I looked at the piece again and since I moved and redid the top 2 birds, including the far background looks fine. So I may consider this the finished one instead.
For the third piece I'm debating between 2 different layouts. The driftwood is done; I haven't decided on the position of the bird(s). And again there may not be room enough for much of the bird reflection, which was my initial motivation for this whole project!
This is the second piece. Initially I was going to put a sheer on top to give the impression that the anemones are under water, but it didn't work - dulls the anemones too much. So I added some bubbles and call it done.
Having run out of ideas on improving the first piece, I pinged my teacher. As soon as she saw it, she knew right away what was wrong. Her suggestion was to move the center bird over to the right.
The during: (there is of course no way to "move" the bird - it entails stitching another one and then removing the first):
It looks so much better - thanks Laura!! Now I know why I signed up for Challenge with a Twist - the twist - which is teacher advice - definitely helps! The bird is now more visibly the focal point, against the darker sand, and the positions of the three birds are balanced. Yay!! I am happy now.