Friday, May 29, 2015

Again with the Osprey

Yesterday at lunch time I took a stroll to the back side of the Fill, and saw the Ospreys flying over the athletic fields.  Very nice to see them again and to get a chance at photos with decent sunlight this time!

One of the birds took a break atop one of the light poles:

It kept making an interesting weaving/bobbing head motion, which I managed to catch on video, though without a tripod there is a little hand shake.  Very cool, but I am not able to upload it here as it exceeds the size limit for Blogger.  Darn.  You can watch it on my Flickr site here:

Well worth checking out!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seeing Red

Last year I admit to neglecting several of my roses.  I didn't deadhead or prune them as needed, and I didn't pull the weeds very vigorously so they didn't get enough air space, and by fall I noticed blackspot and other issues.  Bad gardener!

One was a Cecile Brunner climber, a very pale pink, that I didn't really care for, so I whacked it down to about six inches, intending to dig it up.  And then I forgot to dig it up, and other plants grew in and around it.  A week ago I noticed these blooms sticking five feet or so above a hydrangea near the scene of the crime:

Hm.  I knew perfectly well that I had never planted a reddish rose there, and felt deep confusion.

I also had chopped back a Julia Child rose that was being consumed by an overgrown Hebe, and also forgotten about it until I noticed rose buds struggling to emerge from the shrub.  So I cut back the Hebe around it in hopes Julia, a stunning deep yellow-orange beauty, would return.  Instead, I got this:

Very much perplexed, and wondering about the state of my mental health, I took to the Internet to solve my puzzlement.  The Internet informed me that if you have grafted roses (not grown on their own root stock) and prune them too far down, the original root stock will grow out, and these are usually red.

Aha!  Yes, these were some of my earliest rose purchases, when I was a more thrifty gardener, and grafted roses are less expensive than "own-root" roses, so I knew this was what had happened.  I am quite pleased, actually, with the transformation of the climber from a boring pale pink (really, it was practically white) into a deep reddish-purple rose.  But I bemoan the loss of Julia Child, which was a truly stunning color.  Sniff.

Luckily, I did not prune the David Austin too far, and it remains in all its glorious pink tones:

And I am super happy that I splurged this spring on my five new roses, which are all grown on their OWN root stock.  Whew!

Meanwhile, the poppies continue to go wild:

There's a smaller one blooming now, too, in a color I particularly enjoy:

And Sandy's Peony is opening:

Meanwhile, in the non-flower section, the four ornamental grasses I planted in the "beach" area are holding up well, despite Truman's propensity for both digging and peeing there:

I do love going out every day to see what's blooming in the garden.  Even when it's not quite what I expected to find!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Two-Osprey Day

Yesterday morning I opted to drive to work after dropping Tru at daycare, so that I could have a pleasant 1-1/2 mile walk through part of the Fill.  As I neared the end of the Fill and approached the athletic fields, I realized at my current pace I'd hit the office a good 20 minutes early, and was wondering how to slow things down when I spied a large dark bird on top of a soccer field light way far away that was too big for a crow and the wrong shape for a cormorant (which are all gone now anyway).  I didn't have my bins but I had my camera, and when I zoomed in, I saw this:

Osprey!  As I was watching it, I heard a bicycle approaching and someone calling my name.  It was Jean, one of the wonderful people I did the Master Birder class with, on her way to work.  She admired the Osprey.  Then we had a catch-up chat that lasted about 15 minutes, so I no longer had to be too early to work.

As she pedaled off, I glanced back up at the light, and saw another large bird flying towards it.  I thought, "This could get interesting," and brought up my camera to zoom in to see what it was.

Why, it was a second Osprey!  Goodness, what a surprising start to my morning.

After a brief mating encounter, they disengaged, and I got great views of those amazing talons.

Then they settled down together as I finally had to continue on my way to the office.

On my way home after work, I walked the same route, and there was one Osprey on a light calling repeatedly, and the second one was hanging out on a different light ignoring the first one.  Not sure what was going on there, perhaps a small domestic dispute.  Then a crow landed on the first one's light and distracted it for a while.

After the crow flew off, the Osprey resumed its insistent calls, the other one continued to ignore it, and eventually I gave up watching and went home.  A fellow birder stopped by while I was there, and said he'd heard them in that same area for several days running, and wondered if it was possible they would nest here.  No idea, but it sure was a fun way to start and end my working day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Return to the Country Village...though not in person

During our recent urban sketching visit to Bothell's Country Village, there were way too many scenes I wanted to draw and paint, so I snapped some photos to try painting from later at home.  One was of a rock-lined stream with brick bridge:

While sketching it onto the watercolor paper, I used my all-powerful Artistic License to clean it up a bit -- removing the partial stone bench on the lower right, the clutter in the background, and the shrub on the left.  Then I decided not to use my usual ink-and-watercolor technique.  It's great for on-the-spot sketching, but I wanted to work with paint this time.  With the ink technique, the focus is on the drawing, with just bits of color slapped in almost as an afterthought.  I wanted to really use the watercolors to define the picture.

I started with dry-brush on the stream bed, and a bit of outlining on the bridge.

Next I used wet-in-wet to create a loose background.

Then I spent some time working on the bridge details.  Detailed work always makes me very happy.  I could get lost in it for hours.  I used one of my smallest brushes with very little water added to the paint.

Then I worked on the rocks, which were done mostly wet-in-wet with a bit of dry-brush afterwards.

And finally the Japanese Maple, again a mix of wet and dry brush techniques, and I called it good.  It's a bit green for my tastes, but overall I like the results and I truly enjoyed painting a picture instead of simply drawing-with-color.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Cascade Effect on Artists

You may recall that I recently painted a beach scene on my tool shed:

It looks great -- but I couldn't help noticing that the fence next to it now looked dingy and more unattractive than ever before.  Whatever could I do about that?

Well, I had some of the blue paint left, so I slapped some up on the first fence panel to the left of the shed.  And of course, that made the panels next to it look bad.

There's a reason I've mainly avoided doing any fixing up to my house over the years.  I would think about getting say, a new floor in the kitchen -- and realize it would make the cupboards look worse in comparison.  And so I'd imagine new cupboards...which would make the countertops and sink look awful...and so on and so forth until my vivid imagination had produced an entire new home.

This is the Cascade Effect -- also known as One Darn Thing Leads To Another.  Well, I am finally caving to the need for a new kitchen floor, so the mental barrier to home improvement has been breached.  Possibly this new attitude (also known as what the hey, just go for it) spilled over into the back yard and the dingy fence, because the next thing you know, I was slapping paint up on one fence panel after another, not knowing where it might end.

I didn't have enough of the blues from the shed, so I grabbed a bunch of random acrylic blues from my art supplies and had at it.  After running through those, I found some greens and browns.  At first everything was random splashes of colors, until Michelle stopped by and said, "Oh, it looks like misty mountains with forested hills below."  Which led me to stop painting randomly and create this instead:

Goodness, that was a lot of little bottles of paint.  Here's what the view now looks like from my kitchen window, which makes washing the dishes ever so much more enjoyable:

Now I'm thinking perhaps it needs a cabin on a lake, or an eagle or two flying by...what do you think it needs?

Also, I am SO NOT THINKING about the rest of the fence around the back yard...not at ALL.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Crow, A Dog, and a Toolshed (not altogether)

I have nothing to post about today, but I do have three random photos from the past week that don't go with any other photos, so guess what?  I'm dumping them here!

Here is a crow that caught a small fish that I spotted at the Fill last Sunday:

And here is a totally random photo of Truman at Shoreview Park from last Saturday:

We have had gloriously warm sunny weather all week here.  At lunch time, as usual, I've gone outside to sketch.  Across the street from my building is a lovely spot -- the Medicinal Herb Garden, where I intended to draw a few plants in bloom.  But when I got there, my attention was instantly caught by a pair of brightly colored watering cans and wheelbarrow near a tool shed.  Prior to becoming an Urban Sketcher, I probably would have ignored them in favor of plants, as I was always very focused on nature -- drawing only birds, plants, and landscapes.  The Urban Sketching outings have been wonderful in opening my eyes to other possibilities.

So I drew the toolshed -- of course, there are also plants, because hey, it's a garden.  I kept the focus, though, on the shed and the wheelbarrow and watering cans.  I got a bit worried because a worker kept coming in and out of the shed -- what if he moved them?  I drew faster, and it got a bit messy in one spot as a result.  And he never did move anything.  All in all, I do like the result:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another garden update

Things are happening in the garden!  While I was in the Tri-Cities last week, I was terribly envious of the many, many roses in full bloom, as mine had just a few buds struggling to open.  So I was delighted when I returned home to find the David Austin rose in the front yard with a few blooms:

Even more exciting, one of the new roses I planted this April has a bloom!  This one is called "Buff Beauty" and you can see why:

Other plants in bloom now include this Weigela:

And this fabulous Monarda:

There's a Mystery Plant with small red and yellow blooms:

And one of my favorites, the large Oriental Poppy:

There's an area off my back porch where I've been trying to establish ground covers for many years, always failing, because the Hounds enjoy digging in that area, but this year I finally succeeded in getting Creeping Jenny and some woolly thyme to survive.   I really like the way some volunteer Johnny-jump-ups appeared in the midst of the Creeping Jenny -- the colors set off against each other beautifully:

After only a mere eighteen years of work, my garden is finally coming together!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Out and About with the Urban Sketchers

This month's outing for the urban sketching group was to Bothell Country Village, a collection of older buildings (and newer ones made to look old) that house gift shops and eateries.  It's a large place with lots of paths, stone bridges, plants, and a duck pond.

There were so many potential scenes to sketch that it was a bit overwhelming.

I went with Nicole.  There were around twenty sketchers who turned up, I think.

Nicole and I were both attracted by the pond, where there was a boat (which is also a shop) and a train car.

The spot I chose had a slightly different view, and I wasn't able to get everything in to one sketch, so I wound up dividing the page in half, more or less.

I did a second sketch of a complex garden shop storefront but did not have time to color it in, so am planning to work on that at home.  Then I got distracted by a juvenile House Sparrow, as one does:

With just another fifteen minutes left, I wandered around snapping photos which I hope to work up into paintings later.  Then we gathered at the central plaza to share our work -- the variety of styles is always fun to see (click on a photo for a larger view):

One of the organizers then gathered us up for the group photo -- you can go to the urban sketchers blog post here: and scroll down to the bottom to see it.

As you can see, a good time was had by all!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The last of the vacation photos

While nothing could be as splendid as the raven-hawk battle at Gingko, my recent visit to Richland did include a few nice birds.  There's a small natural area near a housing development where, every single time I've gone there for the past three years, a Black-chinned Hummingbird has been perched in the very same tree just beyond the houses (one of which has a hummingbird feeder).  I like reliability in a bird.

Magpies are a favorite of mine, and I can predict nearly to within a mile where I'll spot the first one after crossing over the pass (approximately milepost 103 on I-90).  And in the Tri-Cities they are pretty much everywhere you look, though it's hard to get good photos as they are flighty and for a corvid, are unusual in not liking people to get too close.

Speaking of flighty, the hardest birds over that way to get pictures of are the California Quails.  They are also easy to find, but if they are hopping along the path in front of you, and you merely start to raise your camera, they are gone in an instant of fluttering wings, completely hidden under the brush.  And the zoom doesn't help, because they startle at about 200 feet away.  Luckily, while I was at the Reach museum parking lot, I heard the tell-tale whuh HOO hoo of a quail, and spotted it on a pipe overhead, where it seemed oblivious to my presence.  Hurrah!

I did more sketching than birding on this visit, as I've thoroughly birded the area in past years.  And I spent time taking Truman for long walks along the Columbia River, which he enjoyed immensely.

He saw squirrels in the main riverfront park, and completely ignored them, since they were not in his yard.

And we saw the goslings out and about, which Truman also ignored.

This is Howard Amon Park:

We were pleasantly surprised here one day to find the American Empress river cruise ship at dock:

It made me want to go on another cruise.  I thought about sketching it, but goodness, look at all those little doors and windows!  Crazy making, for sure.

I returned home to find that one of the new roses I planted in April had a bloom!  But I shall save the garden update for another day.