Tales From The Field: The Magnificent Frigatebird and I


In March of 2011 I was one of thirty artists invited to go on a “dream junket” to San Carlos, Mexico to paint, sketch and shoot reference for a Sea of Cortez exhibition at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. And of course I happily accepted the chance to spend a week in a beachfront condo with 29 fellow artists.

One of the truly special things we got to do was to spend a day in a boat cruising some of the islands. There were birds everywhere and just about every one of them was a new species for me.

At one point, fishing lines were put in the water. I didn’t pay much attention since I was riveted by the bird life, which included brown pelicans blue-footed boobies, gannets, cormorants, frigatebirds and wonderfully graceful tropicbirds.


We cruised around near this outcropping on one of the islands.


A gannet flew by.


And, at a distance, a magnificent frigatebird flew by. In the meantime, someone hooked a yellowjack and hoisted it onto the boat. We were all gathered around admiring it when I looked up and spotted a frigatebird flying towards the boat, coming closer and closer. I had my camera with the long lens and started to shoot photos as fast as I could as the bird came right over our heads.


Frigatebirds mostly make their living stealing fish from other birds and this one had spotted ours, hoping for an opportunity to snag it. Alas, no. But I snagged enough good photos to create a triptych I titled “Magnificent Flyer”. I was honored when it was chosen to be used for the exhibition and direction banners at the museum.

“Magnificent Flyer” oil triptych each panel is 25×16″ (price on request; not sold separately)

New Painting Debut! “Magnificent Flyer”

Magnificent Flyer oil 40×46″ (three panel triptych)

This is the third of three paintings I’ve done for the “Sea of Cortez” show, which will debut at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in March.

It’s a triptych showing one Magnificent Frigatebird who came swooping in behind our boat after one of the artists caught a fish. His landing gear was down, hoping to snag it if he got a chance. I grabbed my camera and got five photos of him. I was really pleased to see these three and submitted all of them for the curator to chose from. And even more pleased when he gave me the go-ahead to do all of them as a set.

Here are the three paintings. Each of them is 40×16″:

You can see the other two paintings, “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon” and “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab”, plus my other posts about my trip to the Sea of Cortez as part of a group of 30 artists here.

The Sea Of Cortez-An Album Of Images

What a trip it was! The whole package…great scenery, interesting animals, terrific traveling companions who are also great artists and, in 2013, the exhibition at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to top it off.

I’ll be blogging about specific aspects of this experience and the art that I plan to create from it between now and showtime, but today I thought I’d share an overview of some of my favorite images, an album, if you will.

And, for this coming Mongolia Monday, I’ll compare and contrast Mongolia’s Gobi with the part of the Sonora Desert that I have now visited.

View from the condo I shared with four other artists.
Nacapuli Canyon
Someone took pictures of almost everything. Here's Carel Brest van Kempen photographing ants.
Predator water beetle; waterhole in Nacapuli Canyon
As yet unidentified lizard; Nacapuli Canyon
Estero Solado; an estuary ringed by three species of mangrove
Roseate spoonbills feeding in the estero
The turkey vulture who wouldn't abandon "his" fish
One of about six species of fiddler crabs living on the shores of the estero
Willets on the beach near the condo in nice morning light
Pelican feeding frenzy off-shore in San Carlos
The wonderful boat that we went out in
The boat made it possible for the plein air painters to get to great spots like this
Heerman's gull; almost at eye level from the boat's dingy
San Pedro Island; we spent a day birdwatching and snorkeling along its three mile length
Brown pelicans
Brandt's cormorants
Sally Lightfoot crab
Blue-footed booby colony; the white is guano
Blue-footed booby; an artist favorite
California sea lions
Male California sea lion
Female magnificent frigatebird
The Sea of Cortez
Group shot- photo by Molly Moore- Field Trip to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, March 19 - 26, 2011. Pictured are Linda Bittner, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, DeVere Burt, Andrew Denman, Kim Diment, Kim Duffek, Cathy Ferrell, Susan Fisher, Susan Fox, Mary Garrish, Ann Geise, Shawn Gould, Mary Helsaple, Heiner Hertling, John Kobald, Deian Moore, John Pitcher, Don Rambadt, Paul Rhymer, Rebecca Richman, Carolyn Thome, Christine Sarazin, Rachelle Siegrist, Wes Siegrist, Martha Thompson, Glenn Thompson, Sue Westin, Ronnie Williford, Debbe Wilson, and Nicholas Wilson. (Not pictured are John Agnew and Molly Moore). Leading the field trip was Richard C. Brusca, Ph.D. The trip was organized by David J. Wagner, Ph.D. for artists to produce a body of artwork for a museum exhibition entitled The Sea of Cortez, produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., and scheduled to premiere at The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute from March 16 through June 2, 2013.