Category Archives: birds and the bees

Bird Parade

The bird obsession continues. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to draft a few good patterns I can use consistently. In the process, I’ve found that I have almost infinite patience for tasks such as un-picking seams, fiddling with wire, sewing beaks, and drafting and re-drafting patterns.

Because apparently that is what it takes to be a bird maker. No matter how well thought out I may believe a pattern to be, it seems never to yield the bird I had in mind on the first try. Take this specimen for example:

A Bird with Boobs

It was supposed to be a mockingbird. But after I started stuffing the body, I realized that my mockingbird was going to be hunchbacked and have chesticles. So I turned it into an approximation of a type of pheasant called a “Chukur.” Still, I find him rather endearing.

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So bird making involves a lot of time, trial, and error, but there is something especially rewarding about turning a simple sketch into a three-dimensional object, then giving it character and personality.

Aviator

Ready for Takeoff

Green and Brown Songbird Closeup

Songbird

Red White and Blue Bird in Tree

Odd Bird

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I Have Customers!

Remember when I realized I love birds? Well, I put up some bird feeders in the backyard soon after writing that post, and for the longest time not one single bird chose to dine in either of the three restaurant options available to them. Which I couldn’t understand because the stuff I put in the Squirrel Proof Deluxe Perch-n-Peck Limited Edition Avian Diner On A Stick looked so good I was temped to pack it in my kids’ lunches.

Then one day while I was looking at pictures of birds on the Internet, I heard some chirping outside and wouldn’t you know it but I had two customers! Really pretty ones, too. I don’t know what kind they were because it happened before I had purchased my Field Guide to Birds of North America, but I stood looking at them with my face pressed up against the windowpane for a solid minute, maybe more.

Those two were my only visitors for several weeks, until just recently. Today I was sewing a bird in my sunroom with the windows open when I heard a veritable chorus outside. There  were several robins, a couple of sparrows, a cardinal, AND a gorgeous red headed woodpecker with black and white spots in one of my trees. Just like Woody! I ran upstairs to fetch my binoculars, but by the time I came back down the woodpecker was gone.

And here’s the little dude I finished sewing today:

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He is made of of linen and embroidered with crewel wool. His wire legs are wrapped in florist tape and jute string, and he’s got some extra wool roving around his feet (talons? claws?) because he is also freakishly skinny and will need all the extra warmth he can get in order to survive the winter.

I love him.

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But I think it may be time to change his diaper.

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Birdbrain

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Some kind of a red bird from the Field Museum in Chicago

Something is currently happening to me, apparently much later than it does to normal human beings: I’m suddenly fascinated by birds.

It’s not that I ever held birds in contempt like I did watercolor painting, it’s just that they were part of the background, flitting about in the sky and leaving turds on the windshield. I knew there were a lot of birds in the world and that they were somehow an integral part of the ecosystem, though I could never be bothered to put up a bird feeder, say, or pause for a long, contemplative look at a bluejay.

But recently I’ve been really noticing birds and totally staring at them.

They are tiny dinosaurs. They are quite beautiful. And they can fly. How do they do that?

Do they have internal compasses? Where do they go during thunderstorms? How do they produce so many different sounds?

And what’s up with woodpeckers?

Mind, I still think birds are disease-riddled and the other day when my kids found an interesting feather in the backyard, I made them wear surgical gloves to pick it up. On the other hand, I’m currently reading the memoir of a woman who sets about training a goshawk and I sense the inevitability of a future in which I’m at a bird sanctuary wearing khaki shorts and binoculars and toting a watercolor sketchbook.

Which brings me to the other thing I’m mysteriously drawn to here in middle age: watercolor painting. I used to think it was a wimpy sort of medium. It brought to mind ladies in straw hats, wicker furniture, glasses of iced tea, and grade school. It was timid and flavorless. It was oil painting’s spineless and feeble-minded cousin.

But something about the grace and fluidity of watercolor painting is becoming increasingly attractive. I guess I appreciate subtlety and nuance more than I did in my younger years. And ever since taking a watercolor class while on vacation last week, I see that though it is quite approachable, watercolor is also a difficult and unforgiving medium.

Naturally, I am now impelled to wed my newfound love of birds with my newfound love of watercolor. So far I haven’t had much success, which is okay because according to Malcolm Gladwell, it’s going to take about 10,000 hours to master. In the meantime, I got myself a bird feeder and a second-hand ornithology lab notebook.

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A page from my ornithology notebook

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Fossil from the Field Museum in Chicago

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This One’s for the Birds

Lately I’ve been obsessed with trying to catch birds in the act of flying in the wrong direction. Specifically, north instead of south for the winter. So far I haven’t been able to bust even one flock and frankly, I don’t know what I’d do if it ever happened. I guess it would just give me a sense of personal satisfaction, knowing I’m not the only one who gets lost.

I asked Facebook for the answer earlier today and one friend told me that some birds can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, while others know where the sun rises and sets. Another friend said she thought the one in the front had a compass.

Anyway, I was at the mall today. I was there with my mother because we were going out for lunch. Well, my mother and I had a nice lunch at the newly renovated Nordstrom cafe and when we went back out to the parking lot, someone had moved our cars. Both of them!

We looked and we looked and we looked some more, but our cars were nowhere in sight. We had to walk back and forth through the north, south and east exits before we located them a great distance from the spot where we swore we had parked.

I chalked it up to the Car Moving Fairy, but I have a nagging suspicion there are some geese up there, laughing.

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