Friday, February 21, 2014

Carolina Wren blinking snowflakes out of his eye...

...this little Carolina Wren stopped eating the suet for a while and started watching the snowflakes falling. I don't think he was keen on them, though, because he kept blinking them out of his eyes--such a cute fella! (...from the snow last weekend)

Carolina Wren blinking snowflakes out of his eye from Kelly Riccetti on Vimeo.

...just a few closeups of the bar pattern on a Carolina Wren's wings:

With beautiful carmel coloring and a striking pattern of dark bars on his wings, the Carolina Wren is such a pretty bird!
Carolina Wren in the snow.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Red decides he's just as clingy as any Carolina Wren...

Around our house, Red and his buddies usually stay off the hanging suet feeder. Red doesn't like to cling to things like nuthatches, wrens, woodpeckers, and chickadees do. He likes to perch at a's more refined he says, but when snowstorms break out, anything goes...

It was strange to see the bright red Cardinal hanging on to the suet feeder. Normally only woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and wrens cling to it.
I was photographing the Carolina Wren on the suet feeder when Red decided he wanted in on the action. 

He with the flame red head...and body!
It was fun to watch this male Northern Cardinal peck away at the suet. Normally Red stays on a platform feeder or on the ground...or on a perching feeder. In our backyard, I've never seen a cardinal clinging to a vertically hanging suet feeder for a prolonged time (I've seen them try every now and then, and get a bite or two, but only briefly). This fella adapted quickly and came back all afternoon, but none of the other cardinals joined him. 

I'm glad one of our Northern Cardinals decided to cling on the suet feeder and eat this high-calorie treat. The snowstorm coming in was moving fast, dumping lots of snow, and the temperatures were falling. The extra calories would help him pack on the fat he would need to get through the night.   

A beautiful red northern cardinal clings to a suet feeder. Normally cardinals are perching birds and will not exhibit this kind of behavior.
...way to expand your horizons, Red!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

White-crowned Sparrow with Snowflakes

I created this painting of a White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) for my Dad. I've been on crutches for the past three weeks and haven't been able to get outside to fill my bird feeders. Instead, I turned our deck into one huge feeder so I can simply open the kitchen door and toss the seed out. Our deck is covered in snow and ice, so the birds must think they are on the ground. It took a day or two for them to get used to the new digs, but they love it now. When the snow and ice melt away (probably in June if the weather keeps up), it's going to be a huge mess, but until then, it's fab! My mom and dad were over the other day and we were talking when my dad noticed a new bird on the deck. It was a White-crowned Sparrow. We have a lot of White-throated Sparrows in our yard, but White-crowned Sparrows are rare. Some winters we have none, so seeing one on the deck only steps from my kitchen window was exciting. Good eye, Dad!

A White-crowned Sparrow sits with snowflakes falling all around. This is a realistic painting of the bird, but the snowflakes are whimsical.
White-crowned Sparrow with Snowflakes, watercolor and gouache, by Kelly Riccetti
I used this pencil sketch to help me plan out my watercolor painting.
...the pencil sketch I created as a study for the White-crowned Sparrow painting. Can you see the cat paw prints? Bip did a little dance across it when I wasn't looking. Bad, Bip! Although those little paw prints do look cute...  

Earlier in January, I photographed a White-crowned Sparrow in our backyard. He was part of a mixed flock of White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and Carolina Chickadees. I'm glad I was able to photograph him then, because I haven't been able to get back out since...

The contrast between the white and black feathers on a White-crowned Sparrow are striking. The cross on the back of his head is a tell-tale sign that his is a White-crowned and not a White-throated Sparrow.
The cross on the back of a White-throated Sparrow's head is a giveaway to this bird's ID. The contrast between the white and black is very noticeable and makes it easier to distinguish between White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows.

I love the warm browns, grays, and blacks on the White-crowned Sparrows wings. This bird is beautiful, and I always look forward to seeing one in our yard.

Fluffing up against the cold, this fella looks cool from behind!
Fluffing up his feathers against the cold, this fella seems to have a spiky hairdo.  I love the side view of the head and the detail of the back feathers and wing feathers.

I painted the White-crowned Sparrow in this post in a style similar to a painting I did of a White-throated Sparrow in December--click here for that post. In both, I painted the birds in a realistic style but went whimsical with the snowflakes. (You'll probably notice the White-crowned Sparrow has more snowflakes than those in the White-throated's painting. We are getting a lot more snow now than in December! :-)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Indigo Bunting blue... you even remember what that color looks like?

A bird of summer, the beautiful blue of the Indigo Bunting is breathtaking sitting amid green maple leaves.
An Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) in a sea of summer lushness. 
Summer colors—jewel tones of emerald green and lapis lazuli are easily forgotten in the gray and white desert of winter. I'm not trying to hurry winter along. I love snow, and we've had a lot of it this winter, which has been exciting, but seeing the saturated greens of summer has me thinking of what's to come...

Indigo Buntings return to our area and start claiming territory in fields and woodland edges in April. Not too far off...

Matty and I saw this Indigo Bunting on an early evening walk at Shawnee State Park in southwestern Ohio last summer. It was warm and insects and birds were singing all around us. We had spent the day volunteering with Jenny Richards, the incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable naturalist at the park. After dinner we walked down the long drive that leads from the main road up to the lodge. This Indigo Bunting was singing in the trees at the woodland edge just off the road. He was singing so sweetly we had to stay and watch and listen.

...for a preview of the sounds of spring and summer, click here for a video by Lang Elliott (Music of Nature videos) of an Indigo Bunting singing! I've listened to it 4 times. It sounds so good...