I found an incredible photo of this bird in exactly this pose. Can you imagine the luck of the photographer to capture it at the precise moment the bird came down? Can you imagine the difficulty of trying to capture the photo in wood? The photo gave me a precise opportunity to duplicate the feathers in their exact positions and numbers. The bird has captured a Desert Spiny Lizard trying to blend into the cottonwood bark base…but not well enough as this story is told.
These are next to the smallest of the falcons. I wanted to do an open winged active bird to give a sense of motion and action. I wanted the viewer to ask whether the male, which is smaller, is taking off or landing. The larger female is at rest but interested in what is happening. The mesquite base wrapped by an interestingly wrapped vine upon which both sit adds more motion and interest to the setting. This was a hard creation to carve and get right to capture a short moment in time that comes and then is gone.
This was a project carved with famed wildfowl carver Glenn McMurdo. The Least Bittern is a small, secretive heron, rarely seen as it moves through the pond vegetation. When it senses trouble it freezes in place, often pointing its head upward to blend in with the vegetation. This guy is relaxed but careful as it eyes a possible threat, ready to disappear into the pond cattails, cane and sticks. I wanted the viewer to feel like they were lucky to catch a short glimpse of the Keeper of the Marsh.
Most of the time we only see these large hawks soaring high in the sky and we don’t get to see the distinctive coloration of the bird. I wanted to place the bird in an alert and inquisitive position ready to take flight and soar. There are a lot of color varieties of this hawk but the distinctive red tail of the bird gives it the name. This was a monstrous project because of the size of the bird, difficulty of the carving trying to capture the alertness of the bird by a slightly turned head. I wanted the viewer to recognize the readiness and the alertness leaving them with the sense that at any moment the bird could take off.
A male collared lizard lets the world know when he is “flashing for a mate”. The color stands out and captures the eye. Yes, they really are this blue when looking for a female!
I saw this little guy one morning sitting on a barbed wire fence. He looked so happy and full of himself, singing away! All I did was to add a lady that he could sing to!
Goldfinches love thistle type seeds and you can see them in the flower fields of sunflowers and coreopsis flowers. I wanted to capture a male and female pair enjoying their meal. I wanted the flowers to complement the coloration of the birds and to convey a sense that the viewer is privy to a private moment with these small, colorful birds enjoying a favorite meal.
It is cold and blustery out for this smallest of the falcons sitting on a fence post trying to catch the warmth of the sun’s rays. The wind is blowing his feathers which are in somewhat disarray. I actually saw a bird in this exact pose as I took a cold morning walk several years ago. It was not comfortable for me and I wanted the viewer to get the sense that it was not comfortable for the bird either as he sat upon the post and put up with the wind and cold hoping for the sun to warm and the winds to die down.
This scaled down (1/4 size) of our national bird perches on a granite outcropping. The bird is alert, standing in a pose that gives the viewer a sense that the bird could take flight at any moment. The turn of the head and the stare directed at the viewer lets you know you are seen, you are being evaluated, and some action is about to happen. These are large dramatic and beautiful birds, once endangered but now recovered, and I did not want to lose that drama even though I scaled the carving down. Yes, the rocks are carved wood also!
The Kestrel is our smallest falcon and the male of the species has a wonderful and vibrant coloration. The bird sits at rest with a turned head to catch the viewer’s eye. The viewer is treated to the dramatic coloration of the bird just before it takes flight. The setting complements the coloration of the bird with the dark mesquite base and the lighter brown branch finding elements of the same coloration in the bird itself.
One of my most favorite of Sonoran desert birds is the cactus wren whose scratchy raucous calls gives a wonderful voice to the desert. They are active and fearless hopping about among the Cholla cactus. Their calls usually alert other birds to an intruder, even one of their own kind and they go out of their way to let the intruder know that they are unwanted. They have a distinct personality and I wanted the viewer to hear the raucous call and join the bird calling out the intruder.
The Prairie Falcon is a common bird of the west preferring rocky outcrops where a perch high above the land makes a wonderful observation point. I wanted the bird to be a rest, yet vigilant catching the breeze sweeping across the outcrop. He is also calling out marking his territory. The chest feathers are plumped up providing warmth from the breeze as he sits in a relaxed, yet ready pose. I wanted for the viewer to get the impression that this bird is a master of its environment, calm but ready.