Monday, May 21, 2018

The Merry Month of May

What was that odd pattering sound on my roof the night before last?  Could it possibly have been rain?  No!  Why, the last time I heard that sound was the 28th of April.  What on Earth is happening here in Seattle, in the great Pacific Northwet?

Well, truth to tell, there have been a few misty drizzles here and there, now and then, maybe once or twice.  But since I always complain when the weather is awful, I thought it would only be fair to note when it's not.  May has been mostly lovely, with 8 days above 70 (and five more predicted this coming week!) and enough sunshine to keep this desert-grown blogger happy.  Hooray for May!

Except for May 15, that is.  That was the day I opted to drive the horrid half-hour drive to Discovery Park to try sketching the lighthouse there.


It was supposed to be 70 and partly sunny.  When I arrived, it was 55 and mostly cloudy.


Okay, so I went really early, when the park ranger office opened at 8:30am, in order to snag one of the 8 coveted parking permits for the beach (without which it is a 1.7 mile walk one-way with a hill).


I could have waited until later, as it turned out.  Nary a soul was in line ahead of me, chomping at the bit for a permit, and no one turned up on the beach for the entire hour we lasted there.


I did try to sketch the lighthouse (not shown due to extreme hideousness), and after feeling uninspired by the whole adventure, went for a walk instead.


Which also didn't last long, because the smell from the nearby waste treatment plant kind of overwhelmed, and not in a good way.  The dogs, at least, didn't seem to mind.


So we walked in the other direction from the treatment plant, with the cool, cloudy beach all to ourselves.

There weren't even any fabulous birds to watch, other than the requisite gulls and crows.


Here is Pippin expressing precisely what I felt at that point...Why are we here?

Good question!  I need a list.  It should be printed in very big type and should be displayed prominently by the door, and it should say, DO NOT GO TO THESE PLACES AGAIN with an explanation, such as, "You hate the drive and it's always too cold and it smells bad!"

So take that, Discovery Park!

Fortunately, there is always the Montlake Fill.  I hope and trust that the Fill will never make that list.  There was a brief time, during the recent "restoration" project, when it wasn't entirely pleasant, but at least it smelled okay.  And the drive is only 15 minutes through a non-annoying part of town.

I took the Hounds there on Saturday, and made them walk around the Loop Trail twice.  We saw a whole lot of Killdeer, as usual:


And a lovely, not-quite-as-usual Cinnamon Teal:



The Marsh Wrens are common, though they prefer to hide in the cattails, and it's nice when one pops into view for a bit:

One fun sighting was not a bird at all--this is a Spring insect hatching cloud!  Most likely gnats, which keep the swallows very happy.


The Osprey pair appear to be sitting on eggs.  One is nearly always on the nest or in a tree nearby keeping a close watch, while the other one hunts for food or gathers more nest material.  Here is the female, Lacey, returning to the nest platform:


I ran into Connie and her gang of shorebird counters (they do a weekly survey), who were slowly ambling around the loop trail, counting Killdeer.  At one point, I ambled about 200 feet ahead of them and sat down to do this little sketch, and by the time I finished, they had managed to reach me.  They are s-l-ooooooo-w.


Except for the hideous lighthouse attempt, all of my sketching efforts occurred on Saturday and Sunday.  After spending Saturday morning at the Fill, I hopped over to the Twin Ponds community garden after lunch, to meet up with fellow sketcher Tina.  The sun was out!  It was ever so nice.


On Sunday we both joined up with the Seattle Urban Sketchers group for their monthly outing, which was to Wallingford Center.  This is an old school converted to boutique shops and eateries.  Naturally, the first shop that caught my attention was a bakery--the Trophy Cupcake place.


I spent a good hour drawing it while admiring the cupcakes, and then I admired eating a Triple Chocolate one.  I spent the second hour outside drawing the building, which turned out to be not so interesting, so you don't get to see it.  Trust me, the cupcake place was far superior.

At every group outing, someone snaps a photo of the sketchers.  I am in front, third from the right, wearing my ratty purple jacket.


As I mentioned, there are FIVE days in the forecast this coming week with 70+ temperatures.  Today is not one of those days.  Oh, well.  Something to look forward to!

Perhaps I'll spend some time today making a list with really big type of PLACES NOT TO GO.  I know what will be number one!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Breaking the Routine

My habit, when out sketching, is to find a view that appeals and then plonk it down on the page like this:


Or like this:

It occurred to me that this approach could get a bit predictable and perhaps even dull, and perhaps I should try different compositions once in a while.  I've done this a few times before, where I tried putting more than one view on a page:


Or tried to take a more journalistic approach, such as this:


While the "one view, one drawing in middle of page" approach certainly works fine for most sketches, this week I decided to mix things up a bit.  I would like my sketching books to be more like journals, to reflect more of what I'm seeing or experiencing than just the same view that I could get if I snapped a photograph.

So here is my first effort, done at Magnuson Park, where I've often admired the wisteria on the pergola there without ever managing to convey it well in a drawing.  I think this worked fairly well:


The next day I didn't go anywhere, so I practiced a new compositional style in my own back yard:


The next day I ventured out with the Hounds to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Greenwood:


There were plenty of fabulous views.


And fun things to draw.


I tried to convey several different aspects on one page, and as in the wisteria drawing, I tried mixing color with black and white.


I think I could have left a bit more white space in that piece.  Always learning!

After sketching that day, I hauled the Hounds down the road to Golden Gardens Park for a bit of beach viewing.



On Saturday I did my usual bird walk at the Montlake Fill, where I encountered a territorial dispute between a Red-winged Blackbird and a crow:




One of the Osprey was on the nest platform, probably on eggs, waiting for its mate to return with fish.


The Osprey was not going to budge from that nest, as another bird in a tree nearby was keeping an eagle eye on it:


I also spotted a lovely American Goldfinch:


After strolling around the loop trail, I went next door to the Center for Urban Horticulture to sketch at the perennial garden.



So I had fun experimenting with different page layouts this past week, until now I think those are getting predictable!  Which gives me another project to work on:  mixing up the compositions even more in new ways.  There's another week of good weather in the forecast, so I should be out and about.

In fact, it was so warm the past two days that I hauled out the wading pool (though not for me)....


Pippin was unsure about the strange new thing in his yard....


But since he models his behavior on Truman's, he did hop in...and immediately hopped out.  He's not quite the water dog that Tru is, though he will go wading at the lake shore.


Have a fun week, everyone!

Monday, May 7, 2018

There and Back Again

After a week in the Tri-Cities (in southeastern WA), Truman and Pippin and I returned to our home, "Dog End", in Seattle.  ("There have always been dachshunds at Dog End.  There always will be.")

Only a few flowers had blooms when I went off on our vacation.  This is what greeted me one week later:


Forget-me-nots and bluebells cover the yard


The weeds burst out all over, too, so I have some gardening duties to keep me busy.

Let's go back now, though, to the last couple of days of vacation.  Having been to all of my favorite parks in Richland multiple times, I decided to venture a little farther afield to check out a new place in nearby West Richland:  The Park at the Lakes.


There I found two small, man-made lakes with trees, cattails, and grass, which proved to be excellent blackbird habitat.

Red-winged Blackbird 


The trail looped around each lake, perhaps half a mile total, so not a big place, but a lovely spot for a stroll.


Yellow-headed Blackbird 


On another day, I went on a four-mile walk through Richland, and paused at a park to make a quick sketch (and have a little rest).


One thing I wondered about before our visit was how Pippin would react to grass.  You see, our yard has no lawn -- it is all garden and paths.  No grass.  But Mom's home, where we stayed, has nothing but grass.  I thought Pippin might find it terribly boring.


He did not!  He spent hours out there, romping, running, rolling, sniffing, chasing leaves and twigs, and just lazing about.  I had trouble getting him to come back inside!  So now I'm worried that he'll find our yard boring.  Who knew?


Pippin does seem happy to be home, though.  For one thing, he got to see his friends Winston and Chloe, who he enjoys hanging out with on Thursdays.



While I was off in eastern WA, a Lewis's Woodpecker turned up in Seattle--which is normally an eastern WA bird.  Sightings in western WA are rare.  I've seen them around Yakima, so I wasn't unduly excited about it, but the bird was in one of my regular parks, so on Friday I hopped down there to check it out.


It's a big park, and as usual, instead of looking for the bird, all I had to do was look for the birders, and I found them and the woodpecker within one minute of arriving.  Sweet!



This annoyed the Hounds, who thought we were there for a dog walk.


They did get their walk eventually.  And then on Saturday, they got an even longer walk -- we spent five hours around the UW campus/Montlake Fill area, from 7am to noon, in order to do a little birding, make a visit to the festivities at Opening Day of the boating season, and check out the annual Master Gardeners plant sale. 

Long day.  I brought snacks.  For all of us.

I was greeted at the Fill loop trail by this American Robin:


And this Spring/Summer visitor, a Savannah Sparrow:


And this American Goldfinch:


There's a mud puddle on the trail that rarely dries up, and I know the Barn Swallows like to get mud and twigs there to build nests with, so I set up my camp stool a short distance away and staked it out.


Success!  The swallows swooped in, and gathered up twigs, and I got this delightful photo:


After birding the Fill, I walked over to the Montlake Cut and the boating festival. The Montlake Bridge closes at 10am, and I was happy to be on the right side of it, because it didn't re-open until 4pm.


We took a nice stroll along the Cut behind the UW South Campus.


I did a quick sketch there.


There was a boat parade later in the day which I didn't stick around for, but did get to see this interesting craft sailing by:


There were wonderful views from the Montlake Bridge before it closed:


There were crew races there, and I snapped this pic from the bridge for a slightly different view:


Then I walked back over to the Fill to do more birding and chatting with Connie Who Practically Lives There, and then I stopped by the nearby plant sale to pick up two chocolate-peppermint plants. A full, fun-filled day!

We had good weather while I was in Richland, and good weather for several days before I left, and have had good weather since I returned--in fact, the last time I got rained on was April 28.  I am spoiled!  The rain is slated to return this Thursday, so between now and then, you know where I'll be:  Out and About!