Bird Inspiration


The birds are singing in the rain about the small pond in front, the inquisitive chickadee that has flown at once to the alders to reconnoitre us, the blackbirds, the song sparrow, telling of expanding buds.

Henry David Thoreau, journal entry for April 21, 1852.

Thoreau’s journals are brimming with his observations of birds.  How could it be otherwise?  Their songs, movement, and mere presence bring joy.  As I look up from writing, a pair of chickadees are flitting in and out of the little birdhouse where they are raising their brood.  I  was able to get a few photos of them last evening.


Making sure the coast is clear, then off to gather some food.


Back with the loot.


Close enough.


Here we go again…


It’s also been fun to watch the finches raise a family in the hanging fern on the front porch.  In the photos above and below, the female is perched above her chicks hidden in the foliage beneath her.


With all of this bird inspiration around the house, it makes sense that I’m inclined to carve crooks into bird forms.  Here’s one I just finished carving from black cherry.



I like the movement of the lines, which is, in part, a result of working with the asymmetric flow of fibers within the particular crook.

Below is the crook from which this bird was carved.  The lower half has been split away and I’ve scribbled a rough idea of a center line.  Much more about the flow of the wood inside is revealed as the carving proceeds from this point.


The deep and undercut hollow is chunked out a bit with gouges, then completed with hook knives.  The exterior is shaped with an axe and finished with a sloyd knife.  12 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 7 inches high.

Here’s a couple more views:




This entry was posted in bird bowls, cherry, finding wood, nature, photography, quotes and excerpts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Bird Inspiration

  1. Lovely work and lovely blog! I look forward to following. P.S. The blue bird carving really made my day as bird in general make me think of my grandmother!


  2. Scott Thomas says:

    Dave, it looks like the bird house itself is hatching. It is indeed fun to to watch the birds as they come and go. My favorites outside my shop are the hummingbirds and the occasional Pileated woodpecker. Your black cherry bird came out beautifully, just as expected. It’s always a pleasure to see your finished work and where it started. Right where you stand.


  3. Tom Stedner says:

    Dave, love the bird bowl and it’s aspiring me to go out and find some large crooks to carve a few. We had a large limb come off a very large and old sugar maple across the road from my house in the woods earlier this week and I do see some spoons in the branches so i’ll have to investigate if there is a crook for a bird. In reading Thoreau’s essays I have learned to observe nature from a whole new perspective. I just read his essay Autumnal Tints and will be looking at this years changing colors in a whole new way.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good luck with the bird bowl, Tom. I’ve got some other posts about them if you check the topic list on the right. If you’ve got small crooks, just make small bird bowls.


  4. Marie L Pelletier says:

    another beauty and the chickadee would make a great wood cut–


  5. Larry Boyer says:


    I couldn’t find a link to the slide show tho?!

    I’m definitely interested in how you set up for the concept of the entire piece.



    Larry Boyer


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks, Larry. I was having a couple technical issues with the slideshow, so I just changed the format and posted the photos direct. There were a few more angles in the slideshow, but pretty repetitive.

      I didn’t take photos as I carved this piece, but there is very little layout involved, a lot more visualization and sculpting by feel and eye. I split the crook, shave off the bark, establish a flat bottom based on my judgement of a good relationship of tilt from front to back, sketch a few basic guidelines freehand an the upper curved surface, and the rest is sculpting the hollow and the exterior with axe and knife. Here’s a previous bird bowl post in which I included a few photos along the way


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