Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Art Festivals

Happy Summer!

Lots of new work and new adventures from behind the camera to share. I hope you'll stop by and say hello at one of the arts festivals I'm in this summer.

Gig Harbor Arts Festival

Saturday, July 19, 10-6 

Sunday, July 20, 10-5

This festival is one of the best in the Puget Sound region. Details and directions are on Peninsula Art League's website. My booth is on the corner of Judson and Gilich. 

Tumwater Farmers Market

Wednesday, August 20, 11-2

I've designed six of the eight market posters since it opened in 2006. I'll have a booth at "Dog Days of Summer" when there will also be herding demonstrations and other fun activities. Tumwater Farmers Market directions. For some of the posters I've designed, visit my Word and Picture Communications site

Some of the new work I'll be exhibiting includes images from the Kenmore heron rookery, bald eagles (of course), hummingbirds, and a new photo illustration of sunrise and moonrise over Mount Rainier. 

I'm updating my exhibit calendar as I add events - 2014 Exhibit Schedule. Also coming up this summer are the SequaliShoot awards on Sunday, August 17. This is my second year of challenging area photographers to get their best shots of historic Sequalitchew Creek in DuPont, Washington, in 24 hours. We'll have a display of work at the DuPont Historical Society's annual Hudson Bay Day. 

As always, many thanks for your continued support and encouragement. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Do eagles grieve?

Parents tend their nest on May 17. 
The nest has been unusually quiet for the past two weeks. Deadly quiet. I stopped by the nest a couple of times between June 9 and 20. No sound. No flapping wings of eaglets stretching. Something was very wrong. There were gaps in the nest area closest to the tree trunk. It looked like a chunk of the nest was gone.

Eaglets on June 9
One neighbor I talked to said he saw both parents making a lot of racket and flying around the nest tree on Father's Day, June 14. It's not unusual for both parents to be at the nest but it's very unusual that they're both so quiet. Watching but none of the vigilance seen last month. Another neighbor asked if the babies might have fledged already. I knew it was too early. The last time I saw them, they still had some fluff clinging to their new feathers. They wouldn't have been ready to fly until the first week of July at the earliest. The parents would be out with them, not sitting at sentry at the nest site. I hope I'm wrong but it doesn't look good for my favorite eagle pair.

Nest tree on June 20

Do eagles grieve the loss of their nest? Their offspring? Nearly half of all fledglings don't survive their first flight. Do the parents keep an emotional distance? Both have been frequently at the nest area, keeping vigil. Or maybe they're making sure that no other eagles take over their territory. When I visited with them yesterday, both were very quiet and in separate trees - papa near where the nest was and mama in their favorite snag nearby.

Papa eagle June 26

Mama eagle June 26
Devoted to each other and to the tree of life. As above, so below.

"That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing." - The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Minus tide brings wildlife up close

Crabbers at Sequalitchew beach with Anderson Island in background.

Spring and summer on Puget Sound bring opportunities to see creatures normally far away or underwater. Although I grew up 45 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, I don't remember anyone talking about "minus tides" the way people do here in the Northwest. A feature article in The Olympian (Olympia, WA) in early June detailed special beach presentations by area naturalist and marine biologists.

Shore crabs and barnacles
A minus tide is an unusually low tide. Yesterday, there was a -3.4 ft. tide - so low, it looked like you could walk across Puget Sound to Anderson Island.

Thousands of tiny shore crabs - most no larger than 1 inch - scrambled from quickly drying beach pebbles to small tidepools. Starfish (sea stars), tube worms, whelks, limpets, mussels, and baracles emerge from water that's normally several feet deep.

Great blue herons, bald eagles, and seagulls - normally not in each other's company - are all present for the minus tide feast.

Bald eagle, seagull, and great blue heron

Minus tides are about the only times it's possible to walk east to the Nisqually delta from Sequalitchew Creek trail in DuPont. If you're a photographer, though, what's challenging is getting back to higher ground before the tide comes back in. We did pretty well, but still managed to slog back up the trail with wet hiking boots.

There are lots of springs that feed Sequalitchew Creek and trickle into Puget Sound from the hillside. It makes for slow careful walking over watery and seaweed-slicked rocks.

Beach walk at 1 p.m.
Tide coming in about 3:20 p.m. Cement barge wreck in background.

Creatures normally underwater didn't have to wait too long. A nearly 15-foot high tide was expected after 8 p.m. Two hours after the minus tide peaked, the water level was rising to once again submerge the resident sea stars.

Several images from minus tides in the past can be viewed in my Low Tide Gallery.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eagle babies getting bigger

Ariel and I have visited our favorite eagle's nest about three times a week for the past month. I haven't posted in awhile because the view has been pretty much the same: mama or papa eagle standing sentry, and babies mostly out of site. I get an occasional glimpse of a downy head and, now, a really large wing stretch or two. In just three weeks, these babies have grown formidable beaks and impressive wings.

 Until this week, one or both parents was always present, sometimes greeting a kid from an earlier clutch with a bit of warning to not get too close. Now that babies have those big sharp beaks and can feed themselves, they're alone for a few minutes at a time. Eagles have an endearing (to me, anyway) chortling call that they use with kin. Others get a shreak - think screaming eagle. Yup. It's loud. All of the neighbors attest to that!

At the same time, everyone I've talked to who lives on the street near the nest tells me that we're blessed to have this special family in our midst.

Amen to that.

The only spot I can see the babies in the nest is about a block away. That's why they look kind of rough around the edges. Here's the tree, followed by tightly cropped images of the kids.

Please let me know if you have favorites. I'm getting ready to print some new images for art festivals I'm doing in July and September. More from past years in my Talons Gallery.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Eagle babies two

Squirrel. It's what's for dinner.
 Ariel and I have visited the new eagle's nest a few times in the past couple of weeks. The nest is more open, so the lighting is much better. But these are good eagle parents. They've built up the "crib bumpers" all around the nest. There are only a couple of spots I can get a good view of the inside of the nest. One spot requires being quite a distance away. You can see the challenge with the two images here of the two eaglets together. They appear grainy because I was so far away. Even with a 400 millimeter lens.

I saw one eaglet and was pretty excited. This is my fourth year photographing this pair and their families. 

This was the first time I got a good view of one of the babies in early fluff. In the earlier nest, it was harder to spot anything but the tops of their fuzzy heads. Mama and papa take turns watching over their youngsters. I suspected there were two or more. Two of the last four years, there was one baby and one of the parents stayed in the nest until baby was ready to fledge. With two babies, the parents stayed nearby but not in the nest except for feedings. 

 This one small space is where I've managed to spot one of the parents feeding baby. I suspected there might be another baby because she looked like she was feeding another just out of sight. 

The next day I found a spot where I could see more of the nest - and the other baby. 

This is shaping up to be to be a very special eagle season.

I'll be adding more images to my Talons Gallery. Let me know if you have favorites that you'd like to see me add. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where the camas bloom

In 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote that he thought a distant field of camas (Camassia quamash) was a lake. Lewis and Clark were introduced to this important food source by the Shoshone and Nez Perce people.
First People throughout the Northwest harvested camas roots from miles of rocky prairie left after the the last ice age and its glaciers melted away. 

Along with camas, there are dozens of other wildflowers - white and yellow yarrow, purple and yellow violets, shooting stars, buttercups, and wild mustard.

Nisqually historian Cecilia Svinth Carpenter wrote about how when the red wind blows "like magic, the blue camas blooms, the berries ripen, the cedar trees grow taller, and the eagle spreads its wings to soar aloft on the early morning breeze." 

Now only about 3 percent of native prairies remain. The prairie ecosystem in South Puget Sound is among the rarest in the world. There are butterflies found only here along with Washington's only native oak - Quercus garryana - Garry oak or Oregon white oak. 

Garry oaks woodland at Scatter Creek

Early May is primetime to experience spring on the prairie. The second Saturday in May is Prairie Appreciation Day at the Glacial Heritage Preserve south of Littlerock. The preserve is only open for brief times each year. Mima Mounds Natural Area is open year-round, as is Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Two examples of Garry oaks woodlands are preserved in DuPont's Powderwork Park and Tacoma's Oak Tree Park. To leave more, visit the South Sound prairies. I have a collection of photographs from prairie visits in the past in my South Sound Prairie gallery. I hope you'll check it out. And I hope that you'll fall in love with our prairies like I have, and will want to preserve and protect these special places.

Western bluebirds settling into nesting at the Glacial Heritage Preserve.

Osprey, commonly known as seahawks, nest on the edges of the prairie.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New year, new nest

Mama and baby 06-04-2013
I wonder about the nesting pair of bald eagles near my house. I wonder how many more seasons they'll be with us. Neighbors who live near the nest have told me that they've been nesting there at least a decade, maybe a little longer. Bald eagles are mature at 4 or 5, which is when they seek a lifelong mate. That would make this pair at least 15 years old. Some sources claim a bald eagle in the wild lives to be about 16 or 17 and others say 20-30 years. In captivity, bald eagles can live to 40 or more years.

This year, it's been more challenging to visit the nest area until the past couple of weeks. There didn't seem to be much nest-building activity when I visited. I thought maybe the pair had decided to move on.

About a month ago, I spotted the papa eagle (yes, there is a way to tell them apart…more later) higher up in the snag tree than I've seen him before. I saw him more frequently and for a longer period of time.  Last week, Ariel (my new photography companion) and I walked down to see what was going on. I photographed papa eagle and visited with one of the neighbors who told me they had moved their nest to a new tree a few hundred feet from the nest they've used for about 10 years.

The next day, we visited the nest area again and another neighbor called me over to his yard. He pointed to a tall tree directly behind his house. There was a huge aerie nestled among branches about a third of the way from the top of the tree. I've photographed these eagles numerous times at the top of this same tree, which gave them a good view of the old nest.

So a new nesting season begins. The new nest has much better lighting, so I'm looking forward to some good views of baby or babies in the next few weeks. Take a look at my blog entries beginning in April 2013. This is my fourth year photographing this couple and their growing family. Their baby last year didn't make it. There were two babies in 2012 and one in 2011. Their kids from earlier nestings come back to visit, sometimes to the dismay of the parents. And, sometimes, they are welcomed as long as they're just passing through. Please let me know if you have a favorite image or images. I'm gradually adding to my online Talons Gallery.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New year, new friends, new direction

I can't imagine what my life would be like without an animal friend or two to share it with. My first dog, a beagle named Spotty, was my Christmas gift when I was 10 years old. My mother kept my Christmas wish list from that year. On it, I wrote German shepherd, keeshond, collie, and several other breeds – all carefully crossed out with "any kind of dog" becoming the only item on my list. 

Since then, I've shared my life with three cats and six dogs. I'm allergic to cats, which is why there are fewer cats than dogs on my experience list. I've been taking allergy shots for almost 18 months now, so decided to adopt a kitten. Bisbee Blue, a 1-pound gray tabby, became part of my life a week before my long-time friend Padme the wonderdog crossed the rainbow bridge. A little more than a month later (three months ago today), I adopted Ariel, a Great Pyrenees mix (we think with golden retriever), 85+ pounds of fluffy gentle giant. It took exactly four days for Bisbee Blue to stop hissing and spitting and realize that she was missing a whole lot of fluffy comfort. 

All of my furry friends have contributed to my artistic expression, often dragging me away from a scene like Padme the wonderdog did in 2005 when I caught this image of an uncharacteristically sunny day on the Oregon coast. 

The day after I brought Ariel home from her foster home in Portland, a friend and I decided to escape lowland fog and head for Chinook Pass in the Cascade Mountains. Once we were above the fog layer, the sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, and there was no wind. Washington route 410 winds through part of Mount Rainier National Park. Instead of heading for the pass, we decided to travel through the park. I had an ulterior motive: it was nearing sunset, there was no wind, and we would likely get perfect shots at Reflection Lake. Mount Rainier is one of my very favorite places and photographic subjects. Other views and times can be seen in my Places galleries

Reflection Lake offers up what we would call a cliche image in art school. Everybody wants to get this shot, which means there are lots of photographers getting great shots of this same scene. So most of us will look for another approach. I wanted to get that shot because I have a client who wanted a mountain reflected in water to illustrate her business card and advertising. I had the opportunity to get both – a unique view and a classic view. First is the classic view.

My friend was on the shore photographing and I asked him to hold the dog's leash so I could get a couple of shots. The first was so successful that I've had people ask if it's a photo illustration. We don't usually see just the reflection of a scene as dramatic as Mount Rainier. I like the image of my dog drinking but I think it would be a stronger image if the mountain was clearer. The image above and the first one below are available as fine art prints in my Sky and Water Gallery

I'm looking forward to many more adventures with Ariel the angel dog and Bisbee Blue. I'm going to start sleeping with my camera under the bed. There have been many touching moments early in the morning. Ariel is a loving being who is always patient, always gentle. Our kitty has a very special friend. And I'm blessed to have two very special friends. 

About Bisbee Blue: when I first met my kitty when she was 5 weeks old, she and her siblings all had eyes the color of turquoise. Her eyes have gradually changed. At 6 months old, she has eyes that are green surrounded by yellow. Bisbee Blue turquoise is distinctive deep blue stone that was mined in Bisbee, Arizona, until about 1980.