Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Trip to Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuges

Mattamuskeet and Pocosin are wildlife refuges in the northeastern part of North Carolina most famous for being the winter home of 75% of the world's population of Tundra Swans and 60,000 Snow Geese.  There is also incredible populations of Northern Pintails and other dabbling ducks.  Above you can see the work it takes for the Tundra Swans to take off.  The noise of the wing flapping can be heard over long distances.  This was at Pocosin Lakes.  

They are just gorgeous in the air and are constantly talking!

I had gone on this guided trip sponsored by the City of Wilmington and booked through Halyburton Park.  My oldest daughter and I had planned to go by ourselves as the trip was supposed to occur when i was in Fl.  However, because of the big storm, it was postponed and they were looking for more people.  It is always fun to take these trips despite the very early morning rising!!

This is one of the first birds we saw at Mattamuskeet (a large lake which is only about 3 feet deep).  It is not common to see these birds out where you can get good pictures.  This one darted in and out of the reeds (where they are almost invisible).  I had seen them before but this was the closest I have gotten.

Just a closeup of his face and feathers.

There were lots and lots of ducks at Mattamuskeet -- more than I think I have seen before.  Here are several Northern Pintails which I think are a gorgeous bird.

Here is a closeup although his tail is in the water.

This is a male and female Northern Shoveler -- another beautiful colorful duck with those huge bills.

These are male Ring-necked Ducks.  None of us has ever seen a ring around the neck but there is certainly one around the bill!

This a Northern Harrier who was chasing the ducks and forcing them into the air.  You can always tell when either these or the Bald Eagles are around!  The Northern Harrier is easy to identify by the wide white stripe on his tail.

We headed on the road that crosses the lake and spotted several Bonaparte Gulls which were standing still in the wind as they weren't strong enough to make much forward motion.  It was great for picture taking!

There were also several Forster's Terns hanging out with the Gulls having the same problem.

There were a lot of Coots both at Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes.

For some reason, I mentioned to my friend John (who was in the back seat of the van with my daughter) that I was curious where he had gotten pictures of a Cattle Egret down here.  Right around the next corner, what should appear but a Cattle Egret.  It is about the size of a Snowy Egret but has a yellow shortened beak, is a little stubbier in stature and has faint beige feathers on its head.  They are normally found hanging out inland with cattle (what a surprise there...).  It was the first Cattle Egret I have seen outside of Florida.

We didn't see any bears this trip (it was pretty chilly) and missed seeing the bobcat and the river otters by just a little!  The bobcat was evidently stalking some Coots that had left the water at Mattamuskeet and the river otters were crossing the road in front of the second van (I was in the first) at Pocosin,  My daughter and I will return in the fall to see if we can see the bears who are most common when feeding for their winter naps.

Only four Snow geese were spotted altogether -- they seemed to have left VERY early this year, perhaps a better harbinger of early spring that the groundhog.  Last year we saw 1000's.  We also didn't see the Trumpeter Swans that some had seen but it may have been because the birds were backlit at Mattamuskeet.  We ran into others who had spotted them.  We also saw a few Bald Eagles and of course vultures -- both Turkey and Black.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Dyeing Day and a New Quilt Start

Shortly after returning from Florida, Dianne and I met for a day of dyeing -- extreme overdyeing which results in 35 colors using 10 dye baths.  It is very labor intensive though but Dianne and I have gotten it down to a fine art and a predictable time schedule.  She always lets me pick the colors and I noticed we hadn't done any reds -- well, I think we overachieved.  There were some strange things happening which I think resulted from old dyes -- red seems to be the most sensitive.

The first set of dyes were Sun Yellow, Golden Yellow, a mix of half Strong Orange and half Rust Orange, Basic Brown and the Neutral Gray.  The overdyes were Mixing Red, Fuchsia, Strongest Red, Fire Red (Dharma),Scarlet (Dharma) and then Deep Navy.  I think the Fuchsia and Scarlet were weak -- the scarlet being the weakest as it dyed orange.  They were all 3% concentrations.  I overdye a couple of those red/oranges that look alike -- maybe with some black, brown or navy.

Just another view of the same fabrics.  I think it shows a little more variation this way.  I do like the effect of the gray, brown and navy.

This is the beginning of another quilt.  I bought a rhombus ruler after seeing a quilt made with it at my local quilt show in Rochester.  I already  have a name for it and a different direction -- it will be called Ode to Albers.  The reason for this can be seen in the chartreuse in the two blocks - they look like two different colors as they are affected by their surroundings -- this is what Albers did a lot of studies on and a principle I often emphasized when teaching a color class.  I have cut up a lot of those center rhombuses from scraps and was doing the same for the strips.  I will be cutting the strips of real yardage so I can do more strip piecing.  There is a lot of trimming with this block.  A rhombus is just a fat diamond.  

 No  blog would be complete without a few birds.  This was an Ibis wandering with a few friends down at Ft. Fisher.

 A large flock of Lesser Scaups has returned to Carolina Beach Lake.  I hadn't seen any last year but they were frequent visitors before.  This is one of the males.  They are diving ducks and they almost seem to dive as a group -- first one and then a bunch more follow.

Here is a group of four of the males.  

There are mostly Gadwalls now at the Aquarium pond.  Here is a male and his female friend.  There were also Buffleheads and Pied-billed Grebes and a beautiful Great Blue Heron.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Humpback Whale Washes up on our Beach!

I was watching the news last Tuesday and they reported that a Humpbacked Whale had washed up on Kure Beach one block down from where I live so I hurried out with camera in hand and walked down to the access point.  There were about 50 people already there watching them do the necropsy on the whale.  It was a juvenile male in very bad condition that had died (they think from lots of parasites but all the evidence isn't in yet) and then washed up on the beach.  It was small at 25 feet long and 15,000 pounds!!  By the time I got there, they were well into the necropsy.  Here you can see the tail that they had just cut off and get an idea of the size.

The woman pictured above from the local aquarium (about 1 1/2 down the road) readily answered any questions you might have -- they had cordoned off the area to keep visitors at a distance.

This is looking at the  head region and the balene (which is how they eat).  All the fuzz are tubercles.  

It is well dissected here and they were taking parts back to the laboratory at UNCW and were sending parts out to the University of California as well.  Shortly after this photo was taken, they dipped the tail in the water to get all the sand off.  The heavy equipment was borrowed from the beach renourishment project they were doing further north in Kure.  It was a once in a lifetime experience and hope they learn something to save future whales from the same bad fortune.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Quilters By the Sea January Meeting -- Michelle May

This was the night of the fantastic sunset in one of the earlier blogs.  Later that same night was a glorious full moon!  It lit up the sky!

Our speaker for our January meeting was a new to the area quilter named Michelle May.  She was a delightful speaker and shared many of her quilts with us.  She does applique and has been featured on the Quilting Arts tv show as well as published in several magazines.  Her website is The Raspberry Rabbits.  She also has a blog where she often shares free patterns - Raspberry Rabbits Blog.

Here are some of her quilts:

There were some lovely quilts shared as part of our show and tell but as usual, people showed them for a nanosecond -- not enough for a good picture for sure!!

Below is our raffle quilt for this year.  The drawing will be held in December and tickets are 6 for $5 or $1 a piece.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Birding out the Back Window!

We didn't do our usual birding in Florida this year as all three of us were incapacitated to some extent and couldn't do the walking.  So included here are some of the birds that frequented my sister's bird feeders.  This is a Mourning Dove picking up the seeds from the ground.

A nice male Cardinal.  A female was also a frequent visitor.

One of the first Goldfinches of the season.  He has yet to get his pretty colors.  Look at that big finch bill though!

This was the most frequent visitor -- a Pine Warbler.  When you see the Goldfinch and the Warbler together, it is easy to see the differences.  We also saw quite a few Palm Warblers.

The Tufted Titmouse (pictured here) and the Chickadees moved very fast, picking up a seed and eating it elsewhere.

Last but not least was the Downy Woodpecker!!  We had both males (here) and females.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Catching Up!!!

These past couple of weeks have been very busy so it will take a bit to catch up on my blogs for sure!!  I had to put this picture up of a gorgeous sunset first even though it was not taken where the rest of the pictures were!  It is a sunset last Monday at Ft. Fisher and I was hurrying off to a quilt meeting but sensed it would be a beautiful sunset from what I could see.  The sun had actually gone down probably 20 minutes before I took this picture.

I spent the previous five days in Florida at my sister Gail's house.  She invited me down early so I could share some of my learning with her weekly quilting group,  My sister definitely overachieves in this department as each week she develops a pattern and then teaches these ladies how to make whatever project she is doing -- probably why she doesn't blog much anymore!!  So as two of the ladies are really beginners, I chose a "disappearing nine-patch" as that is an easy block that makes for a nice presentation.  We decided that we would do three blocks for a table runner.

This was my demonstration piece.  The nine-patch consisted of the purple marbled blocks in the corners, the yellow on the inside and the blue in the middle of the column and row.  My instructions were to three different values (my first mistake).  I chose a light value for the center, medium values for the middle sides and dark for the corners but you could do any combination.  However, all the ladies (including my sister) brought charm packs with 5 inch squares which was the right size and saved the cutting step.  Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult to sort out the light, medium and dark values.  I learned I shouldn't say values as that was not a term all the ladies were familiar with.  

We got our nine patches sewn but three of the ladies hadn't done chain piecing before and my sister was resisting....Being the older sister, I INSISTED she do it my way this once!!  So they learned chain piecing, nesting (seams turned opposite ways at intersections) and ironing.  It didn't take long for them to get their blocks finished.  Then we measured the center block (knowing that beginners don't always do a scant 1/4 inch seam) and took that measurement, divided in half and cut the blocks.  This all went relatively smoothly.

This was my sister's almost finished table runner.  She did well with her lights and darks and mediums and put them together in a nice scrappy composition.  It is hard to successfully pull off scrappy with only three  blocks.

This was March's and worked out really well I thought.  With these scrappy ones, we didn't sew the now four-patches together until we set them on the design wall to get good placement.

March overachieved and did four blocks and this was an alternate arrangement and an idea. of what it would look like as a scrap quilt.  If you put these  blocks on point and use a strong color for the center blocks, you get a really interesting arrangement (just turn your head sideways!!!).

These were Arliss's blocks and have yet to be arranged.  She chose some nice bright colors.

Donna's charm pack was the most difficult to arrange but she did very pleasing blocks with good contrast!

In the meantime and during times I wasn't looking out the window taking pictures of birds, I managed to complete the green quilt minus one block!!  Right now it measures 77 x 77 but I will add some borders to make it probably about 90 x 90 so it can fit on a king-sized bed.  I gave the book away as I never am going to make another of these!!  I will be quilting it in three parts so won't add the borders on until I am finished the quilting and have sewn it together -- much easier on the shoulders and arms.  

My sister has an awesome studio with lots of space, all windows facing out onto fields and woods with bird feeders in the backyard -- a lanai which she has pretty much taken over!!  It was a great space for teaching a small group.  It would give my friend Marcia's beautiful studio a run for its money (Gail doesn't have the storage though that Marcia has though!!).  Gail was giving me grief about how much fabric I had versus what she had. I pointed out that she has only been quilting for about four years and I have for 40 years -- she didn't much to say to that (she has collected quite a bit in four years!!)  She has a free pattern on the Hoffman website (Skyline Circle Quilt).  Her quilt was displayed at Market last fall and she received a nice collection of beautiful Hoffman fabrics for her efforts!!  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Some More Quilting in the Cooler Weather!

 I should have titled this blog -- Not too Great an Idea....  I had envisioned using purple and orange "flavored" blocks in the center of this quilt.  As you can see, it didn't work AT ALL so it joined the pile of blocks that won't   be used.  The ones in this iteration that have the  bright orange in them also hit the reject pile.  As I am making 196 of these blocks, hard to give up on any as they are not as easy as they might seem at first glance.

So the purple block got eliminated.  I still haven't arranged the rest.  the blocks with the pale oranges will remain the center blocks.

The center blocks are sewn together.  I took great liberties with the pattern instructions and got even more liberal with the directions as I got further into the quilt.  I understand why I put it down those years ago!!  It is boring but at least mine is well into wonkiness which is my preferred way.  I used a ruler thinking it was a 6 inch square and it was a 6 1/2 square which I didn't catch onto until I had cut well over a 100 blocks.  To get them to be square and even, I placed the ruler however I could so as to not cut off too much.  I also made both left and right handed block which if you look closely, you can see above.  Some was accidental and then some was on purpose!  I am going to make it in three sections so it will be easier to quilt.  It will be for a king sized bed in a room that is painted a pale green.

The directions call for combining units that were cut from 3 inch rectangles and 3 1/2 inch rectangles with two of each in each block.  By the end I made sure that I had uneven amounts of the four sided shapes with at least of the ones cut from the 3 1/2 inch rectangles so that I didn't have to struggle so much to get a 6 1/2 block.  You have to square up each block, a task I never like.

I will be surrounding those orange centered blocks with brighter green centered blocks and then the final row on the outside will be blocks that are darker in value.  I haven't decided yet whether I will separate the center blocks with a bit of sashing which will make the quilt a little wider.  Will have to see.

I have seen very few Buffleheads this year, maybe because it has been warmer than usual.

The Hooded Mergansers have disappeared from the aquarium pond but have been replaced by a good sized flock of Gadwalls which are a very elegant duck in my humble opinion.  Lots of males and females and some nice weather for viewing!