Saturday, November 28, 2009

Drawing - Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush, Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

There are four varieties of brown thrush, and all we get all four!  What a task to try and tell them apart!  Hermit Thrushes have a rufous-colored tail, and to my eye, look a bit stubbier than the others!  The thrushes that visit our yard pick berries from our Virginia Creeper vine, a plant that was already in place when we moved in eight years ago, but has grown to cover most of an ugly chainlink fence.  VC is prolific, pretty, and attracts the birds that won't come to feeders!  What's not to love? 

November Tanager - part 4

The Tanager was back again today (Friday)!  A very quick sighting, from the tall tree in the west-side neighbors yard, to the fence, then along the creeper vine for a minute or two.  No good photos, settle for one bad one?

Other birds:  Black Capped Chickadees (at least three), a White-Breasted Nuthatch, female Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brief interruption...

The following is from another blog I had, that I plan to delete.  Didn't put much info on it, but don't want the info to disappear!  A few sightings from earlier in the year.  Purpose was so that I could record my sightings from work or from home!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


When: 14 Apr 2009 (755 am)
What: Gray Partridge (1), Church Ave, btw McPhilips & Fife (at front yard feeder)


When: 3 Apr 2009 (750 am)
What: Gray Partridge (1), Church Ave, btw McPhillips & Fife

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


When: 24 Mar 2009 (745 am)
What: Common Raven (heard) answered by American Crow (heard)

When: 24 Mar 2009 (100 pm)
What: Seven Canada Geese flying overhead (at Inkster&McPhillips intersection)


When: 23 Mar 2009 (800 am)
What: Two Gray Partridges, along Church Ave (btw McPhillips and Fife) running lawn-to-lawn.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


When: March 12, 2009 (740 am)
What: One Common Raven, in front of house. Heard croak, then saw bird flying off


When: March 11, 2009 (800 am)
What: One Gray Partridge on Church Ave, btw McPhillips and Fife, boulevard, south side of the street. Standing lookout? First sighting on the south side of the street.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


When: March 10, 2009 (755 am)
What: About five Gray Partridges on the boulevard on Church Ave (sheltering in a depression in the snow around a tree trunk)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Profile photo

No new drawing!  Just a word about my profile photo.  This photo contains all of my (current) tools.  My medium is graphite.  To be more specific, a 0.5 mm "bic" mechanical pencil.  I don't use art pencils (2B or 2H, that is the question) as I'm too impulsive and disorganized to toggle back and forth between a bunch of pencils.  I figure I'm doing well if I can find the one!  If I need a darker effect, I keep coloring over the area.  Or press harder.  For a lighter effect, I don't press as hard.  Life's just easier that way.

I also require the services of a click-style, or drafting eraser.  This tool gets used about as much as the pencil!  It not only erases mistakes, it blends, too!  Multi-talented!  I also need a big eraser.  I like the ones that look like li'l pieces of mozzarella cheese.

My support (surface to which medium is applied) is paper.  Specifically, printer paper.  The kind you get in big packages from Staples.  I've bought many sketchbooks, and rejected each.  I like the bright-whiteness, smooooooth surface and not-bound-into-a-book qualities of the printer paper.  I tie my pages down to a clipboard.  We're real fancy around here!

Oops!  Am missing one tool in the photo - my blotting page.  After using the drafting eraser, it has pencil dust sticking to it.  Need to erase over a pencil-free area to return it to it's pristine state.  But sometimes that leaves marks on the paper that can't be subsequently erased away, so a separate sheet is needed, so as to not leave grey shadowy streaks all over the drawing. 

More than you ever knew you didn't know?  Or maybe more than you wanted to know?

November Tanager - part 3

No picture, but our Tanager was around yesterday, and today as well.  The berries in the yard are getting near to gone, not sure what s/he is going to do next.  Put out oranges in case it helps.  Hope the call of the south gets through soon!  It was a good birdy day in general - had four (possibly five) chickadees in the yard at once, a pair of White-Breasted Nuthatches, and female Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers.  And a Raven, gronking his way over the houses.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November Tanager, day two!

Our Tanager came back! "Our". How funny, to be so possessive over a teeny wild animal! I'll blame E. - he's the one who saw it first. "Your bird's back!"

He went to the grapes first, then the Chokeberry. Spent a fair bit of time on top of the fence (scoping the area?) then climbed down for some Virginia Creeper berries. Then checked out the pond, sat in the elder for another minute, then took off to the top of the big tree at the back of the neighbors house.

Drawing - Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird - Graphite on Paper
Copyright 2009, Nicole MacPherson

This drawing managed to get done!  I can't believe it... Once I got the shoulder topography figured out, the rest went quickly.  Lots of shadows on this guy, seen in full afternoon sunlight.

Lots of birds will perch on fences roadside, and most of them will fly off when a car stops.  Sometimes the bird will fly a few dozen meters ahead and perch a little further along the fence.  Driving to that point and trying for another photograph will usually result in a bird merrily winging off along the prairie.  Western Kingbirds are a little different - they will play this game for quite a few stops.  I've been told they're wary of cars.  I've been told it's coincidental; that they're just pursuing insects.

I've come to a different realization however:  Western Kingbirds know exactly what I'm up to, and have collectively decided to mess with me.  It's the only logical conclusion.  So it's only fitting that this drawing gave me so much trouble as well.  Yup.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

November Tanager!

This has probably been the best birding year yet!  Today we added a new yard bird.  It's the *ninth* new yard bird this year - haven't had that many new ones since the first year we had feeders up!  A very exciting bird, a Summer Tanager.  It was a funny moment, all four of us were sitting at the kitchen table (a rare event).  E. noticed it first.  "What's that?"  The two words guaranteed to get a reaction out of me when sitting next to the watching window!  "Never mind, it was a leaf."  Uh, ok..  Then I. chimed in.  He'd seen it to, and went to the back door to check.  "It's on the grapes!"  Then we all saw it fly from the grapes onto the cherry tree.  Grabbed for the binocs, but it was behind branches!  Agh!  Get the camera, get the camera, GET the CAMERA!  Managed to get a couple of bad photographs.

But what *is* it?  Looks like a tanager...  Can't be!  Maybe an oriole?  Or an Indigo Bunting?  It then flew onto the top of the fence on the other side of the yard, but still couldn't manage a good photo!

It then climbed down for some virginia creeper berries.  Got a couple of other photographs.  Not an oriole, that's for sure!

What an accommodating bird, it then flew onto one of the branches on the now-leafless elderberry, and stayed for a good five minutes or so.  Lots of pictures!  Quite sure it's a tanager, but which one?  None of us have ever seen any tanagers.  Took pictures of it until it flew away.  Figures that today is cloudy, after being sunny the whole week!  So photos aren't the greatest.  NOT that I'm complaining!

Photos online helped out, after a bit of dithering, I was pretty sure ours was a Summer (rather than Scarlet) Tanager.  I'd already eliminated Western Tanager - no white on the wings.  Summer Tanagers seemed to be a brighter color, and more of the same color overall (Scarlets seem to tend to having darker wings) and a bigger BEAK!  An email to the ManitobaBirds email list confirmed our Summer Tanager - probably a first year.  


A great day!  A new yard bird, a rarity, and PHOTOS of it!  And so late in the year! Still riding high...

Friday, November 20, 2009

wip - Western Kingbird

No new drawing, so thought I would show what I'm working on.

The trouble with having to work left to right is that when an area gives me trouble, I can't really go to another one.  You can see I did that here, working on either side of the wing, but can't go much further there - have to get that wing done!  Terrible to be so controlled by fear of pencil smudges. 

It's the same old problem - my photos don't have enough detail for me to see how the feathers "go" in that particular area, so I'm trying to use other photos of Western Kingbirds, to try and figure it out.  It's like a wee map made of feathers - when the terrain is incorrect, it's obvious!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Drawing - Dun Horse

Dun Horse - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Another roadside horse, found just outside of Saskatoon.  There were two horses of the same type, they looked like big long-maned Norwegian Fjords!

Lesson of the day:  dark manes are much different to draw than light manes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Drawing - Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Juncos are one of the first birds to arrive in spring, and one of the last to leave in fall.  They do spend summer around here, but not in the city (or at least not where I am).  Not that I can blame them!  It's always a bit surprising to me to see Juncos in the summer, when we leave the city.  I just always seem to think of them as spring and fall birds!  They are quick to return to feeding after a scare, and quickly adapt to a human presence.  The field guides call this "confiding".  I love bird-book vernacular... 

Juncos have a beautiful vocalization.  They don't suffer each other very well however - lots of pecking and chasing around feeders - but they always sound pretty, even when fighting! 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drawing - Black Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Chickadees are one of the few birds that don't leave us for warmer climates in the winter. They are never boring, always bold (this fellow was about five feet away from me), active (nearly all of my chickadee pictures are blurred), and fun to watch. They're a welcome sight on any day.  I love the pose my bold model struck - he looks like he's playing leapfrog.

Some days around here, the only birds to be seen are the three invasives - House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Pigeons. But a chickadees is a never-fail pick-me-up, a real lifesaver for this poor unfortunate citybound schlub!