Tag Archives: bluebird

Nature Story Time from the Museum of American Bird Art

We are excited to announce our Nature Story Time video series, so even in times where we need to be isolated, we can still be together. We hope to bring you a few nature story times each week along with a little art project or nature exploration that you can do at home. Please comment and let us know what stories you’d like to hear, what you like about the program, and most importantly how we can improve.

“There are no greater treasures than the little things… ~ Little Bird”

Learning to Fly, From “Little Bird” by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine.

Our first story is Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine. Just like in Little Bird, these days it is restoring to look for the little treasures in nature and discover spring come alive right outside your door, on the sidewalk, little gardens, and in your neighborhood. Enjoy the story.

Enjoy Nature Story Time

“May my heart always be open to little birds
who are the secrets of living…”

~ E.E. Cummings

Eastern Bluebird Art Project

Enjoy this wonderful art project created by Dan Boudreau, MABA’s incredible TerraCorp service member.

It’s spring and that means that Eastern bluebirds are headed back our way to make their nests and raise their young! The meadow behind the Museum has several bird boxes that bluebirds sometimes build their nests in. Want to make your own bird box scene with a brightly colored bluebird? 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paints, a brush, and clean water
  • A paper grocery bag (or brown construction paper)
  • Oil pastels, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue
  • A sturdy piece of paper or cardstock for your background
  • A small piece of cardstock or an index card for your bird
  • Black marker

Step 1:

Draw your bird shape onto the small piece of cardstock (I used an index card), then cut it out.

Step 2: Watercolor the bird!

First, wet the paper enough that it shines in the light. Be careful not to overwet it, though, or the paper will start to fall apart. Then, paint on blue for the back and orange for the chest. We’ll do the eye later. Put the bird aside to dry while you work on the box.

Step 3: Making the bird box

Cut a rectangle out of the grocery bag and use a black marker to draw a hole for the bluebird to get in and out of.

Step 4: Draw your background

Using pastels, crayons, or colored pencils, draw the sky and meadow onto your large piece of paper. Make sure to leave a blank spot to glue your bird box onto, since glue won’t stick well to crayon or pastel. I used pastels because I love being able to smudge and blend them to make a cool texture for the sky. 

Step 5: Assemble!

Now’s the time to glue it all together! To make a perch for the bluebird, I just cut a piece of the handle from the grocery bag and glued it right on. I did the same to make the post for the box. Now that your watercolors have dried, it’s also a good time to draw an eye on the bluebird. I used a black marker.

And voila! You’ve made an eastern bluebird in its spring habitat! The bird box provides important shelter for the bluebird and the chicks that will come soon. Can you think of anything else that bluebirds might need to live? Draw them in to your own art project!

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part V)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Sage Lemieux, Toucan, Age 11

Sage Lemieux, Age 11

Sage Lemieux, Age 11

Bird Pooping, Neva Hobbs, Age 5


Eastern Bluebird, Jamie Davis, Age 13

“The Eastern Bluebird is one of my favorite birds of New England, because I have watched it and fed it and nurtured the nest boxes in our yard and at the Community Gardens in our town. This year Mama and I were invited to be nest box monitors at an old cranberry bog in our town. The Cape Cod Bird Club has 45 nest boxes there, occupied by Eastern Bluebirds, and we take our turn checking on them. I have loved seeing the various stages of growth in the Bluebirds, inspired by Julie Zickfoose’s new book, Baby Birds. I was thrilled a few winters ago to see Eastern Bluebirds in our yard and to watch the males and females at our feeders and bird bath. The males are my favorite color, a kind of Cerulean blue, with the females just slightly duller in color, but not in interest or intelligence. I chose a medium of watercolor for the bluebird because I loved the Cerulean Blue.”

Jamie Davis, Age 13

Jamie Davis, Age 13

White-Throated Needletail, Joseph Jewett, Age 8

“The white-throated needletail is a rare and endangered species. It is a favorite of many birdwatchers because it is one of the fastest birds in the world. In 2013, a needletail got struck by the spinning blades of a wind turbine in the United Kingdom while anxious birdwatchers looked on. My drawing includes a needletail, an airplane, and a wind turbine. It symbolizes the negative impact that modern technologies can have on birds but also how birds have inspired new technologies that create community and help to protect the environment. When I grow up, I want to design turbines that can harvest huge amounts of energy from the wind while keeping birds, bats, and even bugs safe.”

Joseph Jewett, Age 8

Joseph Jewett, Age 8

Gabrielle Ross, Blue Jay Family, Age 7

“I love blue Jays. They are so pretty. I have a family of blue jays in my yard.
Their mom brings the babies food to eat.”

Gabby Ross, Age 7

Gabby Ross, Age 7

Finishing the Frog

Bullfrog and Spatterdock - at 72 dpi, cropped

June 30, 2016

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Part 2

I end my day at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary back at the visitor center, where a big spreading mulberry tree, with lots of ripening fruit, is attracting a parade of birds.   I meet Sandy Selesky, whose lovely photographs often grace the pages of BIRD OBSERVER magazine.  We watch rose-breasted grosbeaks, cardinals, waxwings, red-bellied woodpeckers and robins gorging on the fruit.

Full Frontal Bluebird - at 72 dpi

Full Frontal Bluebird, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 11″ x 9″

Nearby, a massive old white ash is attractive to birds that prefer an open perch.  I get superb views of a wood pewee, than a handsome male bluebird.  I start a drawing of the bluebird, and in the course of my work, notice a band on the bird’s right leg.  The volunteers who monitor the nest boxes must know this bird well!

Remember the drawing of the Bullfrog and Spatterdock that I mentioned in my last post?

Bullfrog and Spatterdock - drawing at 72 dpi

Here’s the sequences of washes I used to finish the watercolor back in my studio:

Step 1…

Bullfrog and Spatterdock - STEP 1 - at 72 dpi

I often start a watercolor by mapping out the overall pattern of light and shade.  Here, I used a neutral color mixed from ultramarine blue and vermilion.  This mixture can be more bluish or more purplish by varying the proportion of the two pigments.   By starting the picture this way, I’m encouraged to work all over the picture, rather than focusing on any one part.  It also forces me to consider the composition, especially the overall pattern of light and dark.  I allow this step to dry completely.

Step 2…

Bullfrog and Spatterdock - STEP 2 - at 72 dpi

Next, I start to establish the local colors of the various elements, painting these colors right over my tonal washes from step 1 (in the vocabulary of watercolor, this is known as glazing).


Bullfrog and Spatterdock - at 72 dpi

Bullfrog and Spatterdock, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 8″ x 11.5″

The final phase of the painting adds the rest of the local colors, and makes minor adjustments of tone and color to bring all parts of the picture into balance.

Home and Away

We are thrilled to have a guest post by the amazingly talented artist Sherrie York. She will be visiting the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon between July 28 to July 30 to display her art, lead several programs, and give an illustrated talk about her printmaking. She will be doing a workshop with our summer camp on July 28th, giving an illustrated talk and reception for her artwork on July 29th, and giving an all day printmaking workshop on July 30th.

Home and Away by Sherrie York

Travel and art-making have often gone hand-in-hand. (Or perhaps that’s brush-in-hand.) John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Morocco revealed an intriguing faraway culture. John James Audubon’s journeys recorded North America’s flora and fauna and Albert Bierstadt’s romantic western landscapes helped inspire the first national parks.

I enjoy travel, too, and will be traveling from my Colorado stomping grounds to MABA this summer. In July I will exhibit some of my linoleum block prints in the estate house and present both a printmaking workshop and presentation about my work. Of course it doesn’t always take a passport, a suitcase, or a new frontier to find subject matter. Familiar places close to home are inspiring, too.


This is Sands Lake. It’s a scruffy little body of water next to the Arkansas River in the town of Salida, where I live. They call it a lake, but it’s really a settling pond for the fish hatchery upstream. Water flows from hatchery to lake via underground culverts, then spills out the far bank in to the river.

During the day the trail around the lake is filled with fishing enthusiasts, dog-walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and birders. More than one elicit teenager party has taken place there after dark. Pristine, exotic wilderness it’s not.

But for me this humble corner provides a wealth of inspiration and stories year-round, and no small number of linocuts, too.


Pas de Ducks: All year

At the upriver end of the lake, next to the inflow culvert, is a concrete fishing pier. The remains of cliff swallow nests were still attached when it was installed, a good indicator of its provenance as repurposed bridge. Hopeful mallards congregate below the pier looking for handouts, and from my elevated vantage point I enjoy watching the tracery they create in the reflection of the railing.


Cruisin’: Spring

Forget the robin as a harbinger of spring! Local birders know that spring migrants begin to appear weeks before the pelicans turn up at the lake, but their sheer size and brilliant whiteness assure that even the most bird-ambivalent will notice this sign of winter’s demise.

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

Usurper: Summer

Three species of bluebird are present in the area around the lake, but the mountain bluebird’s cobalt shimmer and soft call is the most common. Bluebird enthusiasts abound, too, as evidenced by nest boxes peppering the edges of yards, pastures, and the municipal golf course. Of course tree swallows don’t know they aren’t the intended occupants…


Coot du Jour: Autumn through Spring

Like mushrooms after rain, American coots sprout on the surface of the lake in early autumn. The antics of 70 or 80 over-wintering birds amuse me until spring, but before the trees have finished leafing out they are gone. I never see them arrive, and I never see them leave.


No Time Like the Present: Winter

Winter is the time for waterfowl on Sands Lake. Because so much water moves through from the hatchery the lake remains open even in the coldest days of winter. Common and Barrow’s goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup, wigeon, and more fill the lake with noise and motion and offer consolation for the absence of warblers and swallows.



Embracing the Greens

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Lincoln on June 10, 2015
This is certainly the busiest sanctuary I’ve visited so far on my residency. At 9:30 a.m. the parking lots are nearly full and the place is hopping, with buses full of school children arriving for the morning programs and tours. I soon find, however, that most of the visitors are headed for the Farm Yard with all its animal exhibits, working farm, wildlife sanctuary and more. The trails up onto the drumlin are quiet and peaceful!

From the drumlin’s summit (270 ft.), I’m captivated by the wonderful view down into the fields that dominate the southern end of the sanctuary. This is where the produce for the Drumlin Farm CSA is grown, and where other fields are set aside for wildlife. I get right to work on a watercolor, and as I’m painting I watch several groups of visitors touring the CSA operation. You can see one of these groups in the center right of my watercolor.

CSA Fields, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi

The CSA Fields, Drumlin Farm, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 7.5″ x 12.25″

A watercolor like this is a study in greens – I think I’ve used nearly every green that it is possible to mix from the yellows and blues on my palette – which intentionally does not include any green pigments!  I’ve found most commercially available green pigments to be too artificial and raw, and I much prefer to mix all of my greens. Note the shift in temperature of these various greens – some very cool and bluish and others very warm and yellowish. These contrasts in color temperature are what make the painting come alive!

Set-up at Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi
After lunch I’m back out on the trails, this time in search of birds. I linger by the big dead trees that stand in the middle of the WHIP Field. They are a magnet for birds, so I set up my scope and watch the parade. A kingbird, an oriole, tree swallows and a bluebird come and go, but the best models are a pair of red-winged blackbirds. They linger long enough for me to sketch and paint them.

Redwing studies, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi
Back near the overflow parking area I notice movement in an unmowed area near the split rail fence, and find two females, and one male bobolink. The meadow here is a verdant tangle of vetch, milkweed, and a yellow-blossomed flower I can’t identify. This mix of vegetation adds color and variety, and I take some digital photos of the plants to supplement my drawings of the birds. Back in the studio, I put together this larger watercolor using my field references.

Bobolink Pair, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi

Bobolink Pair at Drumlin Farm, watercolor on Arches rough, 16.25″ x 12.25″