November and December is Christmas Craft Fair season on Vancouver Island, and I wish there were as many birds as there are fairs. In my early days of birding from 2003 to 2008 every birding trip produced photographic opportunities. Birds were definitely more abundant. For the past few years I've often had nothing to show after 3 or 4 trips. Birders with scopes that can see a half mile away may tell you that the birds are still abundant, but I totally disagree. Another case in point - I have nothing to show for my last 4 efforts which included a trip to Deep Bay yesterday.

Meanwhile, it is craft fair time and an opportunity to sell my books which is the downside of publishing. The fun is in the creation, but you pay for it in the marketing. Of course I can't just have a table for four books so I also make a few cards, calendars, posters, and prints. Like last year I only have 2 fairs on my schedule.

The first was this past weekend at Fanny Bay. One might think that Fanny Bay isn't a viable venue, but it was very popular. As well, it ranks as one of the friendliest, cosiest, and best organized fairs I've ever attended thanks to head organizer Barry Sperling who was everywhere with his tools and other equipment to assist vendors in any way possible including passing out free home-made cookies.

A fringe benefit for me is that Fanny Bay just happens to be at the southern tip of the migration range of the North Islander which is the news magazine that I write biweekly bird columns for. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the compliments from the many people who said they look forward to reading my columns. Several mentioned that they didn't realize there were four blackbird species possible on the island. Most knew of the the Red-winged, but weren't aware of the Brewer's, Rusty, or Yellow-headed. (My last article was, "Not all Blackbirds are Black.") It's always great to hear that my columns are appreciated.


It was an honour to be juried and accepted into the prestigious Denman Island Christmas Fair scheduled for Dec. 7 & 8. Most of you aren't aware but the 2010 Westworld Magazine ranked the Denman Fair as one of the best in BC. Denman is renowned for many of its world-class artists and artisans so it will be a humbling experience to be part of the show.

Besides books, cards are my main product. I make 2 sizes, 5x7 ($4) and 4.25x5.5 ($3). (Envelopes included for both sizes.) The biggest challenge is deciding which images will sell. If I'm wrong, I end up with poor sales and lots of inventory. You would think that after several years I would have it all figured out, but it isn't quite as easy as it seems. What works one year doesn't necessarily work the next. For example, the White Raven was popular one year but not the next. Two years ago it wasn't and last year it was. I did sell the three cards at Fanny Bay. How many should I produce for Denman? As well, it's always fun to experiment with new cards.

Of course, there are a few favorites that have stood the test of time. Hariet, the female Rufous nectaring on wild currant has always been popular and continues to be a top-seller. Many of you will recognize hariet from the cover of my "Denman and Hornby NATURE" book. By the way, all my books have been reduced to $20 for the fairs and as the department stores claim, the "lowest price of the year!"

Here's an enigma for you. One of my most popular cards last year was the Tree Swallow. At the Village Arts Faire I ran out every day and had to produce more for the next day. Last week I sold ONE at Fanny Bay. The irony was that it drew the most attention from customers because of its spectacular colour, but that didn't translate to sales. The upside is that I don't have to produce any more for Denman.

All right, what do you think of the French Creek Heron? Do you like it? How does it sell? If you like it and think it's a great seller, you're right. When I first saw the heron on the log with the vegetation in the background it evoked images of a Chinese watercolour. It's interesting because the soft, pastel feeling of the image is completely out of character for the heron. Everything about the heron is usually harsh from its raspy voice to its gargantuan size and primitive hunting technique.

Motherhood wins every time, and there is nothing more endearing than the family photo of Ma and Pa Denman with their two eaglets. This card is certainly in the top ten along with the next photo of Ma Denman and one of the chicks. I have a second photo on the same theme, but because of the lack of display space, I'll have to leave it out or produce it as a spare.

My best shot of a perched eagle is a well-cropped photo taken north of Qualicum on a beautiful, sunny day four years ago. It is amazing how the blue sky enhances a photo. However, it's the pensive gaze and pose of the eagle that makes it a winner and a popular card. Because of the extensive crop I never produced this card for a couple of years, but it just kept growing on me, and I finally added it to the inventory last year.

Only a few with intimate knowledge of the Bald Eagle's feeding habits can appreciate this photo. Can you say, "midshipman?" The midshipman is a favourite food of the Bald Eagles of Denman and Hornby. At low tide the eagle checks out the shallow tide-pools for any male midshipman that might be hiding under the seaweed where it has been left to protect the female's eggs. The eagle pulls the seaweed away to expose the fish and as the photo illustrates, "Dinner is served!"

This card is a new addition to my inventory and might fall into the category of, "I love it but will anyone else?"

Almost as important as motherhood is fatherhood. Everyone loves Harry! Harry is my resident male Rufous Hummer and the patriarch of an enormous family despite the fact that his paternal skills are sadly lacking. However, life can't go one without him, and he is an amiable character. I probably spend more time photographing Harry than any other bird or butterfly, and this is my favourite pose for 2013. Harry has been a popular card right from the beginning, and I have several poses that have proven to be timeless winners. How did this year's card do at Fanny Bay? I was disappointed that only one card sold. I'm not sure if the horizontal configuration is a problem, or it was just pre-empted by another pose. Anyway, the jury is still out until the Denman show is over. By the way, most of my cards are vertical which seems to be the preferred configuration.

"Harry on the rhodo," is the name of this card. I has been popular in the past, but I had to limit the number of Harry cards so I didn't show it this year. However, it is a favorite, and if I can create more display space, I'll add it to the Denman show.

Harry's gorget is designed to attract the ladies, and it also works well for attracting customers. This was on the best seller list last year when I introduced it, and it also sold extremely well at Fanny Bay. I'll be surprised if it doesn't do well on Denman. I had always thought that the shimmering gorget was the product of reflective light depending on the angle to the light. However, I think I read somewhere that the gorget has tiny tubes that refract the incoming light to produce the orange and red hues.

I took this Anna's photo four years ago at Swan Lake in Victoria. I was frustrated that it was too far away, and it was an overcast day. However, I loved the results of the refracted light from the gorget. Last year I decided to add it to the card list and the results were electric. The card sold out right away, and the same was true this year at Fanny Bay. I only produced this card in the smaller size because of the large crop. However, with several requests for the larger size I decided to see if it were too grainy. It looked decent so I have produced a set of 5x7's as well as the smaller size for Denman. By the way, in case you're wondering why I have 2 sizes, I prefer the large cards, but the $3 cards have consistently outsold the $4 cards by a 2 to 1 margin. Price point is definitely a factor in marketing.

The Qualicum White Ravens are probably my most popular bird on a world-wide scale. I get more requests for its use on personal projects and the occasional commercial use than any other bird. Does that translate into a popular card? The answer is sometimes. It is a great conversation piece, but not always a best-seller.

Ducks never seem to evoke that attachment that hummingbirds and eagles generate, but a Harlequin is a Harlequin and not just any duck. Okay, that's my opinion. Do you agree? To put it to the test, I printed four small Harlies for Fanny Bay. Guess how many sold? Three. What's the message here? Harlie is the poster duck for Denman and Hornby so I'm gambling on success. I produced a set of eight small cards and can always produce more if they prove to be popular on the first day.

This is my son's favotite Hawkowl shot, and he requested a 12x16' giclee for his Christmas gift two years ago. I've added it to the card list to see if anyone else shares his taste. So the jury is out until the next show is over. Personally I also like it, but I've sat on it for several years wondering if others would like it.

Here's another photo of the Hawkowl I've been sitting on. I've always liked it and finally decided to put it to the test at Fanny Bay. I only printed four large cards, and they all sold to excited customers.

Can butterflies sell? I had a few cards of my favorite butterfly images at Fanny Bay but none sold. Just as an experiment I've added the Taylor's Checkerspot for the Denman show since it is the poster lep for Denman. In case you weren't aware, the Taylor's is endangered and the Denman population is the only one in Canada. There are a few populations in Washington and Oregon, and they are also endangered.

Motherhood doesn't always appeal. I thought Ma Horned Owl and chick would be a hit, but it's reception has only been lukewarm. I really like it and keep it on the rack since it is my prerogative. That's not good business sense, but I can be very irrational at times.

What's your opinion on the next three cards? They are the Red-flanked Bluetail, American Avocet, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Can you guess which has been a perennial best seller and which will do best on Denman? I'll let you know on the week of Dec. 9, or better still, come on over to Denman and see for yourself.

One last question. What bird would you like to see on a card? One suggestion from Fanny Bay was the Black Oystercatcher. An artist named Ann Hansen (I think) in Victoria is famous for her oystercatcher images so I know it can be a popular theme. Do you think it would fly as a card? Here's two possible cards. If I get a few "I like the oystercatchers" I'll produce the card. (Contact me at admin AT vancouverislandbirds DOT com)



A Change of Focus

As mentioned in my last journal, my plans for 2013 include a book on butterflies. Since then I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support offered by all the major experts in the butterfly community. Cris Guppy replied immediately to offer his enthusiatic support and since then, Norbert Kondra and Jon Shepard have also offered to help any way they can. The big news is that that our own island expert entomologist, James Miskelly, is joing me as a co-author and will be constructing distribution maps, assisting with the photography, and vetting the write-ups.

On the technical side of the production, I have my new ISBN number and a quote for the printing cost. Tentatively, I'm aiming for October printing and November release. My decision to only publish a 1,000 copies hasn't changed so it's essential for anyone who wants a copy to pre-order by emailing me. I'm hoping to sell all books directly which means they might not be available in the stores. So far I have orders from as far as Minnesota.

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Bird Poster

My poster is on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House. (Note: This poster has been produced in a more manageable size and is now available for $20 unlaminated and $32 laminated.)
























Port Hardy - MUSEUM


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admin AT vancouverislandbirds DOT com