Tag Archives: Digital art

Halloween at the Salt Marsh. Everything Transmogrified.

A few minutes after midnight I stepped out into the cool night. As I approached the end of our driveway, the pale crescent moon suddenly disappeared in red haze. It was pitch black. Then, slowly, a sparkling full moon appeared. I thought that was strange. But knew it would aid me on my visit to the salt marsh.

halloween-moon-3-ud88The gate into the park was closed, of course. But unlike any other night, a mean looking bird was guarding it.  His long bill was sharp and his left foot was raised as in a warning.

nature-reserve-forest-and-snowy-egret-halloween-2-ud88No admission. But stubborn as I am, I decided to climb over the low stone wall a little further down.

salt-marsh-stone-wall-3-ud88Right away I could see some hunching shapes on one of the small islands in the distance. A gathering of the ghosts perhaps? Halloween party? It was impossible to tell.

wood-storks-and-great-egrets-halloween-2-ud88Bang! The ground shook and lightning struck from the clear sky. It illuminated the osprey nest. From afar, it looked deserted and seemed to glow faintly in the moonlight.

osprey-nest-halloween-4-ud88I was frightened, but there was no turning back. So I walked closer. Suddenly I heard heavy wing beats right above my head. A large bat? I saw a huge creature land on the nest. He looked right at me and I thought his eyes were somewhat familiar. He didn’t say anything, just stared at me flexing his enormous wings.

papa-osprey-halloween-3-ud88Just under the nest, I could discern a glowing figure on the ground. Someone else was observing me too. It was spooky. And eerily quiet.

yellowcrowned-night-heron-playing-halloween-3-ud88The silence was broken by a bone-chilling scream. An apparition with a huge bill drifted right next to me. I started running.

papa-wood-stork-halloween-2-ud88Further out, I saw more dark shapes starting to gather at the far end of the marsh. Curiosity won over fear and I decided to investigate. Walking along the water line, I spotted large glowing fish in the deep pond. Monsters over three feet long.

fish-tarpon-in-the-salt-marsh-halloween-ud88I sensed many pairs of eyes were following my every step from the deep shadows. It was unnerving. But I kept going.

muscovy-duck-halloween-3-ud88

great-egret-halloween-3-ud88

squirrel-halloween-ud88As I came to the far end, I noticed action on the water. Someone was running for his life!

mottled-duck-run-on-water-halloween-ud88The poor fellow was chased by a much bigger creature, who was flapping his wings as he ran on the water. I could feel chills go down my spine.

reddish-egret-hunting-halloween-ud88Suddenly I came to a halt. A creepy feathered being was blocking the trail. He was huge! And he was scrutinizing me from top to toe from the corner of his eye.

great-blue-heron-halloween-2-ud88I started shaking, but finally he let me pass. I took cover under some short palm trees next to the water. That’s when I saw her. Her pink skirt was flowing in the cool breeze as she performed her dance at the edge of the pond.

roseate-spoonbill-halloween-2-ud88All action stopped. No running, no chasing, no fooling around. Complete silence as if all the creatures were holding their breath. Then wings started flapping. Loud applause reverberated in the night. I tried to clap too, but couldn’t. Something heavy was weighing down my left arm. It didn’t move.

dylan-halloween-ud88I woke up. And Dylan turned to look at me. I must have been screaming because the hair on his head stood up. I had dozed off and been dreaming about my friends at the salt marsh. All transmogrified just in time for Halloween. I turned off the TV and the light, petted Dylan and went back to sleep. Who knows what the night might bring. Happy Halloween folks!

Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.

Girl making a snowman digital artI hope all friends are warm, safe and dry after the blizzard and coastal flooding that hit so many states here in the US this weekend. We had gale force winds from the ocean for two days and Florida winter temperatures in the 30s, but today things are much calmer, winds only at 10-15 mph, sun and pale blue skies.

winter beach JAN ud44I finally got a chance to go check on my feathered friends at the salt marsh. And wanted to give you a quick update on the state of affairs before the work week swallows me again.

Many birds were out and about braving the cool weather. A real hunching party. Everybody was puffed up, like these White Ibis taking in the sunshine.

white ibis ud44Just when I arrived at the osprey nest,  Papa Stanley flew in with soft materials for the nest cup. In preparation for egg laying.

papa osprey brings nest materials ud44Mama Sandy seemed pleased and put it carefully in place in the middle of the nest. And then they just sat there together warming up after the cold night. The nest platform held through the storm again, which is a a good sign considering that it now seems impossible to do any repairs until after the nesting season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it holds until summer.

papa and mama osprey at the nest ud44I spotted several juvenile Night Herons seeking shelter in the bushes under the osprey nest, some were awake, some asleep.

juvenile night heron ud44

another juvenile night heron ud44A Snowy Egret was huddling there too, airing her beautiful plumage in the breeze. And for the first time in weeks, I found a Tricolored Heron.

snowy agret ud44This slender heron was almost unrecognizable hunching there all puffed up.

tri-colored heron UD44I had just spotted the young Muscovy Duck, when I heard a loud discussion at the other end of the marsh.

muscovy duck ud44Based on the dialect I heard, it was between two Great Blue Herons. You guessed it, the Mayor and the youngster. When I glanced over there, I saw that the young GBH had occupied the Mayor’s Office. He clearly harbors aspirations to take over. But the Mayor didn’t like it. The impostor got chased away. He flew up to a tall cypress and settled at the top to consider his options. Sandy and Stanley were not delighted to see him either. Stanley gave a sharp warning call.

young great blue heron flees ud44When I came closer, I saw the Mayor was still very upset, probably thinking what his next step should be.

great blue heron mayor ud44He didn’t settle in his office for long, instead he flew to an islet closest to the group of trees where the youngster was. To keep an eye on his rival. Wise move.

mayor great blue heron ud44This season promises to be interesting. The youngster has not mellowed, if anything he seems to be challenging everyone.

Walking away from the drama, I spotted a Wood Stork. He was separated from his friends who were huddling in the bushes a bit away. They were not willing to pose for a photo.

woodstork ud44But the Great Egret was. He had witnessed the high-pitched discussion between the Blue Herons, and seemed happy that the peace had returned.

great egret in breeding plumage ud44I decided to walk home on the bay side. Leaving the salt marsh, I noticed a sweet juvenile Snowy Egret bravely exploring the marsh on her own.

juvenile snowy egret ud44The bay shore was almost empty. Some pelicans were fishing on the bay and another Great Egret was hunching in the sun next to the sailing club pier.

great egret ud44That’s when I saw the Turkey Vulture circling overhead. I snapped a couple of pictures of him at our driveway.

turkey vulture 2 ud44The surprise came when I looked at my pictures at home. Look carefully. Do you see anything strange? He has the letters HAX on his right wing, doesn’t he? I had to look at all my pictures to believe that marking really was there. I have no idea what that could be. Do you?

I wish you all a good week ahead. Take care.

 

 

Dogs, Birds and Mysteries. Or What Blogging Can Do to You.

After a few years of sitting at your computer during all kinds of odd hours, you finally become a blogger who doesn’t hesitate for days to press the scary Publish button. And you are comfortable whether or not someone reads your scribbles before they fly out into the cyber space.

Bumble at laptop

Your pile of edits for a post now averages 15 instead of preciously 50. And your images may actually pass for photographs. You enjoy the interactions within the friendly community of fellow bloggers. You make some really good friends. Then what?

mercat

I know it’s different for all of us. The professional bloggers, authors, photographers, etc. probably get better and better at their trade in the niche they have developed, and attract a huge, ever-growing following. But those of us who haven’t really decided what we want to become when we grow up, will probably be inspired to try various new things.  That’s what blogging does to us. We dare to experiment. Some pick up the brush, start painting and get really good at it. Some will become authors and publish several books. Others will become good story-tellers, photographers or graphic artists. A few will dip their toes into various creative pots. The Indecisives. I would be one of those. But then, I predicted that when I started blogging three years ago. I said my blog would be multifaceted. That sounds a whole lot better.

So after writing countless professional articles, reports and a few boring books to bring home the bacon, I tried my hand as a novelist.  Last year I published “Confessions of a Rescue Dog”, a fictional story based on Bumble’s life as a rescue dog. I’m happy to say it got fairly good reviews, even editorial ones, and has brought in a few $$$ to help homeless dogs, cats, birds and rabbits to find forever homes.

One day last summer, my good friend Jackie asked me to design book covers for her new mystery series “DeeDee Watson, PI Series”.  That was another first, but since I’ve been dabbling with digital art occasionally, I bravely said I would try.

Jackie published “The Canine Caper” in August! It is a delightful short story available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. It introduces the mystery series and its main characters: Dee, a Private Investigator and Tee, her canine sidekick, among others. A quick, fun read!

the canine caper picture

At the end of October Jackie published the second story in the series. “A Case of Deceit” is a full length murder mystery, and is available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book, and as a paperback. This novel takes the reader on a wild ride on Dee’s Harley and by other means, in pursuit of the killer. You’ll love the many twists and turns, and the cast of quirky characters!

a case of deceit picture

And then, inspired by many encouraging comments on the salt marsh series, I wanted to experiment with children’s books. I have just published two small photo books for kids on Blurb. This type of publishing is very expensive, so these books are for sale in softcover at production price. I feel it’s important to spark kids’ interest in the many small miracles in the natural world early on in life.

The first book is written for small kids, up to KG age, and introduces baby birds and juveniles with beautiful photos and a simple narrative. A nice bedtime read.
Slide1

The second book is little more elaborate, intended for kids from KG through Elementary School. It presents bird families and their adventures at the salt marsh with a fun and educative narrative and almost 50 full color photographs.

AdventuresoftheSaltMarshBirds cover

I am now working on transforming these photo books to Amazon kids books. The Kindle versions will be interactive photobooks, but due to the paper quality, the paperback editions will need to have cheerful illustrations. Both books/editions will be much more affordable, and hopefully bring joy and learning to more kids.

Please check the Firdemonte Press page for more information on these books and on all the other stuff that’s cooking. Or click on the book covers to buy now 😀

mercat 2

What an ongoing adventure blogging is! I had no idea. I just wish I had more time to dedicate to all these creative facets of life, and to enjoy the great variety of inspirational reads I always find on your blogs. Thank you for being here. Much love.

Scary True Stories. Told Ahead of Halloween. Just In Case.

I’m definitely an implant as far as Halloween is concerned. Growing up in northern Europe, I never knew spooky and scary things were supposed to happen on a certain day, or even in a certain month. Instead, I grew up knowing that 1st of November was All Saints’ Day. Cemeteries would look peaceful with candles burning on the graves of departed loved ones on the Eve of All Saints’ Day, October 31st. There was nothing spooky about that.

So on my first Halloween in the US, just three months after we’d arrived here, I was not prepared for what was to come. I got off the bus a couple of blocks from home, tired after a stressful work day, when a glowing skeleton ran towards me on the darkened suburban street. Spooky. And as it came closer, it spread its arms, ready to grab me.

Instead the skeleton hugged me. And then it spoke. My son’s voice, no doubt. He had already caught on to the local customs and was on his way to trick-or-treat with his new friends. I realized the whole neighborhood was spooky. Ghosts and skeletons hung from the trees. Carved pumpkins threw a ghostly light on the manicured lawns through their hollow eyes and irregular teeth. I had never seen anything like that. It felt rather silly to me as I was still mulling over the outcome of my last meeting. On a very ordinary Monday night. But then, I was no longer a kid.

Not that I was a stranger to skeletons. I actually had one as my front seat passenger when I drove through Addis Ababa to a health care conference a few years earlier. The skeleton had been our guest for a couple of days before the event, so I felt compelled to provide him transport to the venue. I had lovingly made him a hoodie out of a bedsheet for this chilly January day. And I did put his seat belt on. He sat there silently next to me as we navigated our way through this lively city. A few pedestrians spotted my pale passenger, and there was some finger pointing. But we arrived safely. He did his job and I did mine. We even posed for a photo together before our ways parted. So I was used to skeletons. Sort of.

Tiny with a skeletonBut the first Halloween was embarrassing. I didn’t have large stacks of candy for the many trick-or-treaters, who knocked on our door. But luckily I always kept a small stash of treats in my pantry. That lasted for an hour. I was not up to any tricks so I had to put the lights out when my candy was gone. A real outlier. But I was a quick study. The following year I had both pumpkins and candy. Whole pumpkins on the stairs. And wrapped candy in a basket.

However, my scariest spooky experience was not on a Halloween. You see, such things can actually happen any time. This was years earlier. In the dark underground city of the dead. In the catacombs under the city of Rome.

When I walked down there, in those long, narrow, winding tunnels surrounded by damp earth, stone or ancient brick, I was moved far back in human history. To the dark times of persecution. I could feel the suffering in those walls. All my senses we spooked. And the skeletons, skulls and other reminders of those who died or were buried there added to the scary and somewhat claustrophobic experience.

All roads lead to Rome, as they say.  If yours does too, the catacombs may be the place to visit. In the unlikely event that your Halloween is not scary enough.

So what am I going to do this Halloween? You guessed it, right? Visit the salt marsh, of course. In case you don’t see an update on my feathered friends over the weekend, I might’ve been caught in the web of this glowing giant spider. Just so you know.

Well ahead of this upcoming scary walk, I wish you all Happy Halloween and a Peaceful All Saints’ Day.

The Lunar Eclipse That Wasn’t. An Adventure into Imagination.

Okay. Last night I was really disappointed. After a fun day spent with friends, I wanted to put the “cherry on the top” by getting a few nice shots of the supermoon that coincided with a rare lunar eclipse. Next time it will occur is 2033, so this would be it, I thought. That was my plan. But as the day progressed the skies got cloudier, and at dinner time it was pouring down. Followed by a thick cloud cover. I went out just before 9 p.m. and could spot the moon every now and then behind passing clouds. I took a few practice shots, like this one, and went back inside.

supermoon 2 sept 27 in cloudsNow equipped with the evidence that the supermoon really was there, I was hoping for some miraculous clearing of the skies. An hour later I went outside again with my equipment. Now I couldn’t even see where the moon was! The cloud cover had gotten much whiter and thicker on the eastern side of the sky. While the western sky, over the ocean, sported clear skies and stars. My eyes were nailed into the skies, and for one spit second I spotted a partial eclipse around 10:40 p.m. I had to accept I couldn’t move the moon westward, and my hope faded as the clock ticked away. Disappointed I returned back inside after 11 p.m. Not one picture. Nil.

So I looked at my pictures of the supermoon that occurred last fall. They were quite nice, but without the rare eclipse.

supermoon last fall 2 oct 9 2014

I decided to swallow my disappointment, and started playing with the partial shots I got earlier in the evening. And created some digital art using many different filters. So here are my pictures of last night’s supermoon. Colorful, and quite rare, eh?

supermoon digital art 1supermoon eclipse in cloudssupermoon art 4

I even recreated the partial lunar eclipse that my artistic eye saw for a split second or so.

supermoon eclipse 2 in clouds

It was fun and soon I forgot my disappointment in the weather gods. May they give us enjoyable weather until the next occurrence in 2033. I hope to post some good pictures then. Hehe. Stay tuned.

I’m sure many photographers will be posting great pictures from last nights heavenly show, like my friend Amy did. I wish you all a super week!

Exhibition At the Salt Marsh Town Hall (WPC Connected)

The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the marsh, is always hatching plans to tighten the community connections at the salt marsh. Permanent marsh residents will need to manage the soon upcoming bi-annual migration conference as a team. Without a hitch. He’s expecting big crowds, like last year.

So he’ll be throwing a Labor Day party at the town hall, with a special exhibition in the tree gallery. Under the theme “Connected”, he wants to show portraits of all those residents who’ll be sharing the salt marsh smorgasbord with migrating visitors, and others just stopping by for a snack. I volunteered to help. And to ensure timely delivery, persuaded this older gentleman to accept digital paintings.

Here my friends, you’ll get a sneak peek of these portraits before we’ll hang them up later today.

older great blue heron paint
Martin, the Mayor – the older Great Blue Heron
portrait of the young great blue heron paint
Billy – the younger Great Blue Heron, also known as the culprit (particularly by the Osprey family)
Harry – the Green Heron
portrait of little blue heron3 paint
Lilly – the Little Blue Heron
yellowcrowned night heron portrait paint
Norbert – the Yellow-crowned Night Heron
black-crowned night heron portrait paint
Nelly – the Black-crowned Night Heron
tricolored heron
Trina – the Tri-colored Heron
great while egret portrait paint
Gregory – the Great Egret
portrait of a reddish egret paint
Rudolf – the Reddish Egret, also known as the clown
snowy egret portrait paint
Sally – the Snowy Egret
nanday parakeet portrait paint
Polly – the Nanday Parakeet
papa osprey portrait paint
Stanley – the Osprey, also known as Papa Osprey
mama osprey portrait paint
Sandy – the Osprey, also known as Mama Osprey
roseate spoonbill portrait paint
Rosa – the Roseate Spoonbill

I’m hoping it’ll be a nice exhibition. And I’m planning to join the party despite allergies that have hit me this weekend. Let’s stay connected, and thanks for visiting 🙂

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