Archive for April, 2011

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Songbird populations have dropped drastically over the last few decades.  I can only imagine the number and variety of birds that would have been seen in may parents’ neighborhoods when they were children.

These declines are attributed to many factors: city lights, reflective windows, pesticide use in summer and winter ranges, changing farming practices and even wind turbines.

It seems that you may (or I) may be in control of a significant factor in songbird declines.

From the June 2011 BirdWatching Magazine:

Catbirds losing battle to cats: Study finds cats taking big toll on fledglings

Research conducted in the summer of 2004 in three suburban neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., metro area and published in January 2011 confirms what many bird conservationists and birdwatchers have been saying for years: Free-roaming cats are major predators of songbirds.

Read the rest of the article here.  It’s near the bottom of the page.

I’ve been reading about this problem for some time.  I became acutely aware of this problem with my own cat, Robert.  I once stood at a window observing a large hawk that was observing our cooped flock of chickens.  Out of nowhere Robert pounced on the hawk.  They rolled once or twice and the hawk took off like a shot.  Another time I was building a small fire in a firepit.  A sparrow flew over the fire about a foot from my face.  Robert lept and nailed that bird right at my nose.  We ran him down and released the bird.  I can only imagine what hunting successes he had when we weren’t watching.

Robert passed away last year and is missed.  A new cat, Kevin (or Franklin) has come to visit.  He is a confirmed indoor cat, a designation that he rebels against.  The designation was a condition for living with us.  He seems satisfied watching the garden birds from the windows.

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I just finished a small commission of 6 cardinals-on-a-stick for the Indiana Governor’s Office to have on hand for official gifts.  It would be great to learn where they end up!

Birds-on-a-stick are flat cut birds that are slightly larger than my carving patterns.  They are finished and painted and distressed, on one side, in the same style as my carved birds.

They cost considerably less than birds carved in the round and are considered, by addicted collectors, to be a gateway bird.

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There it is!  Birdwatching Magazine, June 2011, Pg. 51!

In March the well established magazine formerly known as Birder’s World re-invented itself into Birdwatching Magazine.   The change brought a new format to the magazine.  Without watering  down content the publication, once known for being too serious, stuffy and intimidating, emerged as a colorful fun and engaging.

The most dramatic changes were the addition of short image-centric pieces helping to identify birds, purchase field guides and books, learn about unusual sightings and to find bird themed art.

I was excited about these format changes, especially the last.  I wondered how to get my work features.  It turned out to be much simplier than I thought.

I emailed the editor some images and a brief description about what I do and asked.  She wrote back with their photography specifications asking for photos of the “blue one”.

My friend Wilbur Montgomery shot a short series of the piece and I emailed them with specific details.  This all happened within three days.

I received my complimentary copy in yesterday’s mail and could not be more pleased.  Wilbur’s shot looks great, my bird looks great and it’s framed by interesting pieces.  It’s the equivalent of a four color 1/4 page ad.  Here’s the online version of the same page.

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You can read all 20 here but I’m focusing on No. 19.  The indigo bunting mentioned was made right here at 50 Little Birds!  I can’t wait to see this issue on the newstands.

Reason No. 19: The June issue also contains our second installment of “Birds Around Us,” our new one-page showcase of the birds we see when we look at jewelry, clothing, household furnishings — just about anything. In this issue, we show a very birdy clock, a hummingbird pendant, colorful earrings, quail-decorated note cards, and an Indigo Bunting that would look great here in my office. Yours too? Write to us if you know of a cool item we should feature in “Birds Around Us.”

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I Am Not Alone

I’ve been a bit obsessed with croquet balls lately.  I love their look.  I use them as mounts and bases for my birds.  They’ve become the #1 talking point at art shows when folks want to talk about my work.

Tongue in cheek, I’ve been claiming that we may be the largest recycler of croquet balls in central Indiana.  This may be still be true, but I’ve found another artist using croquet balls for the same purpose.  There may even be a bit of an ironic connection between his work and mine.  I need to do a bit of research before a make that claim.

Jim Mullan makes these birds in Florida.  It seems that they’ve been discontinued.  Perhaps his supply of croquet balls has dried up.

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I’ve little time to post a response to the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.  My non-arts-post-show to-do list is demanding my attention.  I expect to discuss elements of the this weekend over the next few days.

My immediate response WOW!  As an advocate for traditional arts and fine craft I was blown away by the quality and variety of the artisans, the quality of the show and the wonderful folks who made the effort to come and visit with us.

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Stephanie Hagerty is the winner of a pair of tickets to the Indiana Artisan Marketplace this weekend.  Congrats Stephanie!  I look forward to meeting you.

Today the Marketplace is open to the trades  — folks looking for items to feature in their shops and galleries.  We began setting up last night and will continue until the doors open at noon.

I saw some amazing things!  The show will live up to the hype.  In fact, with the present mindset about craft and fine craft I think most visitors will be blown away at the quality of this work.  An unexpected highlight is a large booth from Berea College.  Berea College has a tradition of training students in fine craft to preserve Appalachian craft traditions and to offset tuition costs.  It’s been a successful experiment since before the Civil War. (Read previous posts about my visit to Berea College here and here.)

There is something for everyone!  I saw cheeses, wine, beer, sculpture, fine painting, folk painting, guitars, harps, psaltry, pottery…the list continues.  Nothing I’ve seen is short of fantastic!

Phoebe (my youngest), Joe (a buddy and Blue Stone Folk School president), Emily (oldest) and Elliott (grandson) loaded in the booth and were able to get it set up, lit and dusted yesterday afternoon.  Because of their help and the fantastic planning by the Indiana Artisan folks we are a couple of hours ahead of schedule.  This has allowed me time to write this morning and take care of a few details.

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This is going to be quick.  I’ve a van to load.

Okay…You’re still with me.  You’ve read (skimmed) through post after post about preparations for the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.  If you’ve been with me even longer you’ve read through even more posts about becoming an Indiana Artisan.

Now it’s time for your reward.

Leave a comment on this post telling me that you want a pair of tickets.  At midnight tomorrow (Thursday, April 14) I will draw a name from a hat (more likely a cigar box).  I will leave a pair of passes (Good for Saturday or Sunday) on will call at the ticket office.  There are two rules (That I can think of now).  1)  You have to use the tickets.  Don’t play if you’re not going to come.  2) Stop by and say hello when you are at the show.

I’ve added a third and most obvious rule.  3) Leave your name so I can let the ticket office know who will be picking these up.

That’s it.  Good luck.  See you soon!

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I’ve spent a great deal of the last year preparing for Indiana Artisan juries and to be a part of the Indiana Artisan Marketplace.  This blog has followed this process (in excruciating detail) from my first thoughts about this organization.

This event opens to the general public on Saturday morning. I’ve packed and re-packed.  I’ve checked and re-checked list.  I am ready to go and like a kid at Christmas I find my self waking in the middle of the night a bit giddy about the opportunity to show my work to so many folks in such a great setting.

Here’s the scoop from the NUVO website:

Inaugural Indiana Artisan Marketplace

When: Fri., April 15, Sat., April 16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sun., April 17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Price: $8. Free for children 15 and under. $3 for parking.

225 artisans from Indiana and Kentucky will offer their locally made art and food creations at this expo. Meet the artists, hear their stories, and see art and craft demonstrations while browsing vendor booths, enjoying music and literary readings, and sampling food and drink. The marketplace will be open for wholesale buyers only on April 15. Indiana Artisans include painters, beekeepers, woodworkers, winemakers, jewelry designers, weavers, makers of specialty cheeses, and more. Visit www.indianaartisan.org for more information. Expo Hall.

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My Favorite Phoebe Spotting Location - A Bridge West of 256th St. and Gwinn Rd.

Obviously I enjoy birds.  I like to watch them, listen and be with them.  I like to observe behaviors and learn.  I like to gather stories and experiences.  I like the peace and quiet that they bring to me.

I’ve always been this way.  I remember running around and exploring the creek behind our house when I was growing up.  With my friends I built dams and tested boats.  We caught every critter that hopped crawled or swam.  We fought battles and searched for treasure.  Once we even brought home a case of beer some teenagers had left to cool!  Dad was happy that evening.

When my friends went home I sat and watched.  I laid on trees bent over the creek.  I watched fish.  I learned their names, what they ate and which ate first.  I laid on my back or knelt in tall grass watching birds, snakes, turtle and muskrat.  I learned to see and to hear what others couldn’t. One memorable day I hiked through the thick woods adjacent to our house and sought out a small woodland pond rumored to be there.  I approached the pond through a stand of white pines to find half a dozen wood ducks, oblivious to me, enjoying an early spring afternoon.

We spent our summers on an island in Maine.  There I spent hours peering into tidal pools, my face inches from the

A Pemaquid Tidal Pool that I've Explored Often

water.  I remember spending afternoons, in an old rowboat, leaning over the side watching the show of crabs, unidentifiable crustaceans and small fish on the muddy bottom of our cove.  It was on one of those trips that I came across my first black capped night heron.  He froze and we had a good long look at each other.

I still long for these treasured moments with nature and seek them out, but’s hard as a grown-up.

I’ve got things to take care of and places to be.  Men, nearly fifty years old, following a creek through a dozen adjacent backyards are treated with suspicion.  Folks are sure that we’re after their children or casing their houses.  Heck, I wouldn’t want someone like me walking through my back yard.  Sure I can visit parks (and I do) but folks need their secret places.

Yesterday I found a secret place.

Stealth hiking and trespassing are not a good idea. I’m not recommending it.

I walked, for about a mile and a half, to find a rumored woodland pond.  Google maps helped.  I wasn’t hiking without direction.  I walked straight to it.

There I discovered a patch of leaf filled crystal clear water about the size of my little yard.  It was surrounded by mature hardwoods.  The water level was high and several of these trees were in the water.  Sunlight dappled through the bare treelimbs to the far edge of the pond where two dozen turtles basked in its warmth.  A squirrel was working his way through the undergrowth.

In the treetops the wind screamed at 40 mph (according to the National Weather Service) but by the pond all was still and quiet.

I’d come to see ducks.  to reproduce that childhood discovery of wood ducks — to find more of the buffleheads and redheads I have just discovered migrating through.  I scanned the pond and there were no ducks visible.

I listened for birds.  The only call I heard was a cardinal.  I’m sure that my arrival had not gone without notice  so I sat and waited.  I sat on a tree over the water for twenty minutes or so.  The silence and peace grew.  I began to circumnavigate the pond and I began to see and hear what I had come for.

A pair of bluebirds flew from the far side of the pond and lit in a tree nearby.  I had a good long look at both as the made short flights, from tree to tree, to get a better look at me.  A tufted titmouse (a common feeder bird that I’ve never paid much attention to in the field.  It’s breeding colors are amazing!) buzzed (yes, buzzed) at me from directly above.  He was quite agitated and wanted me to move on.  I was beginning to hear the ghostly monkey calls of the pileated woodpecker.  I could see huge flashes of white, black and red far into the woods.  I began to walk in their direction and a pair of ducks flew overhead.  They weren’t mallards.  They weren’t quacking.  I didn’t get a good look.

As I moved forward into the marsh below the pond I came across two white tailed deer does that were munching on the new grass.  The walked quickly away from me, but never broke into a crashing run.  I watched them later as they crossed an adjacent field.  Another pair of ducks with an unusual call were startled right under my nose.

I turned around to walk back out the way I had come and a pair of pileated woodpeckers came from behind me and landed high in a giant tree across the pond.  They were in clear view for as long as I cared to watch.  Over my shoulder I spotted a lone female downy woodpecker.  I had a couple of good looks before I hiked out.  I checked the time.  I had spent over two hours around that pond.

I saw no life birds.  I saw nothing rare, but the experience was rare.  For more than two hours I had been at utter peace with the world.

I am so blessed that I can seek out these experiences, put them into words or carve them into wood and call it work.

(I took no photos of my secret place [It's secret].  Most photos are from other explorations on the same day.  I didn’t fit in a quick trip to Maine.)

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