Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Tree Swallows

I grew up near the Mission San Juan Capistrano which is world-renowned for the Cliff Swallows that return to it on the same day every year for nesting.  Little did I know that we have several different species of swallows in our area - the Tree and Barn species being overshadowed by their "famous" cousins.

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary has built nestboxes for the Tree Swallows all over the Sanctuary and it is amazing to see hundreds of them swooping and diving over the ponds and darting in and out of their nestboxes.  They are incredibly agile flyers - scooping up insects in mid-air and grabbing bugs or sips of water on the wing from the surface of the ponds.  Plus - I can't resist that gorgeous blue/green iridescent color!

This bird in full blue/green plumage was sitting on a branch overlooking the more grayish bird in some of the following shots.  I am assuming this is an adult that was keeping an eye on a recently fledged juvenile.

This one just has patches of iridescence and was much less wary of my presence than the adult above.  However, now that I look at the Cornell site - this may be the female.

Did seem a lot more interested in preening than in keeping an eye on me or moving away...which is how I was able to get better shots of this bird than the adult in the first photo.

One last stretch after preening...

...and it was ready to pose...

...and pose

And then stretch a little more...

Maybe it's the extra fluffiness that says "juvenile" to me...

Love the iridescence!  You can also see this bird is banded.

And the adult has finally had enough of me!  But does show off its leg band in this departure shot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday: Fish...It's What's For Dinner

I had an amazing and prolonged encounter with an Osprey at San Joaquin about a month ago.  They have a nesting platform there and were busy raising a baby earlier in year, but on that day, the baby had apparently just fledged recently and was flying around and so the adult birds were extremely active.  One was perched on a post in the parking lot as we arrived and we continued to see more of them in flight and even diving for fish during the rest of our time there that day.

I will warn you that, the Osprey being very effective hunters, some of the photos are graphic.  So, if fish blood bothers you, stop here.  They aren't the prettiest pictures...but they do really document the fearsome weaponry that these birds have at their disposal.

Here's the Osprey that was perched above the parking lot.

Staff at the location advised us that this was the male based on the color of the band on his leg.  Don't know if that was true or not, but am assuming they had their facts right.

I'm mostly taken by his eyes...so fierce-looking!
Getting ready for take-off....

...and there he goes.  Off to hunt for his lunch...
...let's see what's on the menu today...

...here fish, fishy, fishy...

Don't doubt my fishing skills, yo! 

Also, don't be eyeballin' my lunch!

Especially because the eyeballs are the part I ate first...YUM!

Can't a bird rip apart a fish in peace?  I know those crows want my lunch!

Also...wind gusts are not helpful!

Finally...a delicious mouthful!
I can't get over how incredible those talons are and how incredibly strong those legs look.  I definitely would not want to be a fish in the ponds at this sanctuary!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Earrings Everyday - Tide Pools

When I saw the inspiration photos that Erin picked for this month, I was super-excited.  An ocean-related theme?  YES, please!!

However, my next thoughts after really studying the illustrations and colors were that they seemed very East Coast to me rather than anything like my California tide pools.  It's entirely possible that's completely inaccurate - it's just sometimes the Muse sees what the Muse sees. 
However, to show a bit of what I'm talking about, here's a photo I took of a tide pool at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach last year - lots of goldeny-greens, aquas and a few touches of brown and white or ivory.  Perhaps too much knowledge of the real thing is a detriment in this case.  So, I found myself needing to get out of my own way here.

This illustration was a bit more helpful although most of the creatures depicted are typically found in deeper waters than where "tide pools" occur.  At least the color palette was moving in the right direction, though.
After discovering through my own experience what a total pain it is to drill through sea shells, I found a store on Etsy that was selling genuine shells the right size for jewelry and already drilled.  Score!  I've been saving them for the right project.  The photo doesn't show it, but this pair has touches of lavender/purple along the edges.  I've added some reddish/purple carved wood disks and some faceted Czech rondelles that are a mix of aqua, green and purple.  Aged brass wire and findings are used to finish everything off.

With this pair, I brought in some of the orange touches from the illustration via some angelskin coral cylinders and a touch of the greenish background via a verdigris-patinated spacer.  The ivory disks are howlite.
I went a little far out with this pair.  The sea-tumbled shell pieces are from my own beach scrounging/seashell drilling experiments and mimic the scallop shells in the first illustration.  I added some pre-beaded chain and a pair of dark blue dyed agate rondelles to represent the ocean and the deeper colors in the inspiration photo.  Yes, the shell pieces are not an exact match, which is normally something I avoid like the plague, but I decided these were close enough for a casual, beachy vibe.
The brown slate pencil urchin in the foreground of the second illustration was the inspiration for this pair of earrings.  The back pieces are made from black tab shell - they are a beautifully glossy deep brown with a hint of purple in the right light.  The seahorse charms are copper with a few pewter details and I added some pinky-peach freshwater pearls and copper accents to represent the lighter colors in the inspiration photo such as the sea urchin and the center of the brittle star.
This gorgeous pair of lampwork beads from Unicorne Beads. contains all the background, ocean blues, greens and aquas from the inspiration photos.  In the right light, there's even a tiny hint of orange swirled through the glass and the design impressed on the front is reminiscent of a starfish or the "flower" on a sand dollar shell.  I paired them with beautifully detailed copper starfish charms from Kristy Bowman and added another tiny pop of orange on top with a faceted Czech glass rondelle.  Copper wire and findings tie the whole thing together.  These came out the best and were the last pair I made - the brain was definitely wading through a process to get here.
Hope you enjoyed this month's designs!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Mid-Century Mark

It’s official…I am a half century old as of today.  Honestly, I’ve been kind of dreading this birthday ever since I hit the second half of my 40’s and realized that 50 was so close.  However, in the last few months, that feeling seems to have faded and now I’m kind of excited about what the next half century (okay, let’s be honest, I probably won’t make it that long LOL) might bring.

After all, it’s kind of amazing what I’ve already lived through.  Historically, I’ve been around for the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Cold War, the civil unrest of the late 60’s, the oil embargo of the early 70’s, the end of communism, the intensification of the Middle East issues, 9/11, the Afghan and Iraq wars, and that’s just off the top of my head.

Musically, I’ve been around for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Neil Diamond, John Denver, disco, punk rock, new wave, MTV, VH1, the rise of rap and hip hop, and whatever they’re calling the music of the 90’s and 00’s…oh, and Taylor Swift.

I think the biggest and most amazing changes have been in the technology arena:  computers, ATMs, cable TV (I remember only having ONE channel when I lived in Hawaii as a child – the only kids’ show on it was “Felix the Cat”), the internet, email, Facebook, cell phones, movies in 3d and with CGI effects, downloadable music, downloadable books, smart phones, smart cars, smart homes, etc.  Oh, and navigation systems…remember when you had to get directions in advance of going anywhere new? 

The medical advances are unbelievable…lasers and cameras for surgery, my kid able to get a chicken pox vaccination so he didn’t have to go through the disease, transplants, cancer treatments based on DNA, etc.

If all that (plus a lot more that I’m sure I just don’t remember) could happen in 50 short years (at least, it sure seems short to me), what will come next? 

Oh, and if I could go back and give any advice to my younger self it would be:

1.       R-E-L-A-X…things are not as dire as you think

2.       DO NOT, for the love of all things holy, get that haircut your senior year in high school

3.       Don’t go to UCLA and study French.  Go to UC Santa Barbara and study marine biology.  You’ll be less cultured, but you’ll be happier.  Plus, you’ll avoid that whole disastrous college boyfriend situation so it’s like a 2 for 1.

4.       Take the trip to Paris anyway

5.       Do the things that make you happy – whether anybody else understands them or not

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - The Little Guys

Since I did shore birds last week, I thought I'd do some of the smallest of the perching birds that I saw on that same day at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

I nearly always find this guy hanging out in the same spot on the same tree, but it's rare that I can get the right angle and light to get his throat colors to show like this.

He's so pretty - I'm sure all the lady hummingbirds are after him :-)

This Song Sparrow, on the other hand, was looking a little the worse for wear, but he's sure singing his little heart out!

And then there's my new bird for the day - the Western Wood Peewee.  Not only a new bird, I think these Peewee photos are the best I've taken so far. 

He kind of looks like someone shrank and bleached a Kingbird in the wash...much smaller in size and colors are paler.

But he's got that "I've got my eye on a tasty bug" look, along with a white area under his chin, and even a bit of yellow on his belly.  Like a pocket-sized K-bird!


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Shore Birds

I figured it was time to represent California in the shore birds category since I haven't paid them much attention until now.  I had to take most of these from quite a distance due to trails near breeding areas being blocked off so the quality isn't quite as good, but even a fuzzy photo of a baby bird is still cute!

A little bit closer...but I like the first shot with the reflection in it better.

The babies look like cotton balls on chopsticks!

There were two of them following the adults around and keeping right up with the feeding behavior.

American Avocet in the same pond.

The rusty head is breeding plumage.

These birds very actively plunge their entire beak into the water and then swing their heads from side to side like they are sweeping the floor and they move fast so I was lucky to get shots with their heads above water.

Looks like that breeding plumage is working - there's a nest going!

...felt like he needed a close-up.

American White Pelican grabbing a snack...


And a quick drink to wash it down.

Female Mallard Duck...teaching the baby to blow bubbles...

Looks like he's getting it right!

The perfect picture to end on...because who doesn't love a fuzzy baby duckling?!