Sunday, October 16, 2022

Autumn Drought = Autumn Color!


Autumn Road - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

I really believe we are seeing the best autumn colors this fall than I've seen since we moved here 20 years ago...its been just beautiful!  We just weren't expecting it...3rd drought year in a row...listed in the "Extreme" category now, with the worst (5 out of 5) "Exceptional" creeping even closer.

According to a state arborist, we are getting great color due to the warm/mild weather preceding our first hard frost.  We haven't had any rain since then so the wind has been the only thing dropping leaves now...and its been monotonously windy since the colors came on!


Hale Slough - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

I'll leave you with some nice Fall color in NW Iowa near and not so far from our acreage.  (Click on each image for a larger view).


Receding Pool  and Cottonwoods - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 

Garlock Slough - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Arching Autumn Colors - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Autumn in the Waterman Valley - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Happy Fall out there!   Be good to one another...


Friday, October 7, 2022

Artwork Friday!


"Inciting a Riot!"  Blue Jay Portrait - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

It's Artwork Friday!  OK...I decided "Archival Works Friday" was too constricting - I think this will give me some room to just try and post something interesting once a month, whether it's new or old...sometimes my brain just drops something out there and I say to myself "why not?"!

I'll try and broaden the original idea a bit and give a little back story on the work - the first Friday of the month.  I hope you'll find it interesting!

Maybe this should be called "Blue Jay Friday". 

I just recently finished this Blue Jay color pencil drawing, and readily admit that this is not an old piece...but the idea does stretch back many years...Blue Jays and I.

I have always loved Blue Jays...these birds have real character and are very intelligent; part of the bird family "Corvdae", which includes crows, ravens and magpies.  My first personal “close encounter” with Blue Jays was when I was maybe around 11 or 12.  I had snuck up on one, on a friend's bird feeder, and reached up and grabbed its tail...of course the jay let out a loud squawk and flew off - leaving that stupid kid (me) with a handful of tail feathers!  Through the rest of the summer (until molt in August) everyone in the neighborhood recognized this "tailless" Blue Jay wherever it went!  I even got the feeling it was extra keen on avoiding "me"!

It's funny how us humans place our own judgments and morals on wild creatures...Blue Jays seem to get unjustly criticized at times.  Blue Jays are obvious when they're in the vicinity...noisy, constant calling; often arriving in numbers, and usually dominating the bird feeders.  Some people think they're pushy or mean, so have a personal dislike for them...placing human judgment on something is really misguided; in doing so it is easy to miss the “larger” picture...the entirety of these amazing and beautiful birds.

When we hear jays around the acreage, we can very often discern what is going on by the calling...the chatter of the airwaves if-you-will. I can often hear when they are calling to alert to a good meal to be had (at the feeders), whether they seem to be in a good or bad mood or when they are on their own and pensive (see - there I go placing human attributes myself!). I have often heard individuals do the most pleasing quiet gurgles, and jingles, when they seem to think they're alone and unobserved. When they're aware they're being watched, they can be quite quiet and alert.

They're good at imitating other birds – particularly Red-tailed Hawks. I often stop what I'm doing when I'm outside, to look up for a Red-tail whenever I think I hear one call...I can now spot “most” impersonations, but occasionally I have to say out loud “good one”! Even a Red-tailed Hawk would be proud of some of those attempts of jays (and even starlings, by-the-way) trying to imitate them!

I've found over the years how good they are at spotting hawks and owls in the yard. This can be beneficial to me if I have the camera handy. What better way to have a predator alarm! Crows are also very good at this...a flock mobbing a hawk or owl is a fairly common occurrence. And I've watched jays actually bully some hawks they should be wary a dangerous game of cat and mouse. But they don't always come out unscathed.

A couple weeks back I was out in the north pasture photographing some dew covered webs and suddenly a big ruckus broke out up in the northwest corner of the backyard.  Blue Jays were having a, they were definitely upset and one jay was clearly beyond distressed. I thought to myself “someone had just become breakfast”. I made my way over to the yard as jays were dispersing in different directions. Moments later a large mature accipiter – had to have been at least a female Cooper's Hawk, flew up out from underneath a low sweeping conifer – carrying away its meal for the morning...Blue Jay feathers scattered about under the tree verified the menu.  Real life drama in the bird world!

I really enjoy trying to photograph Blue Jays. Their personalities really seem to shine at times, especially when they get cranked up or mischievous! The color pencil drawing at the top of this article says it all!  I read many years back that a flock of Blue Jays is called a "Riot" or a "Party"...hence the subtitle for this small life-size Blue Jay Portrait - "Inciting a Riot!"...gotta love these birds!

Blue Jay color pencil drawing from some 40 years ago...we all have to start somewhere!  (prismacolor color pencil drawing © Bruce A. Morrison)

This wasn't my fist Blue Jay drawing, but probably my most expressive and first color pencil Blue Jay was done on archival/colored mat board, 40 some years ago...I've done others in more recent years as well.

I'll part by saying enjoy “all” the birds...they aren't little “people” and don't have our motives or faults, no matter how endearing or disconcerting!  Give 'em a break and enjoy watching every chance you get!