All My Eggs In One Basket


April 30, 2010

Ok, not really; more like in several boxes. Alright, they're not even my eggs. I was at the Field Museum yesterday, and somebody had pulled out these boxes and trays of beautiful eggs. I couldn't resist a couple of shots with the iPhone. The subtleties and variation of color and pattern are lovely, no?

I'm off to Austin next week to be a guest artist at the Decoder Ring Design Concern making a print with them for their art screepnprint series. Speaking of new prints, I am still plugging away at the etching I have been doing with White Wings. I'll post more when I return, and get a Flickr page set up with images from the process.

In the meantime, a friend forwarded this interesting article about bird parasitism. There are some species of birds, such as cuckoos and cowbirds, that lay their eggs in the nests of other species. The article documents some of the more intricate dynamics of this relationship through photos. Here's the article, courtesy BBC Earth News.

Tiny Watercolors


April 24, 2010

I'm currently in the process of having a new website designed (*yay*), and so I worked on some tiny spot illustrations for it this weekend. It's all of my favorite things: lichen, moss, corvids, and rhinoceros beetles!

Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus


April 21, 2010

Two weeks ago, I worked on preparing a Horned Grebe for the Field Museum collections. It had been found on the beach here in Chicago. No doubt it had been on its way north to breeding grounds in Canada, and up towards Alaska. It was in non-breeding plumage, meaning not what you see depicted here. It had a white breast and neck, and the rest of it was a dark, smokey brown. April through August, both male and female Horned Grebes acquire a much bolder, and warmer color palette. Grebes belong to the family Podicipedidae. They forage for food by diving, and build floating nests on marshy ponds. Their feet are lobed, and they have tiny, almost nonexistent tails.

*the grebe painting is now available in the Store.

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa


April 19, 2010

We've had a guest staying with us for the last week: artist Aaron Horkey. He and Jay are working on a collaborative print together, which is very exciting. Last Thursday, both Jay and Aaron came with me to the Field Museum. Aaron wanted to check out shrike specimens as research for another project of his, and then go view the Mammoth exhibit with Jay while I worked up in the prep lab. Dave (Willard) was kind enough to give Aaron access to the Loggerhead and Northern Shrike specimens, and Aaron spent a good portion of the day drawing from them. For my part, I worked on making study skins of two birds Dave had taken out of the freezer: Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. Both specimens were interesting and valuable for different reasons. Kinglets are tiny, insectivores that favor coniferous forests at northern latitudes. They are coming through the Chicago area right about now, and occasionally we have some window kills that make it in to the lab. The particular kinglet that I worked on last week was unique for its crown coloring. Golden-crowned kinglets have a bright slash of orange/yellow on the top of their heads. It usually tends towards the orange end of the color spectrum. This one that Dave gave me to work on had a crown that was almost a white-ish yellow. It's sad that the little fellow crossed my path in the lab, but having a color variation like that is a very important source of scientific data, and a valuable addition to the collections. I'll post about the Brown Creeper a bit later.

Harlequin Duck - Histrionicus histrionicus


April 12, 2010

I am pretty sure there are few things more sublime than the breeding plumage of a male Harlequin Duck. I remember looking at them in my first Peterson guide, and my 10 year old brain thinking that the day I could see something as beautiful as the Harlequin, it would be a pretty good day. That day was last Thursday, when volunteering at the Field Museum. Dave Willard strolled in to the lab to say that a Harlequin Duck had been spotted out in Monroe Harbor, on the north side of the museum. Like any good bird nerd, I scrambled for my coat and followed Dave and the other 2 volunteers outside. It's spring here, but the weather was still brisk. Our little group stood at the edge of the harbor, while Dave scanned the water with his binoculars. He quickly spotted it, and easily picked it out of a large group of American Coots bobbing about in the choppy waves. Its bold, white patterning was unmistakable, even from a healthy distance. At first it was squatting happily on a concrete break wall, constantly being splashed and sprayed with cold Lake Michigan water. They have a preference for cold, turbulent waters, and are very agile swimmers. This was quickly demonstrated by it getting in to the water and diving repeatedly. Harlequin sightings in Chicago, I believe, are quite infrequent. There are wintering populations on both coasts in the northern regions, and then breeding grounds as far north as Alaska, and Newfoundland. I'm not sure where exactly this fellow was headed, or from whence he came. Perhaps he flew off course as he was heading north from east coast wintering grounds. Hopefully, as I write this, he has continued on his way north and will find a wind swept, wave pummeled, rocky ledge in Newfoundland, and a mate that will appreciate his impressive plumage.

*watecolor available in the store.

American Kestrel - Falco spaverius


April 11, 2010

Over the weekend I finished this latest commissioned watercolor of an American Kestrel. It's 11 x 14 inches. When I lived in Northside Chicago, I'd see kestrels quite often. I usually would spot them hunting scrubby patches of grass that line the Metra tracks. There was a pair that was nesting in a gigantic cottonwood tree near the tracks at Berteau and Wolcott. I've done paintings of kestrels before, and every time that I do, I marvel at their beautiful coloring and pattern. Now that I live in Evanston, where there is arguably more green space, I almost never see them. I am far more likely to see the larger Cooper's Hawk. In fact I spotted a Cooper's as I walked Seth, my greyhound, this morning. I saw its sharp, long tailed silhouette bullet in to a large tree.



April 06, 2010

When I went to the Field Museum last week for my volunteer shift, I had Dave help me suss out some American Kestrel specimens. I have a commissioned watercolor I am working on of a Kestrel, and so wanted some reference photos of their plumage. I love taking closeup photos of bird feathers. The top two are from an American Kestrel specimen, and the bottom two are from a Horned Grebe that I worked on making in to a specimen later in the day.

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