Peregrine Falcon and Common Nighthawk

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March 27, 2009




I wasn't able to make it in to the museum last week to volunteer, alas, but hopefully this week. One of the recent shows I was involved in, The Exquisite City, just came down and so I got back all of the paintings that I had hanging in it. I hadn't posted them for sale because while I was satisfied enough with their state of completion for the show, I knew that I would want to work on them more. So, these were two of the watercolors that were in the show, and I just finished adding a bit more to them this weekend. I did 5 different paintings of bird species that can be found in an urban habitat such as Chicago.

Narwhals

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March 25, 2009


I'm back from a great trip to Austin for SXSW and the Flatstock Poster Festival. Thanks to everybody that stopped by my booth, and welcome if this is your first time reading Tiny Aviary!

Two days before I left for for Austin, I made a new screenprint. I've been wanting to make a narwhal print for a long time. I think the first time I saw a photo of one, I had the same reaction most people do: Is that real? Yes, they really do exist, and it's the males that have the horns. The horn is actually a tooth that grows out from their upper left jaw. Narwhal tusks were often passed off as unicorn tusks, and sold for exhorbatant prices by medieval traders for their "healing properties". The narwhal is a resident of the northern seas, and is the only other member in the family Monodontidae along with Belugas. Not too long ago, I bought a photo print by Paul Nicklen off of the National Geographic website. The article it was used for was about the narwhals and the annual hunt by the Inuit. The Inuit use the tusk, meat and skin which contains a high level of vitamin C. Populations of narwhals are declining, and this may be due to a number of factors: climate change, Inuit hunting, and halibut fisheries.

This Little Bird is Heading South

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March 17, 2009


Well, it's officially spring in Chicago, because I see robins everywhere, and hear the metallic, mechanical calls of Common grackles. While birds are heading north to their breeding grounds, I'm heading south to Austin, TX for the Flatstock Poster Convention happening during the SXSW music festival. I'll be back posting next week!

A quick "Thank you!" to those that stopped by to say hello to me on Memebers' Night at the Field Museum. I was working a table answering questions about museum specimens down in the mammal prep lab (see above photo). Species on the table included (left to right):a pickled specimen of a male Hammerhead bat (native to E. Africa), mink, hide of a N. American beaver, chipmunk, Thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Grey squirrel black color morph, Fox squirrel, subspecies of Fox squirrel native to Florida, and beautiful Prevost's squirrel (native to Eastern Asia). In the background are two giant, wooden tanning wheels that are about as old as the museum. They are not in regular use anymore (although completely functional). I know it can be a little off putting to some to see a table full of dead animals, but these specimens are incredibly valuable research tools that aid scientists in finding out precious information about a particular species, and in turn that information is used to help preserve it in the wild.

Ok- enjoy your week, and I'll be back soon.

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)- Rough Watercolor Studies

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March 14, 2009




I took on a commission some weeks ago to do a large watercolor of a Harpy Eagle. I just completed a couple of very rough sketches this week. There are a couple of different species of Harpy: one native to the neotropics, and one native to New Guinea (Kapul Eagle). The client was interested in the former. I looked at our one Harpy eagle specimen in the Field Museum collections and took some reference photos, and brought home a stack of books from the library. I was somewhat familiar with them before doing research, but didn't realize just how large they are until I saw the specimen. They're extraordinary birds of prey. They are the largest raptor that can be found in the Americas. They occupy tropical lowland forests, and hunt mammals such as monkeys and sloths. I've included a photo of the talons on the Field specimen, so that you can get an idea of just how powerful this creature is. The talons are roughly the size of my hands, and I don't have petite hands either. I'll try to post process photos when I work on the larger, final painting.

Raven Screenprint

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March 11, 2009


I've been wanting to do a small screen print of a raven for a long time now, and finally got around to it this week in preparation for the Flatstock Poster Convention I am attending in Austin next week. So this one is for all of you fellow corvid lovers out there. It's available now in the ETSY SHOP.

Finished Andrew Bird Poster

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In the previous post, I put up the pencil drawing that became this six color screen print. I obviously took some artistic license with the representation of this species of bird-of paradise, and just tried to capture the overall character of it rather than being scientifically accurate. Also, I normally wouldn't cave in and use such an easy image: that of a bird for someone with the last name of Bird. Since, however, a variation of this image is part of the artwork for Noble Beast, and knowing that Andrew liked the image enough to use it on some posters for his Carnegie Hall and Civic Opera House shows, I decided to indulge a bit.

New Andrew Bird Poster with Bird-of-Paradise

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March 06, 2009


I was just hired to create a poster for a show Andrew will be doing for Austin City Limits on March 18th. I decided to try and adapt the painting that I did for the deluxe version of his recent album, Noble Beast, of a Paradisaea decora (Goldie's Bird of Paradise) for a screen print. Here is the pencil drawing. I will post the finished poster next week. Have a great weekend!

White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis

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March 04, 2009


Last week I went into the museum, and brought a few friends with me. Nick and Nadine run Sonnenzimmer Press, and are amazing artists and designers. Nadine is from Switzerland, and had her good friend, Esther, visiting from Berlin. None of them had ever been to the Field before, so they got a little tour of the Bird Division. After fawning over the Bird-of-Paradise specimens, and visiting the dermestid beetle colonies, they went on to view the public collections, and I got to my work.

Dr. Willard had taken out a few small birds from the freezers for me to make into study skins: a couple of House finches, and a White-throated Sparrow. Both species have really lovely vocalizations. The sparrow's is quite distinctive. Its song is often described as a high pitched, pure "Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody". It'll be a familiar sound in my backyard come spring as they make their way up north from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S. In fact, when these little guys start showing up in the Chicago area, Dave (Willard) says that he inevitably gets many calls to the lab with people saying "I keep hearing this bird that I can't identify, it sounds like this", and then they proceed to whistle the "Sam Peabody Peabody" into the phone receiver. I think it drives him a little nuts. Anyway, this particular Zonotrichia (I love that word) albicollis was a cat kill that someone had found. One of its wings had a pretty substantial wound. White-throated are fairly common here in spring and fall, but are not to be found in these parts during the winter. Their typical winter range begins in the southern end of Illinois and goes down to Florida. What was unusual about this one, according to Dave, is that it was collected in January in a Chicago suburb. It's very unusual for albicollis to be found this far north in January. Dave said that they are finding more cases of this every year, though, and that it is a possible indication that due to global warming its range is slowly shifting north.

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