Went for a walk at Umstead Park today and saw a summer tanager! Having failed to bring my binoculars, and it being hotter than–if not Hell, at least the warm end of Limbo–that was my only bird spotting, and had it not been bright red and obviously not a cardinal, I doubt I would have been able to ID it, but fortunately, that one doesn’t require much esoteric birding knowledge to spot. This brings t’ol lifelist up to a whole 90 birds. Soon I may crack triple digits! Madness!

Fun with Fledglings

It’s fledgling season on the feeder.

There are, at the moment, young house finches, titmice, bluebirds, and one glum young female cardinal. While visually almost indistinguishable from the adults, they can be told apart by behavior. They are trying to use the feeders. They are not good at it. They fly as if held aloft by sheer terror, flapping frantically, getting confused in midair, and attempting to hover, which is not a skill widely possessed by non-hummingbirds, and results in the poor bird going briefly backwards before careening into the tree, scrabbling and flapping for a foothold, and then clinging to the bark like a survivor of the Hindenburg finally reaching solid ground.

The house finches are the most graceful of the bunch–and I use the term loosely–presumably requiring less landing space, but even so, they’ll land on the feeder and continue to flap madly for a few seconds–“Am I down? I don’t know if I’m down! OHGODIFISTOPFLAPPINGILLFALLINHOTLAVA!”*–before finally settling and discovering that their feet are, indeed, capable of holding them to an object. The bluebird charges for the suet feeder, misses, hits the tree, flaps, tries to proceed downward in a series of flapping vertical lunges, and eventually manages to snag the feeder and cling for dear life. (I think it’s a juvenile, although it seems to have more blue than the images of immature bluebirds in the guides. It’s possible that it’s an adult who’s suffered some kind of severe mental trauma. In my yard, this would be par for the course.) Eventually, an adult male bluebird, like a rogue bit of demin, lands neatly, eats some suet, and flies away, with nary an extraneous wingbeat. Show-off. Panicked, the juvenile lumbers into the trees.

The cardinal is serious. The cardinal knows how to fly–mostly–and she is haughtily disdainful of the other birds. Idiots, the lot of ’em. She sits solemnly on the platform feeder, cracking safflower seeds with her heavy orange beak, and pretending she doesn’t know any of these people.

The tufted titmice are younger than the others, and not yet adept at feeding themselves, so they stomp around the deck, doing the rapid-wing-vibration thing and shrieking to be fed. Somewhere an adult titmouse is counting to ten and massaging its temples. The cardinal ignores them grimly. A house finch swerves to avoid them, tries to land on the edge of the birdbath, panics at the last minute, and aims for the deck. He hops up onto the birdbath edge, gazes at the water. Should he lean down to drink? No, that can’t be right. He hops down onto the deck again. No, now he can’t see the water. He hops onto the edge. There’s the water! He hops down. It vanishes. Baffled, he attempts to use his amazing Finch X-Ray Vision and stare through the side of the birdbath. It remains stubbornly opaque. Curses! Must be made of Kryptonite.

Then the squirrel comes. It’s Scrawny, the least threatening of the squirrels, slinking apologetically between the railings. Scrawny would probably lose in a fight against a baby titmouse. Scrawny is not officer material. However, the birds lose their minds immediately–A SQUIRREL! Possibly made of hot lava! FLAP FOR YOUR LIVES!–and explode off the deck. Scrawny looks guilty. Scrawny ALWAYS looks guilty. Peace reigns briefly on the deck once more.

*I’m extrapolating from my own childhood here. It’s possible birds don’t play “hot lava.”

It’s one of those days. I spent the morning sketching pigs for this Nameless Project of Coolness, which was a lot of fun. Pigs are like bats. They range between so cute you want to claw your eyes out and a sort of gnarled, wrinkled hideousness that I still want to paint. One of these days, a monsterous black and white sow surrounded by fairies. I have the mental image, but I’ve never gotten a sketch out to match it. Anyway.

Between that and random other tidbits that I’ve been wandering around doing, I realized it was well past noon and I had not eaten lunch. The whole week has been like that. I keep looking up and discovering it’s hours later than it should be, and I’m still not convinced that somebody didn’t outright steal a whole day in there somewhere. This whole YEAR is cruising along at a truly shocking rate. Just…wham, wham, wham, hey look it’s March! No, wait! Gotcha! It’s May!

At this rate, it’s gonna be the weekend before Anthrocon, and I’ll be looking around going “The what, now? I was supposed to do some paintings, you say?”

But I suppose that was inevitable anyway…

Despite some misgivings about the cartoonyness of the dragons, I do rather like the antelope character. He needs another painting.


It’s gonna be a scorcher today.

James left for work, and as I held the door open, I could tell. It was almost room temperature outside at 9 AM. The humidity has not yet hit the truly epic levels it will achieve during the summer, but it’s already damp enough to make you feel like you’re sweating when you aren’t.

I flung the door and windows open. There’s a liver-grey colored thrush with a white eye ring and faint lighter patch along the face roaming around, which I suspect may be a Swainson’s–it doesn’t have the reddish tail of a hermit thrush. (Thankfully, it has breast spots. That mystery thrush was makin’ me loony.)
For some reason, this area I’m in is pretty thrush-heavy. They’re the most common bird I see that isn’t coming to the feeder. Must be their kind of habitat. (Primarily evergreen, some mixed deciduous, turning to more deciduous at the edges, only middling-to-light undergrowth, not swampy but with a nearby streamlet.) They’re only really active in the morning, though–once noon hits, I don’t seem ’em at all. Did see the first brown thrasher of the year yesterday. I remember when I first started birding, having to look up the difference between thrush and thrasher. Now I look at it and think “How could I possibly have mistaken the two? That thing’s TOTALLY built wrong.” So I guess that’s progress of a sort.

Meanwhile, the swamp is beginning to encroach again…I have Digger and sketches for the Big Cool Project to get done this week, gotta finish up some small bits for the cover for the Digger collection, and next week, it’s time to begin editing Black Dogs in earnest. And of course, because I have these things to do, the art, it calls to me…

Also, James has decided he doesn’t want to part with the Frog Tribe painting, so he’s insisting I set the price in the $2500 range, and get it framed. It’s so rare that James REALLY wants to keep art that I yield, despite finding the price mildly absurd. He makes a point, though–all of my jumbo sized art on the walls has sold, or is selling via installment plan. (Actually, I think he often wants to keep art, I just don’t hear about it until I’m packing it up to mail to the new owner and hear a “Noooooo!” in the distance.)

A very off-the-cuff doodle. Visually, there’s a few things wrong with it, but c’mon, it’s a painting about free pie…


Curses, Foiled Again!

I have been dealt another relocation food-blow. Readers may be familiar with my woe at not being able to find a Red Vine anywhere in the Triangle–Twizzler, yes, but Twizzler is to licorice as an apple-scented candle is to apples.

The other evening, I was struck with a sudden, powerful longing for a hit of Borden cheese…food…stuff. This is not cheese. Even “food” can only be loosely applied. It is a tiny foil wrapped cube with a laughing cow* on it, containing a vaguely tangy processed soft thing of no redeeming nutritive value. It is to cheese as Twizzler is to licorice. Nevertheless, if you take it as its own peculiar entity, rather than a faux cheese, it’s delightful, in much the same way that, say, grape jolly ranchers are delightful, while not being very much like grapes.

James, who loves me more than I deserve, scoured the stores for this noxious treat, and found nothing. He checked every cold case, every specialty cheese island, and came up empty-handed. He slunk home and reported that I had, once more, been foiled by moving across the country. They had the little waxed mini-cheeses (which do not begin to compare) but not The Stuff.

I have independantly confirmed that no store near our house possesses the tiny foil cow of goodness.

I am attempting not to panic. Sure I cannot be out Red Vines, AND Haribo Gummi-Cola, AND the good brand of canned corn, AND the small noxious cow. A merciful cosmos could not allow such a travesty.

I beg of you, O local friends! Know ye were I might locate any of these? Or am I screwed until Anthrocon, when I will stock up in Philly, subsisting on Red Vines and tiny foiled cheesy things, until I collapse on the second day from non-food-exhaustion?

*THE SAME COW as the Elmer’s glue label. Discuss.

In Which Ursula Speculates On Religion and The Noble Tomato

This post is about religion. Everybody tired of it, or easily offended, may wish to bail now. If you’ve already decided that I’m going to be bashing Christians, DEFINITELY bail now, because you’re probably not going to get my point, which is somewhat subtle, but I think worth making–or at least worth bringing up. It’s okay. You’re not missing much. There’s no cool art hiding at the bottom of the post. I’ll post about defective squirrels later, I promise.

This will offend some people. I will not apologize for that, so if you’re easily offended, and wish to stay cordial, I’d wait for the squirrels.
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