My Pacific Northwest home is surrounded by old growth maple, cedar and fir. We share these woods with many wild creatures, including a family of owls. For whatever reason, they’ve been far more active (and interactive) these last few months. They sing us to sleep at night, and in the mornings we often find evidence of their hunts. Not surprisingly, owl imagery has been cropping up in my work more and more.
Here’s a little preview of some of the leather owl feathers that I’ve been working on lately. They’ll become hair accessories, and you’ll find them (along with other new work) in my next shop update on Monday 8/21.
My husband and I welcomed in the New Year by renting a cabin along the Skagit River, where the bald eagles enjoy a feeding frenzy this time of year. From there, we traveled north to the Nooksack River, where we saw at least 25 eagles just in one little stand of trees. Panning out from that same spot, there were literally hundreds of eagles along the river and tree line.
I’ve been pleased to find that the osprey that I enjoyed so much last year have returned to their nest. Mama showed up very early this spring, and pops was not far behind her. There are a couple of other adults hanging around as well (maybe these are last year’s babies?). They sing constantly, and a few times recently, I have noticed them chasing an eagle away from the nest. This is pretty fascinating, considering that I live in the city!
Last weekend, I gained a little more insight on that. I looked outside my living room window and noticed a large (duck-sized) bird on the ground. At first I thought it was a peahen or pheasant, because of the coloring.
When I went outside to get a better look, I was able to get quite close before it scurried under a fence. It had the unmistakable hooked bill of a raptor, and I could see that it had downy feathers and some injuries/bald spots (in retrospect, maybe the bald spots were patches where the feathers had not come in yet?). I started to feel pretty sure that it was a baby from the nearby nest so I called a local wildlife rescue. We searched in the brush for quite some time, but could not find the little fella again.
After our search, I did an online image search and confirmed that it was definitely an osprey chick. Based on the images and information that I found, I am guessing it was just under a month old. So, now I know that there was at least one egg, which definitely hatched. While I feel so blessed to have seen this creature up close like that, I’m pretty sad because I suspect that he did not make it. At least, the woman at the rescue said that chicks generally cannot survive very long outside the nest at this age. I’m really hoping that they have more chicks up there, and that I will get to see them fledge before we move!
Growing up, I never imagined myself settling down in suburbia, but through a series of choices (some good, some bad) this is where I am today. Honestly, I’m not thrilled about it — those who know me well know that I’ve been ready to chew my leg off. I long for some place wilder and greener — some place where I can have huge gardens, a dog, and open spaces.
We are working toward that goal, but it’ll probably be a while before all of the needed elements come together. This spring I decided that the healthiest way to cope with my frustration is to make a greater effort to “bloom where I’m planted”. The other phrase that kept floating through my head was that I need to just “grow some grace” and trust that my goals will come to fruition when the time is right. It occurred to me that one of the best ways to achieve this would be to plant a patio garden as both a symbolic and tangible representation of those goals.
Thus far, my garden isn’t terribly impressive. It is beautiful and green, and it’s been very satisfying to see my little seedlings grow — but it’s a tiny space, and heavily shaded at that. I’m rooting for my tomatoes and peppers (no pun intended) but it’s looking kind of iffy as to whether or not their fruit will ripen before the rains set in. The upshot of growing this little garden is that it brought me outside more, and caused me to notice the wildlife that surrounds me, even in suburbia. My complex is a haven for birds including a HUGE flock of ravens, as well as sparrows, robins, finches, jays, woodpeckers, a flicker, a peregrine falcon (although the crows tend to run him off quickly) and an osprey nest. I’m pretty sure that’s the mama in the above photo — at least, it’s the largest of the family. She likes to roost in the tree above my balcony in the mornings, so I get to enjoy her while I tend my garden. I found the feather to the left* after one of the fledglings’ first test flights, which was my pleasure to watch.
There were four of them out there that day, soaring and singing overhead. Maybe I’m anthropomorphizing here, but their songs sounded positively joyful — even celebratory! Coincidentally, this was the same day that my daughter moved into her own place; I’m choosing to take this as an auspicious sign. Whether it’s a good omen or not, it has made me so happy to see this raptor family nest and grow outside my window. I can’t explain it, except to say that it does my heart good to see that even here in suburbia — land of mini malls and plastic people — there are still a few things that are free and wild.
* And before anyone lectures me about the feather, yes I am aware that these are protected/illegal here in the US. I did not keep it, but I did grab a photo in order to study the markings and (hopefully) better recreate them in my own work. For some reason, these barred/raptor feathers have always been hard for me to capture realistically, so it’s nice to have a real life reference to work from.
My old friend Talia is an extremely talented amateur photographer who focuses on wildlife photography. She is blessed to live along the Eel River, which is home to a host of eagles, red tails, osprey, heron, egrets, otters and more. She’s able to take a short walk down to the river every day to hone her photo skills.
The snowy owl to the right was photographed here in WA, during a rare migration this winter. The other images were taken in and around Humboldt, CA. Several have been featured in her local paper.
I feel honored to be able to watch her skills grow, and to live vicariously through her. She inspires me on so many levels, the photos are just the tip of the iceberg. One of these years I hope to bead some of her bird photos — I’m just having a hard time deciding which one!
Thank you Talia, for sharing your talent. You are amazing <3
Oh hi, sleepy blog! I still think about you from time to time, but I’m taking a full course load again this quarter so “thinking about it” is about the best I can do right now. Won’t be taking as many classes come Spring, so hopefully I’ll be able to pay more attention to this blog then.
Until then, please enjoy these photos from a recent road trip to the Skagit Valley. We went up to the Cascades to check out the bald eagle migration, and while we were there we also discovered huge flocks of migrating swans. Gorgeous, aren’t they?