From Audubon Magazine’s Website–
Read article here.
See additional images here.
My bird carvings are stylized forms of the birds that I see and experience. No one would mistake my birds for the real thing. Realism is the current trend in bird carving. I’m headed in the other direction.
To carve my birds I reference my own sightings (sometimes fleeting), field guides and photos that I find on the internet. For some time I’ve been uncomfortable relying on other folk’s impressions to drive my work and recently purchased an inexpensive lens to explore collecting and organizing my own reference photos.
(Note – I will still rely on older field guides. I want my work to convey a sense of times-past and the golden age of natural science exploration. More on the later today…or soon.)
I began shooting these photos to own more of the process and to free myself from the work of others. I am finding this satisfying, but I’ve discovered another, possibly more important, reason to be shooting my own reference shots.
I shot this white breasted nuthatch on my peanut feeder yesterday. I’ve carved 2-3 white breasted nuthatch and have never felt like they were quite right. I liked them — or they never would have left the shop — but they didn’t make the exact impression that I desired.
This shot is my roadmap to better nuthatches! This shot would never make into any fieldguide. Fieldguides are filled with profiles. Profiles are nice for identification, but it is impossible to create a satisfying representation of the way the wing feathers cross the bird’s back and meet from a profile photo. This photo would never make it into a field guide or onto a website — it’s obscured by a tree branch — but I’ve never had a clear and permanent look at a nuthatch’s back and tail.
I’ve been carving northern cardinals since the beginnin. They are not only Indiana’s state bird, b ut the state bird of six other states (If I recollect correctly). It took a lot of observation (luckily it’s a common feeder bird) to get the body nice and round like they display on a cold winter day. I struggled even longer to realize and correctly execute their heads. Since we are little tikes we are taught that heads are round. That just isn’t so on most songbirds and this shot clearly shows it. From the front a songbird head is very narrow and parallel sided. It most birds the top is rounded. The cardinal sports this nifty crest. (You still have to picture the rounded head under the crest to execute it well. This is another shot that would never be seen in a field guide. We like to see profiles.
Old field guides discuss the European starling’s explosive growth from their introduction to New York City in 1890. I don’t think these early writers ever imagined the huge flocks of these birds that now blanket North America.
They found my feeder this week and stop daily to empty it out. I’ve no doubt that these are charming birds in Europe, but they are overwhelming at 50 Little Bird Studio. Nonetheless I love the shots that I’ve been getting of bird on wing. I experimented with carving a barn owl in flight and would like to continue with other species. Again, field guides don’t provide the references that I need. My photos can cover this.
(I would love to see a reference, not unlike WWII spotting cards, that provide me with wing, tail and profile shapes in flight.)
I cannot wait to spend some time away from the birdfeeder and in the field with this lens. These kinds of shots will give my work another push in the right direction.
My family drove to nearby Anderson for breakfast at the Toast, an area diner. We arrived and ordered our breakfast. While sipping coffee and planning our day I checked my Facebook notifications. A birding friend’s status shared that she was going to Mt. Comfort, Indiana n to confirm a sighting of a snowy owl.
Snowy owl sightings in central Indiana are not unheard of — one visited Diamond Chain in downtown Indianapolis in the last ten years — but they are very rare. (The Diamond Chain sighting has always been a little bittersweet to me. I wasn’t networked with other birders and read about it in the paper the next day. I was teaching at a school directly across White River from the chain factory.)
I went on with breakfast speculating how great it would be to add a snowy owl to my life list. I pondered driving from Anderson with my family, but we all had Christmas preparations and cleaning to do. They would like to see it, but I didn’t want to take them away from their work if it wasn’t a sure thing.
I took the family home and ran out to look for natural materials for carved bird mounts. Though warm it was raining and I became less than excited about tramping through the woods looking for the right oak branch. I also didn’t want this to be Diamond Chain all over again. I didn’t want to spend the next few years thinking, “What if…?”
I made a quick run out to Mt. Comfort (about 25 miles) to see if I could spot the snowy. My friend, from facebook, gave a very specific location. “West of the blue building behind the fire house [At Mt. comfort Airport]”.
I found the spot and scanned it with my binoculars. There were several white draincaps posing as owls, but no Snowies in sight.
I drove around several adjacent fields, I was pretty sure a huge white bird would stand out against the muddy fields. A few other cars were winding around slowly. It was clear that many had gotten the word.
After driving around I decided to make one more pass by the fire station. A car crept up behind me and I pulled over to
let it pass. It did, almost reluctantly (perhaps they thought I would lead them to the bird) and pulled into the fire station parking lot. In a back corner I spotted a lone car with a spotting scope set up behind it.
The gentleman with the scope pointed to the bird. It was a bit anti-climatic. It was only about 50 feet inside the airport fence, sitting on the ground with its back to us. It was raining fairly hard and miserable for all — the bird and the birders. We all fixed our scopes on it and watched for 10-15 minutes. It did occasionally turn its head and look at us with its not-very-owlike almond shaped eyes.
I took some photos, but did not notice until I returned home that the camera was set wrong. I did shoot one with my phone in which a small white dot is (maybe) visible.
According to ebird snowy owls are being reported south of their range across the continent signalling a periodic irruption year. Look for more snowies this winter. This may be just the beginning!
I’ve posted twice already today, but I couldn’t pass up this piece when it came across on Twitter.
When I was growing up in coastal Maine fishermen claimed specific coves to fish pogey (menhaden?). They would come in on a late night high tide and encircle a school in a purse seine. A drawstring closed the bottom trapping the fish. Later, often in the daylight, a boat would come alongside the anchored seine remove the fish with smaller nets.
Waterfowl, particularly double crested cormorants (locally known as shags or coots), and seals would visit these nets and eat their fill. It was not unusual for fishermen to shoot a few birds and leave them floating in the nets to warn away other thieves. Seals were never shot, in my experience, as the penalties for injuring (or even touching) seals was well known. I often wondered how they got away with shooting birds.
Twenty-five years later I have a bit of a response.
From 10,000 Birds:
Owning A Fish Farm Does Not Mean You Can Kill Birds
This is the lesson that Seaside Aquaculture owner Khan Vu has hopefully learned after being charged, found guilty, and sentenced under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Both Vu and the company were ordered to pay $40,000 to the Texas Park and Wildlife Foundation and a $5,000 fine and put on eighteen months probation after being found guilty in federal court.
There’s another, more personal, chapter to my cormorant and the fishermen story. I’ll share that, some other time.
Posted in Art Shows, Blue Stone Folk School Classes, carving, Craft Shows, Folk School, Folk School Happenings, Ukulele, tagged Birds, carving, pennsylvanie dutch, Shows on October 26, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
I began to write this blog in May of 2009. The focus, then, was on Blue Stone Folk School. I began a bird carving project to raise money for the school. this project, 50 Little Birds for Blue Stone Folk School (Later simply 50 Little Birds), grew to replace the Folk School as the focus of this blog.
Since that day in May, 2009, I’ve written and posted 345 posts that have been visited almost 25,000 times. Small potatoes for some blogs, but we’ve quite a loyal following!
Here I present my top 10 posts ranked by visits:
Here I discuss my mother’s work with Pennsylvania Dutch decorative painting and its influence on my work. I visit this theme recently when making Christmas ornaments. It’s pretty apparent that there are folks wanting to know more about Fraktur.
Just what the title suggests. I reference some Pennsylvania Dutch carvers that I find significant and influential. Again the Pennsylvania Dutch theme plays strong.
I firmly believe that I use one of the finest caving knives available. Many carvers are all about the search for tools (Not me, I carve with two knives — both from Cape Forge.)
My ever popular ukulele building class.
Berea is a magical place to explore creative handwork and a culture embracing it
I used this article to address show preparation during an Etsy forum discussion about setting up and merchandising for shows. It generated some great discussion.
I mislabeled a photo of the tail of a black and white warbler. It should have been BWW-Underside-of-tail. I learned afterward that BBW means big beautiful woman to folks trolling for porn. This gets a hit almost daily and I continue to chuckle at the disappointment these men must feel. I wrote about it here.
A popular show and also discussed on the Etsy forum.
This is why I started the Folk School. Folks are looking for instruction and want to make things — birds, ukuleles — whatever. DIY is hot!
I’m a bit curious about what this data means. Is Fraktur really that popular or does it get hits because it was posted fairly long ago? I sure there is meaning to be derived from this. Please feel free to post away.
I took a break from pounding out Christmas ornaments to stock up on new carvings for upcoming shows.