Free as a Bird

Watercolor painting of birds perching on the hand-lettered text Watercolor painting of a Red Tailed Hawk, by artist Barbara BromleyWatercolor painting of a bluebird, by artist Barbara BromleyI have been a birder for as long as I can remember. Chasing after birds as they flew actually made me feel free and unencumbered. It was the birds of prey that caught my attention first. The hawks and owls with their fierce eyes were a pleasure to sketch and paint. In Florida I discovered brown pelicans, watching in wonder as they dove beak-first into the ocean to catch fish. They way their bodies “kerplopped” into the water in such a bizarre fashion intrigued me. Then there were the Osprey diving feet first to grab fish with their talons. Sometimes they misjudge the size of their prey and are pulled under the water to certain death.

When I met my (eventual) husband Steve, I found a fellow bird lover in his mom, who introduced me to wrens, finches, and bluebirds. We observed these lovely critters together as they fed from the feeder just outside the large picture window of her Michigan home. Winters were hard, but the birds in her area thrived thanks to the massive quantity of seeds in her feeder. Who needed TV? We had ready entertainment watching a great variety of birds just outside the window.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara BromleyIn Texas the hummingbirds provided me with a favorite subject to sketch. I’d work on five different drawings in various poses as the hummers got “nectar” from our feeder. Every year a male black-chinned hummer would arrive perching on our peach tree waiting for females. After mating, off he went to chase another! The females laid eggs then raised two babies alone.

Watercolor painting of a Rufus hummingbird, by Barbara Bromley

While living in Texas our entire family observed the pea-sized eggs in a nest constructed of spider silk and lichens. As the young hummingbirds grew the silk stretched to accommodate their growing bodies.

photo-hummer-on-nestP1Another Texas favorite was the roadrunner, which mates for life. I observed one wandering about seeming greatly disturbed only to find his dead mate close by, the victim of a fast-moving car. It always amazed me to know that roadrunners are capable of working together to kill a rattlesnake, not quite the cartoon image from long ago…

In Massachusetts the nuthatches caught my eye as they moved down a tree trunk head-first. Another treat was watching marsh wrens at Great Meadows. When the babies were fledging the parents had to come out of their hiding places in the reeds to feed them. I was ready with camera and sketchpad!


In Kentucky it was the common mallard ducklings that ticked my fancy. The young would follow their mommy anywhere including a busy street. I’ve also been shocked by the number of cooper’s hawks winging their way through housing developments instead of the forests for which their wings and tails were designed.

Get ready for my next blog about birds I’ve know “personally”.

Happy Birding to ALL!


Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Happy Birthday Sam!

Our eldest grandson turns six tomorrow, August 10.  Happy Birthday Sam!

Watercolor painting of grandson Sam on his sixth birthday

One day Sam, you will understand how you helped turn our “world” into one filled with magic and wonder.  You weren’t the first to do that however.  Your uncle Nick and your Mom were, but they weren’t as perfect as you!  Perfection is reserved only for GRANDCHILDREN.

“Being a grandmother is our last chance to act like a kid without being accused of being in our second childhood.”  – Janet Lanese

My current life is filled with proof of the above quote.   The bird on my head in the photo below is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to you Sam, I have photos of me playing in the dirt, climbing on a playscape, and hiking up a slippery hill with the hope that I land on my feet instead of on my rear end.

Photo from Louisville KY zoo, of grandson Sam, and Grandmother Artful Barb, who has a bird on top of her head

Then there are the times we spend together where every piece of art equipment in the house is used to create a joint masterpiece.  Let’s face it:  you can never have too many art supplies!

Finally the magic of baking.  You on the stool and me trying hard not to sample too many goodies.      The clean up was always interesting.  It appears that you cook just like our master chef – Grandpa.  Always focusing on the creative part, not so much on the aftermath….

Very soon we’ll be eating cake, singing happy birthday, and generally celebrating your big day.

With any luck my “elephant memory” will hang on to your special day to relive the magic again and again.

Love, Grandma.

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature