Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Possible Sapsucker Hybrid?

As a fairly dedicated “patch” birder (read more about that here), I don’t travel specifically to look for birds, though I will take advantage of errands and longer trips to bird whenever I can. During the winter, especially, I enjoy just seeing what shows up at the feeders.

I was delighted when Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers stopped at our suet feeder in October 2006 and again in 2007, most likely migrating birds. None came by in 2008, but in January 2009, a male Sapsucker came and stayed for the winter. You can read about its interesting behavior here (no photos from that long-ago era). A couple of juveniles stopped by briefly in October 2009 and in January 2010, the same male that had been our guest the previous year returned and took up residence. You can read about its encounter with a localmockingbird.

The same Sapsucker has returned each January since then, staying for a few months until the weather warms and the sap runs again. (D and I have noticed that the Sapsucker doesn’t show up in the yard until the weather gets really cold, say below 20°F. That makes sense, of course, given its preferred diet of sap and sap-attracted insects.)

How do I know it’s the same bird? Well, photos are telling, of course, and I have many, dating back to 2012. But birders, especially patch birders and back-yard birders, are able to identify individual birds; we are close observers of plumage and behavior. In the case of this Sapsucker, it has followed the same route into our yard every day that I have seen it over the years: from the neighbor’s yard to the west, stopping in the dead elm (where an old bittersweet vine provides fruit snacks) before winging into the suet. And its behavior on the suet is the same from day to day and year to year.

Anyway – the point of all that is to establish that I know this particular bird very well. Now to the interesting part.

Harbingers of Spring

It’s been bitterly cold for days, and it was -5°F this morning, yet over the past few weeks I have noted many signs of spring in the behaviors of birds in and around the yard. Yesterday I watched two male Hairy Woodpeckers in their funny territorial display:

Neruda: Bird by Bird

Baltimore Oriole
© Quodlibet 2014 All rights reserved

I’ve wandered the world in search of life:
bird by bird I’ve come to know the earth:
discovered where fire flames aloft:
the expenditure of energy
and my disinterestedness were rewarded,
even though no one paid me for it,
because I received those wings in my soul
and immobility never held me down.

– Pablo Neruda (Chilean, 1904-1973) 
from Art of Birds

Monday, February 23, 2015

In Honor of Samuel Pepys

The English civil servant and diarist was born on this date in London in 1633.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Brâncuși: On Architecture

“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.”
— Constantin Brâncuși, Romanian sculptor (born on this date in 1876; d. 1957)

Spiral staircase supporting the jubé at St.-Etienne-du-Mont, Paris
Photo © 2011 Quodlibet. All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Michelangelo: The Dying Slave

“Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.”

—Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (1475-1564)

Michelangelo died on this date in 1564.

Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564)
The Dying Slave - Marble, 1513-1516
The Louvre, Paris
Photo © 2011 Quodlibet. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Good Times Ahead

Here’s what’s on my reading list:

On Reading

“Some say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”

— English novelist Ruth Rendell, born on this date in 1930

Review: Hartford Symphony Orchestra – Rachmaninoff and Firebird

Once in a while, we are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to witness extraordinary things.

On Friday night, D and I were in the right place at the right time. We were in our seats at the lovely Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, where the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presented a compellingly-performed program of music by Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Bernstein, and Stravinsky.

Of course, the program was marketed as suitable for Valentine’s Day, and in her pre-concert remarks, Music Director Carolyn Kuan teased out some tenuous “love” connections between the selections. But it didn’t really matter, because this music can stand on its own, especially when presented so beautifully.

Hals: Merrymakers at Shrovetide

Frans Hals (Dutch, Antwerp 1582/83–1666 Haarlem)
Merrymakers at Shrovetide (ca. 1616–17)
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: Wadsworth Atheneum

As part of a gloriously arty weekend, we spent several hours at the Wadsworth Atheneum on Saturday afternoon to visit some favorite paintings and to see the newly renovated spaces for contemporary art and other exhibits. You can read more about the changes at the Atheneum’s own website; I won’t attempt to describe it all here.

I’m not qualified to offer a technical or even a qualified aesthetic review, but I can offer a perspective as a patron who attends museums very often and as one who pays close attention to how art is presented within a museum space.

Stricher: The Red Rocks

I found this on K’s old Tumblr. Arresting.

The Red Rocks
Gérard Stricher (French, b.1948)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sargent: Venice in Gray Weather

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925): Venice in Gray Weather
Oil on canvas, 1880-1882. Private Collection

Via K. I think she posts some of these images just for me. 

Something is rotten

Several months ago D and I attended a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at a regional theatre. I ordered the tickets online and, as is my practice, was careful to opt out of further email from the theatre. Nonetheless, a few days after the production, I received an email (!) soliciting my feedback about our experience. Here is my response (slightly edited and expanded).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everyone Sang

Everyone Sang
Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

"Everyone Sang" by Siegfried Sassoon, from Collected Poems: 1908-1956

Moonlight on the snow

Moonlight on the snow
and snowdrifts
like polar bears
on the deck