Saturday 27 February 2016

Singing in the new year

Judging from the vibrant birdsong I'm becoming accustomed to each morning, spring is here even though it doesn't officially start for a few more weeks. February brought with it the change of seasons, as evidenced by blooming bulbs and chirping bird choruses. I have been told that frog songs have even been heard in the night as amphibians awaken from their watery winter sleep.

The change of seasons brings with it a change in the wild creatures who share our region. Birds who spent the winter here are heading for their summer places, such as the golden crowned kinglets who have been abundant for the past several months. I noticed more of these charming little birds this winter than any other, and have had some excellent photo opportunities. I will miss their lively, twittering presence in the woods till they return in the fall.

My encounters with kinglets inspired me to create this small drawing:

Golden-crowned kinglet, coloured pencil, 3"x4"
Flocks of robins have been passing through on their northerly migration since January, often stopping to forage on my lawn. One morning there was quite a scene as a dozen or so paused to rest and feed on whatever creepy-crawlies were lurking under the soggy greenery.

Birds who go unnoticed through the winter are now making themselves heard. I've been serenaded by melodic Pacific wrens (aka winter wrens) on my forest walks for a couple of weeks now as the males began declaring their territories. The other day a marsh wren's trilling call drew my attention as I passed by a wetland and I was able to capture this photo:

I've written before about wrens - among my favourite birds. Their diminutive size and usually reclusive habits contrast dramatically to the showmanship they demonstrate at this time of year. More than once I've shown my appreciation for them in my art, most recently in this tiny drawing:

Pacific wren, coloured pencil, 2"x2.5"
There's also a flicker who hammers enthusiastically on the street light by my driveway, making himself heard to all the other flickers in the area (and everyone else for that matter). This is another species that has been particularly abundant over the past few months, often breakfasting on suet at the feeding station outside my studio window.

Soon nesting season will begin in earnest. Chickadees have been casually inspecting the birdhouse where last year they raised a brood of beautiful babies. At my little yellow cottage I have erected another birdhouse and on my next visit I will be keen to see if anyone decides to call it home.

While according to the calendar on my wall the new year started January 1st, for me this is when it truly starts, as the earth's creatures begin their annual cycle of renewal in earnest. Rather than Auld Lang Syne marking the transition, it's the song of the birds - the blackbirds, the wrens, and the funny starling in my neighbourhood who mimics the call of eagles - who are signalling the arrival of a whole new year.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Rupert has left the building

My old cat Rupert, aka Rupee, Godfrey (strangely), and Pest has permanently, like Elvis, "left the building". Only a cat with a personality as big as his deserves to be equated with a legendary entertainment icon. Rupert departed from this world today with infinite grace by a gentle hand, embraced by love. His health had declined significantly over the past few weeks as his old body gave out due to kidney failure. He was just shy of his 21st birthday.

All losses are sad and while the departure of this long-time friend and companion has brought its share of tears, I'm choosing to remember his lengthy, lively and always entertaining life. I introduced him to readers back in 2012 in Rascally Rupert: A cat like no other and he continued to be a dominant presence in my household. He bonded tightly with his cat "brother" Archie (The cat who could fly), and even as a very senior cat he coped well with the arrival of the kitten-and-puppy duo Hugo and Lily (see In with the new, The Great Distraction and And so...they grow!). He made it his mission to teach both youngsters the house rules - rules he himself was aware of but rarely felt obliged to obey. He was phased by few things, not dogs, not people, not even the vacuum cleaner. Rupert saw many others come and go but he stayed for two decades - constant, sometimes irritating, always faithful - and if at all possible he'd be at my side or on my lap, usually purring loudly. He had a weakness for Digestive biscuits.

Rupert and Archie
Sleeping Rupert and bright-eyed Hugo

Rupert's nap interrupted by Lily

Rupert was seldom allowed in my studio. He was not one of those cats who would pose artfully or simply curl up and sleep. No way! He was always wanting to either explore or participate, neither of which were helpful. However, he inspired his share of artwork over the years.

One of them was this silk painting:

Orange Cat and Red Geraniums"

Prior to that, he featured in this collage:

This oil pastel drawing depicts a time when Rupert vied for the best spot on the couch with his two former housemates - cat "brother" Jasper and collie Riley (both now departed):

Three's Company

It was through Rupert I learned about the unique qualities of orange cats and his legacy will continue. Hugo, now almost two years old, will now take over the post of Head Feline, surpassing his older, much bigger "brother" Archie whose more reserved nature precludes that role.

Hugo at on his post

Archie thinking inside the box
Archie and Hugo
Rupert, you are greatly missed - Greeter of Guests, Climber of Ladders, Window Tapper Extraordinaire, Escape Artist, Champion Snuggler, and Number One Purr-er - and you will be remembered by all who met you. You had many fans.
The house is quiet without you.