Thursday in Bird World

I genuinely hope that the Bird World community does not have a fright like it did this morning when Gabby had not returned to relieve Samson of incubation duties for nearly 24 hours. Samson seemed nonplused by it all and maybe he knew where Gabby was. She has been known to disappear for a bit in the past but it seems unusual rip before pip. At any rate, all is well at the NEFlorida Bald Eagle nest outside of Jacksonville, Florida.

A video has been posted of an intruder chase at the NEFlorida Bald Eagle nest around the time that Gabby returned to the nest at 11:53. It would, thus, appear, as I thought, that her absence was based on a territorial issue rather than one of her ‘disappearing’.

B15 hatched this morning at 07:57 at Berry College. Everyone thought Missy might not ‘know to feed it’. She was up eating and looked over several times to see if its head was up and beak open. She knows what to do! Like the KNF eaglet, this little one is pooped from hatching.

B15 is a real little cutie! It looks very strong.

I sure wish Missey had gotten rid of those egg shells when B15 hatched. You will note that one has slipped over the end of the second egg. Hopefully this will not cause B16 trouble when hatching!

B15 looks so tiny compared to Harriet and Mitch’s eaglets at the Hilton Head Island Trust Bald Eagle Nest. Their feathers are starting to come in. Poor things. They are always preening and we think that they must be itchy.

I think this is a new take on ‘Sleeping with the Fishes’. Ron has been keeping the nest full of fish for Rita and the babies. He can often be seen feeding the little ones himself. They are doing nicely and this human-made nest seems to be working out well. Perhaps this design will be needed in areas that lose trees in big storms or fires.

The two of them are adorable. They scoot around all over the nest.

Bingo! Anna and the baby finally got feeding worked out. The little eaglet is going to have a nice crop. Louis is already beginning to fill the nest up with big fish.

I love seeing Louis and Anna on the nest. Look at that nice Pike that Louis brought in for lunch! And there is the little one with its crop holding its head up pretty good. It was so full it just fell over into food coma.

Louis has brought in more fish! No shortage of things for the family to eat. Louis is one of the most enthusiastic fisher-dads I have ever seen.

Anna and the yet to be named baby eaglet have figured all of this out! Just look there is a little tail!

This eaglet is seriously cute. The Rangers are looking for a name. Anyone can send in a suggestion. It should be gender neutral. Send name in an e-mail to: nameknfeagle@gmail.com Send it by 30 January.

You can see the tail and the strong wings below. Oh, adorable. This eaglet is going to be like Kisatchie – there were days you would think s/he was going to pop they had been fed so much. Anna is the kind of Mum that wants you to ‘take just one more bite, pleaseeeee’.

Just doing a quick check on the Port Lincoln Lads. Ervie was, of course, on the nest last night and Mum brought him a fish before bedtime. There are fewer and fewer fish deliveries indicating that the parents want all the boys to be out fishing themselves.

At 07:33:57, someone did, however, deliver Ervie a nice big chunk of fish!

Ervie has the fish.

That fish is under his talents but he is still mantling and flapping and prey calling. Just eat and enjoy it, Ervie.

An hour later Ervie is still eating his fish. His ‘gas tank’ is full!

I have been thinking about Ervie a lot. I have to tell a story to make my point. Years ago we had a black and white cat called Melvin. It was a time when cats could be outside where I live. Melvin loved nothing more than to roll in the dirt! He was always dusty. One day, when he was 2 years old, he disappeared. We looked and called but, nothing. Four days later Melvin was at the door crying to get in. We noticed some strange marks on his paws. It looked like thin wire had worn the fur off and there were a couple of holes. Had he gotten caught in a barbed wire fence? The result of his misadventure was real trauma. Melvin hid in the bedroom and walk-in closet. He rarely came out into the other areas of the house. When we had our cat sitter, Heather, she would take a flashlight to check he was OK under the bed and put his food there. Over the decade she helped us, she never actually saw Melvin, not once, just his eyes. Melvin lived 15 years in hiding, more or less. He would come out with us but no one else. While we will never know what happened to him, that event changed his life. This brings me to Ervie. If you remember, Ervie was the one going everywhere and being independent. It was Bazza on the nest. Then Ervie was away flying south of Port Lincoln. He has not left the nest since except to chase Falky. His behaviour has changed dramatically. Did he try to catch a fish and couldn’t get out of the water easily? We will never know what he experienced. I hope to goodness I am wrong about something traumatic happening to Ervie. He is clearly the dominant bird but why isn’t he out exploring?

The Audubon Society has announced today that the Migratory Bird Act has been brought back and will be strengthened in the US. Here is that information.

And, last but never least, the Kakapo Recovery. Today’s report on the breeding attempts and eggs. This is great news coming out of New Zealand.

It’s an exciting time full of ups and downs. We are on pip watch for Captiva and NEFlorida and with two recent hatches at Berry and KNF – well, it is difficult to keep track of all of them! I am really pleased at Anna and the eaglet getting the feedings worked out. It is all good down in Louisiana. I look forward to tomorrow. Think about a name for this cute eaglet and send it off!

Take care everyone. Thank you for joining me today. Take care.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams or FB pages where I took my screen captures: KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Berry College, Kakapo Recovery, Port Lincoln Ospreys, WRDC Bald Eagle Nest, and Hilton Head Island Trust.

Where was Gabby?

My goodness! Everyone got a real scare this morning.

Gabrielle, Gabby, and Samson are getting ready for their two eggs in The Hamlet Bald Eagle nest, near Jacksonville, Florida, to pip. In the 2020-21 season they raised Legacy and in the 2019-20 season they raised Jules and Romey, named after Samson’s parents who had this nest first, Romeo and Juliet.

Gabby flew off the nest for a break yesterday at 12:30pm and was not been seen for nearly 24 hours. Samson has been on the nest incubating the eggs waiting for Gabby to return.

The trees surrounding the nest were examined and wildlife rehabbers within a 2 miles radius were called to see if a mature female Bald Eagle is in care. Nothing.

I began to dread that this was a repeat of Romeo and Juliet’s history on this nest. Juliet was injured (or killed). Romeo tried to take care of the nest to have a female intruder remove and kill the hatched eaglet. He subsequently left the nest. Samson, their son, hatched on 23 December 2013 took over the nest in 2019.

Well, we will never know where Gabby was but, she has returned to the nest!!!!!!! I kept looking at the eagle on the nest and saying to myself, ‘This sure looks like Gabby’. The American Eagle Foundation just announced her return. My heart skipped three beats.

There have been intruders. Samson is alarming.

Gabby is on the right and Samson is on alert. Neither parent is on the eggs. Protecting their territory is more important than the eggs.

Gabby back on the two eggs.

Gabby is very nervous. The wind is blowing and she is being ever vigilant. The other rule amongst eagles is that if it is a male intruder, the male chases it. If it is a female intruder, the female goes after the interloper. I hope whatever is concerning Samson and Gabby leaves!!!!!!!!

This is the link to their camera.

Please send out your warm positive thoughts to Gabby and Samson as they enter the pip stage. We do not want a repeat of Samson’s parent’s tragedy to happen to this wonderful Bald Eagle couple!

Just some quick news. Berry College has its first hatch.

Anna and the little one at the KNF Bald Eagle nest are still figuring out feeding and eating. It is a repeat of Kisatchie last year! Made me incredibly nervous. They figured it out so fingers crossed again.

I will return with more Bird World News in the early evening. Waking up to see Gabby had been missing so long took the air out of my sails.

Thank you so much for joining me. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the NEFlorida Bald Eagle Cam and the AEF for their streaming cam where I took these screen captures.

Wednesday in Bird World

Oh, gosh, golly. Just when you think the day is going to be quiet, Missy at the Berry College Bald Eagle Nest in Mt Berry, Georgia, has a pip. The announcement of the pip was posted on FB this morning.

I just took this image a few minutes ago. The chick is making good progress! That is not a video. That arrow just shows up when you try to take a screen shot on their camera.

Speaking of cameras, Berry College has three – an approach one, one above the nest, and one closer to the nest. If you want to see thee action on hatch, I think the camera closer to the nest is the best. Their cameras are not on YouTube.

https://www.berry.edu/eaglecam/nest2

What spells Bald Eagle Fluff Ball better than cute? Be prepared to melt. Anna and Louis’s 15-hour-old chick is adorable.

Oh, the fluff balls grow too quick and get pin feathers in a blink. Soak them in when they are like this. So precious.

Bald Eagle parents work on instinct. There isn’t a manual on eagle parenting tucked under the nest. This is only Anna’s second chick. Last year I almost had a sore throat yelling at Anna to get closer to Kisatchie to feed him and for Kisatchie to turn around, face Mum (or Dad, Louis feeds his babies), and open that beak wide. Anna and this little one are struggling too. The little one is ready to eat and opens its beak wide and tries the grass in the nest! It has its back to Anna who is trying to feed it. She gets closer and the little one takes its first bite. This will only improve as Anna remembers and the little one figures out its part in the feeding-eating process.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinics work on donations and the sweat, tears, and love of volunteers. Our local clinic, Wildlife Haven, put out a call for donations to help a Snowy Owl in December. Today they were joyful in sending out a short video on its release. So happy to have been a small part of this success story!

There is currently no pip at the Captiva Bald Eagle nest. Waiting for Friday!

There is also no Daisy the Duck on the Sea Eagles nest in Sydney and that is a good thing!

Down at the Port Lincoln Osprey barge, Ervie is on the nest crying for a fish delivery. Twice now he has flown off the nest as if he saw an adult with a fish. He returned quickly the first time. Let’s see if he comes back with a fish the second time. No, empty taloned!

In Durbe, Milda and Mr L have returned to the nest to move around some sticks. There is still lots of snow in Latvia, just like Manitoba! I am really looking forward to Milda laying eggs and having a successful fledge of chick or chicks this spring. That would be so wonderful. Losing her long term mate, Raimis, last spring just sparked more and more sadness.

Just like Milda and Mr L, Annie and Grinnell are hanging out on The Campanile. Their scrape box is ready and waiting for those precious eggs in a couple of months. Cal Falcons posted this on their Twitter site today. So happy it will be Annie and Grinnell. The interloper has not been seen for a month! Yeah!!!!!!!

Annie is still there several hours later. Can you see her by the camera, perched on the pipe?

For other baby eaglets, it looks like it is fish dinners in Miami-Dade County and over in Fort Myers. R2 and R3 really seem to enjoy the fresh fish that Dad brings in. There have been several other varieties of prey items including a parrot and a coot. Did you know that Bald Eagles fish in both fresh and salt water?

E19 and E20 are also having fish. It is so hard to tell them apart. There is a white line under the cere of one of them but E20 does not seem to be that much different in size from its older sibling, E20. It is difficult to tell who is who sometimes. I ‘think’ it is E19 at the bottom of the screen and E20 in the middle.

Oh, tomorrow, the chick at Berry College will have fully hatched, the little one at the KNF nest will be stronger with its eyes more focused, and then there should be a pip coming at Captiva. Goodness.

There has been more snow on and off all day on the Canadian Prairies. There were 57 European Starlings in the Lilac Bushes and back trees this morning. They are still here. The feeders were filled twice. It is now 16:08 and it will not be long til every bird goes off to roost. It is normally dark here by 16:45. It is now 16:25 and all the birds are gone. It is absolutely still in the garden as new snow falls.

Thank you for joining me today. Please take care. See you soon.

A big thank you to the following for their streaming cams, Twitter, or FB pages where I took my screen captures: KNF Bald Eagle Nest, Port Lincoln Osprey Project, Berry College Eagles, Cal Falcons, Sea Eagles@Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre Sydney Olympic Park, WRDC Bald Eagle Nest, SWFlorida and D Pritchett Bald Eagle Nest, Wildlife Haven, Bald Eagles Live Nest Cam News, and the Latvian Fund for Nature.

The First Egg for the Collins Street Falcons

Oh, my goodness. The male at the Collins Street Peregrine Falcon nest is nothing short of adorable. I spent all last year wanting to scoop up this stealth fighter in my arms and cuddle with him. Or dreaming of a Peregrine Falcon onsie. Wouldn’t that be cute on a toddler?

The first egg of the 2021 season has been laid on 21 August. Wow. It is eggciting.

You might be asking why the female is not incubating that egg. The female will not start incubating the eggs until the last one is laid. This is because the adults want the nestlings to be about the same size for the first fortnight so that there is no rivalry over food. Last year, the three big girls all hatched within a 24 hour period. There was never any sibling rivalry – that is what I love about falcons and kestrels. Once the last egg is hatched, they will be incubated for 32-40 days.

Mom looks so proud of herself!

These are some images from last year:

Mom brooding the triplets.

Dad feeding the girls when they are a little older – before they lose all that fluffy white down.

This year Mirvac, the property owners, are in charge of the streaming cams of the Victorian Falcon Project. You can watch these falcons from the very beginning.

Telyn at the Dyfi Nest, Wales. 20 August 2021

Some more great news. The Season of the Osprey will premier on PBS October 27 at 8pm! Please check your local stations for the exact time in your area. This is what they are saying about this documentary:

“Birds of prey exist in myriad shapes and sizes. Scores of eagles, hundreds of hawks and countless kites and falcons have all adapted form and behavior to fit diverse habitats. But in all the world, there is only one osprey. Following a single evolutionary path, it has conquered every continent save Antarctica. One bird, one design, unchanged. It is the only truly aquatic raptor, the sole member of its own taxonomic family. This one-hour, blue-chip special brings viewers into the life to this incredible raptor with a depth and intimacy never before attempted. Shot in and around Great Island Marsh, where the Connecticut River meets the Long Island Sound, cameraman Jacob Steinberg has achieved unlimited access to an osprey nest and captured the struggles, failures and triumphs of a single osprey family.”

Oh, I can’t wait!

I am afraid that I am having Malin withdrawal. A week or more ago I took a few video clips of Malin being fed by Marsha. I would like to share one of those with you now.

And another one of Malin exercising his wings.

It is so much easier when you know that the little one fledged, returned to the nest for food for 36 days or so, and then flew off to find their life. There is a level of anxiety when it doesn’t happen that way. I sure miss that little one. I have not, as yet, received any images of the two Osprey chicks found or any other news. I am hoping for tomorrow or Monday. It is a busy time of year for the wildlife rehabbers.

Two of the storklings have fledged at the nest of Grafs and Grafiene near Siguldas – the youngest was first and then the oldest yesterday. Only the middle remains. All have returned to the nest safely. The one that had its wing up against the far branch seems to be alright as well. That is good news. I have heard of no feedings since Grafs came in with some very small fish for the trio on 19 August. That means that if the storklings did not find the feeder – the two that fledged – they have had little food but nothing for two days. This is critical. There is concern that Grafs has left for his migration — it was the very initial concern. I want to remain hopeful.

Jan has fed his storklings but the meal was only tiny fish or worms. Urmas has not brought any more fish to the nest. Since he has fed them once and they accepted the fish, I hope that Urmas will do this again (he also left fish when he banded them and put on the trackers). It is not clear whether the anxiety of starvation is worse than having a human bring food to the nest.

These are very difficult times for everyone but they are especially difficult circumstances for these six starving Black Storks – rare Black Storks!

At the Black Stork Nest in the Karula Forest in Estonia, Karl II was still in the nest area. His transmitter told us. The two early fledges, Tuul and Udu, headed the wrong direction due to weather concerns and then turned south. Pikne travelled south from the beginning. New tracker information should be coming in soon. Safe travels all of you!

Oh, this youngster can really scream for food on the Loch of the Lowes nest. What a beauty. This is another good example of a ‘normal’ fledge. The chicks return to the nest to be fed and fattened up for migration.

I really want to put a plug in for the administration of the lochs in Scotland. No one is allowed on those lakes from April to the end of September so that humans do not disturb the birds. It means that motor boats with their leaking fuel are not chasing the Ospreys and making the water toxic. Gosh, I hope that only human powered boats are allowed. What a great idea – leave the lakes to the birds during breeding season. Three cheers for Scotland! This could well be the case throughout England and Wales also. I will try and find out.

And look what is on the Foulshaw Moss Nest. It is a flounder for the lucky chick that makes it to the nest first. Tiny Little!!!!!!!!! Where are you Tiny Little?

It’s a few minutes later and I missed that lucky fledgling that snagged that flounder! It’s gone. That leads me to believe that it was probably Blue 464, the male, the first to fledge. He likes to take the fish and eat it on the branch of the parent tree.

Thank you so much for joining me. I hope that you are looking forward to those falcons hatching as much as I am. Take care. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots and video clips: Scottish Wildlife Trust and Friends of Loch of the Lowes, Mirvac Corporation and the Collins Street Falcon Cam, The Cumbrian Wildlife Trust and the Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest, The Eagle Club of Estonia, The Latvian Club for Nature, Collins Marsh Nature Centre, and The Dyfi Osprey Project.

‘Nest Stand Off?’

Daisy the Black Pacific Duck

The continuing saga of Daisy the Black Pacific Duck and Dad the White-Bellied Sea Eagle played out over the early morning and afternoon of 12 January. Dad stayed near the nest during the night keeping watch from a branch on the cam tree when he was not snoozing.

WBSE called ‘Dad’ slept on the branch of the cam tree
Dawn is Breaking and Dad is still guarding his nest

At 5:25, Dad was on guard trying to catch the bird that was using his nest. Daisy appears at 5:27. They must have just missed one another! She checks out the nest, does some quacking, and goes up what is known as the parent branch on the WBSE nest. At 5:40:17, Daisy flies from the branch into the forest. At the same moment, Dad returns to the nest. My goodness, this little duck is awfully lucky or she has the best intuition about the forest alerts!

Daisy arrives at the nest to check things out. She might be able to sense the WBSE was there.
Daisy was alerted to the arrival of the WBSE. She is quacking and has climbed to the fork in the branch where she will depart.

According to all the people who have observed this nest over the years, no other bird has ever made a nest within the wide WBSE nest and laid eggs. Plenty of small birds come to visit, including an owl, but none have ever attempted to use it.

Within a blink of Daisy departing, Dad arrives back on the scene!

Today, Dad is hungry and he works harder to grab one of the eggs with his beak and then his talon.

Dad rummages through the nest, tossing the fluffy down. He sets his eye on one of the eggs. Tapping it with his beak, he makes a tiny dent. Working with a talon, Dad is successful in removing the egg from the nest cup. After eating the contents, Dad is very careful to clean up the shells dumping them over the side. Does he not want the owner of the nest alerted to his tampering? Daisy now has 5 eggs left in her clutch.

Dad enjoying a Duck Egg Breakfast at 5:54

Dad departs the nest at 6:08. Meanwhile, Daisy is keeping close watch from the forest. She returns to the rim of the nest when she is absolutely sure that Dad is down at the Parramatta River and might not disturb her for awhile. She watches and listens from the rim of the nest over the forest. She is so alert. She raises her head many times just to check on the sounds. You can hear the Currawong in the background. Often they chase the WBSE. Then there are the Noisy Miners. Lorikeets can be heard in the distance. Daisy is alert to each and every sound! When she feels a little safer, she moves closer to the eggs. But, interestingly, she never goes near the nest. She remains ‘frozen’, not moving or making a sound for more than an hour.

Daisy moves towards the middle of the nest from the rim where she remains frozen, not making a sound.

Daisy is very quiet so as not to draw any attention to her movements. She has waited as long as she can to lay her seventh egg. At 9:07 she sits in the nest. At 9:32:28, Daisy lays her egg.

Daisy laying her egg

During her labour, Daisy rotates in the nest, enlarging it with her paddle feet. At the same time she is breathing a little heavier and her tail is moving up and down slightly as she gently arches her back, at times.

On all other previous days, Daisy had stayed on the nest for about an hour to an hour and a half after laying her egg, leaving to go and forage at the river. Today, Daisy does not leave. It appears that she is in hard incubation.

It is nearing 2:30 in the afternoon Sydney time. Daisy remains on her eggs. Only time will tell what Dad will do if and when he returns. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Daisy has been incubating the eggs for seven hours now. It is 26 degrees C in Sydney and hotter in the sun on the nest. Daisy is panting from the heat. So far, no sign of the WBSEs.

Daisy incubating her eggs, mid Tuesday afternoon, 12 January, Sydney time

At 4:30, Daisy covers the eggs and flies from the nest.

The suspense is killing me! Back tomorrow with the latest.

If you delete a word, what happens?

A friend of mine, a fellow lover of birds, books, and words, suggested a couple of new blogs and a book, The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. The credentials of both are exemplary. Macfarlane is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has written other books including The Lost Spells, Underland, Landmarks, The Old Ways, and The Wild Places. Besides being a collector of words, Macfarlane is the father of three young children and is an avid mountain climber. Jackie Morris lives in a cottage near to the woods in Pembrokshire, Wales. She studied at the Hereford College of Arts and at the Bath academy. Morris is the author of more than forty children’s books including some British classics that you might know, The Snow Leopard, The Ice Bear, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Tell Me a Dragon and The Wild Swans. Both have won awards for their writing with Morris receiving honours for both illustration and writing. The illustrations that she has done both for her blog and for The Lost Words makes me wonder why book illustration – analog versus digital – isn’t taught in schools of art?

The Lost Words is a large format book, roughly 30 cm wide x 45 cm high. It is also a book about a ‘big’ or important topic. Written in 2017, the book chronicles some of the lost words. You might be sitting there wondering how society could lose a word. You might even be bewildered by the title of the book? I mean, what does it mean? and why should anyone care if a word is lost?

Do you own a dictionary? Maybe you have several in your bookcase. Or maybe you use the dictionary belonging to your word processing programme to vary the language that you use when you are writing. Do you ever wonder how words get into a dictionary? Have you ever heard about the new words for a specific year?

If you were to Google the Oxford English Dictionary’s new words entries (words that appear for the very first time) for January 2020, you would find the following as part of a number of words under the letter ‘A’: assault rifle, assault weapon, awedde, awe-inspiring, awel, awesomesauce, awfulize, and awfy. You might actually wonder why some of those words were not in the dictionary earlier. Well, it depends, apparently, on how many people use the words in print material. That includes books, magazines, music, songs, and DIY manuals. If new words are added because they are used so often in contemporary writing, what happens to words that are not used so often? And what do the added words say about us as a society? And what comment on contemporary society do the deleted words make?

The Lost Words is about words that have vanished from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. In other words, if your child picks up this dictionary from the shelf or accesses it on line, there are specific words that will not be there. You may be wondering why I am working myself up into such a lather. Well, it is because the words that have disappeared are about nature. The authors tell us that “the words disappeared so quietly that no one hardly noticed.” The parallel that I immediately drew in my mind was that not only is the word ‘wren’ disappearing from the language of and for children but the wrens themselves are also becoming endangered, becoming capable of being invisible. With birds dropping dead, falling from the skies all across the parts of the United States in 2020, will real wrens become like the word ‘wren’? Let us hope not. If anything was learned during the SARS-Covid 19 pandemic, it was that we need to protect non-humans and allow nature to recover from all the harm that humans have done.

The book is intended as an antidote, an aid, or as the authors specifically state, “a spell to conjure up” these words again so that children will know what they are. I might add that it is also so adults will know the words and be able to relate their importance to children. The first word is ‘acorn’. If you close your eyes, what do you think about when you hear the word, ‘acorn’? Have you ever seen one? Have you seen a squirrel gather acorns? Even though it has been decades since I was there, I still remember the scent of the oak trees on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in the fall after a rain. Another word was ‘heather’ and I simply blinked fast. Heather? really? are they joking? During my time in England, I spent some time hiking over the moors laden with heather. How could the word disappear? Do children really not go for walks through these beautiful purple headed flowers today? Many words just left me gasping to try and figure out who it was that precisely deleted these words? Did any human actually look at the list? Conkers. My son gathered up an entire pail of conkers. The lads and lasses would drill holds in them in order to play a game thrashing them one at another to see who won. I have in my desk drawer conkers from England and from Denmark. Rub them. They bring you luck and protect you. ‘Fern’ not a woman’s name but a plant sometimes grown inside but when outside often favours cool, moist, dark places. Each and every word from acorn, dandelion, heron, kingfisher, magpie, raven, starling, willow and all the other words in between, are about our relationship with nature. Are humans becoming more separated from nature at a time when both the health of ourselves and our planet need to find a balance in order to survive?

The answer to that question might lie in some of the words that took the place of those lost, from acorn to willow. The new entires were blog, broadband, cute-and-paste, bullet point, and voice-mail. Look closely. Each of those is related to the digital world – to the inside, not the outside. Sadly, they speak to the reality of people who pave their gardens with stone and brick so they do not have to do ‘yard’ work, to the disappearance of family time and outings for everyone sitting at their own digital device be it a phone, a tablet, or a laptop. Remember that the book was written in 2017. It is now the beginning of 2021 after a year that has forced people to work from home, to take their classes on line, the year of the pandemic when we missed the simple act of touching.

Perhaps, like the authors, we can wage a battle to recover the vanquished words. In 2020 more people watched bird cams than at any other time in the history of recording the daily lives of birds raising their young. Many became empathetic with the birds, from the small fruit eaters of Panama to the largest sea birds of Australia, the White Bellied Sea Eagle. People donated to wildlife charities and rehab centres. Maybe by taking children for walks and teaching them to be kind to non-humans, to be respectful, we can begin to heal as a society after such a dire year. And in doing so, perhaps we can also raise the awareness of the editors of The Oxford Junior Dictionary of nature’s importance to our own survival.

Hospitalfield, Day 9 The Colours in the walls, on the trees, and in our heads

Painters must just go mad once they begin to look at the colour in their kit and then, every time they turn they must see shades in the most unexpected places.  For the past couple of days besides being so influenced by the house and the sea, the natural environment that surrounds this great house is full of incredible surprises.  Like looking at a grey and black wall and suddenly noticing a tiny square of yellow.

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Or the moss (or is it lichens?) growing on the cast iron stairs at the back of the building?

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Or the range of earth colours in the bricks?  Why am I so surprised by this?  Because in Canada everything is monotone when you look at the bricks from a distance.  Here, it is very much different.  And it makes you stop and notice.

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And sometimes the face of a brick just falls off…

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And then there are the mushrooms…

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All of these have permeated my work, and it has been grand to create layers and layers of slip trying to capture what only Mother Nature does best.

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So all of the images above, really have put into motion a real change in my work!  It is like crossing over to a totally new experience.

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And speaking about colour, I promised to write to you about the impact of bitumen.  Bitumen is nothing more than asphalt, a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing.  Some of us call it tar.  In the 19th century, artists were trying to get the blackest black they could get, so they added bitumen to their paint.  At the time it certainly gave them what they worked so hard to achieve, but today, the bitumen is darkening the pictures to the point that most of the figures have been obliterated.  This can really be seen in the work below by Robert Scott Lauder titled, The Trial of Effie Deans.  Lauder lived from 1803-1869 and was a member of the Scottish Royal Academy.  He was a personal friend of Patrick Allan-Fraser, the owner of this house.  Effie Deans is one of the characters in Walter Scott’s novel, The Heart of Midlothian. There is a story that all historical painters in Scotland took their subjects from Walter Scott’s novels where those in England use Shakespeare.  I cannot vouch for the truth of this, but this house is undoubtedly filled with themes from Scott’s books.  Sometimes the name is Jeanie.  She was the first female protagonist of Scott’s to come from the very lower classes.  The book is set about the Old Tolbooth Prison, and the events of the Porteus Riots form the underlying backdrop.

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There are apparently figures that have entirely disappeared from the middle and the far right.

We have the co-curator from the Dundee Art Gallery coming to visit us this evening.  Peter is planning to check out our studios and have a chat.

I want to congratulate Allan Whyte from Glasgow who shares my studio.  Allan just received word that his application for a residency in Berlin was successful.  He will be spending three months in one of the great creative venues, ZK/U.  Everyone is delighted.