‘Spotted Towhee’ is one of a new group of paintings I just delivered to Studio Seven Arts Gallery in Pleasanton, California.
These are a couple sketches from our recent birding trip to Idaho. There were wild sunflowers everywhere hosting goldfinch and pine siskins.
This perky little bird mostly works tree trunks searching for insects. They have a funny call that sounds like a high-pitched horn. They can walk up, down and sideways on vertical surface.
We saw many of this species at the Malheur Lake Visitors Center which is a a birding hot spot, especially during spring and fall migrations.
The Mountain Bluebird is one of my favorites. Where we normally see them, their surroundings are drab. So seeing one of these pastel-blue birds is a real eye opener. They are usually out in the open, but they are shy and do not let me approach for a close photo. This one was taken with a 400 mm telephoto lens on an overcast day.
This was inspired by our trip to the Sierras last June.
Lesser Goldfinch are common in our yard and have been the subject of many of my paintings. They almost always appear in flocks and it is fun to design a composition around a group of birds together.
First heard calling and drumming then eventually seen. For such a large, colorful woodpecker they sure camouflage well. This is a male which is determined by the red cheek. This is a large woodpecker and it is the size of a small crow. As with all of my sightings of this species, it was not far from the ground, this one was probably about 2 m from the ground on a barely surviving English walnut tree.
I was inspired by the yellow warbers Dave and I saw a few days ago and also by the photos he took. My show titled ‘Birds and a Bee’ opens this week at Viewpoints Gallery, Los Altos, CA, and I have been experimenting adding bees to my bird paintings.
In the California county in which we live, Santa Clara County, there are well known migration paths used by passerine birds. These paths are usually creeks and small rivers that provide food and water to birds as they fly from as far as Alaska heading south to their boreal winter grounds ranging from Mexico to South America. The Yellow Warbler is one such species and every fall they appear reminding us that another northern hemisphere breeding season is ending.
Hooded Orioles have been nesting near our yard and visiting our feeders all summer. They needed to be painted.
A strange bird indeed. It behaves much like a vulture and looks a lot like a hawk, but it is actually a falcon. This species is often seen walking on the ground and feeding on carrion. It is an opportunistic feeder and will eat items other than carrion such as fish, insects, etc. They are unable to open large carcasses so they are often found with buzzards who open the carcass allowing the Crested Caracara to feast.
We have seen this species in Texas at the Brownsville Landfill associating with Black Vultures. Much to our surprise we saw one not far from Portal, Arizona where this species is not common.
My painting of a Black Phoebe was included in a book of poetry with the accompanying poem by
Patricia J. Machmiller-
of the soon-to-be groom
The Black Phoebe is a common flycatcher on the West Coast. It is easily found in and around the San Francisco-San Jose area all year. Most of the time when we are doing local birding we will see one or two them. They tend to use low spots from which to do their fly catching, rocks, fence posts and the like, flying off a perch, grabbing an insect and then usually returning to the same perch. It’s my observation that they like green grassy areas, perhaps because of the type of insects that lawns draw. Since the drought in California and home owners have converted to xerophytic gardens I am seeing less of this species where in the past they were common.
This was my first painting of an American Dipper which was inspired by a visit to Yosemite National Park five years ago. I’ve painted a few since then; I’m inspired every time we come across one in the Sierras.
American Dipper seen near Alyeska, Alaska
I love these birds. Seeing your first one ejecting from a heavy white-water rapid on a roaring mountain river is like viewing magic. This bird finds its food by flying down to the bottom of swiftly moving streams and walks upstream on the bottom hunting for insects. Many times I have seen them leave the water with a large insect larva in their beaks. Note the huge toenails that assist this bird in holding onto the bottom of creeks and rivers. One tough little bird.
It was such fun to come across a group of Pygmy Nuthatches on our trip to the Sierras last June. These tiny birds make me smile and needed to be part of a painting.
This is a paintings I’m just finishing up. House finches are common in our area and they are fun to work with in paintings. In this piece I played with them among eucalyptus leaves which also have reddish accents.
The plaintive song of the Canyon Wren reverberates in canyons of the Western United States. They are not too shy so they make reasonable photo subjects. They are uncommon in Santa Clara County, California. Last I heard there are two known Canyon Wrens in the county. A beautiful wren with a white throat and rusty-red uppers.
I don’t have many paintings of sparrows and had to go back a few years to find this one of House Sparrows. These are not my favorite bird but it is fun to watch them in the restaurant eating area behind my gallery in Los Altos.
This small sparrow is very difficult to see. In breeding season it can be heard, but barely. The pitch of its song is very high and has a insect-like buzz to it. If it’s a windy day they are difficult to hear.