Sunday, March 15, 2015

Photos from Bird Land

I promise to get back to all things beady soon, but I just had to share a few photos that I was finally able to take of the activity at the bird feeder.  They are not super high quality as I did have to take them through a window, but I was still able to catch a lot more than I had thought would be possible.

I figured out that if I get below the edge of the window sill and crawl up onto the couch and move really slowly, I can raise my iPhone high enough to snap photos without scaring the birds.  Can't use my regular digital camera as, apparently, it is too noticeable really freaks out the birds.  I think because the iPhone is so slim and is in a dark case, it's not as obvious to them.

Here's what I was able to capture:

This is a male House Finch.

He has a red head and chest.  The females are all brown/tan/cream and don't have the red.
These are the mourning doves that like to come in the late afternoon up until sunset and clean up whatever has fallen from the feeder above.  It's awesome to have a great clean up crew!  Normally, I only see them in pairs of two so it was a little odd to see a third one - hopefully nothing happened to its mate.  I couldn't capture it in the photos, but their necks and wings have a subtle lavender iridescence to them in the right light - you think they are very plain birds until you see that and then it's like pretty!
I got super lucky and managed to already be in mid-click on the iPhone camera when my little hummingbird showed up and took a seat at the feeder.  I had just brewed a new batch of nectar about an hour before this so was excited to see this little visitor drop by.

I just kept clicking non-stop and got a shot of it actually drinking!

And flying...okay, kinda blurry, but still so cool!

This shot is a bit better...if only the hummer wasn't the same color as the fence LOL!  I'm still learning my identification skills, but I'm pretty sure this is a Rufous...and I think it's more likely to be a female (or a juvenile) because the colors are more subdued.
This bird first showed up last weekend and I spent most of the week trying to identify it from one brief glimpse and not having much luck.  I finally saw it again later in the week and realized it was a bit lighter in color than I had remembered from my first sighting and that it has a pale cinnamon/pink area underneath its tail.
Armed with that information, I'm pretty sure I've correctly identified it as a California Towhee.  This one, like the doves, is part of the ground clean up crew.  I did see him go to the main feeder once or twice, but he seems to prefer the ground.
This is my favorite of all the birds that have come by so far - mostly because I never realized we had any local birds that had this kind of coloration.  Just goes to show how much is going on around you that you can totally miss!

He's very timid...and will not come directly to the main feeder at all.  He starts out on a high branch in the palm trees in my neighbor's yard that overlook the feeder, then moves to a lower branch, then moves to the fence and then finally will go to the suet cage...

...and attempt to grab a mouthful in mid-flight...

...which I was lucky enough to capture (look at that bright yellow on his back - so pretty!)...
...and then off he flies with his beak full of yummy suet!  And that's our Yellow-Rumped Warbler
I will get over this obsession soon LOL.  I probably watched too many episodes of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" as a child (and now you know how old I am, too!)

Sunday, March 08, 2015

News from the Bird Feeder

After a slow start, the backyard bird feeder is going strong!  In fact, I may have to re-think the potential budget impact of this idea if I keep having to refill the thing every 2 days!

The feeder has continued to draw the main crowd of House Finches, but they've been joined by a supporting cast of House Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, a pair of Mourning Doves, a Rufous Hummingbird (who is getting so bold that he even tried to follow me into the garage today), and an occasional special visitor!

This visitor is so shy that he flies away immediately if I even try to peek out the window so it's taken me a few tries to get a good enough look at him so that I could identify him.

I'm not an expert by any means, but between the bird guide that I bought and the Internet, the closest I can come to an id is that it's a Yellow-rumped Warbler (above photo borrowed from the Cornell Ornithology Lab site).  There just seems to be the one and he doesn't come every day so I'm not entirely sure if he's lost or what.  We are on a migratory pathway so it's not unheard of to see unusual strays.

My next project is to figure out how to get some pictures...can't get any from outside because the birds all fly away immediately and taking photos through the windows doesn't yield good results.  I'm thinking about some kind of motion activated camera or something...assuming its not crazy expensive.

I'm excited to see who will show up at the feeder as the seasons change!


P.S.  Edited on 3/9/15 to add photos and links and to advise that the Warbler was back again this morning and remains the most skittish of all the visiting birds so he's hard to get a look at, but when he took off this morning, I saw something in his beak so am wondering if it's possible there's a nest getting built somewhere nearby.  Hummingbird was back again as well and spent a long time sitting still (for a hummer!) on the feeder and I even saw it try to go after a tiny gnat that was buzzing around.  The doves are getting bold enough that they are no longer content to pick up the stray seed off the ground and are landing directly on the feeder itself.

Friday, February 20, 2015

We're All Ears - Earrings Everyday February Challenge

I've been dying to get back to participating in this fun monthly earring design challenge!  Love the inspiration photo for this month - some desperately needed color and a reminder that Spring has to arrive (eventually).

I love the flowers and the soft, romantic drawings - so pretty and feminine!
I had lots and lots and lots of ideas for this month, but I really suffered from lack of time to properly execute them.  I think the muse was a bit deluded into thinking she and I could pull off everything that we imagined.  As a result, I'm not overly happy with most of what I came up with - my designs definitely suffer when I am rushed.  Still, I was determined to meet my goal to participate so here's what I came up with that was semi-fit to share:
For this first pair, I used Vintaj patina inks on brass blanks and a Vintaj flower/leaf charm and then sanded/polished to let some of the natural brass show through for an aged look. 

I'm happy with the flower portion, but I think the background piece needs a little more work - another color sponged around the edges or something.  It's "almost" there.  I call this design "Flowering Vines."  
This was another experiment with the Vintaj inks - I was trying out a marbling technique that I saw demonstrated on You Tube.  I'm actually pretty happy with this one except that I can see a few blank spots that I missed - my eyesight really is getting so bad!  And I was even wearing my glasses! 

Oh well, a little bit of touch up ink here and there will take care of that.  I had these aqua/silver floral components sitting around and they matched the aqua color in the ink so well that I thought they'd be a good choice to bring the floral element into the design.  I'm calling these earrings "Aqua and Old Lace."

More of the marbling technique - I think the inks really look like the swirls of a rose.  With this pair, I sanded around the edges of the blanks and then polished them to let the brass show through so they'd look a bit aged. 

I wanted to sand the bead caps, too, but I ran out of time to get as much shine on them as I wanted before I had to take the photos.  I'll be going back to give them another round to really make them sparkle.  Also, the crystals really do match the ink color much better in real life than it shows in the photos.
Lastly, I decided to adapt a wrapping technique that I've done in the past with waxed linen.
I took these brass rings and wrapped and knotted some really lovely dyed silk ribbon all around the edges and then tied it off at the top. 

The ribbon had pale shades of pink and mauve shading into green and even a little touch of teal so I thought it would stand in for the colors of flowers and leaves perfectly.

I frayed the edges to give it a little "shabby" look and then added some pale pink glass pearls and some blue/green Swarovski crystals.
Those are my designs for the February challenge.  I hope you enjoyed them!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

For the Birds

Free time is awfully rare around the "Parrot Cage and Confusion Factory" as I like to refer to my when I do get some, I mostly devote it to beady-related pursuits.  However, occasionally I get obsessed with other things.  For the last few months, every time I looked out a certain kitchen window, it occurred to me that it would sure be great to have a bird feeder placed in the back yard so that there was something to see out that window besides a fence.

I finally got around to doing something about it.  Initially, I had planned just a hummingbird feeder, but after perusing all the available options at Lowe's, I thought "what the heck...I'll just feed everyone."

This was the result:

Yeah, I know, the salesperson at Lowe's saw the word "SUCKER" printed in neon green on my forehead.  The hummingbird feeder is on the right, the cage on the left has suet in it and the "house" at the top has a seed mix.
For the first five days, I checked it religiously and...not a single bird came by.  I was so bummed...especially because I could hear birds in the area and I know I have hummingbirds that come through my backyard regularly.
Finally this weekend as I was about to give up...finches and hummingbirds started showing up like crazy.  I had so many finches that they actually emptied that top feeder over the course of 2.5 days and I had to re-fill it!  Then I got interested in trying to determine what species were hanging out and I found this great website:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I did lots of research, listened to bird calls, watched webcams and ohmygoshiamSUCHAGEEK!
It was fun, though, and I'm even interested in learning more about how to photograph birds.  I did manage to identify the species that's been eating all the food:
Male house finch.

Female house finch.
If you're interested in learning more, you can go here.  They even have recordings of each species' songs!
I had a little more trouble with the hummingbird - they are so fast it was tough to identify, but I'm pretty sure it was either a Rufous or an Allen's.  Either way, they are so CUTE!
This adventure entered a new chapter yesterday when I decided the feeder needed to be re-filled and found out the hard way that not only does the top section detach (which I already knew), but the middle section also detaches.  So, when you are carrying a completely full feeder and holding it by the middle section...the bottom falls out and spills a ginormous amount of seed all over your yard.
I am not deterred, though, and will be going back to Lowe's for a new bag of food once I've allowed the birds (and, sigh, probably the neighborhood's rodent population) to pick up most of what spilled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last of the New Stuff

It feels so good to be creating and blogging again.  I hope I'm able to keep it up, but I'm sure there will continue to be periods where life gets in the way.  I'm already looking at a March and April that are rapidly getting booked up between all the kid's activities (church camp, two boy scout campouts, a band concert, etc.) and our planned Spring Break trip.  We are mixing it up this year and instead of going to our timeshare in Palm Desert we are going on a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona!  I'm super excited about it and am hoping the change of scenery will breathe some new life into my creative side.

Hopefully, I'll have some great pictures from the trip to share as well, but for get earrings!

If you've been following the blog for a while, you know I never really got over my childhood obsession with Jacques Cousteau and all things ocean-y.  I've been lucky enough to be able to travel to Maui the last two summers, rent an underwater camera each time and attempt to take some photos of the gorgeous fish, turtles, etc.  I posted about my 2013 trip, but never got around to posting the photos from my August, 2014, trip as I got sick on the way home and then got into the whole "kid transition to middle school" while I was still recovering and then I blinked and it was Christmas.

I'll share a few of those photos now as they were the partial inspiration behind this next pair of earrings:

We didn't experience anywhere near the water clarity on this trip as we had on the previous trip.  The islands had already been hit by a hurricane about 3 weeks before we arrived and there were still several storms far out to sea that caused the surf to kick up a bit.  The best visibility and most variety of fish occurred on our day boat trip over to the island of Lanai.  Above is a video of a Black Durgon  and some convict tang that I took while snorkeling there at Hulopo'e Bay.  You can really get a feel for the wave action that was happening. 

This is a school of convict tang and one yellow tang.

From left to right, this is a yellowtail coris, a yellow tang and an orange-banded surgeonfish. 
This yellowtail coris was my big "get" of the entire trip.  I'd only seen them on the fish guide but had never managed to find one in the water so I followed him around desperately snapping photos hoping to get a good shot (quick tip - don't forget to pay attention to the incoming waves while following a fish with your camera LOL).

I find this fish's coloring so fascinating.  He has a bright pink face and head with lime green stripes, an olive body with almost fluorescent blue spots and a bright yellow tail and fins.

This is a female red lip parrot fish.  I can tell it's a female, because the males look like a completely different species.  Also, this species can change from one sex to the other throughout its life depending on the population requirements (i.e. if there are too many of one sex around, one or more of them will shift to the other sex).  
Here's a video I took of what the male looks wouldn't even guess they were the same type of fish, right?
This was my other unusual fish photo.  Amazing jaws on this guy for chomping on coral.  This is a Barred Filefish and I took the photo at Black Rock on Maui. 

I'm always excited when I can capture a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.

It's the Hawaiian state fish...and here he is chowing down on some coral.

Long nose butterfly fish. 

Moorish Idol (if you're a fan of "Finding Nemo", this is the same type of fish as "Scar" who lives in the dentist's fish tank). 
One of the days at Black Rock, I suddenly found myself surrounded by a whole school of these needlefish.

They look like miniature barracudas.

So much easier to photograph things that hold still LOL!  Especially when you are trying to simultaneously swim, hold your breath, focus your camera and not get wiped out by a wave.  This is a slate pencil urchin with some coral in the foreground. 

This is a Sergeant Major - I like their bright splashes of yellow. 

This is a Trumpetfish.
My sister-in-law and I got up the nerve to swim around the end of Black Rock out of the calmer, more protected area and into the private cove on the other side and we were rewarded with this unusual sight:
That is a seal!  Hauled out on the tiny beach and resting in the sun.  I wanted to swim closer to take a better picture, but it was a little too rough with a strong current and I was concerned about getting banged into the rocks and coral...which would be a bad thing.
In addition to snorkeling, the kid (and his cousins - that's one of them in the background in the red, white and blue trunks) did some beach fishing...strictly catch and release...but it allowed us to get more up close to some of the beautiful fish we were seeing when we were under water.

Quick!  Reel it in! 

Most of the day we caught these silvery-yellow "Papio."  At least, that's what the guide called them...I have a feeling they are juveniles of another species, but couldn't get more information.

They are super-fast swimmers and have these bright yellow fins.
And they Ryan got amazingly lucky and caught a Christmas Wrasse!  Look at the colors!  Oh, and you wouldn't think it, but these guys have super-sharp, needle-like teeth - they look like Dracula up close!
So what the heck does all this have to do with earrings, you ask.  Well, after seeing all this stuff live, could you blame me when I found these darling fish beads at Scorched Earth on Etsy and had to have them?  And then I turned them into these earrings:

I added some orange jade, lime green dyed howlite rondelles and royal blue seed beads (to pick up the blue spots on the fish). 

Add some Vintaj brass wire and some patinated brass earring hooks from Patina Queen and you have my "Tropical Fish" earrings.
Thanks for reminiscing with me about the beautiful sights of Hawaii and hope you liked the earrings, too!  I'll get them up for sale on Etsy shortly.