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Margaret Morse Nice

Margaret Morse Nice: Telling the Life Histories of Birds

Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice
Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice

Margaret Morse Nice(1883-1974) caught my eye because of her bird passion.  My only experience as a girl in birdwatching was one week at summer camp where a counselor took us walking to look for Red-Winged Blackbirds.  That someone would be looking for birds in regular life was a surprise to me.  Margaret Morse Nice received a copy of Mabel Osgood Wright’s Birdcraft field guide as a present for her 13th birthday, and she started writing down her observations of birds around her.

I discovered that Nice grew up in Amherst, MA, where I lived when I went to Hampshire College.  Nice was born just 3 years before  Emily Dickinson died. She went to Mt. Holyoke College, which gave her a reprieve from her parent’s emphasis on getting married and housekeeping.  She graduated and returned to the stultifying role of “daughter-at-home,” rather than the world of learning and discovery.  The thread of her desire to learn persists through enrolling at Clark University graduate school in 1907, and researching Bobwhites, marrying a fellow graduate student, moving with him for his academic appointments in Norman OK, Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL, raising 5 daughters, and studying her girls’ language and behavior at the same time she observed the most common of birds in her own backyard like the Song Sparrow.

The librarian in me is fascinated by the title of her autobiography: Research Is a Passion With Me: The Autobiography of a Bird Lover.    She studied birds in their environment rather than collecting them, and took their life histories.  In my own researching this post, I came across an article, with double Margarets!  The authors describe the absence of women’s experience in comparative psychology, and write about these two Margarets who were both accomplished, one unmarried and teaching at Vassar, and Nice, who married, had children, and published papers, books and reviews, without formal academic appointment.  The article describes Nice’s frustration with the implication that her children and husband had brains, and she had none ~ “He taught, they studied. I did housework.”  To be passionate, observant, engaged in the natural world and meet her subjects on their own terms was ultimately influential in the world of ornithology, is a life history that moves me.

Placing women in the history of comparative psychology: Margaret Floy Washburn and Margaret Morse Nice. by Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1987). In E. Tobach (Ed.), Historical perspectives and the international status of comparative psychology (pp. 103-117). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

In Memoriam: Margaret Morse Nice by Milton B. Trautman

Margaret Morse Nice Made History at her Columbus Patch, Interpont.

Stratoz was a birdwatcher when I met him, and now has a veritable bird sanctuary in his studio, as he creates Ravens, Nuthatchs, and Great Blue Herons in glass.


Bucks County Painter Lisa M. Nelson and Corvid Love

American Kestrel hanging out with Lisa Nelson's Corvid painting
American Kestrel by Wayne Stratz hanging out with Lisa M. Nelson’s Corvid painting

Stratoz and I were at the Bucks Guild ArtsFest ’15 and we both were taken by Lisa M. Nelson‘s miniature oil painting of a fine corvid.  I was drawn to the orange and blue-black colors, and Stratoz has a thing for birds, so we took it home.  It was great to finally meet Lisa, since we had known each other’s work through Team Hip on Etsy(Handmade in PA), and I had often put her brilliantly colored paintings in Treasuries of Etsy items.  She is a daily painter with a love of animals, and welcomes lovers of shiny, pretty things.  It made sense to her that I responded to the shine and texture of her painting, since my mosaics have the same elements.  I do think I was a magpie in a former life.




Cardinal Love: Small Deaths Exhibit by Kate Breakey at the Michener Art Museum

Cardinalis cardinalis. Northern Cardinal (Male) II by Kate Breakey.
Cardinalis cardinalis. Northern Cardinal (Male) II by Kate Breakey, hand-painted silver gelatin print (1998). Michener Museum of Art, Doylestown, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz and I got ourselves to the Michener Art Museum Museum to see the exhibit of hand-painted photographs by Kate Breakey. The Small Deaths exhibit is there until July 12th, 2015.   The colors of the birds were intense and glowing.  I loved the orange beak of this cardinal.

Male Cardinal Suncatcher by Wayne Stratz.
Male Cardinal Suncatcher by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz had just finished a stained glass cardinal commission.  It’s his Year of Birds, and the Breakey exhibit fit right in.


Ron Dombrowski Green Bird

Transformations Art and Craft Show 2013 Featured Artist: Ron Dombrowski and His Carved Wooden Birds

Ron Dombrowski Wood Carving
Ron Dombrowski Wood Carving

Ron Dombrowski starts out with blocks of wood using Jersey white cedar, pine and basswood and after much cutting, grinding and sanding he then paints the piece using acrylic paints and applying protective finishes.


Ron Dombrowski Green Bird
Ron Dombrowski Wood Carving Green Bird

Ron has won numerous awards, including best in show in both the shorebird and fish decoy contests held at the Tuckerton Decoy Show in September each year.


Ron Dombrowski Wood Carving Owl
Ron Dombrowski Wood Carving Owl

Ron carves old style gunning decoys, duck decoys, ice spearing fish decoys and decorative fish. He also carves folk art owls and fish.  Who could resist this wide eyed owl?

Transformations 40th Annual Art and Craft Show, November 8-10, 2013, Hopewell Train Station, Hopewell, NJ.

Transformations Featured Artists:

Connie Bracci-McIndoe(pottery)

Susan Nadelson(hand dyed and handspun yarn)

Bernard Hohlfeld(artistic woodturner)

Amy Turner(weaving)

Sally Stang(pressed flower mosaic)


Transformations Art and Craft Show 2013
Transformations 40th Annual Art and Craft Show, November 8-10, 2013. Hopewell Train Station, NJ