One of the many duties that has been filling my time has been holiday shopping. It seems that every year, while on that quest for a perfect gift for someone else, I come across something that I just have to have myself. Well this year I treated myself to a print by Chicago area artist and fellow bird nut, Diana Sudyka. I first came across Diana's work while admiring that of husband's, Jay Ryan. Below is a copy of the print that I purchased for myself.
I'm a huge fan of illustration, including comic books. Diana's illustrations bring together elements of a lot of my favorite things: nature, art, science, music, and whimsy. Her work reminds me of a mix between the stylized drawings of John James Audubon and Edward Gorey.
You can see a lot of her bird artwork as well as anecdotes about working with the skins collection at the field museum at her blog, The Tiny Aviary. Gig posters can be found here.
Below are some of my other favorites by Diana.
This is what it looks like right now outside of the window next to my desk. Lots of snow and not much else. School has been canceled and people are staying home today to enjoy this beautiful spectacle. So far we've got 7" on the ground with 3-5" more before the end of the afternoon.
My daughters have already spent the entire morning exploring the snow-covered backyard with our dog. I'm sure my wife will have them all warmed up and well rested by the time I get home. I expect we'll do some sledding tonight at the local hill and maybe after bedtime I'll have a chance to suit up and go skiing. I think we will all sleep well tonight after a full day of fun in the snow.
The real efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure.
-Henry David Thoreau
This is a Three-fingered Sloth. What can I say about sloths other than they are such cool and bizarre creatures. Sloths are also a favorite food of the Harpy Eagle, the national bird of Panama.
This is a Jesus Christ Lizard, named as such because it escapes predators by running across water on its hind legs.
A Spotted Sandpiper in winter plumage.
We had spent a day in the Darien Jungle with the indigenous people of the Embera village. Here is a picture of a group of children enjoying close-up views of a Night Monkey through my scope.
Night Monkeys (also called owl monkeys) are a nocturnal species. If I recall correctly, the night monkey is the only nocturnal species of monkey.
The list of those species seen but not photographed is too long to post, especially when we get to the bird species.
As I look back on our trip, I am continually amazed at both the diversity and abundance of life present in such a small geographical area. Having said that, both Panama and Costa Rica face continual pressure for development of land for housing, industry, and agriculture. A bright spot here is that both countries have recognized the value of eco-tourism to their economies and have protected large tracts of land to try and insure its future. My hope and belief is that their reverence for wild things will continue to keep in check the tempting desire for wealth easily obtained by exploiting the land. I highly encourage you to help keep these places wild by visiting and supporting the eco-tourism industry in Central America. It's worth it!
Above are images (courtesy of Jeff Bouton) of the Rosy Finches at Sandia Crest, NM. Upon landing in Albuquerque we made a beeline there to try and see all three species. The light was beginning to fade as we worked our way up to the peak. We managed to get there just in time to see all three species perching atop a Spruce tree and then fly off, not to be seen again for the day.
Here I am, peaking over the railing at Sandia Crest, hoping the Rosies will return for a closer look and maybe a chance to photograph them.
It was a great trip to New Mexico and the Bosque del Apache NWR. We saw many species of birds and took in some breathtaking scenery in the process. I came home from New Mexico with the addition of 7 new birds to my North American species count, bringing the new total to 582. These numbers and lists, however, are always secondary to the wonderful experience that birding provides. At the end of the day, it's about time spent outdoors in relatively wild places. I consider myself fortunate to be there, new birds or not.