Category Archives: bird

Bird watching

Yesterday I was lying in a puddle on the back deck, hoping to get a clear picture of a bird nesting in a yard ornament that we’d bought at the art fair a couple years ago.

We’ve had birds try to nest in this thing before, but they usually decide there’s too much foot traffic or possibly the space gets too hot in the middle of the summer and it’s abandoned before a family is produced.

Honey, I’m home!

This year Steve and I know there are baby birds in it because the parents have been back and forth to the entrance of the thing with bugs and caterpillars. It’s fascinating. I never thought I would be a bird watcher in the last third of my life but now I find that I enjoy observing them when they show up at the feeders or whistling back to them when I’m out walking the dogs.

With the birds in the ornament, the main question has been, what species of bird are these?

“Is it a sparrow maybe?”

“Nah, it doesn’t have any of the markings for a sparrow.”

“Maybe a wren?”

“But it doesn’t hold its tail like a wren.”

Neither of us has the sharpest eyesight anymore, so we’ve been taking pictures of the birds with our phones, but the results have not been great and we couldn’t find any matching blurs in the bird books on our shelves. I thought maybe my old Nikon Coolpix L810 might get a good enough picture that we’d be able to ID the birds at last.

First I set up on the rail of the deck just outside the back door. But the bird on foraging duty proved a bit camera shy with me standing there and I decided I’d have better luck if I moved the camera to the floor of the deck and hunkered down behind it. Maybe the railing would hide me enough that my quarry would lose his inhibitions and resume making trips to the fish ornament. I propped the camera up with some sticks so that it was pointing right at the front of it. All I’d have to do is tap the shutter button to get a shot.

Eventually, the bird returned to the nest and I got some pictures of it, but I was still hoping for a side profile to complete the series and decided to hang out a bit longer even though it wasn’t exactly comfortable on the deck. I’d managed to lay down in a small puddle and mosquitos were whining in my ears. I thought about how wildlife researchers sat outside in all kinds of weather, fending off bugs and snakes and other horrible things, waiting for their subjects to make an appearance. At least it wasn’t raining. The air was warm and pleasant. I turned my head and watched fluffy clouds passing by overhead. I could do this. I just needed to be patient.

Bugs! It’s what’s for dinner!

I thought about the bird going back and forth endlessly. It couldn’t be an easy task, hunting bugs and worms for a hungry family. Did a bird ever think to itself, “This is taking so long! How come I’m always the one to make dinner! And the kids will probably hate it!”?

Anyway, on one of its return trips the bird spotted me behind the rail and started to chitter at me, first from the safety of a pine bough over the deck and then from the glider, which was between me and the fish ornament. “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch,” he called, over and over, which I interpreted as, “I see you hiding there, you big human! Bugger off!”

I lay there, trying not to make eye contact, exuding calm and non-predatory thoughts. “I’m harmless, harmless, harmless. Look, I’m not even moving. It’s fine. Nothing to worry about. I’m a rock. Or a plant. Or some other inanimate, perfectly ordinary thing.”

He just kept yelling at me, and now I could smell dinner, a chicken and wild mushroom and green bean curry that Steve was making. What if he came to the door to tell me it was ready and scared the bird off before I could get my shot? Then I’d have to start all over again. It sure sounded like this bird wasn’t going to go back to his nest until I left.

Unfortunately, my camera was focused on the lawn ornament, not the glider. I didn’t know if I could move it and not startle him into leaving, but I decided I had to try. I had the camera set to “Pet Portrait” and I hoped if I pressed the shutter button it would automatically focus on my target.

Definitely a wren.

It took a few tries but it worked! I got up off the deck and brought the camera in to show Steve.

“What do you think?”

“That’s a wren.”

I was so pleased. We looked at the picture on the back of my camera all during dinner, which was delicious, by the way. No bugs or caterpillars at all.

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pastel drawing of a bird on a branch with snow

Titmouse-pastel drawing of a bird on a branch with snow

Marie Marfia, Titmouse, soft pastel on paper, 6x9".
Titmouse, soft pastel drawing on paper, 6×9″.

If it’s too cold to venture out into the woods with my dogs I am happy to watch the birds at the feeder outside my glass sliders. They puff themselves up in the cold and feast on sunflower seeds. My husband calls it Bird TV and it never gets old.


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Yellow bird, egyptian eyed dog, pink flower

Yellow Bird, No. 9, 6×6″ acrylic on canvas. ©2018 Marie Marfia.

Egyptian-eyed Dog, No. 10, 6×6″ acrylic on canvas. ©2018 Marie Marfia.

Pink Flower, No. 11, 6×6″ acrylic on canvas. ©2018 Marie Marfia

Humming right along. I don’t always like what I’m ending up with but it’s okay because I’m learning! I’m excited to try again every day. Onward and upward. That’s the ticket.

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red wing blackbird silhouette painting

So it begins!

New project!

This summer I’ve decided I want to learn to paint with acrylics. So, as I’ve done before here and here, I’m committing to painting a small acrylic painting every day for the next 100 days. At the end of that time I hope to be more comfortable painting in acrylic and to have a bunch of work to show for my efforts.

Unlike my previous projects, I don’t entirely know what I’ll be concentrating on as far as subject matter goes. Right now I figure I’ll paint whatever subject appeals to me in the moment, concentrating on technique and composition rather than say, landscapes or portraits.

Today’s painting is based on a video tutorial that I watched this morning. The tutorial was about making a dark to light background and featured a bird and some branches in silhouette. It used just two colors—black and white—to make it easier for a novice (that would be me!) to get the hang of blending and simple enough that I would have a nice painting at the end.

I was inspired by the idea of a bird and also the graduated background. But of course I had to mix it up a little bit. Two colors? Nah. How about four?

See, I love to get up before the sun and watch it coloring the sky orange and gold and shining through the trees, so I decided to make my background reflect the color of the sky from this morning. So I needed red and yellow for that. For the bird I picked a red winged blackbird because they have so much personality and they’re everywhere around here. Plus, they have lovely red and yellow epaulettes on their shoulders, so I thought that would be perfect with my peachy background.

Here’s today’s effort:

red wing blackbird silhouette painting
001 Red Winged Blackbird, 6×6″ acrylic on canvas. ©2018 Marie Marfia.

001 Red Winged Blackbird, 6×6″ acrylic on canvas. ©2018 Marie Marfia.

Fear not, I am not giving up on pastels! I will continue to work with them because I love doing it. But it’s always good to shake things up if you possibly can, try something new. Keeps me thinking creatively, and who doesn’t need more of that?

I’ll be posting them here on my blog, so if you’d like to keep track of my progress, please bookmark this page and come back often. Or come and visit me in Ludington, Michigan. I have a new exhibit space next to the Bonafide Gallery called James St. Gallery and I’ll be hanging these paintings there all summer. Hope to see you soon!


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