Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Dead grass pricked through my clothing while ants and flies danced along my bare legs. Nope, birding isn't always pleasant, even short afternoon excursions around the neighborhood. I brushed the various life forms off my legs and looked up from my drawing pad - there was the Yellowthroat Creek. California Towhees chinked and shuffled around in the underbrush, a Green Heron sailed in for a landing on the creek's edge, and a pair of Bushtits busily foraged in a bush in front of me, twittering nonstop. Oh right - the Bushtits. I was supposed to be taking notes on them. I raised my binoculars and watched the male as he hung upside-down from a branch and probed in a dead cluster of leaves. I furiously scribbled down notes, trying to keep my eyes on the birds constantly. After several more minutes, both birds flew away, looking like little dust bunnies attempting to fly.
Scratch-scratch... scratch. No, that wasn't quite right; the head needed to be a bit smaller. Erase-erase. There, that's better. Within a couple minutes I had a rough sketch of a Bushtit. Most of my field notes are like that - rough and quick. I've found that the more I work on a field sketch, the more I screw it up. Field notes are, after all, not supposed to be great works of art, at least in my book. I take field notes to force myself to closely observe birds and learn more about them. Sure, Bushtits are common birds that I see every day, but the more I learn about them, the better. Unfortunately, I've slid out of the habit of regularly taking field notes, but hopefully I'll change that over the summer.
I did a quick pencil drawing of a female Great-tailed Grackle yesterday. I spent roughly twenty minutes on it; the first ten minutes I spent composing the picture and making a rough sketch (the frustrating part), and I spent the last ten minutes filling it in (the fun part). I do almost all of my artwork with a regular pencil; I have some grimy Crayola colored pencil stubs that are about as old as I am, but I never use them. Color always seems to ruin my artwork, so for now I'll stick with regular old pencils. I really should invest some money in a good watercolor set, but I am too miserly to do so.