Burn Baby Burn

April 10, 2015


Since the beginning of March I’ve worked full-time on my ‘Burn Project’, burning slash piles left from a crew that came last summer to clear brush, limb trees and cut down overcrowded trees on my ‘back acre’.

Taking advantage of DNR’s ‘Fuel Reduction’ program, I have 2 years from the time my application was approved last May to finish.  The first few months I spent just trying to get someone to come up here to clear brush, a daunting task that no one on the entire first page of contractors was willing to do.  But that’s another story…


Columbia Tree Service came up last summer with a 5 man crew and spent 3 days limbing, cutting, and clearing.  They were fabulous.  To keep my costs down I decided to burn the slash piles myself, having absolutely NO IDEA just how much work would be involved.  At first it was overwhelming and I began to doubt my sanity.


The first thing I did was stack up all the firewood they cut for me.  I started at the bottom of my property and carried each log up my hill as far as I could carry it.  I stacked it next to a tree to get it out of the way and keep it visible and stable until I can carry it up to my house.


I repeated that effort in each section, carrying firewood uphill until I couldn’t carry it another step and found a tree to stack it next to.


This task took several months from last fall to early winter.  Then I was ready to start burning the piles of slash as they’re called.


Or I should say ‘almost’ ready.  Many of the piles had potential firewood left in them!


Some of the firewood was simply too big for me to move (or so I thought at the time), and left too close to the piles I needed to burn.


At the beginning of March, the local DNR rep came by to check my progress.

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He showed me various ways to light and then control my fires and even came back a few times to help me.  With his help I managed to get the first section next to the house burned.


For each pile of slash I burned, I pulled out every branch, placing it into a new open spot and rescued larger limbs for firewood, then tentatively lit the pile.  I managed to roll the big rounds out of the way and became quite brave at igniting fires using a gasoline soaked rag.

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As I worked, a friend offered to come up with her husband and a chainsaw!  Holly helped me stack and burn while her husband Rick tackled that giant log.  I realized the phrase ‘Thank You’ is inadequate for how grateful I felt.

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Just yesterday I noticed a Trillium blooming in the burned area that was so overgrown last year I didn’t know I had anything except overgrown brush and blackberries on this part of my property!

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Rick and Holly came to help again, as well as my friend Kathy and a new friend, Annette.

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Together we stacked 6 or 8 new piles ready for me to burn, stacked more firewood and chopped up more big rounds into manageable pieces.

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We’re expecting an early burn ban this year, so I’m focused on getting all the slash piles burned, then I’ll saw all the rescued limbs into stove size pieces with my cute little ‘girlie’ chainsaw that I bought.

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Finally I’ll finish carrying all my hard-won firewood up to the house.  I’m thinking I’m about halfway done with burning.

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The remaining piles that I have to go through are mostly at the bottom of my property, on a steeper incline and harder to reach.

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I counted a few days ago and had almost 40 slash piles left to burn.

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Today I burned 2 piles and moved 3 additional piles into the fire.  It feels pretty good to have another cleared area.

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While my fire burns out I stack more firewood, prune off branches from rescued firewood and clip back brush already starting to grow again.

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Neighborhood deer come by to watch my progress from time to time.  Today I grabbed my camera.


This Pileated Woodpecker that I’m hoping takes up residence checked out my trees on Easter Sunday!  Usually I see him in the forest below my property.

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My beautiful girl Treasure runs along her backyard fence guarding me as I walk back and forth carrying brush to my burning pile.  After awhile she lays down in the corner where she can watch in all directions and waits for me to come in and throw her a frisbee.

Initially overwhelmed, the first month was cathartic and I now feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I’m hoping (and feeling confident) I can get all the burning done before a burn ban goes into effect, then spend the summer cutting and hauling my firewood.

Steider Studios.Stairs1

Today was the last event for ‘Fine Feathered Friends’, a gallery show I co-curated with Robin Panzer.  Sunday is the last day you can see our fabulous show.  For our final weekend event, a group of us participated in a Bird Walk led by Field Biologist, Cathy Flick.  We were thrilled to have Cathy available and willing to share her time and knowledge with us.

Steider Studios.Stairs2

When we learned we’d be climbing ‘The Stairs’ we all looked at each other … hmmmm …. dare I say nervously.  As it turned out I was not the only one who had never climbed this steep set of stairs.  I had no idea how many stairs there actually are!

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Our destination was a private garden in an older Hood River neighborhood to view birds and their habitat.  But first we had to climb these stairs!

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A series of five staircases….we’d stop and talk about birds for a minute here and there on our way up.

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Finally, the last set.  Did I mention how steep they are?

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Our first reward at the top of the stairs and into our destination neighborhood was a flock of Cedar Waxwings!

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This little bird was in the same tree but I’m not sure if it’s a youth or a different species.

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At our destination garden we had a marvelous time watching all the different varieties of back yard birds at our host’s feeders.  She had tons of Pine Siskins at the feeders, on the ground and waiting their turn in nearby trees and shrubs.

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A couple of Scrub Jays made their presence known.

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A Red-breasted Nuthatch joined us at our host’s wonderful smorgasbord for birds.

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A crow watched us for a minute then decided on a little snack of cat food near a back door.

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One of my favorites, a Downey Woodpecker graced us with her presence.

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A Mourning Dove didn’t want to be left out of the action, but didn’t come down to the feast.

Steider Studios.Maybe Song Sparrow.3.28.15

We thanked our host for allowing us into her gorgeous garden then meandered toward the stairs … watching neighborhood birds as we slowly made our way back.

Steider Studios.Down the Stairs

Going down wasn’t too difficult, but the steps were slippery in spots so we did not hurry.  And now we can all say that we’ve climbed ‘The Stairs’.

Steider Studios.Down Stairs into Hood River

Back in town, we returned to Columbia Arts and enjoyed the ‘Fine Feathered Friends’ show.  Tomorrow, Sunday is the last day to see it.  Artists pick up unsold work on Monday and patrons will pick up their purchases.  Thanks so much to all who bought my bird prints and greeting cards, it’s an affirmation that I’m going in the right direction!

Steider Studios:  Bald Eagle Take Off into Flight, 1.6.14

Some of you saw this coming even before I did.  The more I get out in nature, the more I want to be free to do as I please.  Which is getting out in nature even more.

I want to play all day.  I want to capture everything I see with my camera.  I want to be responsible only to myself.  I want to have fun every day without stressing about an upcoming art show or deadline.

I’ve done art shows since I was 16 years old.  I sold macrame tie-dyed belts at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet back in the 60’s.  I also sold them to my high school teachers, neighbors and relatives.  I couldn’t stop making them.  To this day I can’t stop making things.

Steider Studios:  Rainbow of Earrings, Collection of my Shorter Styles.

I’ll still produce art, that is part of who I am.  I just won’t be on a schedule, or mass producing for any shows.  I won’t be marketing Steider Studios Glass Medium although I would love to find someone to take it over.

Steider Studios:  Mica Varieties

I won’t be replenishing any of the mica or tools for sale that I offer other artists.  When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Steider Studios.Elk with Babies

I’m tired of deadlines, numbers, taxes, headaches, the everyday worries and aggravations.  Tired of responsibility, and jumping through hoops.   I no longer want to count inventory and re-order supplies.  Or worry about the ‘bottom line’.

Steider Studios: New Bracelets Just Finished

I’ll keep my Zibbet and ArtFire on-line shops because I still have a lot of work stored in boxes that I need to sell.  Plus I have tons of prints and cards that can easily be ordered from either shop.

Steider Studios:  Hummingbird in Honeysuckle

I think I began formulating this decision during my family emergency in December.  I put everything on hold for a wee bit but never fully re-committed to my business afterwards.

Steider Studios.Treasure on the Beach

What will I do?  I’ll play all day.  I’ll take pictures.  I’ll go on hikes.  I’ll go out to breakfast with my friends.  I’ll search for bird nests.  I’ll rejuvenate my garden.  I’ll have F.U.N.!!!  And I’ll keep posting as much as I can in between fun adventures.

Steider Studios:  Garden Chairs 6.22.13

Thanks to all of you who’ve followed my adventures from the beginning and to all of you who recently added me to your e-reading list.  I will understand if you don’t want to go with me, especially since I’m not sure where I’ll go next!

Steider Studios.Frogs.3.8.15

Sunday I headed up to Conboy Lake NWR in Glenwood to help search, count and mark Oregon Spotted Frog egg masses.  Here’s why:  “Refuge-wide surveys have been conducted on Conboy Lake NWR since 1998. In that time, the population has experienced significant declines. Oregon spotted frogs have declined range-wide as well and are gone from the majority of historic sites. As a result, the species is now federally listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We continue to monitor the population on the Refuge through egg mass surveys to help us make better management decisions and evaluate efforts we have previously made.”

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Plus I like being on the refuge and I like the people I’ve met up there.  Here are a couple of Spotted Frogs, one with a reddish cast.  Aren’t they cute?!!

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It was a beautiful blue-sky day that started with a misty morning over Conboy Lake.

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Wearing waders, we headed out into the lake looking for egg masses.  What’s that you ask?  Let me show you!

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They were mostly underwater, jelly-like clear’ish balls with a black dot in the middle of each and clustered together.

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Oh look, another!  I did not find any, but the other volunteers found many.

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The beautiful Mt. Adams always in our line of sight watched over us.

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Just like a search and rescue line, we walked a grid, back and forth across the marshy lake.

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I learned so much from Lisa, the refuge manager and her crew.

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Here are some of the crew consulting.  Other refuge managers, biologists, volunteers…and me with my camera.

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At each sighting we planted a flag with the number, date and amount then marked it on GPS.

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The mist rose, we continued our march and I marveled at all I was learning through my many questions.

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The egg masses with a black dot are stage One.

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When the black dots change to ovals, they are stage two.

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Not versed in all the stages, you know the end – they become FROGS!!

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Every once in a while we’d stop to help a mass get back in the water.

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If the mass was stuck on grass above the waterline it had to be gently released so the eggs stay in the water and survive.

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A couple of times we’d find a mass that had to be moved to a wetter environment.

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Then off we’d trudge, looking for the next egg mass.

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A few frogs hid under the debris below the water’s surface.  See him?

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Neither did I, but I saw this one!

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This is a mass of Tree Frog eggs, not what we were looking for, but it was MY find!!  Having never seen them before, I think they looked farther along than the Spotted Frog egg masses.

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Adding to my excitement we even SAW a tree frog!!

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Back to work.

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Oh no, we found a Bullfrog!

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We found a high dry spot and grabbed some lunch under the sun.  It’s really hard to sit down when wearing waders.  I thought you’d want to know.

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After lunch we found more eggs….

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…and left more flags behind….

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…recorded more information….

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…and saw a few more frogs!!

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Here’s a better view of this cute fella with a reddish cast.

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By afternoon a thick swarm of bugs descended.

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I suppose I could Photoshop the bugs out of this otherwise beautiful scene.

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Or this one.

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Oh look, another egg mass!

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Lisa and her crew still seemed peppy as I ran out of steam and headed back towards shore.

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Our ride seemed farther away than the distance I wanted my hefty backpack to stay on my body.  I took all my lenses, ‘just in case’.

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I figured I could find some birds to photograph near the truck while Lisa’s crew continued working.

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Alas I trudged too slowly and they caught up with me.

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One last Spotted Frog, a baby that we found at our last stop of the day enroute back to refuge headquarters.

Thanks so much Lisa, for letting me come along to document and learn.  I had a great time, as usual a very fun day on the refuge!

Steider Studios.FFF ShowCard

Two weeks from tonight ‘Fine Feathered Friends’ opens at Columbia Arts in Hood River, Oregon.  The artists reception is from 6 until 9pm on First Friday, March 6th.  Hope you’ll join us to see the work of 15 artists inspired by our theme ‘Fine Feathered Friends’.

Steider Studios.Great Horned Owl.2.17.15

My favorite bird shots will be on display and for sale at the show.  My other favorites (because I have too many) are available to purchase as soon as I get them listed in my shop!  Or if you can’t wait, you can always let me know what you like and I’ll order it for you!!

Steider Studios.Sunrise.2.18.15Until then I’m entertaining & inspiring myself by getting outdoors.  I love nature and the Columbia River Gorge has been ever so beautiful lately.

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Here are a few of my favorites from this last week or so.  Went back to find the leucistic Great Blue Heron just after sunrise.

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Saw my first Hummingbird of the year at Bingen Marina!

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Also watched a little Swan action at Bingen Marina.

Steider Studios.Night Heron.HR Marina.2.14.15Finally got a good shot of a Night Heron at Hood River Marina.

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Parked under this Red-tailed Hawk in Glenwood.

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Gazed at Conboy Lake on the refuge for a while on a beautiful blue-sky day.

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Followed a herd of Robins at Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.  Yep, it was a herd.

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More Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge gazing on a misty morning.

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Watched an American White Pelican bathing in the Deschutes River.

And more…..but that’s enough for now.  Don’t forget, come to my opening, First Friday at Columbia Arts in Hood River!!

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February opened with a wonderful opportunity to see this leucistic Great Blue Heron along the Columbia River!!!

Steider Studios.Bald Eagle on Columbia R.2.1.15

Bald eagles are still here, and as I said on my Facebook. Page, “Why YES officer, I DO consider it an emergency when I see a Bald Eagle on a snag next to the highway. My car always pulls over for this type of ’emergency parking only’ situation!!”

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February 1st began with a small group of us meeting in Biggs and traversing the Columbia River to Maryhill State Park.  One of the first birds we saw was a Northern Flicker.

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I was looking for an owl said to be there, but didn’t find it.  To my delight we found many little birds, like the Bewick’s Wren above.

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It was a rainy gray day, but the little birds like this Fox Sparrow didn’t notice.  I did.  I left my camera’s raincoat in the car!  Had to cover it with a plastic bag that was loaned to me.

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I managed to catch a Spotted Towhee between thicket branches.

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A golden-crowned Sparrow posed for me framed by branches.

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A few of us drove down the highway looking for a Long-eared owl that was seen another day, but instead we watched this Townsend’s Solitaire watching us.

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I think this is a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, but I get many of my sparrows mixed up!

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Yesterday I went to Sauvie Island with my friend Nancy for an Audubon event.  Most of the birds were too far away, but fortunately Audubon had their birds there for us to see up close and personal!  Love the little American Kestrels even more now!!

Steider Studios.Audubon Peregrine Falcon.Saturday.2.7.15

Mesmerized by this little Peregrine Falcon, I learned so much about him and other raptors from the volunteers staffing the many booths and bird-watching stations.

Steider Studios.'Ruby' Audubon Turkey Vulture.Saturday.2.7.15

This is Ruby, the Audubon’s Turkey Vulture.  My appreciation for this scavenger bird has grown since learning more about them last spring.

Steider Studios.Waterfowl Group.2.7.15

Since we couldn’t get close enough to photograph the Sandhill Cranes and Swans, we headed out to Crystal Springs in Portland.

Steider Studios.Wood Duck Male at Crystal Springs.Saturday.2.7.15

It was raining and once again I left my camera raincoat behind!  I used my rain pants, which was a great substitute!  You can see raindrops on the Wood Duck’s back while we experienced a moment of clearing.

Steider Studios.American Wigeon.2.7.15

This American Wigeon and other waterfowl came running at the sound of children’s voices.  Apparently they know when kids are around they get treats!

Steider Studios.Mallard at Crystal Springs..Saturday.2.7.15

I tend to look for the unusual ducks, but this Mallard was begging to have his portrait taken.

Steider Studios.Unknown Waterfowl.2.7.15

I can’t figure out what the waterfowl behind the Mallard is.  Canvasback maybe?  Not exactly.

Steider Studios.Waterfowl..2.7.15

I have many more photos to process but will stop here so I can deliver a print today, ordered by a friend.

Steider Studios.Sand Hill Crane.Dance.Sauvie.1.23.15

Don’t forget, “Fine Feathered Friends” opens at Columbia Art Gallery First Friday, March 6th and runs through March 30th.  Co-curator Robin Panzer and I have put together a fabulous month of events for your enjoyment in addition to 16 artists presenting their artwork!  Many of our artists will demonstrate their process during the month and we’ll have an interactive display on loan from Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.  On Mar 7th come see Raptors, live in the theater at Columbia Arts!  Mar 14 you can paint a birdhouse in the studio.  Mar 21st, enjoy a fashion show of feathery tattoos and a tattoo demonstration.  Mar 28 join us for a short hike up the Hood River stairs into an older neighborhood to see and learn about our resident birds with field biologist, Cathy Flick.

Steider Studios.Lost Lake.1.26.15

January has been crazy busy driving up and down the Columbia River chasing Eagles and Herons with an occasional foray to Conboy and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuges.  Today I drove above the cloud/haze/inversion to grab some vitamin D in the form of SUNSHINE at Lost Lake!

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What a special surprise to capture this lone Otter fishing.  The lake had a layer of ice, so the Otter had to break through the ice to surface with his prize.  In this photo, you can see chunks of ice near his ‘elbow’ as he munches on his catch.

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With each ‘catch’, he climbed onto the ice and ate, then dove back for more.

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Is this a crawfish he’s eating?  It was so quiet on the lake, he didn’t notice us until we went crashing through the brush, trying to keep up with him as he swam away.

Steider Studios.Forest Experimental Motion Blur

I’m making a big effort to really learn my camera better and use it to its fullest potential.  In that light, I had a little fun with some experimental ‘blurred motion’ shots of the gorgeous surrounding forest before we left.

Steider Studios.Bald Eagle Looking at Me.Balfour.1.20.15

The pictures I haven’t shown you between my last post and this one (because I’ve run from one adventure to the next with no stops between) are on my Facebook Page, ‘Steider Studios’.  I try to post a daily photo of what I am lucky to see here in the Gorge, or regionally on the occasions when I leave my mountain top.

Many more fun events are coming up.

Sunday, Feb 1st is the group ‘bird walk’.  We may go to the Maryhill or Columbia Hills area – let me know if you want to join us & I’ll let you know where & when to meet.

Feb 12 – 15 I’ll be in Klamath Falls for Winter Wings Festival, photographing everything I see while I’m there!

Sunday, March 1st is another group bird walk.

Steider Studios.Sand Hill Crane.Dance.Sauvie.1.23.15

First Friday, March 6th my show, “Fine Feathered Friends” opens at Columbia Arts and runs through March 30th.  Co-curator Robin Panzer and I have put together a fabulous month of events for your enjoyment in addition to 16 artists presenting their artwork!  Many of our artists will demonstrate their process during the month and we’ll have an interactive display on loan from Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.  On Mar 7th come see Raptors, live in the theater at Columbia Arts!  Mar 14 you can paint a birdhouse in the studio.  Mar 21st, enjoy a fashion show of feathery tattoos and a tattoo demonstration.  Mar 28 join us for a short hike up the Hood River stairs into an older neighborhood to see and learn about our resident birds with field biologist, Cathy Flick.

I keep thinking I’ll have plenty of time to tell you everything, but when the sun is out or eagles are flying, or an opportunity for fun presents itself….I’m going out to play!  Maybe I’ll see you out there!!



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