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‘Birds of Whidbey’ art show will benefit Whidbey Camano Land Trust

For watercolorist Craig Johnson of Freeland, the great horned owl on his easel is not just any owl. It is Teddy.

Great horned owls maintain territories where they hunt rats, mice, voles and other small game. Johnson and his wife, Joy, named this one Teddy and came to recognize their old friend on frequent wildlife outings to Fort Casey.

So they were thrilled last summer to encounter Teddy’s whole family, including mate and two juveniles, sitting together in a tree near Admiralty Head Lighthouse. A gathering like that in one tree is called a parliament of owls and it’s a magical moment for any birder.

It inspired Johnson to paint Teddy and 34 other birds and sponsor a “Birds of Whidbey” show of his watercolors, Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the Front Room of Bayview Cash Store. The Johnsons are donating half the proceeds to Whidbey Camano Land Trust.

For a livelihood Johnson paints watercolor images of maritime vessels for commercial clients. But on the side he’s a passionate photographer, artist and advocate for birds.

He started photographing birds several years ago as a hobby. He and Joy published three books of stunning photography, the latest of which, “Our Puget Sound Birds and Habitat,” contains many Whidbey Island images and is available in area bookstores and wild bird shops.

It will also be available for sale at the art show, along with a selection of Johnson’s greeting cards.

Johnson is also conservation co-chairman of Whidbey Audubon, a job he takes seriously.

“Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to birds,” he noted. “So it’s not hard to understand my enthusiasm for Whidbey Camano Land Trust and all the people who are working with them to preserve forests, agricultural lands and wetlands on these islands.”

“Birds are a joy to our lives,” Johnson added. “They are fabulously diverse and specialized. You can’t watch them hunt and raise their young without feeling good, feeling a sense of wonder, and wanting to make sure we always have a diversity of birds on our islands. They are a big part of why this is such a desirable place to live.”

“The Birds of Whidbey” is a one-day show in the Front Room at Bayview Cash Store. It runs from noon to 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 23. Beverages and hors d’ouvre will be served.

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