Thursday, April 28, 2011

See Ya Later Friend

Dark-eyed Junco (male)
Photo © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Easter Sunday our friends left us for Minnesota...eventually Canada.  I miss them already; they have a sweet spring voice that is pleasant to listen to each year before spring really takes hold here.  But they'll be back next fall!  Sometimes they stay through the winter in large numbers...sometimes only a few...each year is different.  This year they were scarce in the yard through winter, until early in March when they were back in hoards!   Everyone recognizes Juncos right!?

Dark-eyed Juncos are the bird feeder staple...they usually spend their feeding time on the ground under the feeders though...this male was singing outside my studio window last week when I took a quick photo of him.  He's a good example of male Junco plumage!  Has that nice dark gray hood, and dark eye.  The ladies are only duller but you can still discern the hood feature.

It's been a different spring here this year...not to most people's liking!  But different with the yard birds too...the Juncos stayed long and now that they're gone, the usual "new" visitors have been slow and scarce in returning.  We've had one or two White-throated Sparrows but then they're gone...not normal here as they stay and seranade for a few weeks too.  

But goodbye Juncos, see ya later friend...have a nice summer up north!

Monday, April 25, 2011


"Summer Along Angler's Bay"
color pencil - 5X7" - art work © Bruce A. Morrison
(SOLD - in a private collection)
(click on image for larger view)

Studio time is getting shorter and harder to accommodate these days...the days are finally getting longer and finally getting warmer!  I'm putting the emphasis on "finally" only out of frustration with the cold/dark April we've been experiencing this year.  I do think I'm getting more patient with some things as the years pass by but "feeling and enjoying" spring is one part of life I cannot abide by getting skimped on! 

When the weather outside isn't cooperating, I do get more studio time I guess...maybe that's the only saving grace here for the time being.  I've been doing a good deal of framing and catching up on several things put on the back burner this past fall and winter.  

One thing I finally worked through was another small color pencil study that will perhaps take on new life as a larger painting some day.  This pencil is of an area north of us that still looks fairly much like it may have a couple hundred years ago...well, that's the way I drew it anyway.  The distant shoreline is dotted with houses and docks; I removed them.  They did not contribute to the emotional affect the location had on me - so as the Queen of Hearts so frequently stated in Alice In Wonderland "Off with their heads!"  :)

I'd become stuck on this piece for some time.  The sky was really creating problems in retaining a visual "feel" for the light and carefree clouds.  The wax medium of the prismacolor pencil was fighting me on this.  I came upon another type of pencil that I'd read about and gave them a try.  They are Lyra brand pencils that are oil based rather than wax. It's the wax build up that often throws cogs in the wheels of progress when drawing difficult/stubborn passages in a piece.  Working over the already lain down wax pencil gave me some pause but things worked out alright I think.

Angler's Bay is on Spirit Lake's northeast corner, adjacent to Hales Slough (an old favorite wetland of mine).  This area was part of an intense conservation/preservation effort about 5-6 years was the final remaining rush bed left on Spirit and an important spawning and nesting area.  The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation led a hard sought campaign to secure the property for our grand children's heritage.  This would not have been possible without the landowners seeing the need for this property's preservation!  

Thankfully there will be no future marinas or private houses and docks dotting this fragile/final remaining wetland.  We ALL get to enjoy this place for generations to come!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla patens) on Waterman Prairie
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

The Prairie has begun blooming!  The first flower of spring on the prairie finally began blooming up here in the NW corner of the state this past weekend.  This is always my "official" beginning of spring on the Tallgrass...look forward to it all winter long because it means the season has begun and better days..."great" days, are ahead!

Georgie and I went out on Sunday afternoon to check the prairies for pasques... a wind advisory with a real stiff blow out of the west/northwest was making photography almost untenable...a higher shutter speed was the only option!

Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla patens) and dead Eastern Red Cedar - Waterman Prairie
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

Waterman Prairie, here in S.E. O'Brien County, is in the "neighborhood" and we checked out all the spots that we've found these forbs in past years.  Many slopes that had once been over run with Eastern Red Cedar trees here, have had their trees treated or cut to bring back the original prairie habitat.  This, coupled with controlled burns and/or grazing, has encouraged the tallgrass plants to return.  It's not uncommon to find Pasque Flowers growing at the base of the cedar stumps and trunks.  It's great to see the prairie recovering on the slopes of the hills in the valley!

Veering a little, I'd like to comment that our entire planet "is in the neighborhood".  Let's try to take this more to heart.  With sincerity, lets celebrate this place we all must live...and heed the needs that exist "in our neighborhood".   Give thought and action to the needs of our planet's peoples and our planet's habitats.  Please give to your organizations of choice for those in need!

Spring is on the Tallgrass - let the games begin!