Kirtland’s Warbler

The Kirtland’s Warbler is proof of success from the Endangered Species Act. This bird was down to 167 breeding pairs in the 1970’s when it was one of the first species to be placed on the Endangered Species List for the US. Now it is up to over 2,000 breeding pairs and up for removal from the Endangered Species List.

kirtlandwarbler-caseygirard

About them: These are larger warblers that have a gray cap and back with black streaks then, a bright yellow breast. They have white eye crescents and the males have dark in front of their eye. They have a ting territory for breeding and wintering; Northern Michigan for breeding and the Bahamas in winter. Even their migration track is almost a direct line from place to place making them only over Ohio, Georgia, and Florida with any regular notice.

Their choice for breeding habitat is very specifically jack pine forests, but only if they are six years growth from a fire. Once the trees are over 16 feet tall the warbler will not continue breeding there. This need for such specific habitat is one of the largest reasons this warbler got into peril.

The other reason is Brown-headed Cowbird nest parasitism. Brown-headed Cowbirds lived in the great plains where the Bison grazed. Because of this they constantly moved with the heard and learned to leave their eggs in the nests of other birds. Within this territory and amongst birds that evolved with them, both species were ok. Since humans have altered the land and caused large herds of grazing cattle, Brown-headed Cowbirds have been able to spread into territories of birds that did not evolve with them and they are able to harm the population of those species. The Kirtland’s Warbler is one of those species that has struggled.

What we should consider: Our legislation of the ESA does work. It saved this species from extinction. It contributed to the funding, research, and needed time to give these warbler’s back what they needed to survive. If we could succeed here, we can succeed for other species. 

What is being done: Habitat management is constantly in the works. Forests of Jack Pines are being set up in human controlled ways to provide the Kirtland’s Warbler with the needed habitat to breed. Then, Brown-headed Cowbirds are captured and kept away from these warblers.

How to help: As this species comes off the Endangered Species List support for interventions will be less, namely funding to control Brown-headed Cowbirds. There are enough Kirtland’s Warblers to experience more of the cowbirds, but if after a year or two decline is seen, the controls will need to go back on. Without being on the ESL it will be more complicated to get funding needed to implement this, and this is where independent contributors will be sought out. Be on the look out to see if they need funding.

Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife and waterways. Support locally.

Support can be:

  • donating to science groups
  • helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
  • being a citizen scientist through
    • land restoration project
    • trash clean ups
    • species counts
    • bio blitzes
  • getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.

Joining your local Audubon Society is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.

Further Reading, my sources:

https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/878.html

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/kirtlands-warbler

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Kirtlands_Warbler/overview

https://www.audubon.org/news/how-makeshift-stereos-could-help-endangered-warbler-find-new-home

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/jack-pine-juggernauts-what-will-happen-to-kirtlands-warblers-after-delisting/

https://abcbirds.org/bird/kirtlands-warbler/

https://ebird.org/science/applied-projects/kirtlands

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Species/Cowbird

https://www.audubon.org/news/plot-twist-congress-considering-law-could-protect-hundreds-more-birds

Inktober US Endangered Species Promts

I want to bring attention to the Endangered Species Act. It is a 45 year old law that is being called into question and is being changed by the current federal legislators. Some changes have occurred through the House Committee of Natural Resources. Then the Supreme Court will hear a case beginning October 1st which, will set precedent for what kind of reach the ESA has to protect land for endangered animals. We need to be paying attention and getting involved, these will have lasting effects. 

To bring attention and start discussion I plan to spend Inktober, a drawing exercise started by Jake Parker, drawing some of the lesser known and under loved species that find themselves on the Endangered Species Act. I know it seems hard to imagine saving some of these species, but each does play a role in the cycle of their environments and I believe it is best if we can find a way to help them survive.

I would love it if more artists participate to help bring the awareness. This is definitely a problem that needs more minds on it; I think in the end the answer for the ESA and our planet’s species is going to come from a community push of citizen scientists, which can be anyone!

If you would like to participate here is the prompt list:

Inktober2018-ESA

Rules, first follow the rules of Inktober

Our additional rule:

  1. Please include the hashtag #inktoberendangered and #protecttheESA 

 

If you are getting questions, send people back to my blog and instagram. I am going to go deeper with blog posts about each animal as well as some explanations about what is happening to the ESA right now.

If you want to get involved helping endangered and threatened species check in with your local Audubon Society. They are one of the best places to start and with new laws coming on the books they are going to need all the local help they can get for the species within their range.

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Here are some good places to start learning about the ESA and where it is now:

Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Main Page

National Resources Committee, their news release page of approved new bills that will affect how the ESA is implemented.

The main bill that gives States more power or to have a say in how an endangered species is protected or not protected.

The Bird Project

Since, the beginning of the year I have been drawing a bird a day. This project is to bring awareness to birds and to have fun learning about all the bird species around us.

I have been posting them to instagram but, feel it would be fun to do blog posts for each collection I end up finishing. Or a daily blog post since I write quite a bit about each bird along the way. Let’s catch up, this will be a super long post, compiling each sparrow and what I wrote about them.

I LOVE Sparrows. There are so many and their subtle differences is a puzzle I am very into solving. These are your standard, LBBs, Little Brown Birds. At a fast glance they all look the same. You have to study and look delicately for the differing patterns. It is even the same in their songs. A Song Sparrow vs a Savannah Sparrow sound almost the same except for a small tonal change between them.

I have spent many hours, looking at my photos, books, the web, other people’s photos and listening to audio clips amongst these sources to learn these subtle tell-tale signs.

Here is first collection is Sparrows. These collections will culminate into a limited edition poster print. This one is now available in my shop.

postersparrows-caseygirard

 

chippingsparrow-caseygirard

This Chipping Sparrow can be seen across all of the continental United States and into Canada and Mexico. It lives full time in southern areas and breeds in northern regions. Soon I should be seeing Chipping Sparrows here in California. There has been one reported at a nearby park. They will come to feeders, especially looking for black oil sunflower seeds.

The Chipping Sparrow I have drawn is in its non-breeding colors. Their breeding colors are a gray face and black bill with a distinctive rufous cap.

foxsparrow-caseygirard

 

The Fox Sparrow. My mom had been wanting me to see one of these. There was a particular birding outing we took with the goal to get me a Fox Sparrow.

Let me clarify getting a bird for a birder. When you bird you create a “Life List”, this list is species of birds you have seen across your whole life. Getting a “Life Bird” means seeing a species you have never seen before. There are around 914 species of birds in North America with over 10,000 across the world with new studies suggesting there could actually be over 18,000 due to better exploration and study. I have a life list that is 228 species long. I have a lot of birding to do!

The Fox Sparrow is one of the birds that has much variation with 4 distinct subspecies, Thick-Billed seen mostly in California, Red mostly across the east coast but crosses the continent to Alaska, Sooty seen along the west coast, and a Slate-Colored inner western states.

I have seen the Sooty subspecies. Once ever so briefly as it sang and a second time as it foraged for a morning meal. I got to watch it scatter ground debris find a worm and eat it. I love the chest patterns on Fox Sparrows, it looks like paint brush marks. That is the defining mark of these birds. No other Sparrows’ chest marks look quite like that. The reddish coloring seen across the species is similar to a Fox’s coloring hence naming this the Fox Sparrow.

I think I have seen a juvenile of this species at my feeder but, my yard doesn’t yet have enough shrubs to really draw them in. They need good cover to feel comfortable to visit your yard. Another year of growth, then maybe!

goldencrownedsp-caseygirard

There are 29 Sparrows in my Western Sibley they all look pretty similar on a first pass view. So, to take away some of this overwhelming feeling, you start with what could you be seeing. This dramatically brings the number of options down. The ones with cool names, Lark, Vesper, Lincoln, Fox, and even Song Sparrows will most likely not be at your feeder. You will see those on walks in nature. Also time of year matters, I have 3 kinds of sparrows at my feeders right now and that will change around April down to maybe 1.

So, you are probably working with 1-3 species of sparrow at your feeder. If you are on a nature walk I will need to make a longer post about that. For the yard Sparrows I see, I have House, White Crowned and Golden-Crowned Sparrows. They all look fairly similar, with mostly gray bodies and faces, similar checking patterns across the wings and white wing bars. The biggest give aways are their beaks and the tops of their heads. Also for House Sparrows, the males have a dark face and throat which gives him away but, the females look pretty similar to female or immature White and Golden Crowned. Golden-Crowned Sparrows have gray or bicolored beaks with also yellow. The breeding adults give you an easy spot with a thick black eyebrow then gold and white feathers for their crown. The immatures are tougher, they have a gray brown face all the way up except for a yellow fore-crown that could be hard to spot unless they are looking right at you. I find I can tell if it’s a Golden-Crowned Sparrow by how wise it looks. To me these birds have a sophisticated air, their face seems to be a bit bigger and their eye more wise looking. Also they are overall just a bit darker.

harrisssparrow-caseygirard

Harris’s Sparrow, this is the first rare bird I went out to find on my own. I think my need to go out and see this bird without having my Mom around to take me was the sign, I had become a birder. My son came with me and as luck would have it we ran into the Sequoia Audubon Society President and she helped to point out where this bird was hiding. It was also wonderful to meet such a friendly person and feel welcome to join other local birders. I have now joined them for two birding walks and am looking forward to making any other walk that I can. I am up extra early today for the walk in Pacifica, all part of the Great Backyard Bird Count for this weekend.

This Harris’s Sparrow is in its first winter. If it was a full adult it would have a black feathers fully around its face, over its crown, and down its throat. Although, I think this first winter coloring is quite striking.

These birds don’t live in California almost at all. We can get a rare sighting where one has joined a flock of Golden Crowned Sparrows but, they really live in the middle of the continent. Although, this flock joining happens widely across the rest of the states. So, if you see a flock of Golden Crowned Sparrows look closely, you never know if a Harris’s Sparrow will have joined them.

whitethroatedsparrow-caseygirard

This White-Throated Sparrow, I saw in North Carolina when I was visiting my Mom in the first week of September. If you know Sparrows, you know White Throated Sparrows don’t usually make their way to their winter locations especially this far south this early. They arrive closer to November.

When I saw this bird land at her feeder I knew something was different. It didn’t look the same as the other Sparrows I had been seeing so, I made sure I took a photo. With Rare birds unless you can really describe the field marks it is best to have a photo for your observation to be confirmed and accepted in ebird. This was a sighting we needed a photo for. Honestly, when I described what I had seen to my Mom she hadn’t believed me, I was so glad I had taken my photos. It surprised and excited her to see me started to take note like a real birder.

I have yet to see a White Throated Sparrow in California. They do winter here as well. They seem to join groups of other winter Sparrows more than come in a group.

whitecrownedsp-caseygirard

Here is a winter bird for my yard, the White-crowned Sparrow. They are native birds along the coast here in Northern California. Around October they show up in my yard and stay until April. Then I won’t see them at my feeders again until October.

They are super cute, traveling in a flock of about 5-10 birds. They feed off the ground and their hopping and running about makes them almost look like mice.

They have beautiful songs, usually my first alert to their presence is their singing.

vesperspsrrow-caseygirard

Vesper Sparrow, the last of the streaked sparrows that I have seen. Vesper Sparrows while common across the continental United States are not common in the area of California I live. However, there is a small group of them at a recently opened Open Space in the hills along the Bay Area Peninsula.

I was getting rare bird alerts, yes I get a daily email telling me where rare birds are near me, for a few weeks before I could make the trek out to see it. Going to look for a rare bird is odd. You might see it because it is a bird that follows regular patterns and perches in open territory as part of it’s behavior. This Sparrow was just out on the trail right as you begin the hike of this open space. I could see this very white looking bird at the edge of the grass. I got pretty close took some photos then it noticed me. It took off to its resting place and we didn’t see it again. We easily could have not gotten a view of this bird.

When I go out to look for rare birds that is really when I feel like I am playing Pokemon Go in real life.

The complete white eye ring is the big sign that you are seeing a Vesper Sparrow.

songsparrow-caseygirard

Song Sparrow, I am learning as I go through all of my pictures it is still hard for me to tell the difference between a Song, Lincoln, and Savannah Sparrow. I also realize, the Song Sparrow is busy and therefore, very hard to get a photo of. I found a couple and they are such blurry reference photos. Also, this bird is so wide spread and so common to see, I think we didn’t put as much effort into getting photos of it. In my excitement of learning the sparrows, I think my Mom’s response to “what sparrow is that!”, “oh another song”.

If you are birding especially during the summer and most of the rest of the year and you see a streaked Sparrow, it is most likely a Song Sparrow.

The males will sing often and they are kind enough to perch just at eye level on exposed branches, usually, so you can see and hear them clearly.

Look for rusty streaked birds to identify a Song Sparrow. However, if on the West Coast they will be darker. This is another bird with a lot of variation between regions. There are still markers that give you the clear id. Rounded tail, white throat patch, and central concentration of streaking making a spot on the front of their chest. 

savannahsparrow-caseygirard

The Savannah Sparrow another beautiful streaked Sparrow that often has yellow lores (the feathers above and beside the eye near the beak) that give you a fast id. Although, it isn’t on every Savannah Sparrow. When you see a Song, Savannah, or Lincoln Sparrow you have to hope you get a long enough view to tell them apart. Their differences are so subtle and you have to be ready to spot those differences in an instant. Another id mark that sets the Savannah Sparrow apart is the tail, it has a notched tail where the Song Sparrow has a rounded tail.

The Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow also have crazy similar songs. They both sound like bugs with high lilting notes then a buzz but, the Song continues with more lilting tones. I haven’t managed to train my ear to hear the difference.

In winter time you are usually going to see Savannah Sparrows in groups in open habitats. They  will almost never come to your feeder. This Sparrow is also smaller and has a shorter tail.

These birds were originally named by Alexander Wilson, not because of the birds loving grassy spaces but, because he first saw this bird in Savannah, Georgia.

lincolnsparrow-caseygirard

The Lincoln’s Sparrow. Trying to id this on a foggy morning was a special chore, it was also my first time deciding I wanted to know the difference between all of these birds. I had heard there was a rare Vesper Sparrow at a local hotspot the week before and I was desperate to see it. Putting down the idea that I would see a rare bird I starting looking at obvious-sure-to-be-around species which, still gave me a great list of neat birds to see.

Lincoln’s, Savannah, Song and Fox Sparrows were all likely options for Sparrows with streaking down their chests. Lincoln’s stand out from the other limited number of Sparrows with chest streaking (this is how you figure out the id, you narrow your list of possible birds by using categories within categories.) by having very fine streaking that breaks up into separate marks as they descend. When in brighter lighting you can also see the chest feathers amongst the streaking are buffy in color. Those two elements should give you the id. If you want to go deeper, grey eyebrown, gray beak, pink legs, and a buffy eye-ring are also present.

 

It has been awesome to get to know sparrows. I look forward to seeing more and learning each of them as well. I always take a closer look at each sparrow.  There is always the chance there could be a rarity in the mix.

 

Plein Air Painting

I was able to go on a road trip for Memorial Day. It was so neat to see the coast of Northern California. A friend and I drove up to Crescent City to visit a friend. Doing a short day trip. Mostly we spent a lot of time on the beach. The goal had been to find agates but, I decided to paint. I used some mussel shells to hold my water and used a newly set up gouache travel kit. This is what I made:

Crescent City003

Crescent City

Crescent City004

Crescent City005

 

Oregon001

Oregon

Oregon002

I loved having time to stretch my painting skills. I hope I can do some more of this during the summer. We will see what I can do. Perhaps another trip up the coast and I can also spend time drawing the trees in Humboldt County. Also, next time I won’t forget my coat. It was so cold!

Shared Sketchbook 2

This sketchbook is on a very relaxed schedule. Thank you for that eHawk! I had our book for most of the fall and then past Christmas. Then I finished a Holiday card for the family and couldn’t postpone anymore. I hadn’t intended to dally on my page for that long, I even had an idea.

This is what came of it.

CaseyGirard-Page2

This is a battle in Thailand of the bugs and faeries there. It was so much fun to look up all the bugs and apply their coloring and wing designs to the faeries. Of course looking at this more now I wished I could manage to get my humanesque (in this case) bodies to have depth as much I do with animals and bugs.

I practice, I started out drawing people when I first found I couldn’t stop drawing as a kid. I still practice figure drawing. However, whenever I leave my sketching level I lose whatever gesture I have expressed in my sketch. I think this is a common problem and one that is worked out by 10,000 hours practicing. One of my goals for this year to spend even more focused time on them. I am hoping some other mediums will help me find the missing piece.

Until then looking forward to what eHawk draws next.

 

Why a Blog or Art

It’s been an increasingly slog of a process creating art for the past 3 years. I know there is still joy in making art and occasionally I actually get into a project and am happy for the work. Most of the time however, I start to work and instantly get tired and want to go to sleep. I can only assume it is a depression. I have been trying to make art for over 10 years now. There are some years you could discount, when I was focused on designing or raising children but, I was always making art and hoping to find security in selling it. I probably went about it all wrong. I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said she never put the expectation on her art to make money, that in doing so would have put an unfair pressure on it. Perhaps that is the burden my art is living under and why whenever I attempt to be creative I am overwhelmed with exhaustion.

I’m sure some would say I am not cut out to attempt a career in art. However, I can not believe I am alone in feeling hopeless looking at years of work not finding their audience. From all the stories I hear this is a familiar circumstance. The artists that become successful never give up and just keep making until they finally find their people.

I find my deepest struggle is the since of being completely alone in the search of support. I am introverted but, I am extroverted too. I need to feel I am part of something where a group is succeeding. However succeeding may be expressed, gathering together in support, enjoying a common love, building a project that brings people together, anything that causes a sense of community.

Art is not a group effort most of the time. There are critique groups and online chats and conferences but, they aren’t always reachable. Critique groups struggle to meet, online chats aren’t necessarily at good times of day, conferences are expensive. Social media creates a community but, it’s easy to be lost in the crowd. Any time taken away from posting for any reason and suddenly your relevance is gone.

Time is a limited commodity. I need to be making art but, I have a need to know people see it and want to see more. Being a part of an online community means putting myself out there potentially sounding stupid or giving up my feelings to strangers who may not care and may make me feel worse.

What I know, I want to share my thoughts. I want to share my art. I don’t know why there is a fire inside me that burns to keep trying. I can’t imagine not honoring that feeling.

I’m going to keep trying. I’m not going to give up on myself or my work. No matter how much doubt lives in here. I feel so ridiculous needing to say all of this. Being an artist seems like it should be the easiest job in the world. I can tell you it is not. It requires more than just doing the work, it requires courage and heart. There is a mob of people saying art isn’t a real job, isn’t a skill or deserving of any compensation. There is a subtle war on art. Maybe because artists help us stay human, keep us connecting to each other, bringing a sense of wonder, remind us to ask questions and seek improvement in our lives. These are valuable components to life.

I hope this time I belief my own words and stay committed to myself. I have been sketching and practicing quietly for myself. I have needed this time and more time than I expected to work internally. I think this time I am ready to start sharing. Now to end here and go prepare some more blog posts.

Thanks for reading.

Halloween Coloring Banner

I created a Halloween Banner this year. Between #inktober, #drawlloween, and a parent run fundraising group at school I got inspired. Special thanks to Megana.

The banner reads “All Hallows Eve” and has 13 unique characters decorating each flag.

I loved drawing all of these characters and I had meant to share more of them daily. I’m sure I missed some of their specific #Drawlloween days while I visited the East Coast last weekend for a family wedding. I’m still settling back home after a packed week. Saw cousins, aunts and uncles I love but, rarely get to see. Dressed up in my favorite Rent the Runway dress. Partied, danced and celebrated a beautiful union even though I couldn’t feel my feet from cold and too small shoes. And handled a car accident that happened in my yard in California via text at 0200 from North Carolina. It feels like more time has passed than really has.

Catching up, here are a few banner images.

Halloween Banner.indd Halloween Banner.indd

Halloween Banner.indd Halloween Banner.indd

Halloween Banner.indd Halloween Banner.indd

Halloween Banner.indd Halloween Banner.indd

You can purchase the full banner as a digital download here. It’s my first digital download on Etsy so, please message me if anything goes wrong. I will fix it!