Entries Tagged as 'Naturalist at Large'

Audubon’s “American Flamingo” & “Snowy Heron”

Comments   0   Date Arrow  August 5, 2023 at 6:38pm   User  by Mark Willis

The modest little heath hen drawn for a bank note made me think of John James Audubon’s grander bird portraits of the American Flamingo and Snowy Heron (Snowy egret). Both images come from individual plates from Birds of America in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The NGA identifies the artists as “Robert Havell after John James Audubon” and the media as “hand-colored etching and aquatint on Whatman paper plate.” The engravings were made in 1838 and 1835, respectively.

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Even John James Audubon Sold Clip Art

Comments   1   Date Arrow  August 4, 2023 at 8:38pm   User  by Mark Willis

In 1824, John James Audubon wrote in his journal that he had drawn a heath hen for a Philadelphia engraver. The drawing was intended as incidental art for private bank notes – there was no national paper money at the time. Audubon’s drawing would be considered clip art today. It’s believed to be his first commercial illustration, although a printed example was found only recently by Audubon scholar Robert Peck, a curator at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, and numismatic historian Eric Newman.

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Fast Company for a Swift River

Comments   1   Date Arrow  July 17, 2023 at 4:55pm   User  by Mark Willis

After we ran the rapids on the Saugeen River up in County Bruce, Ontario, Ms. Modigliani decided that she was ready for more. It was a sweet run in the rain, with plenty of herons and egrets to show us the way. Ms. M learned how to discern a course amid eddies and standing waves, and I read the river the same way I read books – by listening attentively!

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Even Grebes Have Redneck Cousins

Comments   1   Date Arrow  July 10, 2023 at 7:50pm   User  by Mark Willis

I haven’t pursued competitive birding since I was twelve years old. I can’t tell you how many bird species are on my life list now. While I still have the habit of listening to the spring migrants in id-May, I don’t compile a century count. Today, though, I felt something like the frisson of seeing a new “life bird” even though I had seen it once before, decades ago, in Alaska. Ms. Modigliani treated me to a birthday breakfast of lox and bagels on the Oakville jetty early this morning. We heard an astonishing bird call that sounded like a bleating lamb led to slaughter. I couldn’t name it. Then a bird photographer working near the lighthouse showed us a pair of red-necked grebes at the mouth of 16-Mile Creek. I never heard their call in Alaska. I had no idea they were nesting in the Great Lakes region.

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Impression, Sunrise

Comments   1   Date Arrow  July 10, 2023 at 5:10am   User  by Mark Willis

Lake Ontario looked like this Monet painting yesterday morning before the fog burned off. When the atmospherics feel like this – when sky, wind, light and water match the scope of what remains of my eyesight — I could sit on the jetty for hours and never tire of looking at the lake.

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Fish Aren’t Biting? Let’s Kill Some Cormorants!

Comments   3   Date Arrow  July 8, 2023 at 2:32pm   User  by Mark Willis

This week I’ve been sitting on the Navy Street jetty in Oakville, Ontario. I while away the ours watching the aerobatics of common terns and Caspian terns feeding at the mouth of Oakville Creek. I haven’t seen or heard a cormorant yet.

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