Friday, July 26, 2013

The Possum and the Dogs

On Wednesday morning, the dogs and I got to see a opossum play dead!  It happened along the perimeter fence of an elementary school where I let the dogs off leash.  During the summer and Saturdays it's a great place to let the dogs run.  We were walking along the chain-link fence about to leave so I was getting ready to put the leashes back on when we spotted the possum.  The possum was a baby, about 5 inches long.  I imagine the rest of its family were just on the other side of the fence hiding in the bushes.  The dogs and I saw the critter at about the same time just a few feet in front of us, and the dogs started to charge and I was thinking 'oh no! this is going to be horrible'.  With less than a foot from the fence and true safety, it plopped down on its side.  The instantly 'dead' possum brought the dogs and their fangs to a halt, super confused. The possum even had its mouth hanging open.  Instead of grabbing and biting the dogs sniffed at the strange animal.  I think if the opossum had ran the dogs would have chased it and killed it, and it's small baby size wouldn't have stood a chance against the dogs.  I quickly and calmly snapped the leashes on and continued our walk with the baby opossum safe.  Would the dogs have left it alone if I hadn't been there?  Maybe not, but in this case playing possum really worked!   

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dolphins of the Air- Our Summer Swallows

A mass of flying birds!
Many of the birds that Jacob and I enjoy finding in Austin are cooler weather visitors, and they move North when the weather is hot.  One of the exceptions is several members of the swallow family: Chimney Swifts, Purple Martins, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Cliff and Cave Swallows, and Barn Swallows.  All of these birds can be seen near ponds, and lakes in Austin.  And now during the hottest time of year they seem to be every where! This is because they have literally doubled in number as their chicks take wing, and many parents have started a second brood.  As August begins, the flocks also start to congregate for their Southern migration, this too makes their numbers seem to grow exponentially.

A Cliff Swallow looking over it's shoulder
I never tire of seeing the acrobatic fliers dive and bank, swoop and soar riding the breezes with ease and joy. Their abilities to catch insect food in flight and skim across the water for a drink amazes me.  I often like to imagine each one is tied to a string, a kite, and I am playing with the tension of the string.  My dad described them perfectly to me when he said they were the dolphins of the air. I share that description all the time because brings a prefect picture to mind.

Banking to the right
Two birds with one photo
Skimming the water's surface

I knew photos of these active birds would be hard to get, and I didn't have too much time since the dogs didn't want to wait long to continue our walk.  Most of the photos I took were deleted, but a few turned out well enough to show how athletic, graceful, and effortless these birds are and why they capture my attention.

Immature Barn Swallow- perching is much easier to photograph!

Two Cliff Swallows (I believe) with another of my
favorite summer birds a Scissor-tailed flycatcher

Noth'n but Blue Skies!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Anniversary, my Dear!

Yesterday was Jacob and my 5th wedding anniversary!  We had a lovely day together with a nice birding/dog walk, games of scrabble, pizza, and just being together.  I can't believe five years have already past: five years in Austin (since we moved here right after our wedding), nearly five years at the Nature Center, five years working on a PhD (that's Jacob of course- and we have the end in sight), five years learning TX birds, five years helping each other and making a life together.  I'm so lucky to have such a great husband.  I love you, Jacob!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Pair of Great-tailed Grackle Paintings

Jess, a co-worker and friend, recently left the Nature Center and Austin, TX for new adventures in NYC.  I wanted to send something with Jess to let her know that she will be missed, and something to trigger memories of Austin.  Jess often biked to work, and in Austin the Great-tailed Grackles are so fearless that they may not fly out the way of cyclists.  They may also fly along with you as you petal down the path.

Good Luck in New York, Jess!

On this pair of paintings, I realized that sometimes it's hard not to make the birds look angry.  It's because they have a brow above their eye and on a person it would indicate fierceness.  Their bills are so rigid, and doesn't make the shape of a smile.  I've had this problem with hawks, too.  Chickens are another bird that sometimes looks angry in pictures, but sometimes I think they really are angry!  I want to make the painting as realistic as possible, but the aesthetics of the painting are important, too.  Would you want to hang a picture of an angry bird in your house?  I would love to hear if you've had this problem and what you do about it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

4th of July Zinnias

Happy 4th of July a day late!

Here are some fireworks from my garden that won't scare the dogs!  I hope you had a wonderful holiday.
It's so fun what the computer can do!