Maddy fun times

Falcons of the world: Madagascar Kestrel

This small and mighty falcon is about the same size as the American kestrel. It’s endemic to Madagascar and the atoll of Aldabra.
It prefers open country to forest, and has benefitted from deforestation, nesting under the eaves of homes in populated areas.
They usually still hunt from a perch. While they will take mice and small birds, insects comprise 75% of their diet.

Thank you for looking at and learning about these wonderful birds with me.

NZ falco port

Falcons of the World: New Zealand Falcon

The New Zealand Falcon.
This bird is found across the main north and south islands. However absent from the North Auckland peninsula. The New Zealand falcon shares its environment with only one other diurnal raptor, the Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans). Therefor the falcon has more ecological range. And is more of a generalized raptor in many respects.

Its feather coloration is well suited for the forest environment.
They are typically very defensive of their hunting and nesting areas.
These falcons hunt smaller birds primarily, often hunting from a perch or on the wing. While they’re not as fast as their cousins the Peregrine Falcon, they still don’t waste any time in the air. Moving at terrific speeds with fighter jet-like maneuvers.


Until the last couple months most every bird I painted was native to North America. Due largely to my fondness of them. But as my goal moves towards wildlife preservation and awareness I have broadened my scope. I don’t want to just protect the birds of North America, I want to protect all of them. Birds don’t observe our borders, neither does art.

At the least, all this does is guarantee that I’m not going to run out of birds to paint. At the best, I can share the wonders of the planet with you as they come across my drawing desk.  Wherever that desk goes. Thanks for hearing me out and checking out these Falcons with me.

black process

Black Barn Owl

I still remember the first time I encountered a barn owl. It was a sleepless night in Southern California. I walked outside the house barefoot and walked towards the closest streetlight. I’m not sure why. I found the moon and then walked into the grass. I got close to the large palm tree in the neighbors yard and from within its branches came the most abrasive screech.

And it took off. With not even a whisper.
I couldn’t think of anything to say which was convenient because barn owls don’t speak much English.
Some eight years later that sound brings me so much delight to hear. It only rings in to me in the dead of night. My on going soundtrack to living. Through the window in Oakland or a quiet neighborhood in Berkeley. It’s like a letter in the mailbox from that friend you have that’s always traveling. Or like hearing a song that you listened to once with someone special who later drifted away for one reason or another. So many roads since then.

They still show up though when we break out the paint.

This Barn Owl is a melanistic variation. It has excessive pigments in the feathers making it darker. This occurs in many species in the animal kingdom, not just in birds. The first Barn Owl I saw was not a Black Barn Owl, but rather a white one as is usually the case. Black Barn Owls dont survive well in the wild as they don’t blend in. No camo, no cover.

5 black barn text
Thank you for joining me in looking at the wealth of amazing birds around us.
Learn, Love, Respect, and Protect.
Every day is Earth day, and every day is a good day to draw a bird.

boobookprocess

Owls of the World-Australia

The top of my list of places I’d like to go and see. They have all the badass snakes, spiders, jellyfish.

I chose the Southern Boobook owl to paint for my owls of the world collection.
I don’t own the rights to any photos of one, but crack open another tab on your browser and check these birds out. They’re very cool birds.

I used a couple books to guide me on this one.

“Owls” by Marianne Taylor. 2012 Cornell.

“Owls of the World” by Dr. James R. Duncan. 2003 Firefly Books.

You don’t see a lot of Boobook Owls here in Oakland. In fact most owls here are plastic and intended to strike fear in the hearts of the pigeons. It doesn’t do much, nothing fazes them. Though the Peregrine Falcon that lives on the hospital building wrecks shop on them.

This was a very fun painting to make, it closed up my book project. Which is now available here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7086777-owls

But back to the point. Boobooks are native to mainland Australia, New Guinea, Timor, and the Sunda Islands. They hunt from a perch for small mammals like mice. Also taking insects like beetles and moths. Coloration varies widely across their range. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

Thanks for looking at owls with me.

 

 

double purp

Rolling in ink.

I’ve been having lots of fun with some little linocut projects. Owls and Hawks mostly plus a few dinosaur sort of creatures. Its a bunch of fun, I really like the carving of the linoleum. It’s a slow but rewarding process. And so far I’ve kept the blade out of places it shouldn’t go, all 10 fingers still attached.

gyrfalcon text

Falcons of the World-Alaska/Arctic Circle

Good golly how about that ride from Santiago, Chile to Anchorage, Alaska eh?
7,890 miles as the Toyota crow flies.
We made it though, but I’m still bummed you threw my “80’s dance hits” mix tape out the window while we were flying over Mexico.
And so now here we are in the great beautiful North. Home of the largest falcon of North America, the Gyrfalcon.
In the summer Gyrfalcons can be found from around 60 degrees to 79 degrees North. Their breeding range covers parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
Winter time ranges of Gyrfalcons is still largely unknown. While some birds remain on their breeding range others winter south. In North America occasionally in the United States and in Asia as far south as Central Asia.
Their favorite meal is Ptarmigan, who can blame them? But studies have found they can take just about any other bird it comes across.
Even short eared owls have fallen prey to a Gyrfalcon. With a bill sharp enough to sever the spine of any bird, the menu is bigger.
They are incredible hunters. Utilizing several different techniques to capture prey. From low fast flight, chasing and tiring the prey out.
To breaking the preys breastbone by forcing it into the ground. They strike prey in the air rather than grab with their talons.
They repurpose Ravens nests and tend to a clutch of 3-5.
Gyrfalcons tend to occur in three different morphs, a dark, a white, and a grey. Shown here is an adult white morph.
I really enjoyed the literature study for this painting. The gyrfalcon is really an incredible bird. I recommend Falcons of the World by Tom J. Cade
It has stunning artwork by R. David Digby and well detailed information on each fascinating member of this incredible group of birds. Falco.
Well The flying Toyota is packed up and I made a new mix tape. “Mo-Town Jams” if you throw this mix tape out the window, were stopping till you find it.
We’re heading to Australia to look at an owl there. I’m not sure which one we’ll decide when we get there.
It’s only 7300 miles.
We got this.
Hold on tight.
South America

Owls of the World-South America

Now we venture to South America to visit with the Magellan Horned Owl also known  as the Lesser Horned Owl. In Chile, it is called Tucúquere, for the rhythm of its song.
This owl resembles a great horned owl but is more lightweight. It was once thought to be a subspecies, but now genetic evidence suggests that it’s a separate species all together.
It hunts from a tall perch for medium sized mammals and birds, preferring rabbits and hares.

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This was a very fun painting to make, I found the ear tufts on these owls can be tricky to do right otherwise it looks like a mutant robot cat or something. Anyway, before we go to Australia to look at an owl there, we have to go to the Arctic to look at a falcon. I’ll see you when we get there.

-Ben.

twinhoots

Owls Of the World-Africa.

Pharaoh Eagle Owl.

Bubo ascalaphus. This mysterious owl is found across Northwest Africa. They’re found in arid rocky landscapes. From the desert to mountain sides.

They hunt primarily at night. Feeding mostly on gerbils and gundis, or desert invertebrates like, scorpions and locusts.
They can take prey as large as Fennec Foxes and hares. Little is known still about the pharaoh eagle owls population trends and total numbers and range.

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This was very interesting bird to read about as well as paint. While I try to use a true to nature approach in my style it was impossible for me to not put a little Egyptian in the eyes.
Perhaps a slight exaggeration but hey that’s art right?

So now onwards from Africa were heading across the Atlantic to Chile in beautiful South America where we’ll look at the Magellan Horned Owl.

Thanks for joining me.

two birds

Owls of the world

Last April I painted 20 warbler species of North America. This April I’m working on a collection of Owls of the world.

My goal with painting these animals has always been to bring their significance to light so that they may be saved for future generations to enjoy. That notion doesn’t know borders or continents and neither does my imagination or paint brush.
So I’ve been collecting books and photographs and making new lists to look at for paintings. To present the wonder of the many species of Owls that inhabit our planet.

The first is the Western Siberian Eagle Owl.
18 siberian text

The western Siberian eagle owl is a top predator in the Arctic pine forests across Siberia.


It took a lot of pencil pushing before I found my eagle owl in this one. You can see by the photos it didn’t unfold at speed. At one point I pulled out the big eraser and took the poor birds head clear off.

But that is what I expect with trying to catch the nuances of these fascinating creatures.  Lots of back and forth. I look at photos in the morning on my way to work of the previous nights sketches and make notes of changes to be made.


I learned even more useful methods for painting on this project. I learned new ways to paint the eyes and the folded wings. Two areas I’ve never felt that I have had a solid technique for.
It was a very productive project in the learning I gained throughout.

I’ve already traveled from Siberia to North Western Africa where I’ve found the Pharaoh Eagle Owl and begun to record.

3 pharaoh pencil