Monday, November 30, 2015

The Long Weekend: Part 1

I had a lovely four-day weekend with Tru, with friends, and with much food.  This will be the week where I take turkey sandwiches to work every day.

Today is a special day at the office, as I will tell the Powers That Be about my impending retirement (last day of work will be December 31).  Hurrah!

Back to the weekend:  it started off quietly.  Tru and I took a walk at Meadowbrook Pond Park on Thursday -- it was sunny all four days (though a bit nippy) and we had beautiful views of the pond and the birds.

Northern Shoveler:

Female Mallards:

Truman ignoring the ducks, as usual:

Tru on a beeline for the car:

Happy dog!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Fill on Saturday part 2: the non-bird part

Naturally I took Truman with me to the Fill on Saturday, despite the fact that we'd already been on a walk to the library AND a walk around Magnuson Park with Winston and Michelle, and he was DONE.  I brought the stroller but he actually managed to walk most of the way around the Loop Trail on his own.

He pooped out on the last leg.  Here I am trying to capture both him and the glow of the autumn foliage in the distance.

And here I try to get both Truman and Scott and Mary in the same photo.

For some reason my friend Mary, who is a perfectly lovely young woman, does not like to have her picture taken -- see how she thwarts me with her binoculars!

As we headed back to our car, Truman got waylaid -- there was a family taking photos in the perennial garden, and one of the daughters spied us and screamed, "OH MY GOD IT'S A DOG IN A STROLLER!"  So we had to stop and she got to pet Truman whether he wanted to be petted or not.  I suspect "not".  He survived the experience.

Finally, here is one last pic from Friday, which the pet sitter sent to show how nicely Tru is getting along with her dog Princie now.

That's it for this week -- I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday and long weekend!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Afternoon Birding

I'm sure everyone knows that birders always get up at the crack of dawn to rush off in pursuit of their feathered friends, as they are indeed more active just after sunrise.  And normally I do arise in time to hear the Dawn Chorus.  And for many years -- at least the last seven years by my reckoning, I even got up and down to the Fill at dawn in the wintry months, bundled up against the cold.

Well, for some reason, when it was sunny and 30 degrees out on Saturday morning, with a dusting of frost over the land, I balked.  Scientific studies show there is no solid evidence whatsoever for the insistence by aged folks that they can "feel the cold/wet/snow/storm coming in their arthritic bones."  Nonetheless, when I stepped outside on Saturday morning at 7:00am in the frost, I sure as heck felt something.  Something that made me turn right back inside and shut the door.

So perhaps -- after one too many wintry mornings spent shivering and freezing and losing feeling in my fingers as I clutched my bins -- perhaps I'd had enough of that.  Luckily, it warmed to the upper 40s by afternoon, and luckily my friends Mary and Scott were planning a venture to the Fill in early afternoon, so I used their timely arrival as an excellent excuse to delay mine.

And there were nice birds out and about, plenty of them, ready to entertain us even in the afternoon.  Maybe there were more of them about at 7 in the morning, and you know what?  I don't care!

The first nice bird I spied was a Red-tailed Hawk way far up and away in a tree.

It flew off to find a better tree (or to get away from pesky crows, I suspect).

On the lake, the coot and wigeon rafts were out in force.

And over on Southwest Pond, we had lovely views of Hooded Mergansers in the autumnal afternoon light.

We also saw a Great Blue Heron, and a Wood Duck, and the Mallards and Gadwalls, and a Pied-billed Grebe, plus a Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Song Sparrows -- and possibly a Golden-crowned Sparrow who refused to turn its head towards us.

I have a few more photos of Truman and of Mary and Scott but shall save them for tomorrow since I have nothing else to post about this week.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Small Pocket Sketchbook Update

I haven't been making use of the little sketchbook I keep in my purse of late, either because I haven't been stuck waiting around (a good thing) or because nothing intriguing has caught my eye when I've been out and about (not such a good thing).

Yesterday, though, it was sunny and warm enough to take a walk at lunch time, and on my stroll behind my office building these Amanita muscaria (AKA Fly Agaric) toadstools caught my eye:

I wished that I'd had colored pencils, as these are those common deep orange-red toadstools that are ever so lovely.

Then as I headed back towards the office, I spotted some palm trees in a courtyard which I've seen (and sketched) before, but this time they had these huge seed pods on view which had not been there the last time I drew them many months ago.  I had to stop and do a quick drawing.

And finally, on the bus ride home I usually read, but I'd finished my book during my afternoon break.  I spotted a woman wearing a cap who had a face meant to be sketched, and had a go.

Bus sketching is always tricky -- I prefer that no one notice what I'm up to, so wait until the person next to me has departed, and then I want to find an interesting face, and then hope they don't get off the bus five seconds after I've started drawing, and of course, the bus is moving and stopping and starting which adds a special challenge (and quite a few jerky lines).  Fun times!

That's all for this week -- happy almost weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Coots Galore

When the rains stopped last Sunday afternoon, Truman and I headed out to the Fill.

Way out there on the lake is a dark line -- here's a bit of a zoom of it:

That line is a raft of American Coots.  They turn up this time of year in the hundreds, nay, probably thousands.  Notice that parade of lighter birds behind the Raft'o'Coots?

Those are Canvasbacks.  Lovely birds, and also a winter-only visitor.

There are also plenty of wigeons mixed in with the Raft.

Farther along the lake shore the Double-crested Cormorants were hanging out.

I always enjoy the arrival of the Wintering-Over Waterfowl.  Truman, however, remained singularly unimpressed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Shopping with Truman

This past Sunday, Truman helped me go shopping at the University Bookstore, where they welcome dogs (and the people who own them).

For some reason, this display attracted our attention as we walked in:

Possibly because of this prominently featured book:

Then we went downstairs (well, down the elevator) to the supply section, where Truman helped me pick out a couple of notebooks.

Back up on the main floor, he made me stop in the animal section, where another dog book caught his attention.

He made he buy it for him.  It's a photo-essay book about a charismatic dachshund named Crusoe who has his own blog.

Finally, we headed upstairs for a short rest while I examined more potential purchases.

After finishing up at the bookstore, we strolled across the street to the art gallery, where my Song Sparrow painting was on display.

The gallery owner wasn't in, so we didn't say hello.  We strolled on back to the car and returned to Truman's favorite place in all the world -- Home!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Front Yard Watch

After the various and many bouts of rain of late, whenever things cleared up for a bit, birds would flock to my front yard, apparently finding good things to chow down on.  Truman gets very excited about Anything In His Yard, and attentively stands (or rather sits) watch through the living room window from his post on the sofa.

We had so many birds on Sunday that I grabbed the camera and opened the window to try getting pictures from the comfort of the sofa.

There were American Robins, American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, Bushtits, Song Sparrows, European Starlings, Steller's Jays, and a lone Bewick's Wren hopping around my yard.  I did not get photos of any of them.  But I did get pics of these birds:

Spotted Towhee

House Finch

Dark-eyed Junco

Northern Flicker

Tufted Hunter

Truman was not allowed out until the birds departed, which happened when a woman walked a dog past our home.  Right after that excitement, a squirrel arrived, and Truman was Not Going to Stand for That, so I let him out, and he explained to the squirrel why it was a good idea to depart.

And here he is after the squirrel left, standing on the front porch wondering why I'm still sitting on the sofa and not letting him back inside.

Of course I let him back inside -- where he happily resumed his post.

The birds soon returned, and Truman made sure they didn't get up to any hijinks in his yard.  A fine time was had by all!  Well, except for that squirrel, that is....

Monday, November 16, 2015

Return of the Tiny Art

I've been neglecting my art of late due mostly to wretched weather, and when I arose on Saturday to pouring rain, I decided it was time to stop moaning about how I couldn't go sketching outdoors, and to sit down at my art table and create something indoors.

Earlier this year I painted some tiny 3x3" lighthouses, and had so much fun that I went and bought a whole lot more tiny canvases.  And did nothing with them.  Clearly it was time to do more.  I had taken a photo last August of a young raccoon that appealed to me, and I had a 4x4" canvas that fit the composition.

Step 1:  sketch the raccoon onto the canvas

Step 2:  paint some random light and medium greens over the background in leafy shapes

Step 3:  Add bits of darker green for shadows

Step 4:  Toss in a twig or two, and add the little flowers by quickly dabbing blobs of dark, medium, and light rose around

Step 5: lay down a light gray over the whole raccoon except for the white fur, and then place bits of medium gray to sort of map out the light and dark areas.  It's at this point when I usually think about a painting, "Gosh, it looks like a big mess.  Will it work out?  I just don't know."

Step 6:  Add the black in short, tapering strokes to simulate fur.  Feel annoyed that all of your photos have too much glare.

Step 7:  Use the Really Tiny Brush to add details, such as whiskers.  Then try to find a place to take a photo without glare, and use a tea bag for size comparison.

Still too much glare!

Step 8:  Find a different spot.   At last, a glare-free photo!  Whew.

That was enjoyable, though I really want to get back outdoors to sketch.  Alas, it is getting colder every week.  I shall probably have to find more indoor art to tackle instead until Spring.