Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"Winter along O'Brien No.1 (Waterman Prairie)"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Well, the year is winding down and winter "has" arrived!  We didn't get as much snow as most of the state, maybe just 2-3 inches, but the temps have dropped into low single digits at night.  I'm seeing more birds in the prairie pasture could be just because they stand out better against a white backdrop, or are now feasting on plant-top seed heads.  And the bird feeders are now running full steam...that's fun.

It was a dry year for the prairie here but I have high hopes for the new year. I personally try and throw out words of support for our area's natural resources each year. Many good organizations have thrown their support behind the Tallgrass Prairie in NW Iowa.   The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, and in our own county of O'Brien - the Prairie Heritage Center.

The Prairie Heritage Center is doing something new and fun this year and I urge you to consider participating!  The PHC is putting out an in-house calendar with a fundraising twist for our prairie heritage.  On the 15th of each month a name will be drawn for a special prize - the names are drawn from the pool of people that actually purchase the calendar.  As an example, the prize winner from the month of January will win $150.00 toward the purchase of any artwork or photography from the studio here!  Each month has other great $100-plus prizes as well, and the proceeds from the calendars go toward acquiring what precious little still exists of our prairies and the heritage it provides
Each calendar will sell for $50. On the 15th of each month you will have the opportunity to win a prize worth over $100! For each calendar, there are 12 chances to win. There are a limited number of calendars available.

These calendars are on sale now. and would make a very interesting Christmas gift that keeps on giving throughout the year for a special person! Or … you could show YOUR support for the Prairie Heritage Center by purchasing a calendar for yourself!

The calendar is currently available at the Prairie Heritage Center and in the next few days they will also be available at your local banks in O’Brien County. If you’re not able to get to any of those locations, one can be sent to you via USPS Mail for an additional $6.00 charge. The Prairie Heritage Center's address is: 4931 Yellow Ave - Peterson, IA  51047.  Phone - 712 295-7200.
("Winter Stubble, Bales" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
(click on image for a larger view) 

I want to sign off for the year by wishing you a wonderful Christmas and all my best in the New Year.  I'm looking forward to making new friends and photographing and painting more from the prairie here in the new year as well!  I hope you'll join me from time to time as I have a chance to write about it.

All my best.  Be good to one another, and find 2013 a year of promise!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wrapping Up

"Red-breasted Nuthatch"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)
I cannot remember a post Artisans Road Trip period this busy!  That's a good thing right?!  I'm sure it is.  I feel like the little friends outside the studio window here, scampering about constantly all day long!

I've fed the birds since I was probably 10 years Dad made me my first bird feeder back around 1960.  He set it up on a steel post in the center of the backyard and I was off and running! 

I remember the first bird I photographed on that feeder too.  I set up a burlap blind out near the Mother sewed the blind together for me.  My camera setup was totally manual...I'd purchased the camera with my paper route money after a year of saving every penny.  It was a Practica SLR; I also purchased a Kowa 400mm lens for it.  The close focus range of the Kowa was 29 feet!  Wow...I have a 400mm Sigma today that focuses to 39 inches...what amazing advancements we've made!

29 feet was too far away, especially for tiny birds...even with a 400mm lens; so I also purchased a bellows adapter for the lens.  I don't know if you know what that'd look like but it was unwieldy as all get-out!  The belows adapter is a cloth bellows on a slides back and forth for focusing, allowing much closer focusing distances.  My Dad also got me a used tripod and luckily so...this setup would have been impossible without a tripod.  I'm thinking the whole setup would have been somewhere between 20-24 inches in length or longer!

"White-breasted Nuthatch"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

The first bird on the feeder to be recorded by this awkward setup was a White-breasted Nuthatch.  Not too long afterward, one drizzly fall day, I photographed another nuthatch, a Red-breasted Nuthatch.  None of the images on this page are from those early Kodachromes though, these are from out the studio window and in the yard.   

"Red-breasted Nuthatch (Galloping up the tree)"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a northern bird which usually only visits here in the winter months...not usually every year but fairly often.  I love both of these little guys, they are very friendly.

I've been asked what I feed the birds here...almost exclusively dark oil sunflower seed (for the Nuthatches, all woodpeckers, all finches, Blue Jays, Chickadees, and various ground feeding winter migrants), Niger thistle seed (for the finches) and suet cakes (everyone loves them!). 

Any type feeder works and I refuse to worry about the squirrels, I love watching them too!  A tray feeder with a hardware cloth mesh is a good one because a lot of the seed will slip through and feed the ground feeding birds (like Juncos and Tree Sparrows).  I also like the newer heavy wire basket type feeders, because they last so long...the old tube type feeders work great too but stay away from the all-plastic ones, you'll replace them every year or so most of the time.

The biggest mistake I see with people who "struggle" with feeding birds is they do not keep it up...they'll fill the feeders and forget to tend to them afterward.  Often seed will spoil or get soaked - that needs to go...eventually the birds visiting will go elsewhere. Also be aware Niger seed spoils fairly easily - I've seen perfectly dry seed go rancid...after a few trys, the birds will leave it alone.  If you see no one feeding for a week or so - dump your seed and start over.  Feeding birds isn't for the faint of heart though - this stuff costs 5 times more than it did 20 years ago!!!!!  I refuse to keep track of what bird feeding costs is just something I enjoy and that's all there is to that discussion!  If that's a factor for you - don't bother!  (Send them over here!)

Its funny, I didn't start this blog to talk about bird feeding, but there you have it!  But I do feel like I need to slow down here in the studio soon and get back to painting!  Let the little birds out the window keep up their frenetic pace...I need a break!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas in the Gallery!

"Christmas in the Gallery" at Arts on Grand!
December 3, 2012 through January 5, 2013

It is Christmas in the Gallery right now at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa!  There was an informal reception last night during Spencer's Grand Meander, and there was loads of people out enjoying the beautiful fall-like weather in December.  If you didn't get out for the opening night there's still plenty of time to get down to AOG and find some terrific Christmas buys for anyone on your list!  "Christmas in the Gallery" runs through January 5th of next year.

And join me and several area artists for the Holiday open House in Peterson this Saturday at Barb McGee's Gallery!  Another great place to find gifts for the season, and another fun drive through the beautiful countryside in NW Iowa!  We'll be there from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., hope to see you there!!!