Arte y Aves

Art, Birds, and other things: All Give Praise to the Creator

Mindo, Ecuador: Río Silanche

“See you at 5:00 am and we’ll go to Río Silanche”. If you know us very well, you know that for us 5:00 am is in the middle of the night! But we sacrificed in order to see some wonderful birds.

At the Yellow House  they made us sandwiches to take along for breakfast, and arranged for us to have a local guide, Julia Patiño. She led us to Río Silanche which is an island of natural habitat in a heavily farmed area. There we climbed a canopy tower in the dawning light and waited for something marvelous to appear. And appear it did. From the canopy tower we saw and heard a White-Bearded Manikin, Pale-Billed Aracari, Dusky-Headed Flycatcher, and the back of a White-Tailed Trogon! Our morning had begun in an amazing way.

We hiked the trails of the forest and looked out over the pasture land. We saw tanagers, toucans, and woodcreepers. On the way out of the preserve we observed holes in the bank and stopped to have a look. We learned from Julia that both motmots and jacamars nest in holes like the ones we saw. With her help, we found a well hidden Rufous-Tailed Jacamar. Amazing!

At Río Silanche we saw 66 species of birds, the biggest day on our trip: Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Yellow-Bellied Seedeater, Masked Water-Tyrant, Chestnut-Backed Antbird, Rufous Wood-Quail, Pale-Billed Aracari, White-Necked Jacobin, White-Bearded Manakin,White-Shouldered Tanager, Dot-Winged Wren, Chocó Toucan, Blue-Necked Tanager, Turkey Vulture, Southern Nightingale Wren, Rufous Motmot, Green Honeycreeper, Grey and Gold Tanager, White-Tailed Trogan, Buff-Throated Saltator, Blue Dacnis, Social Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Bronze-Winged Parrot, Boat-Billed Flycatcher, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Blue-Headed Parrot, Golden-Faced Tyrannulet, Scarlet-Rumped Cacique, White-Whiskered Hermit, Maroon-Tailed Parakeet, Tawny-Crested Tanager, Plumbeous Kite and family, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Black-Cheeked Woodpecker, Smooth-Billed Ani, Palm Tanager, Rose-Faced Parrot, Southern Rough-Winged Swallow, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Ruddy Pigeon, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Bay-Headed Tanager, Black-Striped Woodcreeper, Black-Winged Saltator, Spotted Woodcreeper, Golden Tanager, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Streak-Headed Woodcreeper, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Mealy Amazon, Plain-Brown Woodcreeper, Blue-Grey Tanager, Orange-Fronted Barbet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Wedge-Billed Woodcreeper, Slaty-Capped Flycatcher, Blue-Chested Hummingbird,  Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Black-Capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Variable Seedeater, Lesser Seed-Finch, Blue Seedeater, White-Lined Tanager, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Summer Tanager

For lunch we stopped at a place that Julia told us about in the town of Bancos. It overlooked the Río Blanco and had hummingbird and banana feeders. I think the food was good, but the birding was even better. There we saw: Thick-Billed Euphonia,  Bananaquit,  Golden Tanager,  Blue-Grey Tanager,  Swallow-Tailed Kite,  Broad-Winged Hawk,  Green-Crowned Brilliant,  Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird,  Green Thorntail,  Andean Emerald,  Green-Crowned Woodnymph,  Booted Raquet-Tail,  Orange-Billed Sparrow,  Lemon-Rumped Tanager,  Black Vulture,  Green Violetear,   Green-Crowned Brilliant

Next blog: The Yellow House and trails

Mindo, Ecuador: Refugio Paz de las Aves

Our second day in Ecuador we were inducted into the Ecuadorian world of birding at Refugio Paz de las Aves Since we had to be there before dawn, we looked closely for the turnoff from the highway. What a relief to find the little wooden sign! What we didn’t realize was that once on the little muddy track there were options that would lead us on past Angel Paz’s place. We wandered around for an hour and a half seeing no one, just some lonely houses. We had given up and headed back when we were stopped by a friendly couple who led us to the right place (where we had been earlier, but seen no one). Angel showed up and led us running down a path to see the last of the Cock of the Rocks’ performance before they disappeared into the forest for the day.

We were very impressed with Angel Paz and his brother who went out of their way for us. Most people arrive there in a tour with a guide that knows the way. They didn’t dream that we would make a reservation and show up without a guide.

The Cock of the Rock was just the beginning of a “show” that was put on for us and three others, as we saw, very hidden in the forest, María, the Giant Antpitta. Later we got a good look at Shakira, an Ochre-Breasted Antpitta. He was very cute, dancing on a log for us. We also saw a Rufous-Bellied Antthrush, and three Dark-Backed Wood-Quail. While waiting for the Wood-Quail to show up, we got to see a Crimson-Rumped Toucanette and a Sickle-Winged Guan! They came to the banana feeders that were put out.

Next, we got to feast our eyes at the hummingbird feeders. It was really fun to watch the “policeman”, a Velvet-Purple Coronet, that was sitting as guard between two of the feeders. He was busily trying to keep other hummingbirds from enjoying the nectar provided for them. Fortunately, hummingbirds are a determined lot, and they didn’t let him keep them away.

Finally, Mr. Paz led us back to his home where strong coffee with warm milk was waiting for us. We enjoyed “Bolon de Verde” and “empanadas” for a typical Ecuadorian breakfast.

As we drove back to the highway we saw lots more birds, including the Ornate Flycatcher and the Red-Billed Parrot, without the benefit of a guide. No doubt that with a guide to tell us what we were seeing and hearing, we would have doubled our list.

Before leaving the “Refugio”,  Angel told us where to find a nightjar. Fortunately, he happened to be coming along the road and led us to it. We would never have found the sleeping Lyre-Tailed Nightjar on our own. We were wowed by it’s long tail feathers! What a privilege to see and experience God’s creation in this way.

All together we saw: Cock of the Rock, Giant Antpitta, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Grey-Breasted Wood-Wren, Golden Tanager, Metalic Green Tanager, Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager, Golden-Naped Tanager, Slate-Throated Whitestart, Crimson-Rumped Toucanette, Dark-Backed Wood-Quail,
Sickle-Winged Guan, Olivacious Piha, Ochre-Breasted Antpitta, Rufous-Breasted Antthrush, Flavescent Flycatcher, Empress Brilliant, Booted Racket-Tail, Andean Emerald, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Buff-Tailed Coronet, Velvet-Purple Coronet, Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird, Fawn-Breasted Brilliant, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Speckled Hummingbird, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Red-Billed Parrot, Lyre-Tailed Nightjar, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Ornate Flycatcher, Lemon-Rumped Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, White-Winged Brush-Finch

Next blog: Río Silanche and the Yellow House trails 

Birding Ecuador

We just returned from a month in Ecuador where we visited our daughter, Jennifer. Now, because we are birders, and Ecuador has 1, 600 amazing species of birds, we just had to see some of them. Jennifer was happy to go along with us and turned out to be an awesome spotter, as well as secretary. The next few blogs will be about our trip and some of the birds we saw.

We helped make history as we flew into Quito’s new airport. They had just opened it that day. Of course, inaugurating something new also means inexperience for many workers as they try to get the kinks out of their system. So it took 1 1/2 hours to get out of the airport. Also, the airport is 1 hour from town, at least in the middle of the night. By day, no doubt longer. So beware of the time difference if you are planning a trip to Ecuador and have read previous accounts of Ecuadorian birding trips.

We began our trip the very next day as we went to Mitad del Mundo. (I should insert in here that we had the use of a car for our trip, for which we are extremely grateful.) My husband went wandering around with his GPS and found that the “middle of the earth” isn’t quite spot on. But it is very close, and close enough for most of us.

There, we excitedly identified our first Ecuadorian bird, the Rufous-Collared Sparrow. He was very cute, which is a good thing, since we were to see him at nearly every place we went. We also saw: Brown-Bellied Swallow, Vermilion Flycatcher, Eared Dove.

Heading west, we stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant called Los Armadillos. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they have hummingbird feeders which were constantly visited by gorgeous hummingbirds. I could barely eat (as good as the food was) as I took lots of pictures for later identification.

There we saw: Buff-Tailed Coronet, Andean Emerald, Green-Tailed Trainbearer ?, White-Bellied Woodstar, Purple-Bibbed Whitetip, Violet-Tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Gorgetted Woodstar, Green-Crowned Brilliant, Piractic Flycatcher, Empress Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-Breasted Brilliant, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Band-Tailed Pigeon.

The rain chased us inside, but we kept on birding from a covered porch as we sipped our coffee. That evening we arrived in Mindo where we stayed 3 nights at the Yellow House.

More on that in a future blog.

? = Still checking this out

Any comments or corrections to the labels on the pictures are welcome.


White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

I have a number of choices to make today as to use my time. I have a little time off of my day job and I have to decide what to do. I could read blogs (there are lots of interesting ones out there), read Facebook (I can’t decide if it is just a time waster or a good way to quickly keep up with people), read emails (it’s hard to keep up with that), paint (I have some in the works), make some more frames for painting, clean house (I’ve already swept today), look at birds (the winter birds are here!), look at (I have a gift certificate), take time to eat…. Well, those are some of the things that have run through my mind. Maybe I can do a little of each?

The one thing that I failed to mention is the one thing I most ought to do: spend time in prayer and praise to my creator. For some reason it is the last thing to come to mind when I’m trying to decide how best to spend my time. Perhaps I need to pray while I clean house; or think about how wonderfully He made the birds I so much enjoy; or think of how awesome it is that God made all the colors as I paint; and how great was His imagination when He made different languages for us to sort out. He gave us the desire to eat. Ever think about that? If we didn’t eat, and enjoy it so much, we would fade away.


White-tailed Hawk

White-tailed Hawk

We went on the Christmas Bird Count here in Oaxaca at the end of December. We joined a couple of other people and checked out the birds in the fields and trees just out of town.

Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler

There is a dam where we also saw lots of water birds. Then we checked to see what was happening along a river. There we saw a number of raptors and again, water birds. I was amazed to see lots of white-faced ibis since I didn’t know that they were in our area. Then we went to a park, but it was late and didn’t have much time to check it out well. Just at dusk we went to a pond south of town, but it was too dark to see anything. The moon rising over Oaxaca was indeed beautiful.

Black-vented Orioles

Black-vented Orioles

We saw or heard over 90 different species in one full day of birding. We were trying for 100 but didn’t quite make it. Oaxaca is a great place to bird.

Beautiful Hummingbird

Beautiful Hummingbird

Well, I think I’ll mop the house, and put another coat of primer on my canvas, eat lunch, take in the laundry (no dryer), and in the afternoon I’ll get some work done on my day job. I’ll try to keep my Lord in mind as I work. After all, He is the One worth doing it all for.

Giving Thanks, My Favorite Holiday

This week Americans in the US and in foreign parts will celebrate Thanksgiving. Typically, we eat turkey and pumpkin because that is what we understand the pilgrims did when they celebrated a great harvest. Children in school learn about pilgrims and indians; people decorate their homes in fall colors; jokes abound about turkeys; stores discount cranberries and turkeys; people are dreaming of food, football and a day off work.

Yet that is not why I like Thanksgiving.

Years ago a friend said that he would try to thank God for the answer to a prayer he prayed as many times as he asked for God’s provision. Now that made me think. How many times do I pray for protection on the roads, for example. Or how many times do I pray for my family? When God does protect do I ever thank him for that? Do I thank him for providing?

God made us like himself. That means that if I like to be thanked for something I did, then he does too. So if we ask him for favors, shouldn’t we then thank him for granting us those favors?

God likes feasts. He ordered his people to feast and remember him, setting aside special days. I like Thanksgiving because the whole celebration is especially to thank God for his provision. The whole focus of the holiday is a time set aside to thank God.

Let us make a list of all the things that we are thankful for. And not just this week, but everyday, let’s think about how God provided material things we use everyday, as well as spiritual blessings. When we are tempted to complain, think instead of how great we have it, and thank God, because all good things come from his hand.

Here is a handful of things that I’m thanking God for:

  • Life because of Jesus Christ
  • Free access to God in prayer
  • Favor from God that I don’t deserve
  • My family (here I could go on and on)
  • People who make it possible to carry on
  • A great job, and all that entails
  • A roof over my head
  • Plenty to eat
  • My stuff
  • Birds
  • Water (never take it for granted!)
  • And, of course, my dog (she makes me laugh)

Each one of these items brings a lot of specific things to mind. But that is for God to hear about, because he is the one that I’m thanking.


I’ve been on a sourdough kick.

A few months ago I started a starter and have been making sourdough ever since. I have made pancakes, English muffins, whole wheat breads, white breads, pita bread, pizza crust, and even cinnamon rolls. There are tons of recipes available online so I won’t go there. Just do a search for sourdough bread recipes and you will find lots of possibilities.

Now, you have to feed your starter like a pet. However, once you get it going you can keep it in the refrigerator and get it out a day ahead of your project to wake it up. That is a relief to me since I can’t keep eating like this! The homemade sourdough breads are so yummy that it is hard to stay away and the waistline suffers.

I’ve generally been a spur-of-the-moment type person so it has taken some getting used to planning ahead. If you look at recipes online you’ll see that usually you have to mix up some starter, water and flour the night before and leave it all night. They call this a sponge. Then you knead the dough, or not, and add flour, salt, and maybe other things then let it raise. After two or three hours you punch it down, form your bread, and then let it raise again for a shorter time. Meantime you can heat the oven. Its heat helps the bread to raise, ready for baking.

Besides having a great flavor, sourdough doesn’t spoil as quickly as yeast breads. I made some regular yeast bread the other day and before we could eat both loaves, the second one got moldy.

If you’ve thought about making sourdough but have been frightened away for whatever reason, here are some things I’ve learned so far.


  • Equipment. Those who blog and post recipes about sourdough are often professional bakers or very dedicated home bakers. They tend to speak about special equipment like earthen ovens, baking stones and special baskets for raising your bread. I have found that these things are not necessary to making wonderful bread.  It could very well be that your bread will turn out better and prettier if you spend the money on those things. But if you’re like me you don’t have the money nor the access to these extra items and your bread will be plenty good without them.
  • Weight. It is said that it is best to weigh rather than measure your flour and starter. That is fine if you have a scale or want to purchase and store it. But I have learned that so much depends on the climatic conditions of where you live, the quality of your flour, etc. that it is more important to adjust the amounts of ingredients depending on that. Do some experimenting and you’ll learn what makes a good bread and what doesn’t. Pick a simple recipe to begin with so you get the idea of it.
  • Yeast. Some recipes call for an addition of yeast. I never add it in. I simply use a tad more starter and expect the raising time to be a little longer.
  • Starter. The recipe found here: has worked well for me. I have tried saving some good starter out (just in case) and doing what others say to do with it, but invariably go back to doing it his way. I have also found that the starter is not super delicate. I have forgotten to feed it so that it went hungry for hours, but fortunately it was fine. (Whew!) I have added a little more to the sponge than a recipe calls for and the bread turned out great.
  • More on the starter. I started out using rye flour and water and after a few days went to whole wheat and then to all-purpose flour. Some recipes call for a whole wheat starter. I just use my white flour starter with no problem. Oh, and I have never thrown any away. They say that you need to remove some old starter when you feed it. I simply store the “throw away” in the refrigerator and when enough has built up I get it out, feed it for a day, then use it.
  • Recipes. Lots of the recipes come with tons of instructions which I find confusing. I read it over to pick up any bits of wisdom the author might have, then rewrite it so it is simple and makes sense to me. I note down on the same paper any changes I want to make to the recipe.
  • Cleanup. I use a wooden spoon when I feed my starter or make my bread. It’s a good idea to wash it right away. Remember that flour and water are also used to make paste and when it dries it is very hard. Use an old plastic card to scrape up any surfaces that have hardened dough.

Anyone interested in joining me in my sourdough kick?

Baby Birds

We seem to have a nursery in our backyard.

My husband stirred up the compost and out ran some cockroaches. Now I totally detest cockroaches, but it turns out the Bewick’s Wrens that have been hanging out in our backyard find them to be a great delicacy! One of the wrens quickly snatched up a big old roach and took it to feed a youngster waiting in the sticks at the back of the yard. I had been thinking that we needed to clean up that area, but if the wrens are nesting there then I’ll happily leave that for another day… or month… or year. Ha ha!

While I was watching the wrens enjoy the compost pile, I kept hearing another baby bird that was making a racket. Finally, I spotted the fledgling White-Throated Towhee. It had a mostly full-grown body, but almost no tail. It also still had the wide mouth of a baby bird begging to be fed. There is probably a technical name for that wide mouth, but I am too lazy to look it up right now.

There has been a White-Collared Seedeater sitting on top of the cane singing his heart out to his lady love. So I expect that there’ll be baby seedeaters around soon. Although, who knows where they might nest.

The towhees are common here, but I keep reminding myself that they are special since they’re endemic to Oaxaca. Any of you power birders out there want to see them?

I am especially enjoying the wrens. They used to appear occasionally in the yard but were very shy. And much of the time I only knew they were around because they would sing their beautiful songs before dawn. Now they have become bold feeding right up near the house, and pretty constantly giving their fuzzy-throated call.

We also have had a Berylline Hummingbird coming to the feeder right outside our door. It has been thrilling to see that shimmering green bird up close and personal. It has bravely come up and fed even with me standing a couple of feet away! Which reminds me, I need to refill that feeder. I’m going to do that now.

Books, Paintings, and Birds

“All good books are truer than if they had really happened and after you’re finished reading one you feel like it happened to you and it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was.”-E. Hemingway.

I stole that from Ted Dekker’s Facebook site. I just finished reading one of his books Blink for the 2nd time. I looked it up on his site and now it is called Blink of an Eye. Anyway, even though I remembered the story as I read it –familiar, yet forgetting what happens next– it kept me going, losing sleep and not getting my work done. I recommend it. It makes me think. A lot of books entertain greatly, but I forget them as fast as I read them. This one might stay with me a little longer than most.

I’ve been painting some on weekends. Since writing to you last I’ve finished two paintings, have three in the works, and one in mind. Last time I wrote about abstracts and none of them is abstract, but more realistic, which is my preference anyway. Here is a picture showing what I’ve been up to. More on that another day.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking about birds. My daughter lives in Ecuador (see link on the right) and we might visit her someday. When we do, we want to go armed with binoculars, a bird book, and a little knowledge of what we might see. So I’ve begun investigating. Nearly everything we will see will be new, so it won’t take much effort to add some birds to our list. And if we take a field trip or two… well, whether we see lots of birds or not, we’ll have fun adventuring with our daughter by our side.

Abstract Art

 Strictly speaking, it [abstraction] refers to art unconcerned with the literal depiction of things from the visible world—it can, however, refer to an object or image which has been distilled from the real world, or indeed, another work of art. Artwork that reshapes the natural world for expressive purposes is called abstract; that which derives from, but does not imitate a recognizable subject is called nonobjective abstraction… Later still, abstraction was manifest in more purely formal terms, such as color, freedom from objective context, and a reduction of form to basic geometric designs. –Wikipedia (abstraction) emphasis is mine

My personal preference has always been (even from childhood) for realistic art. But I decided to be really brave and try an abstract piece or two. After all, so many people like it! So to get my creative juices going I took some of my pictures and played with them on my computer. I distorted them using the different settings in my photo program. It was a lot of fun to see what all I could come up with. The result was a picture that I decided to paint. Here is a painting that I “distilled from the real world”.

I took this…








…and got this!




It turned out to be really fun to paint! I used a spatula (again not normal for me) to spread and mix the blues and greens. The upshot of it all is that I like how it turned out. It hangs over my desk and I haven’t tired of looking at it.

Now, I don’t like all of my paintings, and some I like better than others. I figure that since we all have different tastes, an artist might as well try all kinds of things. Some might please one and some might please others. In the one that I just finished, I played with blues, reds, various brushstrokes, and designs. This one definitely exhibits “freedom from objective context”.

Whether you have a preference for abstract art or not, take a look at my Abstract Art gallery. There are only three paintings there now (and one amongst the Flowers), but who knows? There may be something that takes your fancy, now, or in the future.

Jesus Christ Is Alive!

“I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died.” –Paul (the apostle) in the Bible,  I Cor. 15:3-6

“The people reply, ‘Who would have believed what we now report? Who could have seen the Lord’s hand in this? It was the will of the Lord that his servant grow like a plant taking root in dry ground. He had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of him. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing that would draw us to him.

‘We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him -we ignored him as if he were nothing.

‘But he endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne. All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God. But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received.‘All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the Lord made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved.

‘He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. He was placed in a grave with those who are evil, he was buried with the rich, even though he had never committed a crime or ever told a lie.’

The Lord says, ‘It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness. And so he will see his descendents; he will live a long life and through him my purpose will succeed. After a life of suffering, he will know that he did not suffer in vain. My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them. And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.'”  –Isaiah (the prophet) in the Bible, Isaiah 53.

  • All paintings in this post are by Kimberly Riggs @used by permission.
  • All Scripture taken from the Good News Translation. Emphasis mine.