Spring Birds

Suddenly the sun is there on the horizon and the wait is over. Every bird in every tree begins to sing. The earlier chorus was only a preliminary. This is the main event. The birds sing as though it were the first dawn that ever was and they must celebrate.

Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 9 April 1961

What would April be without birds? They seem to be all over, including on the back cover of the latest Fine Woodworking (#289). Editor Jon Binzen honored me by featuring one of my bird bowls there, trimmed in spring green. I had previously shared the making of that maple bowl in a blog post.

Looking back through that post, I think I should emphasize an important step. Just like with my non-bird bowls, I begin with a flat bottom. I’ve been sneaking in work on some little birds between some larger projects, so I have a couple photos.

The tighter the crook the better for these. This one is from a staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) trunk. It grows like a weed around here. I split it along the pith, then used part of it for the bird that is furthest to the right in the lead photo for this post.

I set the crook on its side and try to envision the way the bird will “sit”. Then I sketch a line for the bottom and hew away the roundness of the split surface by hewing across the grain.

I usually following the axe with a block plane to get the bottom really flat so that it will sit consistently as I consider the rest. I went through much of the general procedure in this recent post as well as the one linked in the first paragraph.

Carolina chickadee, photo by Mike O’Brien

With birds already on my mind, in my ears, and on my bench, I received an email from my friend Mike O’Brien with some close-up bird photos. Mike was able to observe a bird banding event in Chattanooga, Tennessee over the weekend and took some great photos that he allowed me to share here. That’s a Carolina Chickadee above. Here are a few more from Mike. I find it fascinating to consider the differences in the lines, form, and angles in each bird; a wonderful display of form and function.

common grackle, photo by Mike O’Brien
killdeer on her clutch of three speckled eggs, photo by Mike O’Brien
female red-winged blackbird, photo by Mike O’Brien
evening grosbeak, photo by Mike O’Brien.

And one more spring bird that often goes overlooked. Every spring I look forward to the return of the turkey vultures. This year, Kristin and I first saw them on March 6th settling in to roost in a tall stand of hemlocks on our evening walk. I don’t have a lens that can reach for a close-up photo, so this odd ballpoint-pen sketch based on a photo I found will have to do for this post. Too bad Mike and his friends didn’t band one!

Close up, Turkey vultures aren’t likely to win a beauty contest, but, in flight, they are poetry in motion. They offer free group performances all spring.

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9 Responses to Spring Birds

  1. So wonderful ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. maydanlex says:

    Saw a Turkey Vulture early one morning a week ago…. this was a first in our neighborhood (Toronto, Ontario). The red face was quite dramatic. As usual your bird bowls are just as inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Reed says:

    Thanks David, Love the quote. I recently visited a nearby waterfowl refuge, the sounds at sunrise were incredible! I did a short video and shared with my friends, who were home in bed….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob Easton says:

    6 or 7 weeks ago, while the overnight temps were still below freezing, we would hear one lonely songbird in the morning and talk of it being lost. Now, it’s joined by hundreds of friends all greeting each other at daybreak.

    Thanks for the opening quote and your new little birds.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bobs Email says:

    Dave, I really appreciate your postings for the images and the lyrical writings. Thank you.

    Bob Simmons Sun City West, AZ

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brendan McGarry says:

    As a life-long birder, sometime Ornithologist, and more new green woodworker, this post especially hit the mark for me. Thanks for all you share!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Scott Kinsey says:

    They’re back, alright! The hummers and painted buntings are thick. Even Vivian, the black vulture has set up maternity in the same mother of all knot holes. I have seen four enter what must be quite a cavern of oak! Grateful.


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