White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi). In my opinion the most beautiful seabird along the Atlantic coast of the
Special Tribute promotion to the COA (Connecticut Ornithologists Association- http://www.ctbirding.org/ ) COA is an all volunteer organization with the mission of promoting interest in Connecticut birds, and collecting, preparing, and disseminating the best available scientific information on the status of Connecticut birds and their habitat. While COA is not primarily an advocacy organization, they work actively to provide scientific information and to support other conservation organizations in the state. COA looks to the future and works closely with other conservation organizations to protect the state's birds.
Last years special raffle ((Fork-tailed Flycatcher) winner Buzz Devine looks at this years Tropicbird carving in the parking lot at the Avery Point UCONN campus after the CT Pelagic trip on Saturday, Feb. 4. Thank You to Tina Green for accepting the carving for COA and taking care of it until the event.
There was a Longtail nesting site crisis. To help offset this, Longtail nesting igloos were invented in 1997 as an emergency measure to provide alternative nesting sites. 35 Longtail igloos were introduced on
The single purplish-red speckled egg is laid in April and hatches in late May. The chick takes approximately 65 days to fledge and departs to sea on its own in late July or early August. Longtails do all of their feeding far out on the open ocean where they plunge dive for fish and squid like Gannets. During the winter months, the population disperses throughout the
The carving process. When the COA staff decided on this species for this year’s event, I was very pleased. I have been wanting to carve a White-tailed Tropicbird ever since I saw Greg’s report of the successfully rehabbed bird that was found in CT. delivered to us by Irene.
After I drew the pattern and selected the wood, it was time to cut the blank out on the band saw. For this decoy sculpture, I selected tupelo wood which is a very stable wood species found in the swamps from
…… it was time to cut the blank on the saw.
….. I always do a little bit of preliminary shape carving on the saw . Because the Tropicbird displays long central tail streamers, I considered different ways to reproduce them. I always like to use wood as much as possible over metal alternatives. I ended up cutting the long tail streamers from Atlantic White Holly wood. Holly is a very strong wood and is used most often as an ivory substitute on piano keys and chess sets. I built the long streamers from three separate lineal lengths of Holly, and glued each section together with epoxy and secured with inserted brass pins.
…..and then smooth out those cuts on a pneumatic bladder sander. The blank is now taking on the look of its naturally shaped body.
I carved the bird to its nearly completed stage and “penciled-in” the details to help project bird’s look and character.
The bird is carved completely including the carved bill and added eye rings which add the life-like expression.
Because I envisioned this bird to be displayed on a delicate carved base, I wanted to make sure the bird was light enough (by weight) to help with the balance of the sculpture when it is affixed to its base component. If the bird was too heavy, the bird would be out of balance and it wouldn’t sit correctly on the base and topple over. As with many decoys that I make, the bird was now hollowed out (like two bowls placed together rim to rim) from the bottom. Hollowing a decoy adds two very important features; lighter weight for floatability and wood longevity. Many wood species if left solid will split and crack in time, Although tupelo is very stable and will stand up through time without usual wood breakdown, weight was the feature I needed to address in this sculpture.
The decoy was hollowed out from the bottom of the carving using a drill press with Forstner’s bits and my usual carving tools to remove the excess. When the decoy was completely hollowed, the large hole in the bottom of the decoy needed to be plugged. I use thin wood for this inserting feature on he bottom of the decoy. I always try to use wood species from the bird’s geo locations. Since this species is known as a
The sculpture sealed with shellac and ready for primer.
Now that the bird is ready to be primed and sealed, I wanted to design and carve the base component to the bird carving. I wanted to project the feeling of the ocean with this sculpture so I added a very abstract wave shape to the base. I also wanted to have the bird slightly off balance giving the feeling of motion of a bird swimming on the waves of the sea. For the base components I selected two highly figured and beautiful
The bird is primed with multiple applications of flat white sign painters enamel.
Pre-painting- Since this bird is a pied plumaged species, I blocked in the black feathering with flat black enamel before I started the actual oil painting. This technique is called “Grisaille” or “blocking in” the colors, markings and patterns in black, white and grey before you begin the oil painting process.
The oil painting begins….. I first painted the tail and primaries highlighting the black edges of the anterior webbing of the primaries.
The tertials, secondaries and wing coverts were now painted…….
……followed by the soft blending of the scapulars, mantle and side pockets.
The head and bill were painted, and then I enhanced the softness of the white feathering by introducing soft glowing highlights of warm yellow ochre to the hind neck and chest of the decoy. The bird was now set aside to dry overnight.
With the paint now dry, I added a few details such as feather edges and feather splits to finish the carving.
The completed decoy…..
…..and softly illuminated by the glow of early morning on the beach.
The second half of the trip was spent cruising the state line back east to
All on board- a few of the CT Birders- a few names you might recognize
Jan Hollerbach (left) and Tina Green (left)-
Brendan Murtha- ( http://catchingthethermals.wordpress.com/ )......
.....and his Dad; Sean, an accomplished and gifted Wildlife Artist (http://seanmurthaart.com/)-
on the upper deck- (from l to r) Julian Hough, Nick Bonomo and Glenn Williams)-
Oh yes, I forgot; our host Phil Rusch-
Heading out of the Harbor. These three Red-breasted Mergansers pass by the distant Pequot Lighthouse on New London Point-
The famous "haunted" New London Ledge Light-
New London Point, Pequot Lighthouse-
The first birds to appear were Oldsquaw-
And the first Gannets appeared-
and a few Common Loons-
When we turned around an headed to the eastern end of the Sound, more Gannets-
with Race Rock Lighthouse in the background-
a handful of Gulls like this Greater Black-baked Gull flying over the vessel-
and more Oldsquaw-
....with Little Gull Island in the background.....
........and Latimer Reef Lighthouse-
.....and this drake Oldsquaw flying by two Razorbills-
A few Harbor Seals were seen on the trip-
......and a few Red-throated Loons-
Morgan Point Lighthouse-
These images were taken by Bill Asteriades. They were posted with his permission.
Flock of Dunlin on the Stonington Breakwater-
Common Eiders on the Stonington Breakwater-
And of course; the Razorbills-
Immature (left) and Adult (right)
Back in the Harbor- Kris Johnson (extreme left), (going right) Julian Hough, Patrick Comins, Max Comins (in front of Patrick), Mark Szantyr (with camera), Nick Bonomo (with Yale cap), Paul Wolter (center-right, green jacket black watch cap), Denise Jernigan (extreme right).
Disembarking the vessel-
Totals for the day-
We don't have an exact date for our next guide on the pterodromas, but
work is well underway - we have just seen a first draft of some of the
illustrations and they are superb! We are hoping to publish as soon as
possible - probably August/September...
Each species is described with comprehensive detail featuring every aspect of the species from anatomic descriptions, natural history, flight patterns and behavioral dynamics, plumages variations and descriptions, moult cycles, ranges, subspecies comparisons, confusing species comparisons and much more. Here is an example of what material is covered for our most common Storm-Petrel in the northeast; the Wilson's. Subspecies, Other Names, Conservation Staus, World Population, Atlantic Range, "Jizz" of the species, Size, Plumage aspects (including upperwing-covert bars, underwing-covert and auxillary panels, thigh patches), Flight Behaviors (traveling, foraging and collectiong), Structure (traveling flight, foraging and collecting flight), Descriptions (sat on sea, body build, bill shape and proportions, wing formula), Moult, and so much more.
As a professional avian artist/sculptor, I carve birds and have carved birds exclusively for nearly thirty-five years. The type of birds that I carve/sculpt range from the most simplistic form of decoy to the highly detailed realistic pieces which I compete with at the World Championship Competition each year. Simply, to compete at this level, the bird sculpted from wood must project realism down to every micro-detail; realism is the standard. These highly detailed pieces are carved to the standards and dimensions of the living bird; every detail must be acutely reproduced. You need to know every aspect and nuance of the bird "inside and out"-"forward and backward"!
The "thumbnail" stages to such a realistic sculpture include accurate measurements of the overall body structure, plumage markings and coloration (all factors considered), pterylography, feather anatomy and topography, moult, etc. But more important is the personality and behavioral traits of the subject species- the "jizz"! The perfectly reproduced sculpture will only be successful if the true character of the species is successfully assimilated into the piece. For me as an artist, this book/DVD's offer me every detail needed for me to realistically reproduce a species in wood: anatomy, measurements, topgraphy, structure, etc. But it also gives me the all those important species specific characteristics, behavior, life styles- the "jizz"!
This book/DVD set will paint a complete picture to each species for you. You will know every aspect of each Storm-Petrel species through the images, video footage and illustrations as well as the highly detailed, descriptive and articulated text.
Other planned volumes will include:
Besides the cover to cover complete species profiles, what makes this book (and series) such a monumental work is its broad appeal. Every seabird enthusiast from Ornithologists, Scientists, serious and casual birders, and those who like myself are passionate about seabirds and their marine environment will relish this book.
You can obtain your copy by clicking on the link above. It is a decision you will be glad that you made. Thank you to Bob Flood and Ashley Fisher for putting this book and the series together. We are anxious for the continuing books in this series. Well done!