Friday, January 29, 2016

A Stroll Around Green Lake

For the past two weeks or so, a flock of Common Redpolls was reported feeding in a stand of birch trees at Green Lake Park.  Common Redpolls are not common in these parts at all.  But I didn't go to look for them because:

1.  I'd already seen them a couple of years ago
2.  The weather was icky
3.  When the weather was nice, I just spaced on it and
4.  I've never liked Green Lake, as it is always too crowded due to a very popular walking/cycling path

Well, on Wednesday it was still icky (cloudy, very gray, threats of rain) but I was out driving around with Truman and thought I detected a slightly promising hint of light in the distance and decided on an unplanned "just go for it" visit.  I had an idea that my previous experience of Green Lake as a crowded place was because I had always gone on sunny summer days -- maybe gray winter days would be better.

It was, in fact, not terribly crowded though there were definitely people out and about on the 2.8-mile path that circles the lake -- walking, jogging, cycling, and pushing strollers.  I made Truman get out and walk....

Which he did...until he saw people with dogs or children heading towards him, at which point he balked and refused to move until I put him safely in the stroller.  I think he walked about .8 of the 2.8 miles.

The waterfowl proved to be quite nice -- loads of Mallards and Gadwalls and American Wigeons -- plus this lovely Common Goldeneye pair:

And this Northern Shoveler:

We got to watch a Double-crested Cormorant catch its lunch:

I found the redpolls right away -- or rather, I found the other birder taking photos of them right away.  Sadly, they were WAY up high in the birch trees, it was quite cloudy and gray and DARK, so I got truly awful photos.  But since I wasn't able to get photos of the ones I saw a few years ago, any photo was nice to get.

All the little dark blobs here are Common Redpolls.  And as I've already zoomed in a bit in this  photo, you can see they were too far away, and in truly horrid light,  for good pics:

I zoomed in closer and just snapped away...they were moving around a lot...I figured I would just pop the pictures into Photoshop later and lighten them up to see if anything actually looked like a redpoll.

This is the one fuzzy shot I managed to get where you can see the red on top of the head:

Unlike this shot...oh, well.  So it goes!

Truman was unimpressed by the birds.

While I enjoyed them a lot -- even the extremely common coots and Mallards -- I love seeing their feet under water:

Or out of the water:

The lake was incredibly smooth, which made for good reflection shots (another Northern Shoveler here):

We also saw photogenic Pied-billed Grebes:

The only downside to our visit was when I got confused about where I was -- I had parked by 65th, so when, after walking what I thought was plenty far enough, I spotted a street sign for 65th, I headed up to the roadway only to be met by Aurora Avenue, which I was darn sure I had not crossed to reach the park.  It was rather irksome.  Eventually I realized I was on the west side of 65th and my car was on the east side of 65th (the lake gets in the middle).  I still had a ways to go.  Sigh.

I was tired.  Clearly I need to walk more if a 2.8-mile walk makes me feel very tired at the 2.3 mark.  So now I have a new goal for 2016 -- I want a 3-mile walk to feel like a breeze, and a 5-mile walk to be at least semi-comfortable.

Meanwhile, Truman got strolled again -- that may have contributed to my tiredness.  He is heavy and should go on a diet!

He did not like this spot -- the ducks and coots were heading right for him.  He is easily intimidated!

Naturally, by the time we completely circled the lake and returned to where we started, which was right by the birch trees, it was lighter out and better photos might be taken -- except the redpolls had moved on.

And lastly, a Happy Friday to those of you still working!   Since I won't be posting again until February, here is my retirement report:


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Magnuson Park and the Burke Museum

On Monday Truman and I went to Magnuson Park where we found excellent ducks, and where it was even warm enough to sit and sketch for a bit (though nothing exciting enough to post here).

Here is a female Bufflehead (left) hanging out with an American Wigeon:

And here is the male Bufflehead hanging out with a Gadwall:

And then there was this surprise...beaver?

This is a female Ring-necked Duck:

And here is Truman after I finished sketching, with his "are we done yet?" look:

I proceeded to annoy him by making a quick stop at Matthews Beach on the route home.  There were several photogenic cormorants there:

And one irritated wiener dog:

On Tuesday, Nicole and I headed off to the Burke Museum for a little sketching.  I decided to focus on the masks:

This display, called "Masks Bring Our Ancestors to Life",  was quite challenging, and I had a lot of fun with it.  The main challenge of sketching for me is that I don't use pencil first -- everything is done with ink, and sometimes watercolor is added afterwards.  So if I make mistakes, I just leave them in and keep going.

I prefer working this way, as it forces me to be much more observant.  The only time I feel as if I want to use pencil first is when I'm drawing people, though even there I've been trying to do pen only.   Of course, as you know, I'd rather not draw people at all!

Coming Friday:  an impromptu visit to Green Lake park.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Visit to the Zoo, part 2 of 2

Tina and I hit the Woodland Park Zoo on Sunday afternoon right during the raptor demonstration -- the birds are brought out one at a time, and fly from one trainer to another, or chase lures.  At times they would land on posts very close to where we were sitting.

This is a Red-tailed Hawk:

See yesterday's post for more raptor photos.

Next we visited the komodo dragon exhibit, where we were able to view a young dragon:

The youngster was quite active, and even climbed a tree:

Our last stop was at the reptile house, where I admired (and sketched) this Waxy Monkey Frog:

Here are the sketches I did -- flamingos:

The adult komodo dragon:

Box turtles who were swimming:

And the fabulous frog:

A fun impromptu outing indeed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Impromptu Zoo Visit, part 1 of 2

The forecast for Sunday was "rain in the afternoon", so when Tina and I planned to get together for a sketch outing in the afternoon, we thought going to a cafe and bookstore would be ideal.  As I arrived at her place at 1pm, that was still the plan (though the rain had not materialized).

She asked if we could make a detour for an errand along the way -- an errand that took us right by the Woodland Park Zoo.  I looked at the sky to the southwest, where the weather comes from.  It was blue.  I said, "Why don't we sketch at the zoo instead?"

This turned out to be a happy impromptu decision.  The rain never came, it was not too cold, and the zoo was not terribly crowded.  After sketching the flamingos, we managed to hit the raptor exhibit just in time for the flight demonstration.  Tina attempted quick sketches of the birds while I snapped tons of photos -- a few of which turned out, though mostly the ones where the birds weren't moving.  Then we had fun at the komodo dragon exhibit, and the reptile house.

It's good to be flexible about sketch outing plans when the weather changes for the better.

Aplomado Falcon:

Harris's Hawk:

Peregrine Falcon:

Coming Wednesday: part 2, with Red-tailed Hawk, reptiles, and sketches.