birds of prey

Falcons of the World: New Zealand Falcon

Falco novaeseelandiae

A powerful falcon endemic to New Zealand. They vary slightly in size, birds found in grasslands are larger than those found in forested areas. Also like many falcons females are larger than males.

They hunt birds and small mammals from a perch or from circular flight paths. Dropping on unsuspecting prey from above. Hitting prey with outstretched talons then severing the spinal column with a bite to the back of the head with their serrated bill. An effective hunter to say the least.

Aggressive hunters and defenders of their nests. Reports of falcons attacking humans who ventured too close to nesting areas are common. Much like goshawks in the northeast United States.

Nests are made in a variety of places. From on the ground in bushes all the way up high on cliffs or ledges from 20 to 100 feet. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time from September to December.

And if you’re keeping score at home, we’ve already looked at this bird about a year and a half ago. I wanted to go back and make some revisions. Having researched the bird more there were too many inaccuracies and I always love a chance to paint another unique falcon like Falco novaeseelandiae again. Thanks again for looking at birds with me.

 NZ redo strip
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Hawks of the World: Red Shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus.

Definitely one of my favorite birds to watch and paint. Found across eastern North America and along the California coast south into Mexico. Hunting from a perch and on the wing. They take a variety of prey, ranging from small mammals, birds, insects, snakes and occasionally fish.  Found in forested and open areas. Nests are built of branches in treetops at 35-50 feet up. They lay usually 3 eggs per clutch.

red shouldered hawks

RSHA map

Thanks a bunch for looking at birds with me. We covered this bird already here something like three years ago and I felt it was time to have another go at painting this bird as I’ve learned a lot since the last time. I’m glad I did, this was very fun to put together.

My Illinois

My Illinois has grown into a place it couldn’t be until I left it. I was too preoccupied with plotting my escape to truly sink into its beauty. That’s not to say I didn’t look for it before I left. In the plots of restored prairie around Kane county Illinois I found the greatest beauty, and came to fall in love with grasslands.
My first large paintings were of mountain ranges, rather cartoon like, they captured the image of where I was heading. I painted them on the walls of my room (to my mother’s delight).
That feeling when you’re driving in towards Denver from Nebraska. To put the grasslands and corn in your rearview mirror and the mountains right on ahead. I was making a break for it, running for my life, cool and calm doing 65mph on Highway 76.
Illinois out the basement window.

Illinois out the basement window.

 

It was to just be another summer job at a kids camp in Tahoe and then return. Though that wasn’t to be the case at all. Here I am 6 years later, I’m putting my eyes on the rearview mirror and revisiting some old familiar plants and animals. All the while sitting on a chair in California drawing birds.
milkweedsketch.jpg
I wanted to do a page called “Raptors of the Illinois Prairie”.  I chose the American Kestrel and Sharp-shinned Hawk. And after sketching a few old friends from the plots of Kane County. I went with one of my top three favorite plants, the Compass Plant. They stand a good 6-8 feet tall and their roots go almost twice as deep. Part of my love for the flowers they put out is tied to the roots they send so deep. Escaping the full wrath of the fires that recycled the prairie.
I will put a good many more hours into this drawing. To explore it further in pencil and pen, before coloring with watercolor.
prairieproject.jpg
I remember it well standing in the driveway saying goodbye to my Dad that May morning. The dogwood was blooming.  I was sad to leave home I told him. “Home is where ever you go” he told me. Those words put a smile on my face whenever my heart grows heavy.
He knew I wasn’t coming right back to Illinois before I did.