Haulani at nest two

Kauaʻi Albatross, 2016

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I’ve been a volunteer with Cornell’s Kauaʻi Albatross Cam since its first season in 2014, but I live in Seattle, so I didn’t see an albatross in person until a trip to Kauaʻi in April 2016. I was walking the manicured streets of Princeville with my husband and another cam volunteer when she pointed to an adult Laysan albatross soaring overhead. There it was, my first albatross! I was downright giddy. My second came moments later: a fluffy chick named Kirwan, sleeping in a front yard. (Read all about Kirwan and more Princeville albatross here: My Albatross Diary.)


two adult albatross in Princeville, Kauai
Two adult albatross in Princeville, Kauai.


We saw additional fluffy chicks and sleek adults on our stroll through Princeville, then later that day a KAN (Kauaʻi Albatross Network) volunteer made my dreams come true with a trip to the current cam site. As in previous years, our cam site is on private land, generously made available by an anonymous Kauaʻi landowner. Out of respect for the owner, the birds and our cam viewers we kept our visit short.

Each of our chicks was in their usual spot: Honua in the lawn beyond the “art rock,” Kialoa near the step at the other end of the building, Haulani in the trees at cool, shady nest two. We saw adults, too, including frequent visitor A381 who circled joyfully overhead in the breeze before coming in for a landing. Honua looked back at us curiously with those big dark eyes, strolled and stretched. Haulani sat up and cocked his/her head.  Kialoa sat peacefully and kept an eye on the neighborhood.


Honua sitting up
Honua greeted us as we arrived on site.


Haulani at nest two
Haulani rested in the greenery at nest two.


Kialoa sat on the lawn near the step.


An albatross flies overhead
An albatross flew overhead. Capturing a photo of one of these swift birds in flight is easier said than done.


There I was, seeing our downy celebrities in person. I didn’t beg for an autograph although it was tempting. I fell in love with the birds on cam and face to face they were just as magnificent. It was a true joy to see them. I felt like I won the lottery.

There is a part of me that wishes these albatross could understand how special they are to me (and to many other albatross lovers in the world), but a wiser part recognizes that it is better for all albatross simply to be albatross, without being weighed down by human wishes, interactions or expectations. It’s our job to appreciate them and to learn from them, not the other way around. They’ve already got more than enough to learn without worrying about what humans are up to. What is squid and where do I find it? How do these wings work? How does this landing gear work?


Adult albatross A381 comes in for a landing, feet down.
A381 comes in for a landing.


Because of the albatross cam, people all over the world can observe Laysan albatross behavior daily from hatching to fledging without ever troubling the birds. The handful of people that do enter their sphere do so with great care, always mindful of the birds’ well-being. I can’t thank KAN and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology enough for putting the Laysan albatross cam together and giving us all this opportunity.


Honua walks toward the photographer
Honua goes for a stroll.


An thank you to the Laysan albatross for being themselves: fluffy and feathered, loving, goofy, gentle and wild.

Before my plane touched down again in Seattle I’d finished reading a brand-new copy of Holi Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors by KAN founder Hob Osterlund. It is a book about both albatross and human experience, moving as poetry. Beautiful. I teared up on the plane, but that was ok. I highly recommend the book!

Iʻm back to Seattle and daily viewing of our cam chicks. I’ll be drawing a map of the cam site now that I’ve seen it in hopes that it will help our viewers understand the area too. Chances are good that I’ll come up with some additional ‘tross art as well! I still can’t get enough of these birds.

A Great Blue Heron, the Moon and Towan

It’s been far too long since I posted anything here! It was a busy albatross cam season followed by recovery from albatross cam season. I’m starting to get my balance back.

Here are a few nifty non-albatross images from the last few months.

First I’d like to share the amazing great blue heron that posed for me at the park in May. I was just about to pack up and leave when this incredible bird showed up and spread his (her?) wings. What a thrill! He showed off a drop wing pose that I like to think of as “the satellite dish.”



On to a completely different subject: the moon. I recently amused myself by trying to take a series of photos of the moon. It offers different challenges than birds. I enjoyed the change of pace!




Last but certainly not least, I’m working on a scratchboard portrait of Towan, one of Woodland Park Zoo’s resident orangutans. He has wondrous eyes. This is a detail of the portrait in progress. The finished piece will be 8 x 10 inches and will show him looking out from under a burlap blanket.

Towan of Woodland Park Zoo
Towan of Woodland Park Zoo

I hope you enjoyed this little update. Thank you for taking a look!

Junco by Elizabeth R. Smith of rowntreestudio.com

Happy New Year!

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It’s a frozen day here but I’m heading down to the lake for the Polar Bear Plunge at noon. It’s time to wash away the old and welcome in the new!

My bird feeders have been busy! Here are a couple of my visitors. They keep my cat and I entertained – but always from the other side of the window.

red-breasted nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
bushtit by rowntreestudio.com


  • The Na Pali coast
  • An endangered monk seal resting at Poipu beach
  • A gecko outside the NTBG Research Center
  • Strutting rooster at the Kalalau Lookout
  • Near the Mahaulepu Trail

A Week on Kauaʻi

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I’m back from a week on beautiful Kauaʻi. While I was there I made it almost all the way around the island, visited the National Tropical Botanical Gardens near Poipu (including a fabulous art exhibit) and met members of the Kauaʻi Albatross Network (among many other things). Two thousand photos later I’m having a hard time deciding what to focus on. It was an incredible trip and I can hardly wait to go back!

Thank you to everyone who reached out and made this visit particularly special! Jane Goldsmith gave my husband and I an excellent tour of the gardens and Hob Osterlund and the other members of KAN gave us the chance to visit Kaloakulua’s actual nest site (in addition to giving us a peaceful afternoon experimenting with drool-worthy cheesecake, stand-up paddle-boards and a yard full of chickens).

I hope you’re ready for a wave of Hawaii-themed art!

The Jaguar Cubs Celebrate Their First Birthday at Woodland Park Zoo

jaguar cubs' birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith of rowntreestudio.com
The cubs stroll in and check out their Happy Birthday sign.

Yesterday Woodland Park Zoo celebrated the jaguar triplets’ first birthday in fine style. They were given beautiful handmade papier-mache turtles scented with their favorite things. I’ve taken a pile of pictures of Arizona, Inka and Kuwan, so I’m going to share just a few here.

Thank you to all the zoo staff and volunteers that made this event happen and who care for these entrancing animals!

jaguar cub birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
The siblings stroll into their newly decorated exhibit.
jaguar cub birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
Those turtles sure smell interesting! They were treated with spices and perfume.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r smith rowntreestudio.com
My house cat gets this look on his face when he’s playing, too.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Just look at those beauties!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Taking a break from the cardboard carnage.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
The best present is one your sibling is already opening.
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Hello, gorgeous!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth r. smith rowntreestudio.com
Om nom nom nom!
jaguar birthday at WPZ by elizabeth R. smith rowntreestudio.com
Two-and-a-half hours in, the cubs are ready to take a break.

Thanks for taking a look! The cubs are full grown and will soon be moving off to other zoos. Kuwan, the male, will be going up to Canada, and as far as I know destinations are still being worked out for the sisters. I’m sure they’ll be loved wherever they go. We’ll miss all of the cubs! It was wonderful to have this chance to celebrate with them.

Waterfowl at the Park: Lots of Bird Pictures

posted in: Birds, Photography | 0
greater scaup by Elizabeth Smith rowntreestudio.com
Probably a greater scaup.

Winter is the time for waterfowl around here. In the summer we have mallard ducks, a few gadwalls and a batch of Canada geese. This time of year the mallards and gadwalls are around, plus a few more. Yesterday I went to a park down on the lake and saw a wonderful variety of waterfowl, plus some seagulls. I don’t have the camera equipment to get great shots of birds far out on the water, but I do take some not-so-great shots to use at home to help with identification.

This is what an afternoon at the park can look like:

winter day by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A winter day at the lake.
Wigeons on the beach by Elizabeth Smith rowntreestudio.com
A flock of American wigeons.
bufflehead by Elizabeth Smith rowntreestudioc.om
A male bufflehead


waterfowl by elizabeth Smith rowntreestudio.com
Common goldeneyes, greater scaups and ring-necked ducks, I think. These were all diving birds.
common merganser by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A common merganser
green-winged teal by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A male green-winged teal
hooded merganser by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A female hooded merganser
mallard tail by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
Mallard tail — check out those bright orange feet!
duck pond by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A ring-necked duck and a hooded merganser cruise across the pond.
barge by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A barge is pushed up the lake by a tug.
ring billed bull by elizabeth smith rowntreestudio.com
A ring-billed gull. There are always seagulls around!

It’s hard to stay inside painting when it’s so sunny out! Sometimes I need the sun. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at the local wildlife. Now I’ll get back to work on a watercolor painting that you’ll seen here soon.




Anna’s Hummingbirds

posted in: Birds, Photography | 0
Hummingbird Second Breakfast
Hummingbird Second Breakfast

I’ve gotten my hummingbird feeder up again after having it down for some time, and the hummers are happy. At least three Anna’s hummingbirds have been making regular, frequent visits. They’ve been nervous about me trying to take pictures, but I keep trying, anyway. This morning I set myself up on the deck, about six or seven feet from the feeder, camera, tripod, myself and stool and all wrapped in a sheet. It’s not a proper blind but it’s all I’ve got!

Are you lookin' at me?
Are you lookin’ at me?

The birds had quite a bit to say to me, and a couple of them made a threatening swoop by my head, but eventually one decided it was safe to drink. He came back a few times and I managed to get a few pictures. After drinking he’d go sit in a favorite nearby tree. The other male favors a different tree that’s forms a roughly equilateral triangle with the feeder and the other hummer’s tree. They both sat in their trees and took turns scolding me and each other.

A distant hummer, feathers all puffed up.
A distant hummer, feathers all puffed up.

As I write this they continue to visit the feeder which is suction-cupped to the window next to my desk. I have the blinds down but cracked open so I can see the visitors and they seem more comfortable with me. Every time one visits I want to grab my camera and snap away, but as soon as I pick it up the bird is off in a blur and a buzz. Mostly I keep very still, watching and enjoying their presence.


Website Changes

Fall Mushrooms

Things are going to look a little strange around here while I try to update the options for purchasing my artwork. We can expect strange formatting and broken links. When I’m all done I’ll have more of a proper storefront set up allowing you to make purchases directly from me without a lot of email back-and-forth.

In the meantime, here is a photo of some bright mushrooms from a recent walk of mine.