Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finally a House Finch!

Well, finally a House Finch even though a bit blurry! With some luck I will get to have one more day with some nice weather and birds to see! Although we are in NC, we have been spared the bad weather much of the state has had but have had a lot of wind and some rain.

We are madly packing to head home but hopefully I can sneak out tomorrow to go to my secret beach access and spend one more day by the rocks at low tide. We shall see!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When is a House Finch Not a House Finch?

The sun is very bright when I take my morning walk to get the paper but I try to capture images of birds I meet along the way but sometimes I guess wrong!! Many times I have seen house finches down here and seeing the red breast on several birds off in the distance, I assumed that is what I was seeing.

However, when I got home, I discovered several pictures of the Eastern Bluebird. I wasn't allowed to claim seeing one earlier in the year (by Bill) because I didn't have a picture! (Sorry Gail, I don't have much choice but to photo on electric lines as the birds REALLY disappear into the trees here!)

I believe this is a Song Sparrow but could be a Savannah Sparrow which is common down here as well. I have seen him several times.

Nothing exciting about a Blue Jay but boy did he hide in a hurry after I took this picture. The prevalent tree down here is the Live Oak which provides a wonderful habitat and hiding place for the birds. Two blocks behind us is a forever wild area that is just teeming with birds but really hard to ever get a picture because of the foliage.

Back inside as it was a bit rainy (okay, very rainy) for a couple of days which provided me ample motivation to sew together all those bags of strips I have left over from very, very old projects. I am basically making yardage which I will use in wearables, totes and maybe as borders in a quilt or two. I have made up about five yards of fabric using these different width puple, blue and green strips. It is actually quite fun.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Secret is Out!

Okay, okay, I confess -- I bought the beach house so that I would have a place to both cover new beds with quilts and lots and lots of walls on which to hang my pictoral quilts! Of course I must get my daughter's approval before I hang but so far, so good! There are lots of blank walls though and many on which there is no sun so that the quilts won't fade in all the wonderful sunshine here (well, maybe I also bought the house to get winter sunshine). The pelican now hangs downstairs where we have the room with the two futons. Now it is screaming for a rug and some lamps.

This Yellowstone abstract ended up at the top of the stairs going to the second floor. A beautiful picture of a Great Blue (done by my sister) hangs right outside our bedroom on a just right sized wall. That has been the biggest challenge -- getting the right things on the right walls so they wouldn't be swamped or look too big.

The beautiful Guatemalan rug with the cats hangs on the landing of the third floor and looks perfect there as well!

I did finish both of the kalaidoscopish tops (although I haven't put their borders on yet). This is the one that had jungle animals on it. It will get bordered with some medium green.

This is the second of the tops and it also will get bordered in green. I will probably add some of the original fabric that is cut apart to make the hexagons in the borders as well and that is home. Each of these tops is about 25 x 40 inches. Now to create some "fabric" with all the fabric strips I have around here. Not much sewing is getting done as the weather has been far too nice to stay inside. We might get a little rain later this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shorebirds and More Shorebirds!

Today, we have been listening to large canons and guns going off since morning. Ft. Fisher, which is about a mile south of us, is having the 145 anniversary of the capture of the Fort from the Confederacy thus pretty much ending the Civil War as this was the last of the forts along the sea coast still held by the South. I was going to stop and see what was going on but their were cars EVERYWHERE and 1000's of people so I may try again tomorrow although it is supposed to rain.

So I turned around and stopped at the "secret" beach access which is just a short way from Ft. Fisher and ventured out onto the beach at low tide so that I could see the tidal pools and maybe glance the black "ducks" again. We have now positively identified them as juvenile Common Eider Ducks, a sea duck which is seen in this area although the pretty adults are generally further north.

I just love all the seaweed and moss covered sandstone rocks that are there. It is so different from the rest of the beach area down here. I walked a bit of the way down the beach and spotted quite a few different birds getting a bite of food from the exposed rocks. I tried to focus on all the different ones and get pictures of them.

I believe these are Red Knots as they were larger than the smaller sanderlings but certainly smaller than the willets. There was a fairly large flock that landed on the rocks.

There are several birds feasting here. They are all in the sandpiper family though. The large one is the common Willet, the one with the dark neckring is a Ruddy Turnstone and the others are Semi-Palmated Sandpipers. There were also a bunch of sanderlings here as well as Red Knots.

This was just one of the willets, I believe.

This was one of the Ruddy Turnstones. They have bright orange legs and get their food by turning over stones (which is obviously where they got their names!). I would love to come back in the summer when these birds have very different plummage -- everyone is more colorful then! I loved all these rocks just covered with seaweed and all different colors.
Of course, there was a large flock of Bufflehead Ducks but they were out away.

No Common Eiders today -- maybe just too many people down the beach!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kure-osity - Warren's Black Ducks and More

I call this my "little bit of everything" picture. You may have to blow it up to see it all!! In the background is one of the dolphins that was swimming by -- didn't even notice him in the picture until I came home! In the foreground is a Bufflehead drake flying out of the water with a couple of other Buffleheads hanging around with the mysterious black ducks which we still haven't totally identified but think they are Black Ducks but maybe some that have inbred with something else. We were just clueless and looking at the bird books hasn't helped a lot.
This is another view of those black ducks that we still haven't definitely totally identified!

This was the beach area where the ducks were hanging out right at the south end of Kure Beach right before Ft. Fisher. There is a secret public beach access down there which I hadn't discovered before. It is a very pretty area and I will be back!

The weather continues to be nice and Warren wanted to show me the mysterious black ducks he sees each day on his walk so we headed out to the Ft. Fisher end of the beach. Neither of us had taken a path called the Basin Trail which is a 1.1 mile long sand and boardwalk path ending in the salt marshes at the end of the island. It was an interesting walk and not what either of us had expected (more woods as it started out that way). So a round trip is 2.2 miles and a bit of it is slogging through real sand so we got our day's exercise!

This is part of the pathway of the Basin Trail as we were heading back. I liked all the colors!

This was Warren looking at this WWII bunker which was one of the sights along the walk. Evidently a hermit lived here for 17 years and was really a local tourist attraction. It is hard to believe that anyone lived in this structure -- it has no windows and echoes something fierce. Despite how my dear husband is dressed, the weather is very pleasant!
This was a view on the Basin Trail showing the juxtaposition of the grasses and greenery.

On our way back to find the black ducks, there were a male and female Bufflehead swimming together with another male. I can't get enough of this beautiful duck!

This was one of the many Kildeer Plovers we have seen around here. There were a few of them hanging around the Ft. Fisher fields.

When Warren was trying to spot the black ducks, I saw these ducks out in the water. A nearby man identified them as Hooded Mergansers but I believe they are the Red Breasted Mergansers.

This is one of many, many Northern Mockingbirds we see around here constantly -- those, the Grackles and the Loggerhead Shrikes are the most common birds around here.

Here are the everpresent Grackles.

This is another one of those Loggerhead shrikes. Every time I think I have found a new bird, it turns out to be one of these!!

Back at the ranch, I set together the second set of kalaidoscope (pile and cut) blocks. These all have animals on them. This was my makeshift "design wall" but it got the job done! Now to get them all sewn together and some borders on.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In-Kure-Able...Pile and Cut Projects

Sunny, sunny, sunny! It may be chilly and a bit windy but the sun doesn't fail to brighten up the days. Each morning I get up, make some coffee and head down to the nearest store to get a paper. When the tide is low, I try to walk back by way of beach to see what nature has to offer up each day. I am rarely disappointed and this morning was no exception. I could see the dolphins rushing the fish from across the street so I went to the beach to get a closer look as I never tire of watching the dolphins especially when they are engaging in interesting behavior. I spotted this Bufflehead drake darting in and out of the waves and actually got a shot. Last year I had seen the female who isn't nearly as striking. It is amazing to watch these birds as they dive under the waves just as they are breaking and pop up again on the other side.

I don't take my serious art quilt projects with me on vacation simply because I don't want to lug the vast amount of fabric and paraphernalia that I need to do the pictoral quilts. So, I play with stuff I have set aside for retreat days and vacations. This time it was a couple of wild prints out of which to make baby quilts using a trademarked method whose name I won't post for fear of lawsuits. I love doing radial symmetry and the surprises that the fabric brings. I do enjoy the challenge of coming up with interesting sets as well which is the alternatives I am looking at in these three pictures. The top one illustrates what would happen if I place hexagons separating the patterned ones. I may use this one but use a piece hexagon block instead of a plain one. I should add that I have probably done 25 to 30 of these quilts and vowed to not get started on more but it is always so much fun to see how they recombine to form new lines and shapes and this is vacation....

This illustrates what they would look like all squished together with no intervening triangles or hexagons (ala One Block Wonder -- a new book published by C & T). Don't think this is a good fabric for this technique.
This is my usual set for the hexagons -- separating the blocks with equilateral triangles and some half hexagons made from a solid.
I have 27 blocks and I do like to utilize as many as possible. Probably would do 4-3-4-3-4-3-4 which would use 25 of the blocks or 5-4-5-4-5 which would use 23 or 4-5-4-5-4 which uses 22. Might do this set. I hate investing too much "design" into these projects!

Onward to the animal hexagons and then bags of strips that think they want to be fabric and may just be. I was going to make a tote bag that I had carefully cut all the pieces for -- or thought I had cut all the pieces for but hadn't so that will wait until Spring Fling at quilt club.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chilly in Kure - A Duck in Time Saves...

It's been really cool down here for this time of year but also extremely sunny which is what I had hoped for!! If the wind doesn't blow, I can still sit outside on the porch, watch the dolphins and read for awhile in only my sweatshirt!

I try to walk every day and love to vary the place. Today we went down and walked around a very small fresh water lake in Carolina Beach. I had seen Coots there before and wanted to see what was there today. It is a short walk but the sun was bright and the sky blue! This was a beautiful male mallard but I took the picture as I couldn't believe how orange his feet were!

This I believe is a Ruddy Duck -- it is one of those diving ducks and was rarely on top of the water.

There was a large flock of the American Coot which are so distinctive with their white beaks and black bodies.

I thought this grouping of three mallards was interesting. The one furthest away is obviously a regular old male mallard. The one in the middle according to the bird book is a variety of mallard caused by inbreeding. The one in the front with only the hind end showing is the Pekin Duck which is the domestic variety of the mallard! I didn't know that the common white domestic ducks were a variety of mallards!

While my old roommate was here, we ventured to downtown Wilmington for a walk but it was just too cold and windy earlier this week. You can see the brilliant blue sky though. The temps have stayed about the same but the winds have subsided now so walking is fine!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Catching Up!

It's been a long time between postings! It's time to get down to business and start doing some sewing in the new year and I am prepared.

The last couple of weeks have been consumed with a Christmas visit to my daughter's in Charlotte and then back to the beach house where I now sit. The past several days I have had the great pleasure of entertaining my old roommate from my single Philadelphia days! We always get back together and can talk like we never have been apart and it has been over 40 years!! She currently is teaching art at Winthrop University in SC so she had lots of insights to share about art in general and my meager attempts at art quilts. She has a wonderful eye and besides looking at some of my "creations", we looked at the work of several others and analyzed the positives and problems. It was a great exercise. Her favorite of mine was actually a picture of the back of one of my tops where the papers were still! That was very inspirational as it told me that my lines were good and that I could play with color or value and come up with something a lot more interesting -- she really thought my quilt tops gave too much away and didn't let the viewer have to work.

One last picture from my last day at Fort Myers Beach. This was a really nice tri-color heron looking out over the early morning waters. We had a great day of shell collecting that last day down at Lover's Key.

Lisa's kitty Paca loves to cuddle up with her and put his arms around her neck and sleep.

Warren and Lisa spent Christmas week working on this year's list of projects to get done. She has recently remodelled her kitchen so needed some finishing touches there, some mouldings to be finished elsewhere and then a new addition to the list, fixing the screens on her screen porch. Her Maine coon kitty is extremely clever about finding ways to break out and will push his way out if he can -- but only at night! While they had several of the screens off, this Carolina Wren and a friend found themselves trapped inside until Warren shushed them away toward the open space.

This is Lisa's other kitty Yahi (the Maine coon) perched on top of the kitchen cabinets, his place of choice while inside because our pint sized kitty George just terrorized him!! Even after a month together, we couldn't keep them in the same room without George chasing Yahi until he would flee to the top of the kitchen cabinets!

The weather is cool here but the sun is brightly shining and warming everything up each day. I don't mind the snow or the cold in the north, but I do loathe the short days with little or no sunshine. Before we bought this house, I checked Wunderground to see what the usual weather was down here in January and when I saw that it was usually sunny, it was a sale!

The sewing machine is out and ready to do some mandatory pillow making for our new futons. After that, I will play a bit with the piles of strips that I have left over from other projects. Those that don't get used this trip will get contributed to the quilt club free table in February. More to come!