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Visitor at the Garden Gate

Visitor at the Garden Gate

Visitor at the Garden Gate

I was so charmed by this little guy when he came and perched right outside my window that I had to grab a pen and sketch him for a painting. A bird in a garden perfectly captures for me what we humans can achieve, if we reach for it. A garden is a human environment, but if we do it right, it can exist right along with the natural world. It can be a place where wild creatures feel safe and welcome.

Speaking of birds, I did see white pelicans yesterday. Every spring they come through but I haven’t been able to find them. They are HUGE! I saw them there, floating along with a raft of gulls, and they dwarfed the gulls. Even so, my camera couldn’t bring them into focus as the distance was just too great. I’m going to try again today. It baffles me that they always return to the same couple of lakes, and never seem to be in perfectly wonderful lakes less than a mile away. I’d love to get a good photo of them. They are magnificent in their gleaming white finery, wings edged with black. And those bills!

26 thoughts on “Visitor at the Garden Gate

  1. Oh your Chick-a-dee is lovely!! I wish I could do a quick sketch then paint something this wonderful.

    White Pelicans. Aren’t they beautiful! They are huge, but so are the brown ones. πŸ™‚

    I’ve only seen them fairly close up while birding in Oregon one year. Watching them fish and herd fish is incredible.

    When they winter here they always pick reserves ponds with ugly brown levess, and are so far out one needs a scope to get a proper look at them.
    If you have a scope you can do A-focal photography and get a better image of them since they’re so far out. I don’t have a spotting scope. It’s even possible to do A-focal photography with binoculars. I’d be willing to be you’ve got a good pair of those. I wish I could find mine!

    1. Thank you! My sketch was pretty rudimentary, to tell you the truth, and I relied on a field guide to get the plumage right.

      Yes, the white pelicans are indeed beautiful. I didn’t even know they came through this area until recently but now I’ve added them to my spring rituals. You’re right, some of the places they choose here evidently are retaining ponds behind houses. Odd, it seems to me. But I did find a good place to watch them yesterday and got some decent shots as a few floated close. I never could catch them on the wing, though, even though some kept flying right past me.

      So….about my binoculars…..I believe I lost them. How do you do A-focal photography with them? That sounds really cool but I can just picture myself, standing out there trying to juggle camera and binoculars while the birds laugh at me! πŸ™‚

  2. It’s like you’re sending out a message to Momma Nature that it’s time to change to spring like ambiance. πŸ˜€

    1. Hahaha, YES!

  3. This painting is lovely, and pure cheerfulness. I grew up with a picket fence like that in front of the yard, and there are always chickadees at the house. Tried to feed a couple today, but by the time I got a granola bar out of my coat pocket and tore it open, they’d high-tailed it. They’re city birds, and move at a faster pace.

    1. I’ve heard that you can feed them but I’ve never tried it. Maybe when I can move to the country I’ll be able to feed the slower-paced ones πŸ™‚ Thank you Robert, I’m so pleased you like it!

  4. So is this the famed bluebird of happiness? You surrounded it with other blues as well.

  5. I believe it is the Chickadee of Happiness.

    1. Then you don’t get to sing the song that was popular in the middle of the last century:


  6. I love your rendition of this little fellow. I have just begun some watercolour studies of the Australian Magpie and find I appreciate them more for the painting of them. I’m inspired by your sketching from nature, Melissa. Still using reference photos myself. But one day …

    1. That is wonderful, Robyn. Isn’t it neat how studying something like that makes you aware of beauty you hadn’t fully noticed before? I admit I still like to use reference photos but sketching is freeing, even if it does feel like going out without a net.

      1. I guess I still lack the confidence but I can see what you mean.

      2. You can do it! πŸ™‚

  7. One more note about your pelicans. You mentioned the distance β€” that can be a big issue. I have a 70-300mm lens, but I wish now I’d purchased a 70-400mm. And the truth is that many bird photographers have lenses even larger than that: sometimes much larger. The old cost-benefit analysis comes into play here. While I can’t get every shot I’d like, I can’t justify spending the kind of money that closer shots would require. Once I’ve begun to really master the equipment I have, I might think about a larger lens, and a wide-angle lens. But I suspect mastery will come sooner than an ability to afford such luxuries, so there you are,.

    I’m up in the hill country right now, and the chickadees are everywhere. I love the perky little things. I rarely see one, but their calls are unmistakable. You certainly have captured their spirit in this painting.

    1. Another consideration is the extra weight of a longer lens. The 100–400mm I bought last year pushed the heaviness of my camera bag to the limit of what I’d want to trudge around with.

      1. Yes and my trudging days are over. I hoped the sudden arrival of arthritis everywhere was lyme’s related (and I think it is) and would maybe lessen, but it hasn’t. I could probably use it the way I get out in the field now~drive to a promising spot and hobble a little way out.

      2. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about that. Let’s hope the warm weather brings improvement.

      3. Thanks Steve. I’m thinking it is bound to.

  8. Oh, nice! Is that the area where Steve lives? It sounds like a lovely area.
    You’re absolutely right about the cost-benefi analysis. In my case, especially, as I really don’t want to invest the time in mastering all that equipment. They do say, though, that one should always be learning something new and that would definitely be something worth learning. I appreciate your information about lenses.. That is a big help, because the whole subject gets overwhelming to me very quickly.
    Thank you Linda, and here’s to Chickadees!

    1. Our house in Austin is inside the Texas hill country, but barely; we’re one mile west of its eastern edge. Linda goes to a part of the hill country two or three hours to the southwest of Austin, closer to San Antonio. Here’s a little info about the region.

      1. I thought that is what you had said about where you live. I didn’t realize the hill country was so large. I’ve been through Texas a few times, but haven’t explored all of it. I’m curious about the top hat portion. Is that all desert up there?

      2. The “top hat” part of Texas is known as the Panhandle. It’s rather arid but it’s not a desert. An aquifer there has supported heavy agriculture. Here’s more info:

  9. The sidebar photos showed some beautiful country. Thanks for the link.

  10. Never does a chickadee fail to cheer. To be able to capture one with a painting is considered a special and enviable gift, to one who only knows to draw stick figures. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! You are right, there is something about a chickadee that just lifts your heart, isn’t there?

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