Sage Grouse

About Them: Sage Grouse encompasses the Greater Sage Grouse and the Gunnison Sage Grouse both residents of the sagebrush steppe that ranges across 11 western states. These are the birds of paradise of the western North American plains. The males perform a dramatic show in open sagebrush called a ‘lek’ from March to May to convince females they should be chosen for breeding. The males make a sound by flapping and popping their chest air sacks that sounds like a human not quite making the water drip noise that Cameron makes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Here’s a link.

These birds are part of the family Phasianidae grouping them with Turkeys, pheasants, ptarmagans, other grouse, and prairie-chickens.

Gunnison Sage Grouse are about 1/3 the size of the Greater Sage Grouse.

Their plight: Habitat loss is the key issue for these birds. They live across a vast generally open space that has a high volume of natural resources within. They are in constant competition with humans for right to use the land. Unlike some species this is not a species that can handle the high tole of human disruption on their land. It may seem like a small thing to build one station in a 10,000 acre space, but that includes light pollution, sound pollution, dust, introduction of invasive plants, and land fragmentation.

The juniper and pinyon trees are also reaching farther into sagebrush steppes. Wildfires used to mitigate their reach. However, as we have suppressed wildfires the land plants have changed.

What we should consider: While these birds are not currently listed as Endangered I put them on my list because their protection is a really interesting story involving cooperation between a wide range of group beliefs to actually do their best to protect these birds. In 2015 during the Obama administration they decided not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as endangered because of a massive locally written plan to conserve the habitat for this bird while still allowing for economic growth to the states affected. Much of that has been disrupted by new regulations from the current administration, it unwinds enough of the interwoven work between all the groups’ interests to make these birds much more in danger. Imperiling these birds will also cause problems for the other 300+ species that inhabit the sagebrush steppe.

The struggle to balance human progress and natural landscapes is the great problem of our time. We want so much energy for all of our convenience making devices. We have to find a method for creating that energy somewhere. Even when we build solar farms or wind farms we disrupt the land there too. It may be better for humans with consideration to toxins released into the environment, but that needs more research for me to say with certainty. Ultimately we should consider making our culture need less energy.

We humans are a large population now and everyone deserves a chance to make a decent income for themselves. Currently some of the best jobs in these regions are in the gas and oil industry. How do you manage the needs of the people and the needs of the wildlife? It seems like that had been handled ok in 2015. Compromise is the only way through.

What is being done: Consideration for what land parcels are available for sale when being purchased for oil and gas operations, land that is integral to the Sage Grouse is not meant to be sold to such industries. Continued counts of the birds to watch the species population trends which can be used when putting forth evidence for greater protections. New methods for counting are being discovered, finding and counting the grouse poop through genetic testing is less disruptive to the birds, but not yet cost effective.

How to help: Reduce your energy consumption. Don’t leave devices plugged in all day, use a clothing line instead of a dryer, don’t run the dry cycle on your dishwasher, turn off lights when you leave a room. As you can update your house to use solar energy and other non gas and oil energy sources.

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. Currently there are a lot of actions 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 or other local conservation group 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/greatersagegrouse/partners.php

https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/gunnisonSageGrouse.php

https://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com/sagebrush-community/the-bird/

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gunnison_Sage-Grouse/lifehistory

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Greater_Sage-Grouse/lifehistory

https://www.ijpr.org/post/could-relocating-sage-grouse-save-birds#stream/0

https://www.denverpost.com/2019/09/29/colorado-blm-sells-mineral-leases/

https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/grouse-poop-may-answer-habitat-questions/article_8ea79ada-ced1-11e9-9d9f-20677ce05640.html

https://www.apnews.com/86a00a14ee3647d0a775d93b883e5d16

https://www.opb.org/news/article/us-rejects-protections-for-greater-sage-grouse-across-west-/

https://billingsgazette.com/opinion/letters/montanans-must-help-sage-grouse/article_d3506162-c0b0-5561-a614-468d09b5262a.html

https://warnercnr.source.colostate.edu/researchers-make-breakthrough-in-estimating-greater-sage-grouse-abundance/

https://biographic.com/wyomings-bird-of-paradise/

https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2019/09/12/wildlife-habitat-protection-growth-oil-gas-development/

https://therevelator.org/fracking-wildlife/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/09/pinyon-pine-juniper-forests-utah-torn-out-why/

https://plants.usda.gov/growth_habits_def.html

Cave Crayfish

11-cavecrayfish-caseygirarda

About Them: I have chosen a general species this time. There are a few subspecies that are struggling across Arkansas and Oklahoma, Cambarus aculabrum, Cambarus zophanastes, Cambarus tartarus. They are all small translucent or very light cray fish with poor eye site. The differences marked between them are super scientific sounding words about bodily form. Species in caves are evolved to function in the dark with little to no impact from outside. This means their metabolisms slow down, they mature later, and live longer. These are the worst characteristics to have when encountering sudden environmental changes.

Very little is actually known about these subspecies. For the Cambarus aculabrum crayfish found in Arkansas only 40 individuals have been counted total in a year. Given data from species of cave crayfish in Florida is it likely they have a life span of close to 40 years.

Their plight: They have very specific and limited habitat. They are in just a few caves, 4 in Arkansas/Missouri (one cave has 58 miles in Missouri) for Cambarus aculabrum and 3 for Cambarus zophanastes in Arkansas and seemingly only 3 across Oklahoma for Cambarus tartarus. The trouble for them is water pollution from storm run off and the clearing of plants on the surface causing less water to make it’s way into the caves, but instead evaporating.

They are also trampled by people walking in the caves.

What we should consider: How do you best help a species that has potentially a low population really no matter what you do? Also, is there a possibility that there are more caves where more of these species is living? Caves are so strange. I hope there are simply so we aren’t at such risk of seeing these crayfish go away.

What is being done: With limited data, the species is on the endangered species list, the most successful space where they live in Arkansas has become a National Wildlife Refuge and is protected with fences to keep out trespassers.

How to help: 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 or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.

Further Reading, my sources:

https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/science-magazines/cave-crayfish-cambarus-aculabrum

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Logan_Cave/wildlife_and_habitat.html

https://ecos-beta.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?sId=5011

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20424733?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

http://www.earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?gr=CR&sp=604

https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/dashboard/searchResults/titleDetail/PB2008105015.xhtml

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/3678/0

(not Arkansas cave crayfish) https://www.smallincave.com/Cave%20Life%20Photos.html

https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlifemgmt/endangered/crayfish.htm

https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?spcode=K02T

[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]

Dabbling Ducks

Ducks! I have always loved ducks but, they provide such ease of id that I haven’t always focus on them. They are also overwhelming in numbers when you get to see them. The amount of ducks that migrate to the Bay Area and Sacramento Area is incredible. When you drive up to water and it is covered in ducks, you get a different feeling than looking at a tree because you can hear a bird calling and you trying to find the tiny hoping bird amongst the leaves. Also, to find many of the rare ducks you really need a scope for closer looks and I do not have one. Still ducks are beautiful and cool.

As with the sparrows I put together a poster of all the ducks from my month of drawing them. Here is Dabbling Ducks compilation. I am wrapping up a second poster of ducks that are divers. They are just too large and too many to all be on one 11x 14 poster. The split between diver vs dabbler seemed a perfect split. 

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The American Wigeon. I finished this first as just a sepia tone then finished with spot color. These birds are in wintering colors. Their coloring gets brighter once they go into full breeding.

They have been called the Baldpate duck because of the light crest that goes up the male’s forehead. Much like the Bald Eagle is called bald, to early settlers white feathers apparently made them think of a balding head.

Then here is the Eurasian Wigeon which, I have seen twice. They are rare visitors from Europe and Asia where they are plentiful. They tend to hang with American Wigeons. The males stand out with their rufous head different from the greenish grey head of the American. The females are very difficult to tell apart. I only saw this male.

It’s another beautiful duck from the dabbling group.

I haven’t seen this in person but, a Blue-winged Teal has a blue patch of feathers for secondary converts, those feathers that you would imagine to be the upper arm of a human. They are also the second most abundant duck in North America behind the Mallard. I would never think that because I so rarely see them around me. It’s all about perspective and realize yours isn’t the only one.

The Blue-winged Teal. I have only seen this bird once on a chilly rainy day. I was out looking for a Tufted Duck which, apparently hasn’t been in the Bay Area in quite some time. I ran into another local birder who leads bird counts at this location and she helped me see the rest of the amazing ducks on the pond. I am still new to spotting the differences in the pattern of ducks across a body of water. I just don’t know all of the patterns that signify different that I should be looking for. Like all the other ways to identify birds it takes practice. 

The Cinnamon Teal. This is another duck that I haven’t had much time with. For me it is usually a lone duck amongst the crowd. They are beautiful though. Not only are they a gorgeous Cinnamon color, hence their name, they have that patch of periwinkle blue across their secondary coverts, the shoulder part of the wing.

These ducks are only in the new world and more widespread in South America. We have them in North American only west of the Mississippi and they only just get into Canada for summer.

They dabble for food, using their bill to sift out food. They behave much like a Northern Shoveler.

The Northern Shoveler. This duck is all across the northern hemisphere of the world dropping into the top of the southern hemisphere during winter. There are four distinctive species and the other three, probably descendants of this species, are one each to Australia/New Zealand, South Africa, and South America.

Given where I live if I head to the bay during the winter months I will most likely see these foraging along the mud flats. They are so odd looking with their extra long bill. Their bill actually works like a spoonbill’s or flamingo’s, it has lamellae along its edges which, filter food from water drawn into their bills. It’s pretty hard to confuse these ducks for another. Their head and bill shape are so obvious.

Probably the most common duck on the North American continent, the Mallard. We joke when we are birding that we all over look this beautiful bird for the rarer species around it. Only Male Mallards, of all ducks, have that curly tail feather. An American Black Duck X Mallard hybrid could also have it but, to me that is also Mallard.

The lower image is the Female Mallard. Of the Dabblers most of the female ducks, not all but many, have some variation on this kind of feathering and coloring. There are subtle differences that show you they are different species. Usually the fastest way to tell though, look at what duck they are next too. Most ducks are paired up or in a group of their species. It is a good fast tip to sort out the females because, the males are just so different between the species with brown stripy feathered females.

 

Another Teal, the Green-winged Teal, the green spot is so green!

I want to talk about the name of this group of birds first, Teal. Teal does recall a color around the eye and on the wings of a few of these small ducks but, the color Teal gained its name from these birds. The birds were called Teals before people described a color with the name Teal. Therefore, a Teal does not have to have the color present to be a Teal. Teals are a group of birds that are small in size, short necked and dabble specifically for vegetation.

I love seeing these ducks. They are so tiny. I happened upon one running with a group of Avocets. 

Gadwalls, the understated duck. They may not flash bright colors but, when you take a closer look they are beautifully patterned ducks. The lines across their feathers are vermiculated, they kind of look like they are wearing tweed. To spot Gadwalls in the groups of ducks look for a what you may think is a female duck but, is darker in tone. Their heads are also more rounded than most other ducks. 

These two were exhibiting pairing behaviors. Doing head movements to another male to say, we are together back off.

Northern Pintails. These two ducks gave me an easy option for putting the male and female in my picture. These birds breed together for one season then seek out another mate. After the female is incubating the male separates from her to start forming a migrating group.

This Wood Duck I saw during the Great Backyard Bird Count with with Sequoia Audubon Society. There were six of these ducks that day, 3 pairs. I have only drawn the male because their coloring is so striking but, I should draw the female at some point she is also beautiful. They are quite shy ducks. They were mostly hidden in the branches of trees that touched the water. Once it got noisy from human hiking traffic, they totally retreated from view. This was my first time seeing a wood duck for more than a moment. I had seen them in the south twice but, for very brief glances. It was nice to watch them move and behave.

Ducks are part of the group that use wetlands for habitat. Now, wetlands are in decline so this is a complicated balance for them to find habitat. Many ducks use crop fields. There is a system in place in California that is imperfect and many farmers are still frustrated with the birds eating their seed. The system is a series of National Wildlife Refuges around Sacramento to give birds a space to live and be, so they aren’t in the farmer’s fields. However, the birds will usually go to flooded rice fields for the night. For the most part balance is achieved but, perhaps there is more we could do to make space for us and them.

Specimens for SF Bazaar at Maker Faire

Totally excited that I got into SF Bazaar at Maker Faire! Go here for details. It has meant that I am in deep production of many specimens. Here are some works in progress and I prepare them for full preservation. Taking pictures before the caps go on is nice because you get a little more light on their heads.

I’m working on making many small and mini specimens for the show. Here is the first batch. They are all of the amphibian and reptile creature variety.

smallspecimens

I am introducing Hippopotamus Specimens to my repertoire. Here are two angles of one of the Hippos.

hippo-specimen-2  hippo-specimen-1
diplodaucus-specimen

closeup-longspecimens

I am playing with longer specimens within my regular jars. This is a long Diplodocus wrapped a bit around itself to fit into its jar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally for this post of new, the new long vials. They will have amphibians, reptiles, and sharks.

long specimens

These are the new categories I have gotten to thus far. I have some other ideas I’m hoping to flesh out by May 20th. Now that this update is made, I’m going to get to it!

A Hippo for Christmas

A new beginning. I love painting but, I also love building with sculpey or other clay. These two styles of mine have been at odds with each other for years. I feel like I had to take a long while away from finishing major illustrations to play with these mediums to find the way to bring them together. My family Holiday card, per delays it ended up being a Valentine’s Day card, was my first in depth exploration into a full image with sculpey and paint. I started out building a structure. A large sculpey project is best built with armature.

step-1CGirard

I had wanted to make holes in the back of this armature to attach the sculpey build to the wood. This insuring its full attachment to the piece. It did not work out on this attempt and I will be continuing to play with that to see if I can make that happen. I ended up using a strong epoxy which, worked just fine. The next step was to put down a base layer of sculpey on the armature.

firstlayer-CGirard

Once I had the hippo and ground completed I put together the children. I planned to paint everything but, really enjoy mixing and creating colors with sculpey. I also like having a colored base to paint on top of.

middle-Cgirard

Once all the sculpey was completed I painted the background, glued down the cooked sculpey and then painted the sculpey. I used some found objects, dried plant pods, to make the shrubbery on the ground. I liked the added depth. Sometimes the best solution in a dimensional piece is a found object.

Finished-CGirard

I am very happy with how this came out. I feel good about this direction for my illustration. My goal now is to complete a new portfolio with pieces like this. I am going to be in a Women of Peninsula art show in the fall. I am going to use that as a jumping off point for what themes I will apply to these pieces. I’m looking forward to the process.

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.

 

Shark Week!

I think the only people who don’t like sharks are those that have come into unwanted intimate contact with them. ie. some folks that have been visiting the NC coast lately. I have to admit I’m pretty afraid of water I can’t see to the bottom of for fear of a giant mouth showing up but, from a far, I love sharks! Hence, why I chose to do my last Sketchbook Project with the theme SHARKS! What perfect timing to share, the tail end of Shark Week.

Here are some of my favorite spreads.
SP2015-CaseyGirard

SP2015-CaseyGirard-1

SP2015-CaseyGirard-2

SP2015-CaseyGirard-3

SP2015-CaseyGirard-4

SP2015-CaseyGirard-5

SP2015-CaseyGirard-6

SP2015-CaseyGirard-7

SP2015-CaseyGirard-8

Here is a link to my fully digitized book at the Sketchbook Project’s website. You can also see my full sketchbook in person in Brooklyn at the Art Library or catch it when it comes to your town. Here is the link to the Mobile Library stops.