Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Late Summer Pileated

Oil - 5 x 5 inches

This oil painting is of a female, Pileated Woodpecker. I’ve enjoyed several visits in the past few weeks from at least two males and one female. This particular female wasn’t as concerned by my presence compared to the males I’ve seen. In the following paragraphs, you’ll read about a strange occurrence regarding a male, Pileated Woodpecker that happened earlier this month. I wonder if it will leave you as mystified as it did me.

September 1, 2015, brought a mass birding migration event, according to the counters at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory here in Duluth. 91,667 migrating, non-raptors passed through the area that day, and it turns out I simply got lucky and saw it without even knowing what was going on. Of course, I didn’t see tens-of-thousands of birds, but did notice a drastic increase in bird activity at my home. If it wasn’t for the call and unusual sighting of a Baltimore Oriole early in the morning, I might have missed the whole thing. As an amateur birder, I spotted 29 species of birds throughout the day; no doubt an expert would’ve seen a lot more.

Early morning of Sept. 1, 2015. Female, Baltimore Oriole.
Not a common sighting at my home. Migrating.

While bird watching, fate brought me a spectacular sighting of a hawk chasing a male, Pileated Woodpecker. It wasn’t something I felt good about witnessing, but knew it was perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime event. In one observation, I saw the pattern of the hawk’s tail feathers, indicating a possible Cooper’s hawk. The event started abruptly and without warning. Round and round they went, angling through the red and jack pines that dot my property.

In the middle of the chase, a puzzling thing happened. The woodpecker landed on a branch a few feet from my window, and the hawk landed along side of him at the same time. For whatever reason, the woodpecker then started to preen its feathers. I couldn't believe it. The hawk was just feet away! I was able to get a photo, albeit a very poor one. The hawk didn’t show aggression at this point; however, it resumed the chase as soon as the woodpecker left the branch, which was about 10-15 seconds later. This made me second-guess the reason for the chase. After all, why would the woodpecker take time to preen with a predator so close-at-hand? There is ample documentation of bizarre friendships in the wild, and maybe these two had such a connection. Then again, if a car travels with a flat tire, it doesn’t get very far, and perhaps some of the woodpecker’s feathers really needed fixing before he could make another break for it. The chase resumed.

   A fuzzy photo showing the hawk to the right of the woodpecker. 9/1/15

 Another fuzzy photo of the hawk. 9/1/15

A few seconds later, the woodpecker landed on a utility pole that juts out of my ditch. Here, my photo indicates it’s stressed, with its mouth agape. It was a very hot and muggy day by Duluth’s standards, 84 degrees F, so that probably didn’t aid in the woodpecker’s overall well-being. While the woodpecker was on the pole, the hawk was out of my sight, most likely waiting in a nearby tree. Moments later, when the pileated flew off the pole, the two were at it again. Into the woods and out of sight they flew. The outcome remains a mystery. The next day, I saw a male pileated, and am hopeful it was the same one, but I’ll never know.

 Male pileated moments before the final chase into the woods. 9/1/15

Events like these make lasting impressions and no two days are ever alike, especially when it comes to bird watching. Until next time, thank you for your interest in the arts and especially, birds.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chickadee Whiskey

Oil - 8 x 10 inches

If one could get drunk on bird watching,
Chickadees would be my favorite elixir.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Oil - 5 x 5 inches

Orion is a Barred Owl from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee, WI. I visited during their annual Raptor Day event, and was immersed in Orion's beauty. When one locks eyes with an owl, as I did for several moments, it's a pretty cool thing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Blackbird on Washington Island Accepted into the Minnesota State Fair!

Oil - 24 x 36 inches

Making its debut, Blackbird on Washington Island has been accepted into the Minnesota State Fair's Fine Arts Juried Competition, Aug. 27 - Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2015. You can see this painting anytime at the fair, but if you'd like a 'First Glance', you are more than welcome to attend the First Glance event. The Minnesota State Fair Foundation 501(c)(3) invites artists, friends, and family to support the future of the arts at the Minnesota State Fair. This is your chance to get a first glance at the selected works and celebrate art at the fair with arts enthusiasts.

First Glance Event
Tuesday, August 25
Fine Arts Center, MN State Fairgrounds
5 p.m. Opening - 6 p.m. Program

Light refreshments will be available.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.msffoundation.org or by calling (651) 288-4323.

If you won't be attending the First Glance Event, you can still see this painting anytime during the Fair in the Fine Arts Center. I hope you can attend, and thank you for your interest in the arts!

MN State Fair - Aug. 27 - Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Yellow Warbler at Molly Stark

Oil - 18 x 24 inches

Before heading home after a day of canoeing, fishing, and hiking around Annie Battle Lake in Glendalough State Park in western Minnesota, I impulsively directed Terry to pull over at Molly Stark Lake, close to the fishing pier. Yes, I'm one of those passengers that frequently blurts out, "Hey, let's stop!" I don't know if Terry or his wheels are worse for the wear, but I find our excursions are always more interesting if everything isn't planned ahead. Anyway, this warbler was around eye-level on the sloped hillside that leads to the dock. Yellow Warblers have sweet calls, and I hear them more often than I can find them, so I consider myself lucky to have gotten a good reference photo for this painting.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hummingbird Diaries

Yesterday, while watering a small slope of lady ferns, lilacs, honeysuckle, and a few dandelions, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird spent a few joyous moments hovering in the mist of my spray nozzle. A few moments turned into almost a minute, as he braved closer to bigger droplets of water, his tiny wings ablaze in the shower of a cool spring bath. Afterwards, he flew a few feet upwards to preen, landing on a spruce branch. I'd call it flash preening, just as you might expect from a hummingbird. Nature can nurture, and just might be the most powerful, non-prescription pill the world has to offer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Trees and Shrubs for the Birds

Proverb: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Terry and I planted 95 trees and shrubs three weekends ago, all for the purpose of filling our yard with more native Minnesota plants that are beneficial to birds. They include jack pine (with crazy-optimistic hopes of attracting the whip-poor-will), staghorn sumac, juneberries, spruce, and highbush cranberries. We don't own enough acreage to qualify for this year's DNR conservation program for the golden-winged warbler (oh, darn!), so the latter shrub was recommended as one of the most beneficial for that bird.

The planting endeavor went well, and the bugs didn't kill me, although they're still trying. Yesterday, I was outside for only ten minutes, got bitten by a bug on my eyelid, and woke up this morning to that eye swollen shut. My whole life, I've been walking nectar to bugs, bait if you will. If the bugs don't kill me, bathing in high doses of bug repellent probably will.

Work continues (with one eye today) on my painting of a yellow warbler. Lots of detail in this one, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

See my work at MacRostie Art Center

MacRostie Art Center
405 1st Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MN
Mon-Sat 10 am - 5 pm, 218-326-2697

Several of my miniatures will be available throughout the summer at MacRostie Art Center. This is my first opportunity to show since moving to Duluth; therefore, I thank you for your patience! Please visit when you get a chance. Your support is welcome.

You are also cordially invited to the opening of "Little Big Show" at MacRostie Art Center. The opening will take place on Friday, May 1, 2015 from 4-8 pm. The gallery show can be viewed from May 1st - May 30th, 2015. For more information, go to www.macrostieartcenter.org or call 218-326-2697. Hours of the gallery are Monday - Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. Free admission.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Violet Wine

Oil - 3-1/4 x 8 inches

On November 17th, 2014, my thermometer read 12 degrees F when I noticed this robin sitting in a pin cherry tree in our front yard. Snow had already covered the ground and earthworms were burrowed away. It's nice to know the cherries supplied a few meals, as I saw the robin in the tree on several occasions, before it assumingly migrated south. The robin was last seen December 4th, 2014, hopefully headed to warmer climes. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Oil - 4 x 4 inches

Meet Glory, from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Milwaukee, WI.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blackbird on Washington Island

Oil - 36 x 24 inches

     I came upon this bird at Percy Johnson County Park on Washington Island, WI. She is a female Red-winged Blackbird who seemed to come out of nowhere to say hello. It's probably more the case that we both surprised each other, as the park is a little off the beaten path and doesn't get much foot traffic. The park has a wetland feeling to it, where Lake Michigan eases up the sandy shoreline amid reed grass and other vegetation. When this bird landed on the reed, her weight caused it to slowly fall until her left foot grasped another reed, helping to hold her position steady. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ivy Wins 1st Place at WRAL

I'm pleased to announce that my painting of Ivy, a Snowy Egret from Sanibel Island, FL, won 1st Place at the Wolf River Art League's Mid-Winter Art Show in New London, WI, this past weekend on Valentine's Day. It's nice to know others love Ivy, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giacomo at Glendalough or The Darling Buds of May

Oil - 10 x 8 inches

This is a Yellow-rumped Warbler who makes his home in western Minnesota at Glendalough State Park. It is not my intention to paint birds as accurately as possible, as if staged in a photographer's studio with perfect lighting. I'll leave those duties to the editors of ornithology reference books. In art, I find nature to be a lot more fun with so much more to offer. For example, this little guy's head feathers are reflecting the blue tones from a most beautiful May sky.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Northern Flicker

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

     At the end of September and early October, I witnessed around three bird fallouts at my home in Duluth, MN. A fallout is a large migration of birds caused by strong northerly winds. They are unmistakable in their capacity to amaze and dazzle simply by producing extraordinarily large numbers of birds. Unfortunately, the birds are often weak and hungry, sometimes leading to their demise. Many are susceptible to being hit by cars, just as they were in the great warbler carnage on Highway 61 along Minnesota’s North Shore during early October's fallout. 
     At my home, my yard was filled with American Robins and Northern Flickers foraging for food. A few days later, another fallout occurred. It was during this second fallout when I met this beautiful, female Northern Flicker resting on a Norway Pine in my yard. If you’re unfamiliar with Flickers, don’t be confused by this painting. She's clinging to the tree trunk on her left while looking over her shoulder. This painting depicts that pose. In other words, the spots show where her belly is.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Of the First Kind

Oil - 4 x 4 inches

Crows seem to be one of those birds that evoke strong emotions in humans. I am no exception, but my feelings have changed over the years since I was a kid. Besides a recent, strange encounter with a lone crow, two things have influenced me greatly about the lives of crows: a PBS documentary titled "A Murder of Crows" and the book In the Company of Crows and Ravens. Scientists have conducted some fascinating research on these birds, and both of these are excellent resources should you wish to learn more about them. My strange meeting with a crow is described in the following paragraphs.

          Every now and then, there’s a ripple in the general state of things that makes me question the structure of our place in this world. This past summer, an American Crow visited me while I was weeding around my blueberry plants in my enclosed garden. Crow approached from afar and walked a decent distance across my yard, cawing every seven seconds, or so. Alone and getting closer, it occurred to me that this was going to be no ordinary encounter.
          Crow stopped about ten feet from me and continued cawing opposite the chicken-wire fence that stood between us. I couldn’t help but think Crow wanted me to understand its language. I said hello and offered a few blueberries, but Crow declined. We chatted for a few minutes, which in my opinion, was an extremely long time. This crow definitely had something to say. Finally,  it moseyed on towards the woods. Occasionally, Crow looked back at me, usually after I said some words of which I don’t remember anymore.
          Out of sight and still walking, I heard Crow encounter a pair of American Robins along its journey, seemingly unappreciative. And for the next ten minutes, I audibly tracked Crow’s path simply by listening to the other creatures in the forest react to its approach. I’m aware of how extremely intelligent American Crows are, and do wonder if we’ll meet again one day, or if perhaps, we are already old friends. I could've thought nothing of it, but it's not in my nature to do so.

Friday, September 19, 2014

White Throat at Tioga

Oil - 12 x 16 inches
This is my oil painting of a White-throated Sparrow. Since moving to Minnesota, I've found these birds to be one of the the loudest birds in my neighborhood during the spring and summer, and with one of the prettiest calls. It's easy to mimic their call, and if you know how to whistle, I have no doubt you'd be whistling back to them almost involuntarily should you hear them in your presence. They're also beautiful, shy, and busy little birds, so if you happen to see them, you've got keen eyes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Last Valentine

Oil - 4 x 4"

Lots of paint, heavy brushstrokes, and vibrant colors give this mourning dove the look I was going for.  With anything, if one studies a subject long enough, its true colors will show through time after time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lemon Drop, Barley, and Ruby

Here are three recently finished miniatures in oil: Lemon Drop, Barley, and Ruby. Respectively, they are a Yellow Warbler (oh, spring has sprung when you see these beautiful birds in your trees), a Barn Owl from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preserve, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Oil - 4 x 4"

Just a bit outside of my comfort zone, I wanted a very limited color palette for Meringue. In actuality, I drew from seven different tubes of paint, but still achieved the look I was going for. If you've ever observed a soaking wet bird in the rain, Meringue is a gentle view of that bird, having fluffed her feathers as best as she could, yet still only able to form stiff peaks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Ink drawing on Strathmore cream paper - 8-1/2 x 6"

Monday, March 17, 2014


Oil - 4x4"

A part of me just can't stay away from painting miniatures. This little sanderling was having a lot of fun on the beach. Well, that's what I'd like to think anyway. Their little legs are some of the fastest moving legs on a bird you'll ever see. Fun!

Friday, March 7, 2014


Oil on Canvas 9x12"
1-1/2" finished profile, gallery wrap

This painting is composed of several layers to add depth, especially in the bird's feathers. Purple turned out to be a nice surprise at the feet, so I went with it to add interest. Although I'm not particularly fond of painting on canvas versus a smoother surface, I am very happy with Ivy.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Ink drawing in Strathmore cream paper - 8-1/2 x 6"

Western willets are fairly large shorebirds, and this one had found a shrimp for lunch along the coastal waters of Florida when I saw her. She hunted alone, which is common for this bird.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Duke Wants

Ink drawing on Strathmore cream paper - 8-1/2 x 6"

This is a fish crow that cried outloud, not shy in any way, wanting a morsel to gobble from any human passerby. I had nothing. I've mentioned several times how nature talks to us, and those that choose to listen may have to block their ears every now and then.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lunch With Benny

Oil - 16 x 16"
Benny is a downy woodpecker foraging on reeds at the Lewis Nine Springs E-Way in Madison, WI. My visit last spring started with a few raindrops that gave way to warm sunshine and abundant bird activity. When I was close to finishing this work, I toned down the oranges, added color to the reeds while increasing contrast, and gave detail to Benny in many layers.