Thistle and screen, iteration 3, July 11, 2020.
art inspiration observations

Woodpeckers & Thistles

As I’m out and about walking the dog or mowing the lawn or peering out a window or whatever, I’m keeping an eye on nature. I’m not sure if that makes me a naturalist or a phenologist or just curious about what’s going on around me, but I especially enjoy plants and birds.

This year, a pair of woodpeckers built a nest in one of our oak trees. I had noticed that woodpeckers had made fine work of pecking several holes in the tree earlier this spring. Because the branch they were attacking is near the front sidewalk, I was concerned we’d have to remove it so it wouldn’t fall on anyone.

Our neighbors across the street alerted us to the woodpecker nest and the babies inside. (Obviously that changed our plans for tree-trimming.) We think they are red-bellied woodpeckers, but haven’t gotten close enough to get a good look. I now recognize one of their calls. (UPDATE: After publishing this blog post, I spotted one of our woodpeckers outside the window, close enough for me to examine its markings. It was a Northern Flicker, a member of the woodpecker family, so we had Northern Flickers nesting in our oak tree.)

Yesterday evening, while Erik and I were in his office space, I looked out the window and saw the family of 4 hanging out near the sidewalk, eating in the grass. It appeared to be one adult with three immature birds who had gotten pretty big.

I grabbed my phone and took a few photos from various windows of the house. I had to zoom in, which does not produce clear photos, but at least I got a few shots. They happily nibbled away near the sidewalk for some time, not departing until I had to go outside through the front door.

Three woodpeckers searching for food as seen through our office window, July 10, 2020.
Three woodpeckers searching for food as seen through our office window, July 10, 2020.

 

Three woodpeckers pointed out with arrows, in case you couldn't pick them out in the first photo, July 10, 2020.
Three woodpeckers pointed out with arrows, in case you couldn’t pick them out in the first photo, July 10, 2020.

 

Four woodpeckers eating along the sidewalk, July 10, 2020.
Four woodpeckers eating along the sidewalk, July 10, 2020.

 

And again, four woodpeckers with arrows to help you spot them, July 10, 2020.
And again, four woodpeckers with arrows to help you spot them, July 10, 2020.

Aside from our family of woodpeckers, I have also noticed that the thistles this year are crazy-big and super obvious, springing up in places I haven’t seen them before. It’s like a bumper-crop season for thistles.

Here’s one on our shop property.

Giant thistle on our shop property, June 28, 2020.
Giant thistle on our shop property, June 28, 2020.

Here’s one at Erik’s mom’s house.

Thistle in Erik's mom's yard, July 10, 2020.
Thistle in Erik’s mom’s yard, July 10, 2020.

Thistles have an other-worldly beauty about them. They hurt like the dickens if you trod on or brush up against one, but the spikiness makes them interesting and pretty.

I had to take some photos of the one at our shop using the negative setting on my camera. Here is the result.

Thistle, negative photo setting, June 28, 2020.
Thistle, negative photo setting, June 28, 2020.

Doesn’t it look like a magnified cell? Like it might be some kind of virus or bacteria?

This morning, I took one of my unsuccessful woodpecker photos, one that focused on the window screen instead of the bird, and one of my thistle photos and combined them to make digital art.

A screen shot, quite literally. There is woodpecker in there somewhere. July 10, 2020.
A screen shot, quite literally. There is woodpecker in there somewhere. July 10, 2020.

I used this photo plus the shot above of the thistle in my mother-in-law’s yard to make the following art.

I have skipped some of the steps between iterations. Plus, when I’m working on digital art, if I don’t like a particular effect or iteration, I back up to the previous iteration and try something new. It’s fascinating how I can start with something asymmetrical, like iteration 1, and return to symmetry, like iteration 6.

Also, my final black and white iteration (I used the emboss effect), reminds me once again of something smaller magnified, just like the negative thistle photo above.

A thunderstorm is rolling in. Time to get this posted so I can get off the computer.

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