Coming Soon

Spring is just about to burst forth here in New York. It’s a time many of us eagerly await; the long winter months nearly behind us. Just a few things are blooming now, but the pace will accelerate in the coming days with a procession of spring ephemerals, migratory birds, flowering trees and shrubs, and colorful bulbs. I went looking for spring yesterday and was pleased to spend time with star magnolia and forsythia before the rain came and temperatures fell from 60-to 40-degrees. Here’s wishing you time to wonder and enjoy… Read More

Fleeting

Just a few quick bird sketches to wish you a good day and thank you for the many kind notes of condolences shared last week. Life is fleeting; capture what you can of it. Tips and Techniques– When sketching birds, start with a line for the angle of the bird’s body and then hang the body shape on it. Do the same for the angle of the bill and head. One you have these lines, shapes, and proportions down check for accuracy and refine your sketch. Don’t add detail until the end…. Read More

Fledglings Forever

This weekend’s freezing temperatures sent me packing my sketchbook and paints and seeking shelter in the natural history collection at a nearby museum. Amidst a long wall of bird specimens, I found these four fledgling Eastern screech owls. Most collections typically display adult birds, so it was unusual to find an entire set of young siblings. I was grateful for the chance to study these common, yet elusive owls up close. And yet, they haunt me, too. Their life in the wild was so brief, their time behind glass so long. My… Read More

Simple Joys

Amidst the hustle of holiday preparations and merriment, I stole a few minutes of quiet out in the neighboring field on a sunny afternoon. A chattering flock of juncos were my only companions as I made my way around the grove of white pines that are slowly taking over the tangled meadow. I appreciate these moments for the simple joys they offer, and I wish you the same this holiday season and throughout the year. Tips and Techniques– Although the sun was shining, the wind made 30֯ F feel like 20֯ F…. Read More

Artistry of the Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds hide their nests of woven sedges, grasses, and cattails deep in marshes, wet meadows, and swamps. Females weave the structure low to the ground, finding perfect hiding places to lay their eggs and raise young. Sometimes several females will nest in close proximity and even share the same mate. Because of their wet locations and perfect camouflage, I have never found a blackbird nest in the field. The ones I’ve seen and painted are from natural history museums and nature centers. Sometimes they are recently collected and sometimes, as with… Read More

Gone. Forever.

Though the news this week that the Ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman’s warbler and 21 other species were classified as “extinct” may not have come as a surprise, it was nonetheless disheartening. I pulled several old field guides from my shelf and found these prescient passages: “When man appears, the Ivory-bill disappears. This is not alone due to the destruction of the bird’s haunts but the bird’s shy, retiring nature. Its days are numbered even more surely than are those of the forests it inhabits” (What Bird is That? by Frank Chapman, 1941). “Many… Read More

The Shimmer

Did you know that a group of hummingbirds is called a shimmer? Hummingbirds don’t “flock” together, the way many bird species do, so several names have come to describe them as a group. You can also call them a charm, a glittering, a tune, a bouquet, or a hover. Truth be told, I have only seen hummingbirds individually of late, but painting several in different positions seemed a better way to capture their movement, beauty, and vitality. Tips and Techniques– When you are painting birds, do you ever overwork them to the… Read More

Doubly Good

You have to be in the right place at the right time to see a common nighthawk. Even then, you need to be lucky.  Nighthawks are nocturnal birds that fly at dusk over fields, ballparks, cities and towns, hawking insects in the air with quick wingbeats interrupted by soaring, swooping, and gliding. At first glance you might mistake one for a large bat. But then it soars or dives and you think, no, that’s a bird. Unfortunately, common nighthawks are no longer common—they’ve suffered a 60-percent decline in population since the 1960s…. Read More

Spring Gems

When you think of spring, what colors come to mind? Though red is not typically on my list, there are several species that wear shades of ruby and garnet that sing out amidst spring’s palette of greens. I went looking for Jack-in-the-Pulpit in a nearby nature preserve and, though I found a few, it was the display of red trilliums on the forest floor that was in its full glory. The following day, the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of my favorite migratory birds, returned to our yard. The male’s beautiful deep red breast… Read More

Song for a May Morning

Why does March seem to go on forever while May is so fleeting? Like ferns unfurling, each moment, each day, transforms woods, field, and wetland, ultimately bringing them to fullness. Today, warblers descend on their journey north, oaks and hornbeams and apples are in bloom; morrells push up through the forest floor; but not for long. A week from now, a fleeting moment from now, they too will be transformed. So, Hail bounteous May as John Milton urges in his Song on a May Morning. Celebrate its fleeting sweetness. Tips and Techniques–… Read More