Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tiny Hummingbirds!

After several visits to the Montlake Fill trying to get a good view of the hummingbird chicks, I finally succeeded!

Yesterday morning I got there just as the mother was finishing up a feeding, with her back directly blocking any sight of the babies.  Rats.  Since it can take up to half an hour or more between feedings, I took off for a stroll around the Loop Trail.  Over by the lake front there is some temporary fencing, and I spotted a large bird strolling around inside it, foraging.

It was the female pheasant that's been living at the Fill for at least two years now, successfully avoiding the coyote.

Next, I spotted a group of Green-winged Teals on the southwest pond.  They are a favorite of mine with their lovely plumage:

The female is typically not so colorful, but she does have the distinctive teal-green feathers that give them their name (this section of feathers is called the speculum).

When I got back to the hummingbird nest, the mom was nowhere to be seen.  So I parked myself for a while, and got a lot of practice with the camera, seeing how quickly I could zoom in on the nest.  I waited.  And waited.  I was nearly ready to give up when two women stopped by -- I'd met them a few days earlier and had shown them the nest, and they wanted to see the babies, too.  So we chatted and watched a bit longer, and I'm so glad they turned up to keep me there, for after another five minutes or so, the mother returned.

For once there was no twig blocking my view, and the mom did not block my view of the chicks, who lifted their heads up enough to be seen, and thanks to all that earlier practice, I got zoomed in and focused in time.

I took about three dozen photos but they all look pretty much like this one.  There were at least two, and possibly three chicks.  I also managed to take this short video:


Hurrah!  Such a wonderful sight.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sunday Urban Sketching

This past Sunday the Seattle Urban Sketchers ( hosted their monthly get-together at Hale's Ale Brew Pub, and Tina, Nicole, and I joined in the fun.  We arrived at 11am, and as it was close enough to lunch time and we were hungry, we started our sketching in the restaurant.

I couldn't see much from my seat except a family at another table, and the brewery's logo on the wall.

After eating, I abandoned Nicole and Tina, who wanted to keep sketching inside the brewery.  The sun was shining and I wanted to be outside.  I found a view of an interesting building and settled in, only to discover that sunshine does not necessarily equal warmth.  I spent about fifteen minutes on this sketch before giving up due to chilled hands.

Back inside the brewery, I found a lobby view of some beer casks next to an old British phone booth.  I think I could have done a better job of this, because I was having trouble with my materials.  I had a new sketchbook, a brand I've used before with great success, but with different pens.  The pens I tried to use on it this time were skipping a lot and I couldn't get good, strong lines.

When the sketch group finished up and Tina, Nicole and I headed over to a nearby retirement home where Tina visited her mother while Nicole and I sat in their little patio garden.  It was warmer by then, and the sunlight was making lovely highlights and nice deep shadows.  Because of my earlier frustration with the pen, this time I opted to try using my brush pen to make marks where the shadows were falling, more or less.  This is a technique I learned in the Travel Sketching class at

I was happier with that drawing than anything I did at the brewery.

That was it was weekend sketching.  But wait -- there's more!  Earlier on Sunday I popped down to the Montlake Fill to try getting a better shot of the hummingbird feeding its chick.  She did not cooperate, so I walked Truman around the Loop Trail, where we saw lots of Northern Shovelers on Shoveler's Pond:

While admiring the birds, my attention was caught by a canine loping through the brushy meadow on the far side of the pond.  WHAT is that DOG doing running loose!? I thought -- until realizing that it was not a dog.

Blur E. Coyote

I haven't seen a coyote there for over a year.  It disappeared into the brush and I didn't see it again.  Typically they are skittish around people and will run off, though they've been known to defend their territory against dogs, so now I have yet another reason to tell the idiots who let their dogs go off-leash at the Fill to not do that!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled rainy weather.  At least I have baseball to watch.  So if you don't see any posts here for a while, just know that I'm in a Rain Delay!

Monday, March 20, 2017

At the Museum

Saturday it rained all day, so The Northend Sketchers (me, Tina, Nicole) opted for an indoor drawing experience at the Burke Museum (natural history and anthropology).

My first effort, of a wolverine showing a wide-open mouth of ferocious teeth, was not terribly successful.

So I gave up on that and moved on to the nearby "Terror Bird" skeleton, which turned out a bit better (perhaps I'm just  more inspired by birds).

Next I moved on to a lovely Northwest Forest display with an otter -- who can resist an otter?  Now I seemed to be hitting my stride, and I was happy with the resulting sketch.

Then I headed to the anthropology section for my last drawing of the day.  There's a very colorful, life-size exhibit of a Korean wedding ceremony that has always caught my eye on past visits, but I always felt intimidated by its complexity.  Plus the place was usually too crowded to get a good view.  This day, though, the museum had little traffic, and I felt it was time to give it a go.

Yes!  I'll admit to doing a light pencil sketch first to make sure I had everything in the right place (normally I draw directly in ink).  I spent a lot more time on it than I typically do on a drawing, and was very pleased with the effort.

On Sunday the sun came out in all its full glory -- tune in tomorrow for more sketching fun.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Wee Birds

Yesterday the SUN appeared -- miracle!  I dashed down to the Fill to check on the hummingbird nest, and found the mother still on it.

Then she flew off several times and returned to feed the youngsters.  Sadly, there was a twig in the way, which made things blurry right where I didn't want them to be blurry, but you can sort of see the baby hummingbird's mouth opening to receive food in this shot:

I hope to get back there on Sunday to try for a better viewpoint.  There was a better view just a foot or so to my right, but it was occupied by my birder friend Doug and his tripod and camera, and he was not planning to leave any time soon.  But he wasn't going to go there on Sunday, so I hope to snag that prime spot for a non-blurry-twig shot.

Back home, Truman and I enjoyed the early afternoon sunshine, which warmed up the yard enough for lounging.

Good times!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rain Rain Go Away

Average total rainfall in Seattle from October 1 to March 15:  around 26 inches.

Total rainfall in Seattle from October 1, 2016 to March 15, 2017:  over 36 inches.

Number of completely clear sunny days (not partials -- thank goodness we've had those) in Seattle since October 1:  three.

Yes, that's right.  Three.  It was on KOMO news, so it must be true, right?

This is Truman looking out the front window, wondering when the rain will end:

And this is Truman after I read him the forecast for the next four days:

I'll admit that this Winter has been tougher to deal with than my first Winter in retirement.  I was able to get out and about more then.  Being housebound has been challenging.  I did enjoy the needlepoint project very much, but all that intensely close work made my neck hurt.   As for going somewhere to sketch indoors, that mostly means People, and you know how I feel about sketching People.  Blah.

I did get out yesterday for my annual eye exam (where everything was tickety-boo), and they let me hang out in the exam room for a little while afterwards so I could draw one of the cool pieces of equipment:

This morning a friend wants to meet up at Starbuck's, so I guess I will go there and draw People.  Blah.

Truman will just have to stay home and mope while staring out the window, which is precisely what he is doing right now.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Blue Holes!

According to Harvey Manning (noted local hiking guide author), the Puget Sound skies may be described as "a gray blanket occasionally punctured by blue holes."

Yesterday we got blue holes!  It was supposed to be totally gray and rainy, and when the forecast calls for a totally gray blanket and instead I see blue holes poking through it at 8:00am, I know better than to stay inside.  When you see blue holes, you cannot dilly dally or lollygag, thinking maybe it will still be nice at 9 or 10 am -- oh, no -- you must GET OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW.

So I tossed Truman in the car and down we went to the Montlake Fill.

I checked on the hummingbird nest that Connie pointed out to me last Saturday, and was delighted to find a slightly different angle where I could snap a photo without a twig in the way:

We ran across Connie, who was just finishing up her birding for the day, and sat and chatted for a while.  She told me there was a Green Heron in the little cove by the Conibear Shellhouse, so I went over there. Truman was not thrilled that I took a different route than usual.

I did not see the Green Heron, but there were at least six Great Blue Herons there, including this pair:

And this one:

Truman kept trying to point out to me that we were going the wrong way:

But before I turned around and went the right way, I had to snap a pic of this lovely Bufflehead:

Finally I turned to head back towards the correct path, and Truman was appeased.

Today, sadly, the skies are a solid gray blanket again.  If any blue holes puncture it any time soon, you know where I'll be.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

More Fun with Dogs

On Monday we had Winston and Chloe for the day, which made Truman very happy.

Truman enjoys doggie company so much that sometimes I ponder getting him a permanent friend.  We shall just have to wait and see about that.

During our morning walk, we encountered a vending machine on the side of the road.  Most likely this was the result of someone stealing it and breaking it open for the money, and then dumping it in our neighborhood.  Lovely.

When Truman and Winston and I returned to the house, they greeted Chloe with great enthusiasm:


Winston has a lot of energy.  Later, in the afternoon, the sun made a few appearances, and the hounds romped around the back yard quite a bit.


It was a good day for dachshunds at Dog End.

On Tuesday the rain returned.  I got tired of waiting for a break in the rain so I could take my walk, and the forecast indicated no break in sight.  So I threw on my rain gear and Truman's rain coat and went for a walk anyway.  Truman got a little wet:

I don't think he really minds that much -- he doesn't seem bothered by water.  There were puddles in the road here and there, and when I tried to steer him around them, he just pulled the other way in order to walk right through them.

After taking off his rain coat and getting him a towel, this is how he dried off:


Just so you  know, the forecast for the next five days is for showers or rain every day.  Bah, Humbug!