Waterfowl Festival & Pickering Creek Audubon Center

Waterfowl Festival & Visiting Pickering Creek Audubon Center!

By Rachelle Siegrist


sunrise in the smokies

We were greeted by a stunning sunrise as we left our home in the Smokies early last Wednesday morning, heading to Easton, MD for the Waterfowl Festival. It was a beautiful day with gold and orange leaves still clinging to the trees as we drove north.  Thursday morning we hung and arranged our miniature paintings in the Armory  in downtown Easton, before grabbing a quick lunch and heading for a new adventure. Somehow we have missed this wonderful gem, while visiting Easton all of these years! I managed to find Pickering Creek Audubon Center online, and with directions, we were off.

pickering creek audubon center welcome center
What was once Heigh Ho Farm, was donated to the Chesapeake Audubon Society in 1981 by brother and sister George Olds and Margret Strahl. They wanted a place where the young and old from all walks of life could come and enjoy the natural beauty of the Eastern Shore. And thank goodness for generous people like these two, who afford nature lovers such as ourselves a delightful place to spend a day, and free of charge at that!wes siegrist pickering creek audubon center

Driving up a long narrow gravel road, we were greeted by a small quaint building which serves as the welcome center. To the left lay a vast open field, one of many in which they still practice sustainable farming.  Wes and I chose to walk rather than drive down a long gravel road separating the open fields from the woods, and delighted in watching numerous birds where the two meet!

pickering creek audubon center wes siegrist
We watched and listened to vast flocks of blackbirds that flew overhead, landing in the outstretched arms of several tall trees nearby. It was absolutely amazing and unlike anything I had seen or heard before! Each time hundreds of birds would lift off and fly directly above, filling the air with a sound, much like a helicopter taking off! I couldn’t get enough of it and was thrilled each time it happened!

birds at pickering creek audubon center
We saw numerous sparrows, warblers, robins, blue jays and many other songbirds as we relaxingly walked along the road leading to a small parking area near at the end.

We started walking along the dirt path leading through the woodland, and soon came upon a stately old home, where it sat overlooking the picturesque creek. “Wow…I could so live here!” I said to Wes, as the setting was simply stunning!

pickering creek audubon center tarm house

Leaving the home I walked down a short path leading out to a pier where the waterman’s shanty stood alongside. While standing at the end of the pier and soaking in the gorgeous landscape, a Bald Eagle gracefully circled above!

Rachelle Siegrist at Pickering Creek Audubon center Easton maryland

I watched as the eagle slowly circled above, silhouetted against brilliant blue skies!  I walked back up the pier aways and into the old shanty where I found what appeared to be holding tanks for crabs and such, with old nets and traps tucked into the rafters above.

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Leaving the old shanty I walked over to the canoe and kayak launching site, envisioning how delightful it would be to have had my pink kayak along on such a splendid day!

trails at pickering creek audubon center

I slowly meandered along the path leading through the woods, making sure to take advantage of each and every short path going over to the water’s edge.  I walked some distance before coming upon a small cabin which belonged to the late author Gilbert Bryon.


Because he shared the same birth date with Walden Pond’s Henry David Thoreau, he is also called “Chesapeake’s Thoreau“. Byron published 14 books, over 70 short stories, poems, and articles during his lifetime, while living on the Eastern Shore of the Bay much of his life. The quaint log cabin where he resided for 45 years, was saved from destruction and ultimately preserved at Pickering Creek.


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It was like stepping back in time, to a much simpler way of life, while walking through the cabin.  Leaving there I continued along the path winding through woodlands and occasionally crossing boardwalks over little streams. It led me to a small pond surrounded by trees dressed in stunning fall color, mirrored on the glass-like surface of the water below.  Numerous birds flitted all around and minnows darted in the shallow pools near the edge, as I stood there enjoying the peaceful setting.

fall at pickering creek audubon center

All too soon it was time to leave, and head back to the hotel to get ready for the opening of the show that evening situated in historical downtown Easton.  We enjoyed seeing collector and artist friends throughout the weekend, and we were delighted to have miniatures find new homes!  The artist dinner party Saturday evening treated our taste buds to delicious food, while conversation and laughter filled the air.

rachelle & wes siegrist at waterfowl festival

Before we knew it the weekend festival had come to an end, and it was time to start the journey back home.  I was delighted to make it to the Bay Bridge in time to watch the sun set behind it.

sunset by the bay bridge

 ~ Currently on the Easels ~ 

It’s been quite busy again here in the Siegrist studio, with us just returning from the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD, and getting ready for the upcoming Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in picturesque Thomasville, GA.  Here’s my latest painting featuring a Red Fox which we enjoyed watching in Homosassa Springs last month.  This will be one of many exquisite miniatures that will be available for purchase at the Plantation show.

Resting On The Forest Floor”

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle


When Leaves Turn To Flame

Beautiful Fall Color In The Smokies!

By Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist

Brilliant reds, bright oranges and illuminating yellows have finally descended upon the Smokies, splashing our world with color!  While admiringly gazing upon the vivid fall palette, I thought of a quote by Faith Baldwin . . . “Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.”  Yes, that sums it up wonderfully, as that’s exactly what it looks like!   Wes and I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day this past week to enjoy seeing the color from our kayaks.  As soon as my paddle dipped into the glassy surfaced water, I was instantly mesmerized, leaving cares far behind!  It was one of those amazing picture perfect days, with clear brilliant azure skies dotted with fluffy white clouds slowly passing above, pairing beautifully with the warm colors dressing the foliage below.  It was magical and I was once again in heaven whilst basking in it!

wes siegrist

We’ve been able to enjoy several meals out on our back porch this past week, even though we have to add a couple layers of clothing to do so.  Halloween evening, our resident Tufted Titmice were especially hungry, so after dinner I sat in my rattan swing while holding a bowl of peanuts.  I tossed out a few to a couple of squirrels and Titmice, and suddenly they began flying over and landing right beside me. Then one flew over, landed on my leg and walked to the bowl, where he inspected the offerings and chose just the right one.  This happened over and over again for the next hour, and I was delighted beyond words!  I decided that was the cutest trick or treaters I had ever seen, dressed in the most realistic bird costumes ever!

rachelle siegrist feeding tufted titmice

We enjoyed a short hike with friends Mike and Kit this past week to take in more of the fall color.  The weather was perfect for it, with gentle breezes blowing through the warm colored canopy above, as we relaxingly walked along, crunching fallen leaves underfoot.

wes siegrist 2

Even though there was still quite a bit of green left, there were stunning sections of reds, oranges and yellows!

I found this Sweetgum leaf in the crystal clear icy-water and thought it quite lovely!

rachelle siegrist fall color in the smokies2

Gorgeous fall foliage was not the only visual feast of the day, but so were clumps of amazing fungi collections scattered along the trail!  It was a wonderful afternoon indeed!

Wes and I are in the process of updating Exquisite Miniatures.  Several of the paintings currently in the exhibition at The Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford, CT through January 1st, are being replaced with newer ones.  We also had new panels printed that will be displayed along with the sixty miniature paintings, so we’ll be driving the revamped exhibition over to the The Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, NC, where we will attend the opening for our exhibition in January. Exquisite Miniatures will be on display there, January 20th through March 17th of next year.

exquisite miniatures exhibition wes and rachelle siegrist
Wes with the two new Exquisite Miniatures panels

 ~ Currently on the Easels ~ 

It’s been a very busy week once again here in the Siegrist studio!  Wes has been working on his SAA stuff and framing our paintings in preparation for the upcoming 2018 Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD.  I’m currently painting on a precious Red Fox that we enjoyed watching while in Homosassa Springs last month, and it will debut at the Waterfowl Festival.

red fox painting in progress by rachelle siegrist

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle


Visiting Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Fun Visiting Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!

By Rachelle Siegrist

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs3
Me with the underwater bowl observatory in the background

While recently attending the Society of Animal Artists 58th Annual Exhibition at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in Florida, Wes and I enjoyed a little sightseeing as well.  Excitement mounted as we headed for Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park!  Having fallen in love with this beautiful park during my first visit as a little girl, I was thrilled to go back!  It was still just as I remembered it, even having the same tile in most of the buildings, and was like stepping back in time in a most delightful way! We immediately headed to the underwater observatory, and I couldn’t wait to go down the stairs leading to the underwater bowl, where I could watch the manatees and numerous fish swim by!

wes siegrist at homasassa springs
Wes inside the underwater bowl

It was just as I remembered and we watched admiringly through the big glass windows as three large manatees chomped down on romaine lettuce heads being tossed out by the volunteers.  Numerous fish gathered around to see what was being offered and the Sheepshead in particular enjoyed the lettuce as much as the manatees! A large number of fresh and saltwater fish congregate in the natural spring bowl, with thirty-four different species having been identified in the springs.  I remembered as a little girl, standing on the deck of this underwater bowl, and watching as a kind gentleman retrieved my brother’s flip flop from the water with a fish net, which he accidentally kicked over the edge.  Thankfully this time Wes and I both kept our shoes on.

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs

Perhaps my visit there so many years ago started my love affair with manatees and the gorgeous Florida springs, as well as the idea of being a mermaid.  Or perhaps it’s just my love of the water that made that idea so appealing!  Nonetheless, I must admit I secretly longed to see the perfect-sized mermaid tale on sale in the gift shop this past visit, but alas it was not to be.  Many times I imagine what it must’ve been like to have been one of the lucky few who got to see Florida in its gorgeous natural state, before so much of it was built up and taken over by tourist attractions.

homasassa springs

Homosassa was named by the Creek Indian for “place of many pepper plants” when the Creek and Seminole inhabited the area, and by the early 1900s, it was a popular train stop where passengers could enjoy picnicking and swimming in the springs. What was once just a popular tourist attraction for many years, declared a “wonder of the world” and a natural “fish bowl“ is now home to The Felburn Wildlife Care Center, one of the finest wildlife rehabilitation centers in the nation, that has been given the highest award for quality of care twice!

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs4

They currently had three female manatees, with one of them being in rehab after being hit by a boat propeller.  Thankfully she was doing very well and almost completely recovered and was scheduled to be released back into the wild soon!  Her sad encounter is a grave reminder of why it is SO important to drive slowly and carefully when boating in manatee areas!

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs5

As always, I just couldn’t get enough of watching these beautiful gentle giants!

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs7

There were several male manatees in a different enclosure and I longed for their beautiful crystal clear home to be in my backyard!  A long boardwalk trail winds through the park and along the river affording stunning views of the sandy bottom river, where the mullet jumped out of the pools of blue and green water.  Masses of Spanish Moss hung from the outstretched branches of tree lining the bank, and tall lanky sable palms gently swayed back and forth in the warm breeze.

rachelle siegrist manatee photo at homasassa springs2

There are also several residents of the park, from Florida Panthers to Bald Eagles.  Of course, a favorite of mine is the alligators who call the park home.  I was enthralled by this flock of buzzards who landed on the premises and gathered near the flamingoes.  Each time parting clouds revealed the sun, they would simultaneously spread their large wings while soaking in the warmth of the sun.  I watched knowing exactly how they feel, as that too is one of my favorite feelings in the world . . . feeling the warmth of the sun!

buzzard photo at homasassa springs
Ahhhhh . . . the warm sun!

I remember the resident Hippo named Lu very well from my first visit!  The park ranger said when you see Lu’s tail spinning, you had better back far away.  Then we saw it start spinning and seconds later a spray of brown plastered the wall a great distance feet away, and I never forgot it!  Lu who is now 58, and the oldest Hippo in captivity, stared in movies including Hatari, a favorite of Wes when he was young, but is now happily living out the remainder of his life carefree and retired!

wes siegrist with hippo at homasassa springs
Wes and Lu in the background

We spent several wonderful hours exploring the park while watching the animals, birds and manatees that call this beautiful place home, before enjoying the jungle boat cruise and calling it a day.  Some places remain magical whether young or old, and this is truly one of those special places!

rachelle siegrist jungle boat ride photo at homasassa springs
View from the jungle boat cruise

~ Recently off the Easels ~

It’s been a very busy week once again here in the Siegrist studio!  I finished my painting of a VW Bug with a Cattle Egret sitting on the top, cleverly entitled “A Bug Too Big To Swallow”.  My Mom took the reference photo while at Burger King In Okeechobee, FL.  Seems this is a favorite hangout for this beautiful egret, as he patiently waits for handouts.  Since I absolutely love VW Bugs and egrets, I just had to paint it!

VW Bug painting_by_Rachelle_Siegrist1
“A Bug Too Big To Swallow”

If you look closely, you can actually read the tag on which I painted the letters BUG with the numbers 670 following, representing my birthdate which was June 1970.  Since a VW Bug has always been my dream car, I thought this was a clever way to personalize one!


Wes finished his painting of a precious Chipmunk which we enjoyed watching during a visit to Colorado.  Both paintings will debut at the upcoming 2018 Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD.

chipmunk painting by_Wes_Siegrist1
Wes’ painting “Snack Time”

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle