Rooks in Ginkgo Tree

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February 26, 2010


Here's a very recent commissioned watercolor of 2 Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) in a ginkgo tree. Rooks are in with the Corvidae family. Although they look like ravens and crows, they have one distinguishing feature. It's a grey-ish white patch of bare skin at the base of the bill and around the eyes. Here is a fun, brief lecture by Joshua Klein from the TED series about smarty pants corvids: TED Lectures. Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

New Tiny Aviary Giclees Available

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February 24, 2010


Three paintings that I have posted about on Tiny Aviary are now available as limited edition, archival inkjet prints in my online store. If you are used to going to my Etsy shop, they will be there as well, but I have a new online shop that does not require you register for an Etsy account. The new prints are Cher Ami, Muskox, and Polar Ghosts, and they can be found HERE.

Field Museum Dioramas

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February 19, 2010




I went in for my regular volunteer shift at the Field Museum yesterday. I spent my lunch wandering around the Hall of Plants. It's become one of my favorite parts of the public collections. I adore the old models and dioramas. There is a charming, old world quality to them, but their beautiful attention to detail is timeless. I took a photo of a liverwort display, a backlit model of some algae, a fungus display. The models' original purpose was to aid in a scientific understanding of the plants, but to me they are also beautiful and strange objets d'art. Is it an algae specimen or abstract watercolor painting? Meera, another bird division volunteer, was talking about the extraordinary glass flower specimens at Harvard. The flowers were created with remarkable detail by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka in the late 1800s. They were father and son jewelry makers that lived near Dresden, and they made over 4000 specimens for the Harvard collections. More information can be found here.

Dovekie - Alle alle

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February 14, 2010


This is part two of the previous post. It is the second of two paintings that were commissioned from the same person. I had never heard of a Dovekie before. Doviekies belong to the Alcid family which also includes other seabirds such as, auklets, murres, and puffins. They spend their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed. It can be found flying low over the North Atlantic, and breeds in the high arctic, especially areas of Greenland. They're stocky, medium-sized birds with small wings. Its sometimes neckless, chunky appearance earned it the nickname of Bull Bird from Newfoundlanders. This Dovekie earned the nickname Enthusiast from the person that commissioned it.

Fernandina's Flicker - Colaptes fernandinae

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February 09, 2010



I recently was asked to create a painting of a Dovekie (Alle alle) and Fernandina's Flicker. Both are very interesting birds. They are very different from one another, so I will post about the Dovekie separately.

Here in the States we have two species of flicker: Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), and Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides). It was once thought that Gilded was a subspecies of the Northern, but recent research has shown them to be different species. Flickers are rather large woodpeckers that, unlike some of the other members of the Picidae family, tend to favor foraging on the ground. They use their strong bills to probe in to the ground and stir up ants, grubs and other invertebrates. There's a dusty, flat patch of ground in my neighbors yard that is frequented by a few during the spring and summer for this purpose.

Fernandina's Flicker is a species that is endemic to Cuba. It's population has been hovering around 600 to 800, making it one of the rarest woodpeckers in the world. Like their North American counterparts, Colaptes fernandinae, like to forage on the ground. As far as appearance, they share some similar traits with the Northern and Gilded, but are quite distinct. I told Dave Willard at the Field Museum (bird collections manager that I volunteer for) that I had a commission to do a small painting of the Fernandina, and this resulted in him helping me find the few study skin specimens in the collections. These are specimens that were collected many, many years ago. Its status in the wild is so unstable due to low numbers, and constant threats from habitat loss, that collecting any specimens these days is out of the question. The photo above is of the backside and tails of these specimens. The plumage patterning is striking. Our flickers have similar patterning,but not quite as bold as what you see on the Fernandina's here. The other image is the painting I made. There is a sweet story behind the name "Greeter" in the banner, but for the sake of client privacy, I won't go in to details.

Sooty Albatross Dreams of the Sea

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February 08, 2010


Another painting completed for my current series, this one of a Sooty Albatross. Albatrosses spend most of their lives gliding over rough southern seas, far from land. They only come to land to breed. I sometimes wonder, for a creature that spends so much time at sea, what must it feel during those times spent nesting on land. Is it a relief, or do they dream of the sea, yearning to set off on their giant wing spans again? The Sooty Albatross (Phoebetria fusca) is a medium sized albatross that breeds on islands in the south Atlantic, and are particularly beautiful.

Island of Adélies

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February 04, 2010


I've been working on a bunch of painting commissions this week, so not much time to post. This is a final watercolor that started out as this study. It's of a group of Adélie penguins on an iceberg. All sorts of exciting projects coming up that I will write about soon. More paintings to come!

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