Wintry Critters

Ermine, by F.T. McKinstry

Ermine (Mustela erminea)


Season’s Greetings, Everyone!

One of the things I love most about this time of year is the wildlife in the woods. Like any proper New Englander, I respect winter and don’t fool around when it comes to preparing for it. But animals know what they’re doing. On dastardly cold nights or during a snowstorm I look out into the dark and wonder how all the clever creatures stay warm — assuming they aren’t hibernating (wouldn’t that be nice). But the next morning they’re all out there flying and padding around the forest, cheery as you please. It puts things in perspective.

Chickadee, by F.T. McKinstry

Chickadee

A while back one winter I was out for a walk and saw a short-tailed weasel (or stoat) moving around in the snow near the base of a tree. It wore its winter fur, pure white with a black tip on its tail. In this phase it’s called an ermine; in summer the stoat is brown with a white belly. I was amazed how small it was, about the size of a red squirrel or smaller. And it moved fast. Now you see it, now you don’t.

Naturally I was inspired to capture the wee beastie in a painting, to immortalize its serendipitous appearance. If you’d like to see more paintings of critters, check out my gallery Wild Things on Fine Art America.

Art Prints

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

For the Birds

Every season of the year has its distinguishing qualities. One of my favorite things about spring is the return of birds. In the north, where I live, winter is long and somewhat daunting; still and silent but for crows, blue jays and chickadees. But in the spring, suddenly I hear birds, lots of birds that I haven’t heard in a good while. The woods come alive with them.

My cats are interested in this too, of course. They do what they do—yeah ok, they hunt. Ferocious predators, cats. I’ve rescued quite a few birds from their clutches. I have this Radagast the Brown thing going on. I explain to the birds that they need to be careful around here. The phoebes get a special talk: “Oh dear no, you can’t build your nest on the shed door because that black cat there will eat you and yours and not even belch afterwards.” And don’t even get me started on the hummingbirds. Despite this, the birds kindly hang around all summer even after I take the feeders down to deter the bears, raccoons and skunks. Nature knows her own dark side, as do all balanced things.

In honor of our feathered friends, I would like to share some paintings I’ve done over the years…in the spring, usually.


When I began building the world of Ealiron, birds like raptors and swans became symbols for hierarchies of wizards. Ealiron: The Keepers of the Eye contains a series of pen and ink drawings depicting these.

Happy birding!

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Winged Mojo

Chickadee, by F.T. McKinstry
I admit it, I love winter. In the northwoods of New England where I live, I get plenty of it. However, by the time spring comes—months after most everyone else is celebrating the season—the romance is gone and I’d do anything for a warm sunny day and something green. I settle for my houseplants. I tinker with and fret over cuttings I rooted the summer before and kept alive all winter. Precious things.

The woods feed my heart in every season. Nature doesn’t whine. It accepts, it breathes, it moves on. Change and transformation are inherent. Nature heals itself. Nowhere is this power more inspiring than in the ubiquitous chickadee. These little birds fear nothing; no bitter cold, howling winds, ice storms in April, not even my prowling cats daunt them.

Chickadees have mojo.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.