"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Inspiration takes wing

Colin Morrell displays a few of his art projects: a soft sculpture of his sun conure, a great blue heron made from fabric on canvas and a whimsical sculpture of a bird with aviator glasses.   Photo by J. J. Meyer
In case you missed my story in today's Orange County Register, here it is:

Like many great artists, Colin Morrell, a freshman in the visual arts conservatory at the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, finds inspiration in nature. 
            “All of my art projects have to do with birds,” said Morrell, 15.
            “When I do a project, the kids at school say ‘Colin and his birds again.’ They think I’m obsessed. I’m known as the ‘bird kid.’”
            While his sun conure, Comet, has been the model for several pieces, he looks mainly to wild birds, including those in his back yard.  Last summer, he talked his parents into putting up a birdfeeder.  It quickly grew to two with seed, another for suet and one for hummingbird nectar.  
“I wouldn’t have put up birdfeeders,” said his mother, Amanda Morrell, “that was totally his idea.”  And it didn’t stop there, she said. 
Her son also researched the idea of placing a fountain in their back yard to draw species that typically don’t visit feeders such as warblers and other insect-eaters.  He found a large stone fountain for a steal on Craig’s List. The sellers were asking $150 for a fountain that retailed for $2,000.  But the trick was to get it out of the sellers’ back yard through an 18-inch clearance on the side of the house.  And the sellers wanted it out quickly.
“The base alone weighed 1,200 lbs.,” Amanda said.  It took eight male friends to move and install it.  But the effort has paid off with daily avian visitors to the fountain, including hummingbirds that like the bubbling action at the top.  Colin added mosquito fish and aquatic plants to the reservoir at the base where other birds stop to drink.  His favorite is the boisterous scrub jay, but the “coolest looking bird” he says, is the spotted towhee.
Next Colin talked his parents into replacing the backyard lawn with California native plants.  The family found the varieties they needed at a plant sale at Fullerton Arboretum.  He then laid stone to create a walkway around the fountain and through the garden.  In a few spots, he placed stone remnants in random piles for lizard shelters.  
“Colin invests in birds and nature,” Amanda said.  So he didn’t stop with his own back yard.  He designed a demonstration garden as part of an Eagle Scout project for the Boy Scouts to educate the homeowners in his community about the importance of drought-tolerant California native plants and their role in nature.

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