Saturday, February 03, 2007

Adventures in Pennsylvania

Greetings, everyone! I arrived in Pennsylvania safe and sound. The gang at MotherCrone's sure had some exciting things planned for my visit.

Our first adventure was a "Girl's Only" fieldtrip to John James Audubon's home in Pennsylvania, MillGrove. Girlie told me all about him as we were riding in the car to the museum. He was a famous artist and naturalist, and was sent at a teenarger to live in Pennsylvania in 1803 to avoid being drafted into Napoleon's army. Although his father wanted him to oversee the family farm, he spent his days hunting, riding, and watching animals, especially birds. Like any teenager without a parent around, he did as he pleased.

He decided to use his skills and try to record and paint all the birds he found in America. He also used his skills as a hunter, for he would shoot the birds, so he could study them up close. He was the first to use wires to place the birds in life-like poses before painting.

When Girlie told me the inside of the museum was filled with specimens like this, I thought it was best if I waited outside. As a wee mousie myself, the thought made me more than a little nervous.

We found a lovely rock for me to sit on, under a tree full of bird feeders. It was a clear winter's day, and I watched juncos, chickadees, and cardinals flutter to and fro while they ate. I used a technique Audubon used to study the habits of the Peewee Flycatcher. He would sit very still inside the cave where they nested for days at a time. At first the birds were very nervous at his presence. But over time they trusted him, and went about their business. Addie, Adventure Mouse and Naturalist- in-Training!

Audubon only spent four years at Mill Grove.

He fell in love with the girl next door, Lucy
Bakewell. He returned to France to ask
permission to marry, and that is where he is said to have had the idea for a book of bird paintings.
It took him many years to compile all the paintings, but in 1826 he sails to England with his portfolio and finds a publisher for his book, "Birds of America." All of London fell in love with this woodsman, and he painted pictures like this outside in the square to increase interest.

On the second floor of the museum, they had this great art table set up in a room painted with beautiful bird murals. Girlie tried her hand at sketching a sharp-shinned hawk.
(see Part II, for the rest of our trip! )

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