“How can you expect the birds to sing when their groves are cut down?”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Wintering robin on the apple tree outside my window

I like to think of Thoreau the bird-watcher.  His world around Walden’s Pond was filled with the sights and sounds of birds, and many of his writings noted their activity.  He came up with some very imaginative descriptions, for example the barred owl as “winged brother of the cat” or, “The hawk is the aerial brother of the wave . . . ”

I don’t see many bird species in the city of Seattle.  I am at a disadvantage as a bird-watcher because I have significant hearing loss and I can’t hear most bird songs anymore.  But I try to pay attention.  The two most common birds in my life are crows and gulls.

Crow with blue-black feathers at Green Lake

Urban crow

California gull with distinctive dark ring on beak and polka-dot wing tips.

Thoreau was an early ecologist, and he very aptly linked the loss of habitat with the eventual decline of bird populations.  We’d do well to heed his cautionary quote.

Texas Sketchbook

April 1, 2011

Watercolor painting in one of our hotel rooms

I did manage to do some watercolor sketches in Texas, but I found it very difficult to find the time to paint while on a road trip.  I realize now that I need to be alone to do any sketching or painting, and solitude is hard to find on a short vacation.  Here are the few pages from my moleskin journal with my Texas sketches:

Texas bluebonnet

Armadillo. (I saw two armadillos at my uncle's home near Ft. Worth.)

Texas wildflowers

Miscellaneous Texas images

More Texas wildflowers

Sketches from my Texas road trip

Watercolor sketch of blue heron

Watercolor sketch of laughing gulls

Two laughing gulls pose for a photographer at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, Texas

I am embarrassed by how little I know about birds, and there were many times on this trip when I wished my brother and sister-in-law, both biologists and birding enthusiasts, were travelling with us to help identify and locate birds on the Gulf coast.  This region of Texas is a birder’s paradise.  Here are some of the birds we saw:

Laughing gull in flight

Laughing gulls scavenging for food on North Padre Island

Blue heron on the boardwalk at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas

Blue heron

This bird reminds me of someone wearing spats

Black-crowned night heron hiding in the reeds, Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

Two roseate spoonbills in flight, Port Aransas

White egret in flight, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

We saw vultures soaring in the skies on every part of our road trip.