Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Unless you are a self-avowed curmudgen, you can’t help but admire these birds, and because I happen to have a free pass to one of their breeding grounds (Sauble Beach on Lake Huron), it was love at first sight for me.

Source: Why the Piping Plover is the ultimate emblem for World Shorebirds Day

Loving something, and then adapting it into a piece of textile art is another thing! But it’s a challenge that I welcome.

I used my own photographs of the plovers at the beach for guidance, and found fabrics that would convey the elements of the plovers’ habitat (lake, shoreline, beach grasses). The background is pieced, and the bird is machine appliqéd on top. You can see that I used a piece of driftwood as the hanging device.

I donated this piece to the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory‘s silent auction fundraiser that year (2007).

If you’d like more information about the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach, visit this website: http://ploverlovers.com/.

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Responding to a craving for some fall colours and fresh air, I decided to get away to the country for the weekend, up to my folks’ cottage. The sky was full of drama on the drive up – all sorts of cloud formations – and the leaves were exploding into their brilliant oranges, yellows and reds, especially through the Hockley Valley area.

While making sure to keep my eyes on the road, I am always on the lookout for birds. At one point, I pulled over to the shoulder and grabbed my binoculars and camera when I saw a gathering of large birds circling overhead. They turned out to be Turkey Vultures, likely on their fall migration towards Florida or Texas. 

Turkey Vultures circling overhead

And later that day, I saw another bunch of them roosting in a tree at Sauble Beach.

Turkey Vulture roosting in a tree at Sauble Beach

Anyhow, I did not rescue a vulture, but rather a water bird that was not designed to move about on land.

Here’s the story. It was a beautiful day for a walk along the shoreline of Lake Huron, even warm enough for shorts and bare feet! So I did just that, and came upon a bird that was sitting a short distance from the water’s edge – facing the water.

The bird was weak, and couldn’t get up.

My first instinct was to leave it alone, so I gave it a wide berth, snapped some photos, and continued on my walk. On my way back, of course it was still there, and seemed as though it was in distress, and couldn’t get up on its legs.

When I returned to the cottage, I got out my bird field guides and, reviewing the photos I had taken, easily identified it as a Red-necked Grebe. Then I proceeded to scour the phone book (Yellow Pages) hoping to find a wildlife rehabilitation centre. I tried the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, heck, even the OPP, and got nowhere. I was getting frustrated, and I wanted to accomplish something before the sun went down. I decided to start at the front of the Yellow Pages and go through page by page to see whether there was anything useful. And there, under the category of “Parks and Nature Trails” was a listing for the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory.

I have known about the BPBO for several years now, since my brother volunteered on their board, and I’ve supported the valuable work they do at the banding station in Cabot Head. So I called the number and from there was able to get in touch with the current administrator, Don Douma.

As soon as I described the situation to Don, he said “Well Grebes can’t walk on land, so I suggest you try to pick the bird up and place it in the water.” Wow, that sounded like a fairly simple solution! I got my work gloves out the car, and an old towel, and went back to the beach. I instinctively knew that, even though the bird seemed weak, he might try to jab at me with his substantial beak, so I distracted him with the towel (he went for it right away) and then put my hands firmly around his body and walked with him into the lake. I set him down gently in the water, and immediately he started paddling slowly off, away from shore. Whew!

Red-necked Grebe – a close-up

I have no idea how this bird ended up stranded on the shore, but it was a big relief to be able to return him to the water before nightfall. If you’re interested in learning more about Red-necked Grebes, there are some interesting facts here.

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I am pretty much always inspired by the natural world (except for spiders and centipedes). There is so much colour inspiration for example, in nature.


While camping recently, we were serenaded all weekend by the little ovenbird, which one of my bird guides describes as having a voice much louder than you would expect from such a small bird. This little guy has beautiful, subtle colouring.

tree lichen – colour study

Check out the colour combination in the photo above. This would be an interesting pallete to replicate in a quilt.

Scarlet Tanager

Now this fellow’s finery is certainly more flamboyant than the ovenbird’s!

And now, back to quilts!

detail – baby quilt

Here’s what I’m working on right now … just finishing the quilting and then all that’s left is the binding for this baby quilt. When it came time to think about how to quilt it, this time I didn’t allow myself to a) do the obvious quilt-in-the-ditch or b) over-think the design. I just basically went by instinct and started in the middle with the curved lines, and followed up with the diagonal parallel lines going outward from there. I’ll be sure to post a photo when it’s done.

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It’s been a crazy week, full of ups and downs, and now I have arrived at Saturday. My sister (one of three) is arriving from BC this afternoon for a week in the big city, so that’s definitely something to look forward to.

I really feel a difference when I don’t have protected creative time incorporated into my life, so my goal this weekend is to get some of that time carved out and make something. It must remain secret for the time being, with the holidays quickly approaching.

Watchful Guardian

I made this owl wall hanging – titled “Watchful Guardian” –  specifically to donate to the United Way silent auction at my workplace, which will take place this week (Dec. 8). I hope there’s some interest in it. I continue to explore techniques for creating bird imagery with fabric, a lovely way to combine two passions.

I also contributed a miniature (5″ x 7″) textile landscape, matted and framed, which is shown below.

I learned this technique in a workshop with Valerie Hearder, several years ago.

Tranquility at Sunset

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I was taking a break from my “big” quilt project (a bed-size quilt) and looking for something quick and easy to do. Something led me to Jean Wells‘ book Intuitive Color and Design (in my collection). She explains a great method for curved piecing, so I dove into my scraps and put together this small piece. The idea for the bird outline silhouette  just came to me out of the blue. Please comment!!


Here’s a close-up.

Nighthawk - close-up

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Thanks to Ethne, who lives in Scotland, I got lured into a Charley Harper quilt-along. I have no idea how I stumbled upon this one day (or evening) by surfing the net, but I was immediately captivated. A little Charley Harper wall calendar hung on the wall in my sewing room all last year, and I have purchased several cards with his bird images on them, so I was already a big fan of his artistry.

It didn’t take much to convince me to join the quilt along, since all the elements were spread before me like a feast on a picnic blanket: birds and other critters portrayed with whimsical abandon by this prolific artist. His colour palette and his imagery begs to be interpreted by quilters!

The flickr group photo pool was a great inspiration, too. What a great community of creative textile artists we are!

choosing fabrics

I love an excuse to explore my fabric stash for just the right fabrics. The image I chose is Charley Harper’s Gray-crowned Rosy Finch.

fused to the background fabric

I selected a background fabric that was a similar tone and shade of grey that appears in the image. Then I cut out and fused the elements of the bird onto the background fabric.

Here’s the finished piece!

Gray-crowned Rosy Finch

16" wide x 11" high

I think I may add some seed beads to this, to represent seeds on the ground, because this finch looks as though s/he is looking for something to eat!

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Nature is a magnet

Living in Toronto, and working downtown all week, I can’t resist the lure of nature on the weekends. This weekend, I decided to explore the Leslie Street Spit, hoping to see some migrating birds, and just be away from cars and pavement.

The “spit” is actually a five-kilometre long peninsula, built by lake-filling, which extends into Lake Ontario.

Eastern shoreline at the Leslie St. Spit

It was originally intended to be a breakwater for harbour expansion, but it was never needed for that (due to reduced volume of lake shipping) and instead has been transformed by nature into an accessible wildlife reserve.

Monarch on asters

It was a beautiful day, and there are loads of insects in the meadows that are full of goldenrod and asters at this time of year. Besides the monarchs, there were grasshoppers, crickets and dragonflies.

This female Northern Shoveler duck was pretty easy to identify, with its distinctive bill!

Northern Shoveler Duck (female)

I am really not sure what kind of warbler this is. My two guesses are: magnolia or yellow-rumped “myrtle”. It’s the only warbler I managed to capture with the camera. There were lots of different ones flitting about in the forest by the lake.

a warbler - but what which one is it?

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend a few hours on a September Saturday. And I WAS inspired – both by the colourful wildlife and by some rusty pieces of metal that I picked up on my rambles along the shoreline boulders. Articles in Quilting Arts magazine have often shared ideas for incorporating rusty “found objects” in art quilts. Stay tuned!

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Catching up!

Baltimore Oriole

It’s been way too long between posts! A super camping/bird watching weekend in the middle of May at Long Point yielded more than 50 species of birds. Highlights? Lots of  Baltimore orioles, an American woodcock (I only heard it … it was after the sun had gone down) and a pair of Bald Eagles protecting an absolutely gigantic nest.

Standing on guard

Catbirds were  friendly companions around the campsite.

Gray Catbird

Paris just wanted to play with the cygnets, but the parents thought otherwise, and made quite a ruckus when we walked by.

Mute swans

Nearby Port Rowan is picturesque though quite small.

Port Rowan

I highly recommend a visit to the Long Point Bird Observatory, a bird migration monitoring program that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. They are doing some impressive work documenting the many species that journey through the spit of land that protrudes into Lake Erie, on their way north.

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Happy spring

Here’s a REAL robin, whose sweet song is surely one of the most iconic signs of spring.

The Quilt of Possibilities (aka the Greenbelt quilt) was unveiled in early March. The project curator, Kate Busby, did a great job pulling all the disparate donated blocks together. My cardinal block is in the fourth row.

You can watch a time-lapse video of its construction posted here.

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