American Robin Fall Flocks

This morning I looked out the window and saw a multitude of mature male and juvenile Robins scattered over the yard and in the shrubs. There may have been some females mixed in, but they were all moving and flying from one low shrub to another, and I only got good looks at the dark-headed mature males and the spotty-breasted juveniles that stood out. Flocking provides some level of safety, since there are more eyes and ears alert for potential danger, as I witnessed this morning. One bird saw me while I was in the kitchen, and he took off, immediately causing all the others to move across the yard. The females may still be raising their last brood of the summer, and when those young fledge, they and the females will be joining these flocks, too.

American Robin sketches

These birds are most likely ones that nested in our yard or neighboring yards and woods this year and last year or were just hatched this summer, as Robins typically return to the same nesting area year after year. They’re preparing for winter and for their fall migration now, eating worms as they can find them (somewhat scarce due to the dry conditions right now), insects, and berries. We have some magnificent pokeweed plants that are the size of shrubs, and the berries are just now ripening– a bountiful feast for birds.

When food supplies diminish in the fall, most of these birds will be flying to points south, not necessarily the same places as they’ve gone before. Some stay in the north, so though we often look upon our first Robin sighting as a harbinger of spring, we may just be seeing an overwintering bird. Birds that stay north will mostly eat fruit (berries and other fruits they can find), but there isn’t enough for the whole population, so many fly south where food will be more readily available.

Fingerprints of God in Springtime– Prayer Guide

Last year’s Robin’s nest

This time of year is exciting for birders, as spring bird migration is in full swing, and there are also numerous birds courting, gathering nesting material, and sitting on eggs. I’ve been watching a pair of Robins in my yard in the past week; each day for four days the female laid an egg, then sat on them keeping them warm. Now there are two little nestlings and two eggs, which I expect will be hatching over the next couple of days. As I see new life unfolding with the leafing out of shrubs and trees, the blooming of all sorts of flowers, and the exuberant life of birds, I am reminded of God’s creative work that is constantly happening in this world. This week let’s look at some passages that tell of God’s work in the natural world and how creation can speak to us about God.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work…
The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests…
Psalm 104: 12-13, 16-17

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made… Romans 1:20

Monday: Ask God to open your eyes and heart to see his invisible qualities in the ways he makes them apparent through his creation.

Tuesday: Think about ways in which God’s eternal power has been made evident in creation recently. Let your mind dwell on God’s power. Worship him in awe!

Wednesday: Look around at springtime unfolding. Meditate on what you see and ask yourself what it tells you of God’s divine nature. Praise God for the ways he reveals his nature in nature.

Thursday: Ask God to renew a sense of wonder in you, so that as you observe his creation, you will be seeing reminders of God and be drawn closer to him.

Friday: Look for opportunities to share about God’s nurturing and creative nature with others as you share your appreciation of and joy in springtime.

Saturday:  Praise God that he leaves his fingerprints in the world as a means of revealing himself to those who have eyes to see. Take time today with God, enjoying some aspect of his creation with him.

This year’s Robin’s nest


More Sketches from Acadia National Park

Back home now (I got home a week ago), I am still putting finishing touches on some paintings, as well as getting back into the routine of life at home. Actually, I should say that I am working on developing a new routine for life at home. During my time away I had lots of time to think and evaluate how I do things on a daily basis, and I realized that, much as I have valued quiet time and solitude, I haven’t done a great job of consistently living with a peaceful rhythm to my days. Somehow the demands of life in an overly connected world, along with the alluring draw of the internet have resulted in a feeling of being scattered and constantly available and pulled in several directions at once. While at Acadia National Park, I had no cell signal (what a blessing!) and, as a result, I found that I was more focused in a relaxed way that caused me to be much more “present” with myself and my environment. So now I am working on incorporating some of the lessons I learned, so that I can live with a peaceful rhythm even as I am connected and involved with the world and people around me. I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet, but I am hoping to make progress.

Here are some of my sketches from my time away. I have still more that I will post sketches in another few days. I’ve also posted some of my finished watercolors on my website (Melissa Fischer’s Art ). If you click on the images, you’ll be able to see them large enough to read my notes.)

Gannets diving
Maine coast rocks

Otter sketches

Quiet Day

Today has been my weekly Quiet Day, a day each week when Stephen goes to the office instead of working from home, so that I can have time home alone. I cherish the silence and solitude to read, pray, putter, sketch, muse, and just be. It’s actually not silent today– the birds are singing their spring songs of love, the stream is gurgling as it courses by the yard, and a light breeze has been whispering through the slightly greening shrubs all day. Those sounds have enriched my day from the very start, when I awoke at 5:30 to the sound of a Phoebe vociferously calling forth the dawn, with the faint burbling of the stream in the background. I listened briefly, then dozed a while, the birdsong a peaceful lullaby until I awoke again, ready to rise and rejoice in the gift of a new day.

I’ve spent most of today outside walking the dogs, reading,  sketching, and sometimes just enjoying the peace of an unscheduled day. To cap the day off, Stephen and I are going out on a date after he gets home from work. A perfect day that will leave me refreshed for another week of dog training and other work.

Bridge over our stream (Wolff’s carbon pencil)
Locust Tree (Pen & Ink)
Robin’s nest on a ladder

Northern Flicker

A chunky, yellow-tinged bird flies in and lands on top of one of the deck posts (we made the deck with eight foot tall posts to hold bird feeders), calling with a loud wik-wik-wik rattle-like sound. He then flies to the suet and stays there, feeding enthusiastically, for a long time, unlike the other large woodpeckers, who feed briefly then fly off to a nearby tree.

This time of year we see Northern Flickers at our feeders pretty much every day. Usually just a male or two show up, but occasionally we see a female. I nearly always stop what I’m doing to watch them– I love these large woodpeckers who have such a commanding presence.

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
Male Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)



Watercolor 5×7
From early spring through
summer, I awaken to the song of a Cardinal, the first herald of the new day. In
winter, the Cardinals around my home seem to prefer their cozy perches and they
let other birds announce dawn, preferring to wait for the late-rising sun to
fully appear. Just in the past week, though, the  Cardinals have started singing their cheerful morning song, which tells me that they believe spring is just around the corner. Much as I love winter, I will welcome the warmth, the sunshine, and the song of spring.

This Cardinal watercolor is currently on display
at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If interested in
purchasing it, please contact me at
Here are a few of my journal pages from recent days, sketched in between shoveling snow:

Birds and Dogs in the Snow

I know, snow is not a newsy worthy event by now, with the many snowstorms we’ve been having this winter, but I am still loving it. Today the snow is falling with large, lazy flakes, making for a muted, serene landscape. The view may be quiet and peaceful looking, but the birds are full of vim and vigor. Twenty or more Goldfinches vie for the best spots at our feeders, chasing off larger birds and getting in repeated airborne spats with one another. Our local bully, a large, confident Mourning Dove is back, claiming a one yard length of the deck railing. Whenever another bird ventures onto “his” section of railing, the Bully fluffs up to almost twice his normal size and rushes at the other bird, which hurriedly leaves. The Cardinals started their spring songs this past week, and the Titmice have been filling the air with their clarion notes for a while, so even though it looks like winter, it’s starting to sound like spring.
 Stephen and I have shoveled pathways through the snow– our “Cat in the Hat” paths, which encircle our yard, so that I can walk and the dogs run around. Petra is usually dashing full tilt ahead of me, careening off the paths to leap up trees or just plow with delight through the deep snow, while Milo trots steadily behind me, around and around and around, wagging his tail the whole time. Rowan spends much of his time “grazing” on bird seed that has spilled beneath the feeders, but he comes running any time he thinks I’m going to throw snowballs. Both Aussies loves to leap at the snow I toss aside when shoveling, and there’s been plenty of that to amuse them, and even Milo gets in on the shoveling fun sometimes.

Wise Old Owl

Wise Old Owl

morning before dawn my children and I went to a nearby county park to see if we could see
a Barred Owl that reportedly was in the area. We waited quietly a half hour or so, before
an owl suddenly swooped in on silent wings, then perched in a tree in plain
sight. We observed and sketched him for over half an hour, before he left as
silently as he had arrived.

Here is my journal page from that day in 2001, when I observed a Barred Owl with my children. We also found a dead weasel right near the owl’s area, and we wondered whether the owl had killed the weasel.

 This watercolor is currently on display
at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If interested in
purchasing it, please contact me at

Pileated Woodpeckers

Watercolor 12×8
Pileated Pair

One day, feeling down, I walked outside hoping
the fresh air would lift my spirits. One of these magnificent birds swooped low
beside me and landed on a tree just feet from me—the first Pileated Woodpecker
I had seen on our land! We now have a pair in our woods, and every time I see
them, I am reminded of that gift.

Pileated Pair is currently on display at the East Fishkill Library in Hopewell Junction, NY. If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please contact me at 

(This painting is based on reference photos by me and by Samantha Keith– many thanks to Sam for permission to use her photos of the wildlife she sees around her home.)

Snowy Owl

Watercolor 7.5×5

I was out cross-country skiing on a golf course today and kept hoping to see a Snowy Owl, but if there were any in the area, they stayed well camouflaged. This has been one of those winters when there are many sightings in our general area, but most seemed to have been when I was in Florida, so I missed them.

Snowy Owls are the heaviest owls found in North America. They spend summers north of the Arctic Circle, where they hunt lemmings, small rodents, and other prey. Often hunting during the day, unlike most other owls, when they migrate to the northern United States during some winters, they can frequently be spotted on open fields and airport runways. Young have dark bars, with males becoming whiter as they mature, while females keep some dark bars throughout their life.

Thank you to my friend Carol Hickey for the use of her beautiful photo for a reference for this painting.