Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More Tree Sparrows

I just love the LBBs. Little Brown Birds may seem boring and common to some, but their earnest faces and surprisingly distinctive markings make for endless fun.  

There's nothing insincere about that expression.

The tree sparrow is has that dark spot on its front, as if someone poked it in the breast with a grubby finger.  They're pretty common in small shrubs out in the fields and woods where Baloo and I wander.

This picture is taken through my sister's front window. She had just put seeds out on the porch railing and it didn't take long for someone to notice and come in for a snack.

It also gave us a wary look right back through that window, as we enjoyed watching it munch on seeds. Doesn't that almost look like a cartoon expression? It makes me smile.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


This kildeer was pretty bold and stuck around as Baloo and I crept closer, allowing me to get several pretty good photos.

It does look just a tad worried, doesn't it? I expect there's a nest nearby.

This is a different bird out in the big field we walk through most mornings. For some reason, the color is odd in this photo - it must be the lighting making the green of the grass reflect in the feathers. I liked the clear view of the face and neck markings, though. This bird was a little more shy, but didn't wander too far.  Once again, I would be willing to bet there's a nest being protected, though neither of these birds went into the full broken wing display they use to lure predators away from their nests.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Paths Through the Trees

One of my favorite walks with Baloo takes us along a ridge overlooking East Grand Traverse Bay.  It's especially dramatic when the leaves are off the trees, because the views of the water are unobstructed. 

This particular day was so lovely and clear that the sun sparkled across the water's surface leaving shimmering diamonds in its path.  

Then, a little deeper in the woods and along another path, Baloo and I found this snag with wrinkly ankles. Don't you hate it when your socks sag?

We inspected it more closely and found even more paths that had been made under the bark by bugs - the whole stump was covered with these trails.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pileated Courtship Dance

The rewards for getting out early every morning to walk the dog are countless. The wonder of seeing a pair of pileated woodpeckers engaged in an elaborate courtship dance was a simply magnificent example.

The choreography was quite something. First, they'd stand tall while facing each other.

Then, bow low and start the process of circling around each other.

Making a full turn, just like a courtly English country dance, passing left shoulders on the first figure.

Then, they sort of moved low and turned back around so they were once again facing each other.

And the figure would begin again.  Stand tall,...

...bow to your partner,...

...pass right shoulders this time and turn a full circle.

I feel so fortunate to have witnessed this display - it's probably one of those once in a lifetime experiences. 

Then again, there's always something wonderful to see, if I just keep my eyes open.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Swan Lake

The road that leads to what my family calls the "skunk entrance" (that's another story for another day) to the park at the end of the peninsula goes past a shallowish lake that has marshy areas along its edges. Frogs sing, muskrats swim, ducks dabble and swans do ballet. 

Here, a beautiful mute swan begins to execute a graceful arabesque.

Balance and extend.....  You can just see the webbed foot peeking out from under the wing as the stretch reaches full extension.  Any ballet instructor would be proud.    

Baloo and I saw this pair feeding in the bay as we took our sunset walk. More swans will appear in later posts on - Baloo and I were entertained by other large, white birds on a couple other occasions.  I just don't have the photos downloaded from the camera and prepared for posting yet.  

I know - the same creatures appear again and again.  What we see is what you get - it's the luck of the draw on our outings.  :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tree Sparrow in a Dish

A feeding dish, that is.

This little cutie is in a feeder hanging in my sister's front yard.  

In this photo, you can see the single spot on the tree sparrow's chest.

Settled back into the dish again, it's thoroughly enjoying dinner.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Out on a Limb

Soon, it will be difficult to see the creatures in the trees quite as well - the leaves will keep them hidden. 

It is nice for the moment to get clear views up into the branches.

Even when the clear views include wary glares.

I think the birds and squirrels will appreciate the extra camouflage protecting them from uninvited guests, even though I will miss watching their antics. (This is my neighbor's cat after taking a mighty leap - happily, no lives were lost in the ruckus.)

Friday, May 6, 2016

No Further than My Own Back Yard

Or my sister's back yard, in this case...

There are several feeders and lots of good cover right behind my sister's house.  (Yes, my whole family feeds and watches the birds - it's excellent entertainment.)  This jaunty song sparrow enthusiastically scratched around in the seed husk pile under one of the feeders to see what goodies were left there - or what bugs might be hidden below the shells.

Isn't that an earnest little face?  It's a really nice look at all the feather markings for this sparrow, too.  

And speaking of earnest faces - this nervous vole would venture out of its hole to search for forgotten seeds, only to dart back in at the blink of an eye. I love the bristle of whiskers and the intense button eyes.  It was not alone - you could see the ivy leaves quiver as furry friends nosed around looking for tasty tidbits.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Merganser Melee

Baloo and I were happily walking along the bay when we heard a terrible ruckus.

A group of merganser drakes were quacking, splashing, chasing and otherwise wailing on each other. 

Note the female calmly feeding in the foreground.  I wonder if she's the cause of all the posturing and carrying on.  

If so, they became so intent on their quarrel that they left her behind in their wake.

Ah, the things we do for love....

Monday, May 2, 2016

Spoiler Alert - May Stampeaz Invoice Image

Since these posts seem to be so popular, I decided to spoil the surprise all over again for those who like to have a sneak peek.  There are a lot of you peekers, as it turns out!  

The merry month of May is morel month in Michigan. I thought that it would be fun and completely appropriate to commemorate the season by using these delicious beauties as the Stampeaz invoice image for the month.  

As has been the case the last two months, this carving is a little larger and will be coming as a separate card, which people seem to like also. It is carved on OZ Kut with a #1 gouge and printed with Brilliance Pearlescent Rust Ink on either index or cover stock - the paper got separated with its package and I'm not entirely sure which one it is. 

So, now on with a even more verbiage, since I want you to be able to turn back, just in case you think better of spoiling the surprise in your package.  :)  

My family has been hunting these wily little mushrooms since I was a small child with short legs and a different angle of approach to the ground.  It was fun to be able to spot specimens that the adults at their higher vantage could not see. This is true - my sister, brother and I have taken children out and they do a good job finding hidden fungus. I wonder if it's the recent Easter egg hunting experiences that keeps them well honed in the art of discovery. 

One of the really good things about seeking this particular species with children or new hunters is that it is pretty difficult to make a mistake with this distinctive mushroom. The extremely wrinkly hills and valleys on the cap are unlike most other species and the way the stem attaches directly to that cap differentiates it from the possible imposters. Thus, it's a great beginner fungus - not the one that I began with, but pretty close.  My first mushroom is still a favorite and is another story for another day. 

So, that should be enough extra words to keep any accidental peeks at bay and this is the image you will receive if you place your order in May. Do be aware, though, that shipping during this month is sporadic, as I spend more time out in the woods than in the studio or packing room, so be patient with slow turnaround times.  Thanks!   

Morchella Esculenta

Sunday, May 1, 2016

You Put the Lime in the....

...coconut?  No, forget the coconut!

You put the lime in the cream cheese Danish, that's what!   Then, you share them with your family for Sunday breakfast.  Yum.