A Tallgrass Journal
Do you enjoy the sights, sounds, smell, and touch of the Prairie? How often do you wish you were once again standing on sites of past years; revisiting those memories, as clear as the day they were first formed? Do you want to experience new Prairie locales; the flora, fauna, and life events, and heritage? Join us on the Tallgrass for something we've been missing during the hustle of our daily activities...if this sounds like your "cup of tea", join us and enjoy the view!
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Saturday, March 4, 2023
|"McCormack Sunrise" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison|
It's finally March and we had our first Robin of the year this morning! Things are looking up...well, sort of. Next week we're to have another 2-3 days of snow...maybe not much but still...ugh.
Really I'm not feeling as grumpy as I make it sound. We are finally in a zone of precipitation, something that just hasn't been the norm here the past 3 years. Although the ground remains frozen, we still have hope that some of this winter's snow and rain will make it into the soil. Maybe some of the seeding we did again in the north pasture will actually take this time??? One can certainly hope!
My easel has been hopeful this winter as well, I figure if you can't have warm weather - just paint it!
The image above is of a nice little conservation area maybe 7 or 8 miles south of us "as the crow flies". The McCormack area was donated to O'Brien County about 30 years back by Francis McCormack. Francis was a native to the area having grown up in the vicinity of this location. He left the area to serve in the US Navy...spent many years in Philadelphia after his service - then returned home in 1986 and purchased this ground from his brother - ground they were all so familiar with. Family say Francis would spend time there "for peace and quiet".
It is a very nice quiet spot, one my wife and I and even grand kids have visited...over the years it has been on my regular visit list. Thanks to people like Francis McCormack for giving back to the people of this area - there are so few places in our county still left that aren't plowed under or built up with houses or confinements. The McCormack Area is a treasure of our natural heritage.
In the meantime I'm keeping at it in the studio - watching the landscape gradually change in the valley out front. Spring is gett'n close!!!
Hope to see ya on the Tallgrass!
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Changing It Up A Bit - A Look At The "Process"
|"Past Thanksgiving - November Barn" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison|
|Original photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
Friday, December 23, 2022
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
|Pre-Blizzard Sun Dogs from our lane (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)|
It's almost Christmas and I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone the best this season! Unfortunately for many it is also bad weather timing! We have a really nasty blizzard here as I type...started yesterday and is still going strong here this late afternoon. Visibility can be measured in "Feet" here right now...it is insane.
Yesterday morning when the above photo was taken, it was 18 below zero with a near 50 below zero windchill. It was just kicking up the wind when this was taken.
|Sun Dogs at full arc over the barn (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)|
The next photo was taken this morning at about a quarter to ten...I was out trying to start the pickup/plow and saw the arc...WHOA! I ran into the studio and grabbed the camera. I backed up as far as I could up the lane past the barn but ran up against some very high drifts and the studio orchard fence...this was as much as I could manage in one shot.
is only the second full arc sun dog I have ever witnessed. I took
another very similar image of the first one here a few years back. The
snow was beginning to kick up so bad that I was lucky I spotted it
before the winds just blotted it out! It's been a terrible afternoon -
much worse than yesterday.
The county plows have been pulled off the roads the past two days...we'll see what tomorrow brings.
At any rate - Be safe out there. Stay inside and off the roads until the plows get a chance to catch up. Please make this a safe and Blessed Christmas for you and your familiy.See you on the Tallgrass - Merry Christmas!
Monday, November 21, 2022
Autumn in SE O'Brien County
I was asked to write and illustrate another piece for Bleeding Heartland this past week. This one is titled "Autumn in SE O'Brien County". There are some image repeats from the last blog entry, but some new and with a story to illustrate. Give it a read if you have a moment - I hope you enjoy it!
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Autumn Drought = Autumn Color!
|Autumn Road - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
I really believe we are seeing the best autumn colors this fall than I've seen since we moved here 20 years ago...its been just beautiful! We just weren't expecting it...3rd drought year in a row...listed in the "Extreme" category now, with the worst (5 out of 5) "Exceptional" creeping even closer.
According to a state arborist, we are getting great color due to the warm/mild weather preceding our first hard frost. We haven't had any rain since then so the wind has been the only thing dropping leaves now...and its been monotonously windy since the colors came on!
|Hale Slough - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
I'll leave you with some nice Fall color in NW Iowa near and not so far from our acreage. (Click on each image for a larger view).
|Receding Pool and Cottonwoods - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
|Garlock Slough - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
|Arching Autumn Colors - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
|Autumn in the Waterman Valley - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison|
Happy Fall out there! See you on the Tallgrass!
Friday, October 7, 2022
|"Inciting a Riot!" Blue Jay Portrait - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison|
Artwork Friday! OK...I decided "Archival Works Friday" was too
constricting - I think this will give me some room to just try and post
something interesting once a month, whether it's new or old...sometimes
my brain just drops something out there and I say to myself "why not?"!
I'll try and broaden the original idea a bit and give a little back story on the work - the first Friday of the month. I hope you'll find it interesting!
Maybe this should be called "Blue
I just recently finished this Blue Jay color pencil drawing, and readily admit that this is not an old piece...but the idea does stretch back many years...Blue Jays and I.
I have always loved Blue Jays...these birds have real character and are very intelligent; part of the bird family "Corvdae", which includes crows, ravens and magpies. My first personal “close encounter” with Blue Jays was when I was maybe around 11 or 12. I had snuck up on one, on a friend's bird feeder, and reached up and grabbed its tail...of course the jay let out a loud squawk and flew off - leaving that stupid kid (me) with a handful of tail feathers! Through the rest of the summer (until molt in August) everyone in the neighborhood recognized this "tailless" Blue Jay wherever it went! I even got the feeling it was extra keen on avoiding "me"!
It's funny how us humans place our own judgments and morals on wild creatures...Blue Jays seem to get unjustly criticized at times. Blue Jays are obvious when they're in the vicinity...noisy, constant calling; often arriving in numbers, and usually dominating the bird feeders. Some people think they're pushy or mean, so have a personal dislike for them...placing human judgment on something is really misguided; in doing so it is easy to miss the “larger” picture...the entirety of these amazing and beautiful birds.
When we hear jays around the acreage, we can very often discern what is going on by the calling...the chatter of the airwaves if-you-will. I can often hear when they are calling to alert to a good meal to be had (at the feeders), whether they seem to be in a good or bad mood or when they are on their own and pensive (see - there I go placing human attributes myself!). I have often heard individuals do the most pleasing quiet gurgles, and jingles, when they seem to think they're alone and unobserved. When they're aware they're being watched, they can be quite quiet and alert.
They're good at imitating other birds – particularly Red-tailed Hawks. I often stop what I'm doing when I'm outside, to look up for a Red-tail whenever I think I hear one call...I can now spot “most” impersonations, but occasionally I have to say out loud “good one”! Even a Red-tailed Hawk would be proud of some of those attempts of jays (and even starlings, by-the-way) trying to imitate them!
I've found over the years how good they are at spotting hawks and owls in the yard. This can be beneficial to me if I have the camera handy. What better way to have a predator alarm! Crows are also very good at this...a flock mobbing a hawk or owl is a fairly common occurrence. And I've watched jays actually bully some hawks they should be wary of...like a dangerous game of cat and mouse. But they don't always come out unscathed.
A couple weeks back I was out in the north pasture photographing some dew covered webs and suddenly a big ruckus broke out up in the northwest corner of the backyard. Blue Jays were having a fit...no, they were definitely upset and one jay was clearly beyond distressed. I thought to myself “someone had just become breakfast”. I made my way over to the yard as jays were dispersing in different directions. Moments later a large mature accipiter – had to have been at least a female Cooper's Hawk, flew up out from underneath a low sweeping conifer – carrying away its meal for the morning...Blue Jay feathers scattered about under the tree verified the menu. Real life drama in the bird world!
I really enjoy trying to photograph Blue Jays. Their personalities really seem to shine at times, especially when they get cranked up or mischievous! The color pencil drawing at the top of this article says it all! I read many years back that a flock of Blue Jays is called a "Riot" or a "Party"...hence the subtitle for this small life-size Blue Jay Portrait - "Inciting a Riot!"...gotta love these birds!
|Blue Jay color pencil drawing from some 40 years ago...we all have to start somewhere! (prismacolor color pencil drawing © Bruce A. Morrison)|
This wasn't my fist Blue Jay drawing, but probably my most expressive and detailed...my first color pencil Blue Jay was done on archival/colored mat board, 40 some years ago...I've done others in more recent years as well.
I'll part by saying enjoy “all” the birds...they aren't little “people” and don't have our motives or faults, no matter how endearing or disconcerting! Give 'em a break and enjoy watching every chance you get!