Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Watercolor Bird Paintings From CT Artists

Painting # 1- Songbirds by David Stumpo-

Back in March, I stopped by a place called Celebrations Gallery and Shoppes in Pomfret. Here are some watercolor paintings from two Connecticut artists whose artwork is currently being displayed at the gallery. (Click on the paintings for larger view). (Paintings #1 and #2 are by David Stumpo).

Painting # 2 -Migratory Daydreams by David Stumpo

“As an artist, my one true passion is watercolor. I truly enjoy the fluid movement of watercolor paint on paper. My second passion is nature and wildlife, particularly birds. Seeing a Great Blue Heron standing in a marsh, with the setting sun dancing on it’s feathers, head up and alert, is for me, an almost religious experience. I feel closest to God when I am out in nature and observing the little intricacies and wonders of life.

The striking slash of carmine red against the pure white of new fallen snow as a Cardinal cautiously works his way to the birdfeeder. The jerky and comical antics of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker as its head peeks and peers, nervously surveying the area. These little things are the gifts I receive from my time spent observing, watching, quietly letting nature form the thoughts and ideas that will become my next painting. In thanks, I try to paint my birds as accurately as I am able. My goal is to give them life.”

Painting # 3 - Goldfinches by Sharon Rowley Morgio

(Paintings #3 and #4 are by Sharon Rowley Morgio).

The following is an artist statement from Sharon:

“My art background is in drawing and painting. When I was introduced to the field of calligraphy about thirty years ago, it became a new source of inspiration for pieces combining shape, line, texture and color. While my beginnings in lettering covered many years of rendering words and quotations, both commercially and as original works of art, I became interested in the shapes and forms that are inherent in letterforms, using them as inspiration for more abstract pieces. I have also enjoyed combining images from nature and the human figure with calligraphy.

For the past three years I have become immersed in painting watercolors. I enjoy the fluidity and layering possibilities of the medium. I paint both natural and man made subject matter from unusual points of view, focusing on shape, line and texture in a variety of compositions that often include only a portion of the subject, positioned in a way to draw the viewer into the page. In the future, I hope to expand my work in new directions, including works which combine lettering and watercolor.

For me, a painting is an adventure. I enjoy the opportunity for discoveries and personal growth that come with each new work. It is my hope that others might see things in different ways after viewing my paintings, and that they feel an emotional connection to each piece. "

Painting # 4 - Fat Robin by Sharon Rowley Morgio

I hope that you enjoyed viewing the paintings. Thanks to the artists and to Celebrations Gallery for allowing me to share them with you. Here is a link to Celebrations Gallery and Shoppes.
As for me, I've been taking it easy during this Connecticut heatwave. I've been seeing lots of butterflies recently including this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that landed on some flowers in a nearby field.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do We Watch Them Or Do They Watch Us?

For the last couple of weekends I've been taking walks at various locations along the Connecticut River. As to be expected this time of year, conditions have been hot, humid. I've tried to protect myself by staying covered head to toe and dousing myself with deet, but the dastardly little bloodsuckers still manage to get me. Sometimes when I'm walking, I run face first into spider webs. When this happens I quickly brush the webs off me fearing that a spider might have landed on me. I'm glad I didn't run into the spider in the photo. I was really impressed with its size and color patterns. From what I was told, this spider might be of the Argiope variety. If you know what kind of spider this is, please let me know. I've been surprised by the number of Green Herons I've seen near the Connecticut River since the beginning of August. The swampy areas near the river are rich in food sources for the herons. This photo of the heron in this tree was taken at George Dudley Seymour Park in East Hampton. It was making loud shracking sounds to warn a second heron on the opposite side of the swamp that I was approaching the area. This was a reminder that birds and wildlife watch us as much as we watch them. The difference being that they have to stay aware of their surroundings in order to survive. I do wonder if they sometimes watch us for no other reason than curiosity.
Do you think this truck would qualify for the "Cash For Clunkers program" ?
I frequently walk a trail which passes through Wangunk Meadows in Portland. It's a good area for birding but is littered with abandoned cars and trash. Much of the land through this stretch is broken up into parcels belonging to multiple owners. Some small parcels of land have been purchased for conservation purposes but trying to buy more of this land for conservation is difficult because there are so many different land owners.
I've seen hundreds of frogs along the Wangunk meadow Trails this month. I believe many of them are Leopard Frogs. Since these herons have showed up, hundreds of frogs have become dozens of frogs. I wonder how many were eaten by the Green Herons and Blue Herons? Green Herons are one of the few species that make use of tools. They have been seen dangling bait on the surface of the water to attract prey.
Some of the notable birds I've been seeing at the meadows include Solitary Sandpipers (above), Bobolinks, 1 Worm-eating Warbler, 1 Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, 12 northern Flickers, 3 -Blue-winged Warblers, 3 Great Egrets, 3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Great Blue Herons, 4 Wood Ducks, Willow Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, 4 -Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and during one visit-20- Indigo Buntings.
I enjoyed watching this young Bald Eagle trying to pry some food (can't figure what it is) from this grassy area at the Portland Fairgrounds. When I'm watching birds like this eagle it sometimes occurs to me that we are not so different from the birds that we watch. We go about things differently but in the end we are both doing our best to survive.
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I enjoyed watching the way this young eagle hopped and lumbered around looking for food.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Going Green With A "Reel" Lawnmower

I recently found myself in need of a new lawnmower when the body on my gas powered mower started falling apart. I've been using a rechargeable weed whacker for a couple of years now with good results. I was hopeful that I might be able to switch to using a rechargeable lawnmower as well but after reading a number of customer reviews I decided that the price, performance, and durability of the rechargeable lawnmowers didn't fit my current needs.

Then another thought came to mind. Do they still make those old-fashioned manual push mowers? I soon discovered that not only do they still make them but there are a lot of people who enjoy using them. Not all of the reviews were great. The biggest complaint was that the manual reel mowers aren't good at cutting weeds, overgrown grass, and certain varieties of grass. I am not overly fussy about my lawn so I decided it would be worth a try.

I chose the
Scott's 20" Classic Push Reel Mower. This lawnmower had overall favorable reviews and was readily available at Home Depot at a discounted price. There were other more expensive brands available online but I went with the Scott's because it was a more convenient choice for me.

I've already used it several times to cut my grass and here is what I found so far:

On the plus side:

  • It is much quieter than a gas mower. My neighbors will benefit from this too.

  • It is easier to just stop and take a break while you are doing the lawn. You don't need to worry about restarting it.

  • I like knowing that I'm getting some exercise while mowing the lawn. It doesn't seem any more difficult than pushing a gas mower (without the self-propel feature).

  • You don't have to deal with any gas, oil, or spark plugs.

  • There are no dirty exhaust fumes . Using a gas lawn mower for an hour is equivalent to driving a car 100-200 miles depending on which report you read.

  • They do a nice job of cutting grass, not perfect, but good.

  • They take up less storage area and only weigh much less.

  • They are less expensive than most gas or electric models.
  • They are safer to operate and you don't have to hear that loud cracking sound when you run over a rock.

Some of the drawbacks are:

  • It is more likely to miss a patch of grass here and there. You may need to go over some spots a second time or touch up an area with the weed whacker.

  • I don't know anything about the different varieties of grass but I noticed I have some grass mixed in my lawn that is soft and flimsy like corn silk. That type of grass doesn't cut as well.

  • The mower can get jammed up if you run over an area that has a lot of small sticks. You will have to find them and remove them. This happened to me a couple of times but has not been a big problem. I just roll the blade backwards a little with my foot. That is one thing that I will miss about the gas mower. I was able to run over every stick and leaf

  • The lawnmower has to be adjusted as the blades wear down. The blades need to be sharpened ever couple of years. A $12 sharpening kit can be purchased or you can just pay someone to do it.

  • I need to cut grass at least once a week now. With a gas mower, I was able to get away with mowing less frequently if I wanted to.

  • It does not cut as close to areas like your foundation or hedges.
  • It is probably best for modest sized lawns of less than half an acre (my lot is .38 acres).

I really enjoy using this new mower. I like the simplicity of the design and the quiet operation. When I was using a gas mower I felt like a lawn zombie cutting the grass. I feel much more of a connection with what I'm doing while using the manual mower. If you need a new lawnmower and you aren't a lawn perfectionist, consider trying a manual reel mower.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dramatic Video Of Coyote Crossing Field

I did some birding along the Connecticut River in Portland this morning. The water level was very high. I saw a young Bald Eagle stretching its wings while sitting on the end of Gildersleeve Island. I counted 7 Indigo Buntings during my short walk. There were also numerous Northern Flickers, 2 Belted Kingfishers, a Solitary Sandpiper, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak along with an assortment of other familiar birds. I didn't stay long because they were setting up for a truck pulling event at the fairgrounds.

If you are heading north on 17a, there is a short dirt drive-thru past the fairgrounds on the left. From this location you have a good view of a flooded field at the outer edge of Wangunk Meadows. There were 2 Green Herons along with a Great Blue Heron there this morning.
One of the interesting things about herons is that their appearance changes a lot depending on their posture. Note the change in appearance of the same bird in photo 1 and photo 2.

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I had just finished
taking this video of the heron when I heard a loud splashing sound coming from my left. I saw what appeared to be a coyote crossing the field.

click to play
I quickly hit the record button again and watched as the coyote came splashing across the field less than 40 feet away from me. Talk about being at the right place at the right time! I have seen coyotes in the area on occasion but never in such dramatic fashion! Note: (The squeaky sound in the middle of the video is the camera rubbing against the camera case. I was using it to steady the camera. )