Spring Birding in Hyde Park, Chicago
May 30, 2012
Way back in the beginning of May I went to visit a friend in Hyde Park, and we went on a birding hike through lovely Wooded Isle. We try to do this on a semi regular basis during the spring and fall migrations. We timed it well this time, because we saw a great variety of species. I don't need to explain further, as you can just check my painting above to see what we came across! I'm hoping to make a print edition of it, so will let you know if and when that happens.
In the meantime, I will be volunteering at the Field Museum tomorrow and will try to find some fun things to photograph and post to twitter and Instagram.
Prints of this are available here.
Cape May Warbler - Dendroica Tigrina
May 17, 2012
Lucky me I've been able to make it in to volunteer at the Field Museum 2 weeks in a row! I decided I had to go in today before everything gets crazyville here in Chicago because of the NATO summit this weekend.
I'm leaving for a short vacation in NYC on Saturday, so I had no time for paintings this week, but wanted to share this photo with you. It's a Cape May warbler that I worked on today at the Field Museum. It's a male. SO beautiful, but alas an unfortunate window kill. His permanent residence is now the Field Museum bird collections.
Cape May Warblers get their namesake from where Alexander Wilson first spotted one in Cape May, New Jersey. It's interesting to note that Cape Mays were not recorded again in that area for another 100 years. They breed in coniferous tree in the boreal forest, and winter in the islands of the West Indies.
Have a great weekend, and I hope to post some pics on Twitter and Instagram from the American Musuem of Natural History in NYC. I've never been, so I'm quite excited.
Palm Warbler : Setophaga palmarum
May 09, 2012
I went birding this past weekend with a friend in Hyde Park. We made our usual rounds of Wooded Isle. We came across about 30 different bird species, including these little guys.
Palm Warbler, despite what its name would suggest, is not a bird that breeds in the balmy tropics. It prefers the bogs of the far northern most reaches of the United States, and the boreal forests of Canada. What my friend and I were witnessing was a wave of them combing through the Chicago area on their way to breeding grounds up north.
They were quite conspicuous in their foraging behavior. I am sure this is in part why we were able to spot so many. I'm not the best birder. If I can see it, that means anybody can.They seemed to prefer the lower shrubs and plants over the larger trees. I just learned that they will make their nests on the surface of a bog, usually underneath a conifer tree. They are difficult to study due to the remoteness of their nests, thus little is known of their breeding behavior.
I'll be at the Field Museum tomorrow, so if you follow me on Twitter or Istagram, I'll try to post a bunch of behind the scenes photos of the bird division!
Garlic Mustard: Alliaria petiolata
May 08, 2012
This past Saturday, I volunteered to spend a few hours removing invasive plant species from a small, local forest preserve. We specifically focused on Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata, a tenacious plant native to Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia that was introduced to North America around 1860 as a culinary herb.
I have noticed this plant for some years now, as it pops up in our yard, our neighbors' yards, and of course, as it carpets the understory of forests, choking out native plants. In its native habitat, it is kept in check by various fungus and insect species that rely upon it for food. Here, however, none of these fungus and insect species exist, and so Alliaria petiolata has nothing standing in the way of its botanical world domination.
The group I volunteered with has been meeting annually since 1989 at this little preserve to pull out Garlic Mustard. Their perseverance has paid off. The woman that lead the group told me that when they first started, it took about 2 days to clear out all of the Alliaria. Now, it took about 6 of us working for only 2 hours.
The real fruits of this labor is the startling diversity of plant life that now thrives within the preserve. While I worked away removing patches of the garlic mustard, all around me were large clusters of Prairie Trillium, Wild Geranium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and May Apple, to name a few. A woman that was helping out told me she had first visited the preserve 50 years ago when she was a girl scout. Back then, she said there were no trillium or Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and she was amazed at the change. While we chatted, I spotted a couple birding along one of the paths. They told me they had clocked in over 30 different species that morning. The preserve is no larger than a city block.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you have probably seen a few of the photos that I posted from the preserve while I worked there on Saturday. The painting above is directly inspired by what I saw while at the preserve. It's Prairie Trillium Trillium recurvatum and Jack-in-the-Pulpit Arisaema triphyllum.
Northern Gannet::Morus bassanus
May 01, 2012
I've been using the iphone app Instagram for some months now, and I love it. One of the reasons is that it has connected me with the photographic work of many people that share my passion for birds and nature. Of these photographers, there is an individual that I follow that is a birder in the Netherlands. He regularly posts photos of gannets, and as a result I was inspired to do a little painting of these amazing sea birds.
Northern Gannets are a plunge diving sea bird that breeds in large, gregarious colonies on steep cliffs. Gannet pair bonds usually last for life, with both male and female engaging in parental duties. The female will lay a single egg, and this is kept warm by using the webbing on their feet rather than a brood patch. Nestlings fledge at an age of 13 weeks, at which point they will glide up to 500 meters down to the water below their colony site. If the birds survive their first year, they often return to the colony where they were born to breed. To think of everything that they must learn to survive in that first year of life, it is a wonder that any make it at all.
I found this amazing footage of gannets diving. These are Cape Gannets, as these were birds diving off of the coast of South Africa. Anyway, you get the idea. There must be a tremendous learning curve for young gannets to become proficient in this foraging technique.