Wednesday, 1 February 2012

For the birds

"For the birds" is an expression that usually means something is worthless. The expression is thought to originate from before the automotive age in New York city when horse drawn carriages were used for transportation and the horses left behind their "calling cards" in the streets. The horse droppings, or the undigested oats in them, attracted a large population of sparrows. So saying that something is "for the birds" is not a compliment although the birds seemed happy to have it.

When I said the expression "usually" means something is worthless, I did so because I intend no such slur against birds here today. To me watching birds is a joy and definitely not useless or worthless. 

The weather lately has not been pleasant, a lot of rain and wind and some snow. So on a rare sunny afternoon I eagerly grabbed my camera and headed out.

The birds were taking advantage of the day. There were about a dozen Robins, like the one above, feasting on red berries. These are North American Robins, which much bigger than their European cousins. The North American Robin belongs to the thrush family.

At first they watched me and then went back to the berries.

When I hear the saying "The early bird catches the worm" I always think of the Robin. This phrase is first recorded in John Ray's "A Collection of English Proverbs" (17th C) as "The early bird catcheth the worm" and is generally thought to mean that those who prepare well will be rewarded with success.

I continued my walk into the park. When I got to pond, it was partially covered in ice, but the ducks had managed to keep some open water. This pair of Mallards came over to see if I had anything good to offer and were disappointed when I didn't. There is a sign asking people not to feed the birds.

There was quite a commotion over the other side of the pond, and it seemed that there was a group "bird bath" happening. It was not just a couple of flaps it went on for over 10 minutes and was quite entertaining to watch. Apparently it was "spa day" at the pond.

Afterwards there was a lot of preening and feather arranging and I found this downy feather nearby.

I noticed this pair of Crows on the beach, I think this is the same pair that I have seen preening each other. They were standing a couple of feet apart and I asked them to get a little cozier so I could get a better "couple shot" and to my astonishment they almost immediately moved closer together and gave me the "is this OK now look". You might notice a bit of snow/frost in places on the beach too.

Here is the last of the "birds" for today, a short video titled "Pigeons - short animation cartoon":

On another topic, and nothing to do with birds, I would like to tell you about a fantastic play that we attended recently. "Duet for One" by Tom Kempinski is about the interaction between a violinist who has become unable to play after contracting MS and a psychiatrist.  The action takes place during a series of appointments in the psychiatrist's home office as the tangled emotions of the violinist are explored.  The dialogue between the two is powerfully compelling and the acting first rate.  It is part of the United Players current season at the Jericho Arts Centre until February 12, 2012 and is well worth seeing.

Lastly, I am taking a painting course, this one on "pouring watercolour". In this technique we prepare small containers of each of the primary colours and pour them onto our paper and use various techniques to move the colours around (using fingers, brush and blowing) then allow paint to dry. The pour below was for a picture of grapes.

Using the colours and shapes from the pour, here is the finished picture:

The next project is poured and will be a painting of poppies soon, I hope. The blank areas were masked and will become the foreground poppies, the poured areas will be the background. Please excuse the ugly green tape, it just holds the paper to my painting board and produces a clean border when removed.

This great course is taught by Leslie Redhead. Here is the link to her website: Leslie Redhead Watercolours

Thanks for your visit today, until next week, Happy Whimsy Wednesday.