Gallery: Plumage

I’ve lived in the Sacramento region for a while now and always loved the outdoors. The past winter brought some difficult times for me and I found comfort in walking the trails seeking birds and their song. It has been a profound revelation to me – the diversity of bird life in our area.

I’ve learned a lot more than just species names through my entry into birding; I’ve learned about myself. I have learned from their innocence and their way of life. I have seen freedom in their flight. Their song has brought me hope, and makes me feel alive.

This is a tribute to our feathered friends that have brought so much joy. The art work in this gallery is inspired by birds from the Sacramento area. I’ve observed, photographed and identified them, then converted those images and experiences into the paintings you see. Most images are from the Empire Ranch neighborhood in Folsom, a few from near Folsom Lake and Natoma Lake, some further away near Mather Lake.

We are truly blessed to be this close to so much wildlife right at home. Here’s to my friends the birds – innocent, wise, strong and free.

Enjoy the slideshow: mouse-over or use the arrows to cycle through the images.

Red Shouldered Hawk 1 - Sacramento Plumage

Belted Kingfisher

I saw one of these every time I went out paddling at Lake Natoma this summer. It was always just beyond plain view, and would always fly away the moment I got about 100 yards from it, shrieking out condescendingly at my inability to catch up. I don’t recommend trying to balance kayak and camera while trying to catch a kingfisher along its flight route. They can be jerks about the effort. The males sport a red band across their chest, females do not. This one wouldn’t turn around enough for me to see which gender it was.

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Learn more about Green Herons: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Belted_Kingfisher

Red Shouldered Hawk 1 - Sacramento Plumage

Green Heron

I thought the Great Blue Heron was the most beautiful of all local birds — until I had the opportunity to observe this guy at close distance. He (he?) was fishing in the creek just below one of the bridges on the American River Bike Trail. I heard a strange bird call and stopped to investigate. Just a pretty, pretty bird with such BIG personality. These are significantly smaller than the Great Blues, and not as frequent around here. Being smaller, the musculature of their neck stands out a lot more – compare the stocky power lifter to a regular height athlete.

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Learn more about Green Herons: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron

Red Shouldered Hawk 1 - Sacramento Plumage

Red Shouldered Hawk 1

I must admit, birds of prey (or accipiters, as these are called) are the most enthralling to observe. I love how quiet and motionless they sit, just staring into space. Often I see them swoop down into the meadow and grab something out of the grass. Just simply awe-inspiring. There are a lot of hawks on the Humbug and Willow creek trails, just look up as you’re wandering around.

 

Learn more about Red Shouldered Hawks: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-shouldered_Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk 2 - Sacramento Plumage

Red Shouldered Hawk 2

I must admit, birds of prey (or accipiters, as these are called) are the most enthralling to observe. I love how quiet and motionless they sit, just staring into space. Often I see them swoop down into the meadow and grab something out of the grass. Just simply awe-inspiring. There are a lot of hawks on the Humbug and Willow creek trails, just look up as you’re wandering around.

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Learn more about Red Shouldered Hawks: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-shouldered_Hawk

Mallard (Female) - Sacramento Plumage

Mallard (Female)

I noticed this spring that at the end of breeding season, all the males had disappeared from the area. Where there used to be co-ed groups (collective noun, anyone?) all over the place, I only saw females. I learned later, that ducks molt entirely post breeding, and both sexes take on the similar brown patterning that allows for better camouflage. Who would have thought…?

 

Learn more about Mallards: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard

Great Blue Heron - Sacramento Plumage

Great Blue Heron

I nicknamed this guy ‘Buddha’ because he’d show up at the marsh behind my house around 10am each day, and stay there until sun down, just watching silently, barely moving. I realized much later that this was the hunting method of herons, they are stalkers. I have a video of him (her?) snatching fish out of the water and then swallowing it whole.

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Learn more about Great Blues here: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron

Anna's Hummingbird - Sacramento Plumage

Anna's Hummingbird

I had taken a large number of photographs of this one particular hummingbird without knowing which sub-species it was. When rummaging through later, I found that as this bird moved its head into and out of the light, the color changed from the standard dark green to a bright, metallic pink. It was only when looking it up that I realized just HOW MANY varieties of hummingbirds exist!

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Learn more about Anna’s Hummingbirds here: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Annas_Hummingbird

PBS Super Hummingbirds video reveals new scientific breakthroughs about these magical birds (latest high-speed cameras and other technologies): pbs.org/wnet/nature/super-hummingbirds-full-episode/14586

Great Egret - Sacramento Plumage

Great Egret

I had the pleasure of watching this bird foraging/hunting for whatever they consume in a marsh. He repeatedly stuck his long neck in the water and grabbed something… Made photographing the bird a bit tricky. Note the bright green on the face – that is a breeding season adaption of the great egret.

 

Learn more about Great Egrets here: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret

Northern Flicker (Male) - Sacramento Plumage

Northern Flicker (Male)

This was the first bird I found on the bike trails around Empire Ranch in Folsom. He sat high up in the branches being all happy and perky… there’s something about that red patch on the face that just makes them look so joyful. These are members of the woodpecker family. Probably the cutest ones…

 

Learn more about Northern Flickers: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Flicker

Western Bluebird (Male and Female) - Sacramento Plumage

Western Bluebird (Male and Female)

The color difference between males and females in the avian world is quite astounding. I’ve exaggerated the colors on these a bit, so you cannot tell just how grey the female is compared to the male (male on the left, female on the right) from this image alone; but look it up, it’s crazy. It was funnier still in this case, on a winter afternoon, the female was all puffed up to deal with the cold, the male kind of sat there with an exasperated expression on his face. Maybe humans are more like birds than we realize :)

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Learn more about Western Bluebirds: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Bluebird

Osprey - Sacramento Plumage

Osprey

Beautiful, beautiful birds!! This guy hung out with me when I was out doing some plein air work over at Mather Lake in Rancho Cordova. He was perched up on a bare tree quite close to where I’d been working, and three times flew off and returned to his perch with really large fish. Recently, while at Loon Lake (El Dorado National Forest), I noticed that ospreys have rather a gentle cry for raptors their size. Also very powerful hunters/divers, and incredibly hard to photograph when they are flying!!

 

Learn more about Ospreys: allaboutbirds.org/guide/Osprey

Proceeds from the Plumage series supports the following charities:
Audubon Society – audubon.org
Sierra Club Motherlode Chapter – sierraclub.org/mother-lode
Gold Country Wildlife Rescue – goldcountrywildliferescue.org