing a year ago–a good December bird I think.
the world becomes new–
opened into new visions
One weekend sitting on campus with our coffee and tea, my daughter and I were surrounded by birds. A mockingbird sang a complicated repertoire of songs for about a half hour, blue jays and cardinals visited, crow got in a word or two, and there were lots of sparrows–at least we assumed all the small birds were sparrows–until one started going up and then head down around a tree trunk. Sparrows definitely don’t do that.
When I looked it up in my birdbook at home, I discovered it was a white breasted nuthatch. They like to forage in the bark for insects, and even cache seeds in the crevices. They are quite common in the United States, although I don’t recall ever noticing one before.
I had found my subject for draw a bird day, and wrote a shadorma to accompany the art for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday, poet’s choice.
hungry birds scatter
blue wings appear
a raucous throng
A gogyohka for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice.
I’ve been hearing blue jays everywhere I go for the last month. Since I’ve already featured blue jays, I decided to draw and paint its West Coast relative, the Stellar’s Jay. Like all jays, they are excellent mimics, and imitate hawks to scare other birds away from food they want to eat. They also pretend to be dogs, cats, squirrels and chickens.
Stellar Jays prefer dense coniferous wooded habitats, but being scavengers and opportunists, have adjusted well to the encroachment of humans.
we find your habits
impaling your prey on thorns–
killing to survive
our own destructive
disconnected from earth–
we pull life apart
The Loggerhead Shrike, also known as butcherbird or thornbird, is a medium sized songbird that acts like a raptor. With a short hooked beak, but lacking the talons of a true bird of prey, it hunts in similar ways, diving from an elevated perch or hovering and flushing its victims. It then impales its food on thorns or barbed wire. It can kill prey larger than itself by spearing the head or neck and twisting at a very high speed. Sounds gruesome, no? And many of the reference photos I looked at showed it either consuming or impaling its next meal–amphibians, insects, lizards, small mammals, small birds.
But it’s part of the food chain. And that’s how it obtains it’s food.
Loggerhead Shrikes, like many birds, have become endangered as their North American habitats shrink or are destroyed. Climate change and pesticides have also caused populations to decline.
How did I post this? Several people suggested going into the WP Administration page where you can do a normal post without dealing with the blocks. I looked at the block again briefly, but without success.
Still in the midst of moving, but should be back posting (as long as I can do it this way) in a couple weeks.
Nina’s internet has been out since the tropical storm, with no promises of when it will be back, so she took a photo on her phone of her bird and sent it to me to post. Another colorful tribute to Draw a Bird Day!
And hopefully her internet will be back soon so she can post more of what she’s been doing.
The Carolina wren is common throughout the eastern United States, but it is more often seen than heard. Ground dwellers who prefer the undergrowth near forests, they live in pairs, and are believed to mate for life. The male is the most vocal, but they can also be heard in duet. Although shy of humans, these small brown birds are active and inquisitive.
deep rivers wander
tree to earthstone,
brown birdsong grows wild,
seeding wind with ancient light
A gogyohka from the Oracle for Colleen’s #tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice.
The morning wakes without rain,
a shimmer of green
appearing from the silhouettes
of the trees scattered between
buildings. Silence floats
off the glossy reflections
of the windows
holding the rising sun.
I look for Crow flashing
black feathers as he calls
from somewhere I can’t see.
His voice bounces off
the brick and I imagine
he raises his sharp beak,
laughing as he follows
my eyes searching for the sound.
I have not asked him to speak–
he does not wait for invitations—
I do not for an instant believe
he is without purpose here
on this clear morning calling me
as usual to attention. Do you
pretend you know me?
he asks, and what can I reply?
How can you ever pretend
to know another when
you cannot even see who
this person is that you carry
with you all the time?
Who is this being that you call
is their true name?
Another piece of art inspired by Nina–her joyful birds, above. For the poem, I used a prompt posted awhile ago by Miz Quickly, in which you take lines from a poem and write them every few lines on a piece of paper and fill in the spaces between with your own words.
As Jane told me recently, it’s hard to find a poem of mine that doesn’t talk about birds. I used lines from an Adrian C. Louis poem “Magpie in Margaritaville”, which I found in the wonderful Tupelo Press book “Native Voices”. I couldn’t find a link to the poem online, but you can read about the poet, a member of the Paiute Tribe, here.
Also linking to earthweal, open link weekend.
we decoy ducks–turn
them into sitting targets
for the play of guns,
cartoon them with characters
that ignore their balanced grace
I did a lot of drawings and paintings of ducks and found them to be a challenge. Often they ended up looking more like decoys than something alive. I was interested to discover that the expression “sitting duck” came from how easy ducks are for hunters to shoot and kill–less sport than slaughter.
I also did not know that they spend 2 weeks in late summer or early fall molting, replacing all of their feathers. During that time they can’t fly.
Mallards are good parents, and prefer shallow freshwater wetlands to raise their families. They are one of the most recognizable and abundant duck species in the world, and ancestor to most strains of domesticated ducks.
For Colleen’s #tanka Tuesday, poet’s choice. I’ve written a tanka.
tiny wings perch, still–
suddenly swoop downward, flash
trail of jeweled light
sudden swoop trails flash
It’s the 8th of the month again! Draw a Bird Day, and Poet’s Choice for Colleen’s #TankaTuesday. This month I’ve taken my haiku and reduced it twice. This is a good exercise for any poem I find.
I chose to draw the Asian Dwarf Kingfisher this month because of its colors. It’s a tiny bird–5″–one of 114 species of kingfishers. I did not realize this species was so large and varied. All nest in burrows and hunt by swooping down from a perched position. Many hunt fish–that was my impression of them–but may also, like the dwarf kingfisher, eat insects, earthworms, and small amphibians.
Dwarf kingfishers, like many birds, are under threat of extinction due to loss of habitat. Their main predators are foxes, raccoons, and snakes.
Nina gave me the set of brush markers that I used experimentally in doing the last 2 drawings (the one on black was done in colored pencil). I am still trying to convince her to start posting again. She’s been doing some painting…maybe by next Draw a Bird Day. In the meantime, you can find me most of the time at https://kblog.blog/.