The Bird Carver’s Daughter (Part 6: Habitat Shots)

Guest post by Kari Jo Spear, Photographer, Novelist, and Daughter of Bob Spear

“Take a shot in that direction.” My father pointed down toward the brook through some hemlock trees. “Good ruffed grouse territory.”

“Okay,” I said. My job was to take an interesting photo. So I crouched down, trying to get into ruffed grouse mode, going for an eye level perspective. If I was a grouse, I’d lay my eggs right under the trees. Of course, I wasn’t a grouse, and this was another of my father’s crazy attempts to get me into his “carve all the birds in Vermont” project. He thought it would be helpful to have a plastic sleeve hanging from each display case with some facts about the bird and a photo of its nesting habitat. I thought all the leaves and flowers and stuff he was putting in the cases would be enough to clue people in, but he wanted photos, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if I took them?

Well, I liked taking photos, and my father’s fancy Nikon with interchangeable lenses was pretty cool. But nesting habitat was not exactly an exciting subject to photograph. We’d been hiking for hours, and I’d been dutifully taking shots of deciduous trees, evergreens, moss, and even dead stumps. That part wasn’t really so bad. The real problem was that habitat shots had to be taken in the spring when the birds were nesting. The birds needed to take advantage of insects, who were also doing their multiplying thing. Right now, every black fly in Huntington was taking advantage of their favorite food source—me. They didn’t care about my artistic endeavor, they didn’t care that I reeked of insect repellant, and they didn’t care that I was allergic to them. My eyes were going to be puffed shut tomorrow, I knew it.

I am a grouse, I thought. I snapped two more shots down toward the brook, even climbing into the brush to get a nice, curving limb to frame the top.

“Okay,” my father said. “Now I want to go to a farm up the road. There’s a pair of cliff swallows building under the eaves of the barn. We can get barn swallow habitat inside. And all the apple trees are in bloom. They’re real pretty, and they’d be good blue bird habitat.”

Anything to get away from the buggy brook. I swatted my way out of the woods—flies never seemed to bother my father—and scratched my way up the road to an old farm that looked as thought it had been there since the glaciers moved out. I liked the way the buildings nestled into the hillside. Sure enough, there was a small colony of cliff swallows building their funny little jug-like nests under the eaves. I didn’t even ask how my father had known they were there. While he chatted with the farmer, I photographed the eaves, then some rafters inside where some barn swallows were busy irritating the cows, and then I wandered around the apple trees in full bloom and thought about how nice a big bee sting would look right between my puffy eyes. Maybe some poison ivy to set it off. Then I tripped over a branch buried in the new spring grass and landed in a woodchuck hole, twisting my ankle.

My father got the car and drove me home. Fortunately, I wasn’t bleeding—my father was not good with blood—and the camera was okay, so there was no harm done. “An old war horse,” my father said, seeing me looking at it on the seat between us.

I didn’t think he was referring to me. A young warhorse, maybe.

“You may as well keep it,” he added.

“Until next weekend?” I asked, wondering if my ankle would be up to more traipsing around.

He kind of shrugged. “Till whenever. If I need it for something, you can bring it back.”

“Oh,” I said, it slowly sinking in that he’d just given me a really nice camera. On a kind of permanent borrow.

“Might as well take the lenses, too.” I noticed that they were in the back seat. A 300mm lens and a wide angle.

“Thanks,” I said, meaning it.

“It’s a good camera,” he said. And that was that. Then he added, “But we need to get the film developed right away.”

“What’s the rush?”

“Montpelier.”

Right, I thought. The state capital.

“Library,” he added.

“You’re going to carve books next?” I’d believe anything.

He shot me a look. “No. Going to have the carvings there next week.”

“What?”

“There’s an art gallery upstairs in the library,” he said patiently. We’re going to have a big opening. Newspapers will be there.”

I looked at him, wondering how he’d known how to set up something like this. He’d probably enlisted Gale. He didn’t even look nervous. I’d be frantic.

“We’ve got to start getting people interested in the project, you know,” he went on. “Need to find someplace to house them.”

At the rate he was carving, he wasn’t going to have room to breathe in the shop much longer.

“There’ll be a reception. With food.” He looked at me hopefully.

“Of course I’ll be there,” I said. And not just for the food.

“Good,” he said. And then he smiled, just a little. “It’s upstairs. Your ankle will be better by next weekend, right?”

Of course it would be. Who wouldn’t want to get all hot and sweaty lugging bird cases to an upstairs gallery? I heaved a sigh. I’d never figure out how he managed to talk me into getting deeper and deeper in this project of his.

The next morning, I limped into school with my eyes puffed mostly shut, my arms and legs sunburned and dotted with red spots, and my left ankle wrapped up.

“What happened to you?” my homeroom teacher asked. All around us were kids with honorable injuries, acquired by heroically sliding into home plate or after bursting through a finish line. Everyone turned to me, waiting to hear my glorious tale.

I dropped into my desk with a sigh. “Wood chuck hole.”

Everyone’s eyebrows went up.

I nodded wisely like this was a big deal. Lowering my voice, I said, “Okay. Let me tell you guys about… habitat shots.”

Author’s Note: Visitors to the museum will notice that there are no photographs hanging from any of the cases. My father finally realized, as someone had tried to tell him, that people would get the idea where the birds nested from all the leaves and flowers and stuff in the cases. The habitat shot phase passed quickly, but to this day if I take a photo with no apparent subject, my father will look at it, smile a little, and say, “Looks like a habitat shot to me.”

And I still have the camera, tucked away somewhere safe. Permanent borrow: thirty-five years and counting.

Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining "Habitat Shots"  1981,  Photographer unknown
Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining “Habitat Shots”
1981, Photographer unknown

Kari Jo Spear‘s young adult, urban fantasy novels, Under the Willow, and  Silent One, are available at Phoenix Books (in Essex and Burlington, Vermont), and on-line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: The Early Years
Part 2: The Pre-teen Years (or, Why I’m Not a Carver)
Part 3: Something’s Going On Here
Part 4: The Summer of Pies
Part 5: My Addiction

A Call to Vermont Bird Artists!

Do you do birds? The Birds of Vermont Museum and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies are collaborating on an exhibit for this year at the Birds of Vermont Museum. We are celebrating the VCE’s updated Breeding Birds of Vermont atlas and its release as a printed book (see more at http://www.vtecostudies.org/vbba/). This atlas is a gigantic citizen-science project and the result of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of birding observations and data analysis.

We seek art to complement the data-rich maps and species descriptions. The exhibit will run from May 1 through October 31.

The birds we’re looking for are these:

  • American Kestrel
  • Bank Swallow
  • Blackpoll Warbler  
  • Merlin
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  
  • Tufted Titmouse  
  • Whip-poor-will  

The art we seek is ready to hang, and is at least 10” x 10” (up to say, 3’x3’). We’re happy to consider sculptures (especially if it fits on a small wall-mounted mantle-style shelf or can be hung on a wall). We are hoping for a diversity of media, and we’re happy to carry some prints and cards of yours in our gift shop as well for the season. The original work can be for sale or not, at your discretion.

Are you interested? Do you have something you’d like to exhibit with us? Do you want to check out our exhibit space? Call or email us, tell us about it, and send us an image (.jpg preferred) by Friday, April 5. We’ll be choosing up to 15 works of art for this exhibit. We’ll need to hang the artwork by the first weekend in May. You can reach us (Erin, Kirsten, and Allison) at (802) 434-2167 and museum@birdsofvermont.org.

We look forward to seeing your work!

Familiar Ground – extended through July 4th weekend

We’re pleased to extend Familiar Ground, Lori Hinrichsen’s art exhibit, through the July 4th weekend! If you haven’t seen it, now is your chance! Lori has also graciously extended a very generous offer: 20% of all sales benefit the museum. Pick up some fantastic art for you home or office. And thank you, Lori!

Here is an excerpt from Lori’s newsletter:

what is your wing span
what is your wing span? come and find out at the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington!
[artist Lori Hinrichsen, wing span of a wandering albatross]

 20% of art show sales benefits the museum

art show up through July 4 weekend!  

familiar ground show card
10am – 4pm daily 900 Sherman Hollow Road, Huntington, VT 05462 museum phone: 802.434.2167

Familiar Ground: art by Lori Hinrichsen

Welcome to our May-June 2011 exhibiting artist: Lori Hinrichsen. Her show, Familiar Ground: monotypes, intaglios and photography inspired by nature, opened at the Museum  May 1st, with the opening day of our 2011 season.

"Between Earth and Sky", intaglio by Lori Hinrichsen, in postcard announcing show
"Between Earth and Sky", intaglio by Lori Hinrichsen, in postcard announcing show

Lori grew up in Iowa and attended the University of Kansas, graduating with a degree in Theatre, Film and Video. Lori spent several years exploring the US, living and growing her art from California to Vermont. This included being a resident artist in Mendocino, at the Vermont Studio Center, and at the Virginia center for Creative Artists. She first joined the Museum community last fall as a judge for the 2010 Annual Youth Art Contest.

Lori has a studio at Shelburne Pond Studios, where she works with printmaking, painting, fabric, and ink. She writes:

Much of my time is spent exploring and connecting with the land and the sky, from meandering paths along the rugged coastline, to breathing in the intoxicating smells of evergreens and fresh rain, to the star-filled desert skies that touch the earth. I feel a deep reverence for the ordinary, for the sensual ecstasy as each season unfolds. My work is in response to this intimate awareness and observation of nature which reflects the moment, engaging the present.

Come by and view her art and photography any day from now through the end of June. We are open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Free with admission to the museum ($6 for adults, discounts for children, seniors, and members).

About the artist: http://lorihinrichsen.com/

Laura Waterhouse: Winter Intern

Laura Waterhouse, winter intern
Laura Waterhouse, winter intern, at the Loon carving

The Museum was most fortunate to be the temporary workplace this winter of Laura Waterhouse, an American citizen born and raised in New Zealand,  as she completed an internship program here during December, January, and February.

While interning at the Museum, Laura was engaged in both daily operations and research projects. From feeding birds and shoveling snow to researching and compiling regional museum data, updating signage for the endangered species exhibit, and developing materials for educational activities offered at the Museum, Laura covered a multitude of topics and tasks. Two very tangible and informative projects Laura completed were adding text and graphics to a comparative activity about birds’ feet and an origami mobile depicting bird migration. Laura met every assignment with clear purpose and focus and demonstrated great creativity and style with her independent projects. Continue reading “Laura Waterhouse: Winter Intern”

The Peeps of the Museum: First (Annual?) Community Art Show

First (Annual?) Community Art Show: the Peeps of the MuseumThe First (and possibly Annual) Community Art Show is open! Members, Volunteers, Interns and Staff display their artworks at the museum. Drop by and admire our local talent.

The show is open with the Museum: Daily 10 am – 4 pm until October 31st.

If you are a member or volunteer and would like to display a piece, please give us a ring (802 434-2167) or an email (museum@birdsofvermont.org). We still have some space.

2010 Annual Art Contest Open

Enter your bird art in the Birds of Vermont Museum 2010 Art Contest.

Art Contest Rules for 2010

  1. This competition is open to persons aged 0 – 18 years old
  2. The theme of the contest is Birds, Birds, Birds!
  3. Entries on paper must be no larger than 8 1/2 x 11″ , 3-D Art must be smaller than 6″ x 6″ x 8″.
  4. One entry per person   – name, age and contact information must be included with entry. Entries may be picked up at the Museum after Nov. 1, 2010.
  5. Contestants can use any medium – (paint, pencils, crayons, markers, clay, wood, papier-mache)
  6. Entries must be received no later than  September 30, 2010
  7. Please drop off, or mail, entries to Birds of Vermont Museum, 900 Sherman Hollow Road, Huntington, Vermont 05462
  8. All entries will be  displayed at the museum throughout the 2010 season, so enter early!

Judging

Entries will be grouped by age of contestants.

First, second, and honorable mention prizes will be awarded in each of the following groups:

  • 5 years and younger
  • 6 – 8 years
  • 9 – 13 years
  • 14 – 18 years
  • 3-D Art (multi-age)

Winning entries will be displayed on the BOVM website and/or our FaceBook page with the artists’  permission.

Winners will be announced at the Museum at the Fall Festival, October 9, 2010 (see more events on our calendar).

Thank You to our 2010 Sponsors

Guy’s Farm and Yard, Williston, Vermont
Artists’ Mediums, Williston, Vermont

Museum paints puzzle piece as part of Puzzle Palooza

A partially finished puzzle piece for Puzzle Palooza!
A partially finished puzzle piece for Puzzle Palooza!

The Birds of Vermont is working on a puzzle piece for Puzzle Palooza!

See www.vermontartscouncil.org for more information.

The puzzle piece is under construction and is being painted by Museum Curator, Ingrid Riga!

Blue “Water”

Bright blue "water" and foam-based shore
Bright blue "water" and foam-based shore

Ingrid, our curator and apprentice carver, and Bob, our founding director, have been layering and painting foam board to create the shoreline in our Fall Wetland diorama.

The foam will be covered with sand and a clear acrylic to form the beach and water surface.

Enjoy this preview/work-in-progess photo! We are looking forward to sharing this with you in the Spring.