Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea
June 20, 2011
Blue-gray gnatcatchers are tiny birds that in years past I have spotted occasionally, but this summer there seems to be a couple that have set up shop in a park near my house. The park follows the Northshore Canal. There are lots of trees, and shrubby, wet habitat of the sort preferred by this species. I always hear them before seeing them. They have a thin, nasal, buzzing call. Gnatcatchers are the subfamily Polioptilinae of the Syliviidae family. The other half of the Sylviid family are Sylviinae or Old World warblers. There are four species of North American gnatcatchers, with the Blue-gray being the most widespread. They mainly eat small insects, gleaning them from the tips of tree branches. They form monogamous pairs, with the males vigorously defending their foraging area. I'm starting to wonder if I should be looking for a little nest in the river birches, where I keep seeing these little guys.
More Tiny Thumbs
June 13, 2011
A few recent posts ago, I put up some little thumbnail watercolors I made for a project. I decided to do another round for the same client to give them plenty of options. I was given the freedom to do whatever flora and fauna I wanted, so it was fun to figure out which to depict. Shown here: Ammonite fossil, flying squirrel, pangolin, quartz, and a Wilson's Bird-of- Paradise.
June 08, 2011
I just completed a new screenprint. The first one I have done in months. I wasn't able to print this myself, though. I had to have Jay print it up due to me having hands full of baby. It's for a set of prints that are raising money for a friend with cancer. The proceeds from the print set sales will help to cover his medical costs. Check it out HERE; lots of wonderful artists are involved. The photos above are respectively: my ink color notes to Jay, the original line drawing, and the finished four color screenprint.
I am fascinated by narwhals. I made a print of some a couple of years ago. I also have a photograph taken of a big group of male narwhals popping up through a hole in the ice, by Paul Nicklen. Nicklen just did a fantastic TED talk. He tells of his encounter with an Antarctic leopard seal. I had read about this particular encounter somewhere else, but to hear Nicklen tell it himself is a real treat. You can watch his talk HERE.
Great Snipe - Gallinago media
June 06, 2011
My fellow Field Museum volunteer Meera Lee Sethi is currently hiking through the wilds of Sweden at the Lake Ånnsjön Bird Observatory in the village of Handöl. She's there this summer working as a volunteer field assistant, banding (or "ringing" if you want to use the local lingo) Great Snipes. To cover travel expenses, Meera created a Kickstarter fundraiser. Her backers (of which I am one!) have been enjoying her updates and beautiful photographs from the field. Meera is also planning to release a book of essays called The Language of Birds. Some of the books, which will include my illustrations, will serve as gifts to her Kickstarter backers. During her time as a Field Museum volunteer, Meera has become a dedicated and skilled member of the zoology prep lab, and so it is really exciting to see her extend her knowledge and experience in this manner.
Check out Meera's excellent writing HERE.
Great Snipes are native to northern Europe, and are known for migrating enormous distances. They winter in Africa, and the males use leks to display to attract mates. They prefer marsh habitat, and forage like other birds of the genus Gallinago: by poking their long bills in to the mud via a sort of sewing motion. As with other snipe species, they can be hard to spot due to their cryptic plumage. All in all a very interesting species to be studying.
Best of luck, Meera!