You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Fowl’ category.

An ibis and a ring-neck pheasant!

Happy New Year! And happy National Bird Day (which Americans apparently observe on January 5th)!

Now most birds (like most animals) are having quite a hard time of it out there in a world which is relentlessly shaped by humanity’s boundless appetites. This is a problem which we need to work on every day for the rest of our lives (because the world without its exquisite animals would be a terrible world not even worth bothering with). However, I also understand that constantly writing about how we are making the world into a ghastly necropolis is dispiriting. Also it is still the Christmas season (at least until Three Kings Day tomorrow).

Therefore, to celebrate bird day and to celebrate Christmastime and the hopes for the new year (which aren’t quite ruined yet) I am posting pictures of some of my favorite bird ornaments from my holiday tree of life. This serves a double purpose since my mother complained that the ornaments were not visible in the previous pictures of the tree (this tree is not an easy thing to take pictures of!)

A peacock and a kingfisher
A toucan and a spoonbill (with a non-bird pterosaur above them)

Admittedly, this is not as good as writing about these incredible birds and how they live. But once again we encounter a problem: the only bird whom I currently know well (LG the Canada goose) did not have a very good holiday. We will explain his sadness and discomfiture later, but for right now, why not enjoy this anhinga.

Anhinga, rooster, and hummingbird

…and just for fun, here is one more picture of the whole tree. Happy Three Kings Day! We will get back to the serious business of writing about ecology, politics and the underworld as we get deeper into 2023, but for now kiss a bird (like the despondent LG, for example) and have a wonderful end to your holiday.

Advertisement

Happy Winter Solstice! I am sorry about 2022. I meant to blog more, and answer everyone’s comments, and write a consolidated treatise defending liberalism against the neo-fascists who are everywhere, and post my new monastic orchid illuminations, etc., etc., etc. Alas, not everything got done the way I wanted and now it is the darkest night of the year (the real end of the year, in my book, although I guess there is a week or so of Saturnalia before 2023 truly gets here according to the calendar).

We will work on all of this next year (and much more besides) but before sending the year off, I wanted to share some pictures of my sacred tree of life (an annual tradition). Look! it has even more cephalopods, turkeys, waterfowl, and ancient mammals (plus all of the animals I could get my hands on from every other branch of the great zoological family tree too).

My flounder art (sigh) was about trying to reposition the natural world at the center of what humans find sacred: the religions of Abraham treat the natural world as contemptible–and we are all suffering because of it. Sadly, the fish gods I made did not grab people’s attentions despite their portentous deep-sea secrets. However a few holiday guests have stared at the holiday tree of life for a looooong time before brushing away some tears–so perhaps it actually does get the point across to some degree.

And of course, I saved the best thing for last! My late feline life companion, Sepia (wipes away a few tears of my own) did not enjoy the public eye and so I did not put her in my blog. My present housecat, Sumi Cat, feels much differently and likes to be the constant center of attention. Here are some pictures of her loving little face to help you stave off the primordial darkness (although, ironically, black cats are always hard to photograph and doubly so on the darkest night of the year). Sumi and I hope that you are safe and warm and happy this holiday season! May your dreams come true and may the great tree of life always bloom with fulsome new growth!

We will talk again before 2023, but for now, season’s greetings and good (longest) night!

One hundred and forty years ago, ornithologists discovered a very rare and mysterious bird on an obscure island named Fergusson (which is part of the D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago just northeast of Papua New Guinea)…uh…then they sort of lost track of it for the next 14 decades. The bird was the black-naped pheasant-pigeon (Otidiphaps insularis) a lovely–albeit reclusive–ground dwelling pigeon with a black body and orange/red wings (and glittering blood red eyes). Very little is known about the bird because it has not been officially documented nor studied by scientists since it was discovered in 1884. Indeed, researchers who returned to Fergusson in 2019 were hard pressed to find anyone there who has seen the bird since the 1990s. The black-naped pigeon seemed to have quietly receded into extinction–if it ever even existed.

But the black-naped pigeon did exist! It still does! After talking to Augustin Gregory, a hunter who had seen the “auwo” (the local Papuan name for the pigeon) the ornithologists put hidden cameras on Fergusson’s highest peak, the 6,801 feet (2,073 meter) tall Mt. Kilkerran. This year, just as the expedition was wrapping up, the cameras took a picture of one of the furtive pigeons! These lovely birds have not yet flown away from Earth to join the passenger pigeon, the dodo, the lordly crested Choiseul pigeon, and the pink pigeon of Réunion (some famous extinct pigeons).

Of course, who knows how much longer the black-naped pigeon will continue to be with us? Researchers found a single bird (and it was located in a part of the forest scheduled to be timbered). It is unclear how large the remaining population is or whether the birds will be able to survive the changes coming to Fergusson (and the larger changes coming to the entire planetary atmosphere). But for now, this shy yet lovely bird is still here! Most of the beautiful and amazing animals of the Holocene still are (admittedly in greatly reduced numbers). If only humankind could find a way to show off for each other which did not involve super-use of earth’s resources maybe we could keep not just the black-naped pigeon, but also the black rhino, the panda, the Asian elephant and so many other endangered creatures. Maybe instead of clothes which we wear once and then throw out, or cars which are too fast to drive, we could impress potential mates with a beautiful fan of svelte black tail feathers! (although, to be honest, human females have been unenthused about my beautiful ruddy sweater vest–so maybe we are stuck with over-the-top materialism (or some even-harder-to-obtain status signifier) for the foreseeable future).

Orchid Monastics in a Golden Orchid Rain (Wayne Ferrebee, 2022) ink on paper

Our Inktober special feature of Halloween-adjacent pen-and-ink drawings continues with this enigmatic golden orchid monastery piece which I drew with colored inks on yellow paper.

Lately I have been drawing a series of intricate altarpiece-style compositions after the style of Medieval illuminators (whose seminal contributions to art, culture, and media have been underappreciated because of the post-Vasari cult of celebrity). Hopefully writing about these illustrations in these posts will help contextualize the themes I am trying to highlight.  

Here is a little monastic microcosm of the world.  In one monastery, a white-haired abbot lords it over his little flower novices.  In a sister monastery, the mother superior and her votaries carefully send out an intimate message to the monks by means of technology. Sundry lizard people, extinct animals, and cloaked figures roam about in the space between the two houses as a rain of yellow orchid blossoms falls down from the heavens.

To my mind, the most important part of this composition is the tiny strip of nature in the foreground–a little ecosystem of weeds, wildflowers, seeds, nemotodes, myriapods, and maggots (who are furiously breaking down a mouse skull). The human world of sly courtships, status posturing, and religious grandstanding grows up out of this substrate and pretends to be superior to it (while actually being entirely dependent on the microscopic cycles of life).  All of the pompous & made-up things which humankind uses to dress up our savage primate drives do not change the fact that ecosystems are of paramount importance.

The religions of Abraham (among others) put animals and the natural world at the bottom of their moral hierarchy. I believe they are ultimately doomed because of this stupid outlook.  Whether they will take us all to a garbage-strewn grave with them remains an open question.  

Drawing of Desert Lizard (Wayne Ferrebee, 2022) ink on paper

This year’s Inktober-themed Halloween week continues with an orange-black-and-white lizard living in an arid scrubland filled with prickly plants and desert insects. I have been trying to make some drawings with a limited palette of inks and I had the idea for this drawing when looking at a bag of green, orange, and taupe rubber bands in the office supply closet. It is unclear if the bipedal green figure in the background is a nature spirit, a costumed desert inhabitant, or a figment of the imagination. The little adobe mission seems real enough, though. The best part of the drawing is probably the big grasshopper/locust in the corner, which makes me think I need to draw some more bugs!

It has been a long time since Ferrebeekeeper presented a post about augury. Who could have foreseen this?

A wise equestrian reads the future from birds on a lack and red wine vessel from mid 5th century Greece

Seriously though, today’s post is a quick clarification about the real meaning of the term augury (particularly in relation to how we use the word here on this blog). In ancient Rome, “predicting” the future by means of charismatic quackery was a pastime of astonishing popularity. In fact the word “pastime” might not even be comprehensive enough, since serious, society-wide decisions involving battle, agriculture, politics, statecraft, and commerce were regularly made by soothsaying consultation (naturally all sorts of frivolous personal matters were decided by such means too, just as they are now). Since the Romans were so profoundly hooked on magical prediction of the future, they had a lot of different divination methodologies. The famous sibyls, like the ones at Cumae, Dodona, and Delos, were closely entwined with pantheistic cosmology and thus critical to state power. However, the internationally famous seers and oracles were hardly the only channel for divination. The classical word also featured a breathtaking suffusion of fortune-telling methodologies such as:

  • cleromancy–fortune-telling through casting of lots, stones, or dice
  • hydromancy–predicting the future based on the movement of water
  • necromancy–consulting the dead about hidden matters
  • haruspicy–divination through examination of entrails
  • geomancy–interpreting omens within rocks, mountains, or sand
  • pyromancy–seeing events to come within fire
  • stikhomanteia–reading the future through writings or books (opened at random or by number)
  • numeromancy–using numbers to predict the future
  • augury–scrying by watching the acts or appearances of birds

In contemporary English, this last word (which once was its own specialized practice) has come to mean trying to tell the future through any and all means. Most likely the future is opaque to all forms of meaningful prediction other than logical projection (if a person steps into the ocean they will soon be wet). And, despite my facile parenthetical example, reason itself is a limited tool for understanding the future (which is filled with unknowable unknowns).

Yet I have a special place for augury in my heart because, like all goodhearted people, I love birds…but also because birds base their movements and actions on meaningful stimuli in the hopes of certain outcomes. Birds have senses and sensibilities which are different than our own. Of course, in my book, such matters are best explored by the ornithologist rather than Zeus (although, according to myth, the latter explored the avian mind through direct experience and found that birds have desires similar to our own).

Most importantly, birds can teach us what the future holds, not via magic or divine influence, but by more corporeal means. Modern people do not base their decisions on whether a dove escaped a falcon or a swan attacked an eagle not because we have learned to throw off the yoke of superstitious thinking, but because we don’t often see doves, falcons, eagles, and swans. The birds are very much predicting the future–by vanishing! Unless we want to follow them to oblivion, we need to help them stay alive by curtailing our abuse of the planet.

There’s an augury for you.

A page from “Winter Landscapes and Flowers” (album ca. 1770, Qian Weicheng) ink on silk

Here is a lovely little winter landscape from Qing Dynasty master landscape painter Qian Weicheng (錢維城). Qian was a proponent of the orthodox painting style, and, indeed, we can see that his simple, elegant calligraphic lines emulate the techniques of the Song and Ming artists who preceded him. Although he was perhaps not a master of bravura ink-wash realism to the unearthly degree of Fan Kuan or Guo Xi, Qian brings his own 18th century virtues to the art, and there is a delightful & unaffected simplicity to his work which captures the austere beauty of winter’s bare rocks, leafless trees, and frozen mud. In this little painting, flocks of geese glide through the overcast sky above a branching river which is swollen with melt water. The simplicity of the countryside must have been a dramatic contrast with the opulent splendor of court life in 1774 when this image was dated and inscribed. Of course Qian himself died in 1772, so the inscription and the date were added posthumously by Qian’s greatest fan, the Qianlong Emperor himself!

Qian Weicheng painted over 275 paintings during his time at court and he rose up through the imperial bureaucratic ranks to the exalted position of second-in-command of the Imperial Board of Works. Perhaps you are wondering how it is that Qian came to the capital from his native Jiansu to begin with. Any discussion of dynastic China includes mention of the famous, formidable imperial civil service exams, the great standardized test which was at the center of imperial China’s administrative system. In 1745, Qian came in first place on the exam, an academic feat which brought him to imperial attention and guaranteed his success as a mandarin and as a painter. This path to artistic greatness (acing a standardized test about Confucian principles!) brings up a variety of questions about meritocracy, politics, and aesthetics which we are still wrestling with!

Under the Flounder Moon (Wayne Ferrebee, 2021) ink on paper

Here are two more works from the series of pen-and-ink drawings in black and white ink on colored French paper which i have been working on. I apologize that the sienna one (above) is arguably Halloween themed (although, come to think of it, it seems unfair that carved pumpkins are so profoundly seasonal). To me, the drawing also suits the time of winter darkness which we have entered. In terms of subject matter, the drawing portrays a puritan in a cemetery gasping at the appearance of a black rabbit. Various little elves fall prey to insects and spiders as a ghoul and a ghost look on. In the background a nightjar flies past; while the extreme foreground features some fallen store-bought candies. The entire scene takes place under a great glistening flounder moon which illuminates the Jacobean manor on the hill and casts a fishy light upon the entire troubling scene.

Inside the Idol’s Cave (Wayne Ferrebee, 2021) ink on paper

This second work shows what may or may not be an Easter scene featuring sacred eggs and yet another rabbit (is that guy really a rabbit?). The snapping turtle looks like it is about to snap up that little elf (which is maybe fair since another kobald is making off with her eggs). The entire scene takes place inside a cave where worshipers pray and present offerings to a Dagon-type idol. A bright flatfish shines an otherworldly light on the proceedings and put one in mind of the famous platonic allegory. Likewise the tapir (a famous dream-beast) indicates that this image has something to do with the vantage point from which one approaches reality. The nun (center) reminds us that faith will otherwise help smooth over any deficiencies in perception for those trapped in a cave.

The drawings are meant as companion pieces and it is interesting to see how the same elements reoccur in differing forms. There are two elves (one about to be eaten) in each piece. There is a rabbit in each work. Both works focus on a central religious-type woman in plain garb, and both works are illuminated by fishlight and by the stars. More than that, they are compositionally similar, with a big white scary thing to the immediate right and a field of stone obstacles (gravestones and stalagmites). Yet at a bigger level they are opposite. One work is about reality within the unreal and the other is about the unreal within reality. One work is about life in death and the other is about death in life.

Perhaps I should make some summer and winter companion pieces to make a complete set (assuming that all of these drawings aren’t one weird set of some sort).

Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully you are not tired of turkey yet (my mother said that the buff turkeys gathered under the bay window and gobbled evocatively while she and Dad had their holiday meal). Uhh…anyway, in this spirit, here is a little drawing to celebrate. As I mentioned, lately I have been working with black and white inks on autumn colored paper. This is a drawing from that series which explores the mysterious connections between various entities crossing paths in the forest at night. The main dramatic tension in the composition comes from the unknown relationship between the fashionable woman with long antennae and the blank-eyed peasant pursuing her with an adorable young larva in a wicker basket. Who knows what is up with people like that? In the foreground there are some frogs, flatfish, and spiders…and a being of some sort who has somehow gotten stuck inside a chianti bottle. Tsk tsk! An anthropomorphized cat troubadour is hopefully proffering his mandolin to the fashion-moth-woman, but, alas, she seems too distracted for night music. In the background fat white moths fly through the intertwined branches as a nightjar flies off and a great barred owl swoops in. Deep inside the forest a phantom desperately tries to share a frantic message from the world beyond.

Most importantly, there are some pretty turkeys in the middle of the square drawing. Honestly, you should probably just pay attention to them today. Oh, also, that tenacious critter pursuing the snake is a Sunda stink badger. This hardly seems like the tropical rainforest of Sunda, but, frankly, it is hard to pin down the location or the time of this enigmatic tableau with any true certainty.

Where did the time go? It is impossible to believe that it will be Thanksgiving next week. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I was back at the family farm during the beginning of this month (it is unusual for me to get to go home in November) and I therefore got to see how the little cream-colored turkey poults have turned into adult turkeys. For those who have forgotten my original post from back in August, my parents, who raise lovely Pilgrim geese, obtained these turkeys in a “One Kitten for Kim” type situation when a neighboring poultry farmer exchanged some poults for some goslings. Back in summer I was surprised at how tiny, slender, and delicate the turkeys were. It turns out that this was because they were young. During the intervening months they have put on some real heft (although they are still much smaller that the doughty bronze turkeys of my childhood). It is hard to take pictures of these birds, but I think I captured a bit of their personality. Look at the casual insouciance with which they strut on top of the chickenhouse and prance along the barnyard fence!

I also now believe that the turkeys–which I fancifully though looked like creamsicle or butterscotch in the summer sunsets–are actually a classic variety known as “Buff”. I suspect what is really on your mind, though, is anxiety about their fate. Does the oven call for them with Baalshamen’s hunger for the children of Phoenicia? (or perhaps I should say “with an Olmec priest’s desire to scoop out some succulent human hearts?)” Fortunately however, the answer is that these turkeys are pet turkeys rather than livestock. Provided their behavior remains righteous, they will remain free to run around prancing on the outbuildings and chasing the rooster (whose rubose head troubles them) for as long as they like. They had better not start kicking and pecking at my folks though. Biff the turkey did that back in November 1983 and he dressed out at nearly 50 pounds!

Obviously we will have some more turkey posts next week, but, in the meantime maybe also check out this Aztec turkey/plague god from the Ferrebeekeeper/Central American archives.

They are certainly elusive to photograph…

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

June 2023
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930