Looking But Not Seeing

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Did there come a time in your life where you realized  your eyesight “ain’t what it use to be?” Well I hate to admit it, but that time came for me recently. Whilst having to make a trip to the post office this past week, I convinced Wes that we should drive the extra mile and take a short walk alongside the lake where we usually see lots of birds this time of year. Shortly after we arrived he got a business call, so I made my way to the edge of the lake, where I spotted a group of Canada Geese floating with what appeared to be a dark log sticking up behind them. So I snapped a couple of photos with the camera and later that I day as I was scrolling through the photos, I zoomed up on the geese, and lo and behold I saw that the “log” was actually a beautiful Bald Eagle sitting there eating a fish! Then zooming in on the next photo, I saw that there were actually two eagles, and I was indeed pleasantly surprised! As always I was excited to see the geese, but would’ve been even more excited had I known I was watching two eagles!

bald eagle photo

While also at the lake that morning, Wes pointed out that there were a couple of white pelicans near the area where I had photographed the geese, so once again I snapped a few photos of them. However, excitedly another surprise lay in store for us, for when I zoomed in on what we assumed were white pelicans, I realized that they were actually tundra swans. Since it was the first time we had ever seen tundra swans, we were thrilled to say the least and very happy to add a new bird species to our life list!

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Another morning we decided at the last minute to tie a trip to see the cranes again with doing some grocery shopping. So off we went, hoping there would be lots of them still in the vicinity, and I was thrilled as we climbed out of the van and everywhere I looked, I saw Sandhills! It was an amazing sound and sight, as the surrounding fields were full of them and the air filled with their incredible calls as more and more groups flew in to join the others. Incredibly, cranes can fly up to 35 mph! There was no fog and they were closer to us this time allowing us to get several nice photos. 

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It was the most cranes I’ve ever seen in one location and once again I felt like a little girl at Disney World!

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I was absolutely delighted when a couple of them started dancing, taking turns jumping up into the air, with wings outstretched, appearing as long-legged ballerinas wearing feather costumes, gracefully preforming. It’s truly amazing to see these 3 to 4 ft tall birds with a wingspan of 6 to 6 ½ ft when they commence to dancing. Add the sound to it and it’s an incredible experience!

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These stately birds mate for life and only chose a new one when their current mate dies. The female usually lays just 2 eggs, and according to some statistics, only 1 out of 3 nests produce a chick that survives to migrate in fall. The biggest threat to Sandhills is habitat loss and you can see in the photo below just how important certain habitats such as wetland areas are to their survival. 

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Whilst standing there mesmerized by the cranes, I noticed two very large predators fly into the scene, which raised excitement from all of the photographers there, trying to see what they were. I heard a couple with supersized lens call out “they’re Golden Eagles!” Since we had only seen them one other time, plus the fact that they are very rare here in Tennessee, I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of them! You can see one of them in the middle of the photo below.

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Not only were there thousands of cranes, but hundreds of ducks too! It was truly another amazing experience and we’re planning to return one more time to meet some friends there and watch the cranes before they fly back north starting the end of February. Oh yeah, and this time we’re hoping to remember our spotting scope! Want to learn more about these amazing birds click here: The National Wildlife Federation’s website.

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IN THE STUDIO

I’ve started a new painting on silk of a beautiful little Prothonotary Warbler, I watched and photographed whilst kayaking one day. The great part is that I found a small limb in our woods with lichen on it, which is proving invaluable for showing the details.

painting a bird on silk in progress

 

SEE OUR PAINTINGS IN PERSON THIS WEEK

Exquisite-Miniatures-at-the-Douglas-Family-Art-Centre

Our touring exhibition EXQUISITE MINIATURES has gone international and is now on display at the MUSE (Douglas Family Art Centre) in Kenora, ON, Canada. It will be on display there thru March 15, 2023. For more info,  visit their website The MUSE

48th Annual International Miniature Art Show (MASF)
January 15 to February 5, 2023: Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs, FL

38th Almost Miniatures Show at Francesca Anderson Fine Art, Portraits North,                                                               Lexington, MA, until February 25, 2023 (My 3 available bird paintings are shown below)

miniature paintings by rachelle siegrist

To see our available miniature paintings as well as some upcoming shows,

visit our WEBSITE  artofwildlife.com     Email us

Until Next Time ~ Rachelle

Where Cranes Fly

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Can you remember a time when there was something you had wanted to do for years, and the incredible excitement you felt when you finally got to do that very thing? Well, that was the case for me this past week. You see I’ve always loved sandhill cranes, and became enamored with them whilst growing up in South Florida. They’re tall, beautiful, elegant birds that exude pure gracefulness. They’re a joy to behold! Well, at some point during the 20 years we lived in Townsend, I discovered that a population of cranes overwinters here in East Tennessee, so I immediately added it to my bucket list and have waited patiently all of these years to get to go see the cranes during the winter. 

As you can imagine, I could hardly sleep one night this past week, filled with anticipation of going to see the cranes the next day! I woke early and was ready to go in no time, so we climbed into the van and headed to the refuge where the cranes gather. I could hardly contain my excitement as we drew closer to our destination, and after getting lost only once, we finally arrived at what we thought was the best place for seeing them.

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Well, the photos show what we were greeted with . . . fog . . . and not just fog, but a complete white out! As we started slowly driving down the sketchy looking road it appeared as if we were going to drive off the edge of the earth at any point, disappearing into the great white unknown and I laughed aloud and said “Good thing I made sure we got here early!” Nonetheless, we got out and walked up the road a ways and out onto the dock shown in the first photo. At that point we could see absolutely nothing, but could hear the incredible sound of cranes calling all around us, and it was truly amazing! It felt as if we had somehow managed to slip into an alternate universe! With the fog concealing our surroundings, we couldn’t tell where we were, and it was the weirdest sensation. Eventually the fog started to grow a wee bit lighter, and we could just start to barely make out the shapes of a few cranes flying by at times, and this photo below captures the ethereal scene that began unfolding before our eyes.

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Since we couldn’t really see anything, and it appeared it would be a long time before we could, we decided to drive to an observation platform in hopes that it would be less foggy there. Although, it was only a wee less foggy, there were way more Sandhills in that area. So we patiently waited and waited for the fog to start lifting. With no sunshine it was freezing cold, and Wes having not anticipated such frigid temps, didn’t have enough layers on, so he had to keep returning to sit in the van periodically to warm up. Not liking to be cold, I always wear half of my wardrobe in the winter, which really paid off that day! I didn’t leave my post on the deck, but stood watching as more and more cranes flew in joining the others, and each time myself and the other half a dozen brave souls standing there exclaimed “Wow . . . here they come!

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Standing there with my iPhone, surrounded by photographers with lenses longer than my legs, I couldn’t resist asking one of them if I could just peer through their camera, and I must admit it was amazing what I could see! We all got so tickled at a pair of Bluebirds that kept taking turns landing on this metal stake directly in front of the best view of the cranes, as if to say “What’s the deal with those birds, I’m what you should be taking photos of!” He was so beautiful and his bright blue wings and rusty-colored breast stood out nicely against the muted backdrop.

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Ever so slowly, the dense blanket of fog began to grow thinner, allowing shafts of sunlight to penetrate it, illuminating the scene below, and it was spectacular! It looked as if one of Thomas Moran’s (one of my all time favorite artists) paintings had come to l life before my very own eyes and it was stunning to see!

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As the fog continued to lift we could start seeing how many birds there were, not just cranes, but hundreds of ducks and other waterfowl! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Wes spotted several white-tail deer that had run down to the water’s edge and were frolicking and jumping about. All the while the air was filled with the symphony of bird calls and song, and as I peered out upon this breathtaking scene with all the birds and now the deer, I thought this must be what it’s like to get to see a large gathering of wildlife at waterholes in Africa, and I felt so truly blessed to be given this gift!

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The surrounding fields were full of cranes too, but they were too far away for our small camera to get really great close-ups, but I thought Wes managed to get some nice shots with it.

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By this time it was afternoon, so we headed back to the boat ramp where we were earlier that morning. Once there we climbed into our kayaks and paddled a ways where we could just float and watch the cranes from a safe distance, so as not to disturb them. There Wes managed to get a better photo of a few of them since the sun was shining brightly. 

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Sandhills weren’t the only birds we saw. We saw the most Great Blue Herons in one place that we’ve ever seen and at one point counted at least 14 of them! It was amazing and as you can see there were literally hundreds of ducks too, as that’s all ducks in a row behind the grouping of herons in the photo below! 

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I simply paddled about very slowly, but mostly just sat there watching and listening, whilst relishing the incredible experience I was enjoying! I love this photo below, and it reminds me of the blue bird, as it looks like the heron is saying “Yeah, so there’s a lot of cranes here, but I’m the real show stopper!”

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As we sat there relaxingly floating about, we saw a flock of birds approaching and at first thought it was more cranes. However as the flock drew nearer, we could tell it was a flock of white pelicans, and I think we lost count after fifty. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing, as we’ve never seen that many white pelicans anywhere before, and once again felt so blessed!

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Although I’ve tried my hardest, I just can’t express in words how much I enjoyed every minute, actually every second of that day, and I’m already looking forward to getting to hang out with the cranes again sometime before they start leaving in early spring. 

Here’s a video I uploaded to our YouTube channel that lets you hear the amazing sound of hundreds of cranes welcoming the day… so enjoy! 🙂

SEE OUR PAINTINGS IN PERSON THIS WEEK

Our touring exhibition EXQUISITE MINIATURES has gone international and now on display at the MUSE (Douglas Family Art Centre) in Kenora, ON, Canada. It will be on display there thru March 15, 2023. For more info,  visit their website The MUSE

48th Annual International Miniature Art Show (MASF)
January 15 to February 5, 2023: Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs, FL

38th Almost Miniatures Show at Francesca Anderson Fine Art, Portraits North,                                                               Lexington, MA, until February 25, 2023 

My painting is featured in the Society of Animal Artists 62nd Annual Tour and is currently at The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in  Oradell, NJ until January 15, 2023

To see our available miniature paintings as well as some upcoming shows,

visit our WEBSITE  artofwildlife.com     Email us

Until Next Time ~ Rachelle

Wildlife Encounters and What’s on my Easel

white-tail deer

Okay, I have to be up front and honest and say it’s been fairly uneventful here this past week, except for two visits from our momma deer and her triplets. I love it when they come and seem to forget all other tasks at hand and become mesmerized whilst standing at the window watching them. They’re still finding and enjoying the abundant acorns on our property, and I thought the photo above I captured of her smacking with the shell popping out of her mouth was so cute. During their first visit nearly an entire hour passed, while I stood peering out the window at them. Honestly I was shocked that much time had elapsed, as it felt like mere minutes, but alas with no pressing plans or tasks at hand, it really didn’t matter. 

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While I worked at the easel much of the week, Wes spent several days very busy with SAA work and trying to figure out how to deal with issues with the return shipping of members’ works. If any of you deal with shipping items, you are probably aware of the difficulties that seem to be ever growing now, and its making it harder and more costly all the time for artists to ship work to exhibitions. Toss customs into the mix from artists shipping work from out of the country, and things get even more interesting. Nonetheless, it passed several days worth of time for Wes. 

Since there are no new stories and photos from a latest adventure, I thought I’d share some more photos with you, from our kayak trip a couple of weeks ago and I hope you enjoy them. 

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We spent quite awhile just hanging out with and watching this adorable group of American Coots with their beautiful red eyes.

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This freshwater mussel was really amazing to see, and it was obvious it had traveled quite a distance leaving a long trench behind! 

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An American Crow that had quite a lot to say.

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These seagulls were thrilled to have temps above 0 degrees again and were having a blast whilst bathing and swimming about!

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We were delighted to see this beautiful American Wigeon

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As you can see there were a variety of waterfowl on the lake that day

IN THE STUDIO

I came across this painting of a rose on silk, that I had started a couple of years ago and set aside. For fun, I have been painting on it this past week and it reminds me of summertime, which is always a great thing!

rose painting on silkOne of the most difficult things about painting on silk, is getting the first wash of watercolor to adhere. Once it does, it quite pleasant to paint on and enables you to paint very fine detail since the paint sits on top of the bottom layers instead of absorbing into the paper surface. I started this painting below of a gorgeous little Prothonotary Warbler, which I spotted and watched whilst kayaking one day this past spring. 

prothonotary warbler painting progress

SEE OUR PAINTINGS IN PERSON THIS WEEK

Our touring exhibition EXQUISITE MINIATURES has gone international and safely made it into Canada! It will be on display at the MUSE (Douglas Family Art Centre) in Kenora, ON. It opens this week and will be on display January 10 – March 15, 2023. For more info,  visit their website The MUSEexquisite miniatures at the MUSE

38th Almost Miniatures Show at Francesca Anderson Fine Art, Portraits North,                                                               Lexington, MA, until February 25, 2023 

My painting is featured in the Society of Animal Artists 62nd Annual Tour and is currently at The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in  Oradell, NJ until January 15, 2023

To see our available miniature paintings as well as some upcoming shows,

visit our WEBSITE  artofwildlife.com     Email us

Until Next Time ~ Rachelle