Monday, April 4, 2011

Clingman's Dome at Sunset

I'm not sure whether I'll remember the beautiful sunset more vividly or the bone-chilling wind.  We reached Clingman's Dome just in time to take in this gorgeous, multi-colored sky as the sun slipped down below the horizon.
Earlier, as we wound our way up the mountain watching for Ruffed Grouse, we also watched the thermostat plummet from 54 degrees F to 34 degrees.  Add to that, the winds at Clingman's Dome overlook parking area were strong enough to lift you off your feet.  That made for a very cold wind chill, somewhere in the 20's.

We were a group of six birders, with the goal of finding Ruffed Grouse and Saw-whet owls in the dusk hours.  The Ruffed Grouse made a wonderful showing.  We encountered four altogether, males with striking rust and white markings.  One flew up to a low branch, showing his flared, rufous tail with solid dark terminal band.

The wind, however, guaranteed we would hear no owls.  Its roar through the trees sounded like crashing waves.  But the effort brought us in view of the night sky--spectacular, crystal clear and jam-packed with brilliant stars.  Every bit of it worth all the shivering.

Creating a quick sketch like the one above just wet my appetite and made me want to practice making sunset skies, mountain ridge shapes, and using my rigger brush to capture the lop-sided fir limbs better.  We'll see what time allows.  The sketch is right there in my sketchbook waiting to inspire.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Glimpse of a Wintering Visitor--Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are among my favorite raptors.  They caught my attention many years ago when I lived in a rural area of east Tennessee with plenty of open fields dotting the landscape.  Several Northern Harriers wintered-over in the area and provided me with daily opportunities to observe their behavior.    
In the morning I would often see them as they flew out from their roost at early light.  And in the evening, like clock-work, they would return for one last hunt before dusk.  Harriers roost on the ground in grassy fields, so I suspected that the roost being used was either in our field or one adjacent to the property.
The Northern Harrier pictured above was seen at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge during a March nature "Walk-about" sponsored by Ijams Nature Center and interpreted by Stephen Lyn Bales on March 19th.  Like a wished-for celebrity, this female Northern Harrier made an appearance and glided gracefully over the grasses in search of prey.
Harriers winter over in Tennessee, arriving in the fall and departing sometime in early April for breeding grounds in the northern states and Canada.  A slim hawk that glides and tilts low over the ground as it hunts, it is one of the few hawks that can hover in place while it hons in on its prey.   Their wings are held in a dihedral position, slightly above horizontal, as they glide.  It is this posture and flight pattern, as well as, its white rump patch,  that make this hawk easy to distinguish from other raptor species.

Below, an earlier encounter with a Northern Harrier at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI, in 2009.
Links and References:
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge and my article on Bird Banding at SIWR
Ijams Nature Center Walk-Abouts
Northern Harrier in Wisconsin

Ocean Trail at Rancho Palos Verdes Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Rancho Palos Verdes Preserve, California--2015

Joshua Tree National Forest, California, with son Chad and daughter Thuan--2015

Joshua Tree National Forest, California, with son Chad and daughter Thuan--2015
Photo credit: Thuan Tram

Bird banding with Mark Armstrong at Seven Islands State Birding Park - 2014

Bird banding with Mark Armstrong at Seven Islands State Birding Park - 2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Birds Close-up

Birds Close-up
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill, Manitoba

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill, Manitoba
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

A dog sled experience with Blue Sky Expeditions, Churchill, MB--2014

A dog sled experience with Blue Sky Expeditions, Churchill, MB--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Churchill, Manitoba--2014

Churchill, Manitoba--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky

2014 Hummingbird Festival

2014 Hummingbird Festival
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane art banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane art banners and son, John--2014

Muir Woods on the Dipsea Trail at Stinson Beach, California--2014

Muir Woods on the Dipsea Trail at Stinson Beach, California--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Checking out the gulls at Stinson Beach--2014

Checking out the gulls at Stinson Beach--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Discovery Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska--2012

Discovery Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska--2012
Photo courtesy of Ruth Carter
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