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.


Parus said...

Drawing and sketching was something I was never really good at. I'm too much of a nit picker for detail.
Photography was easier and produced much more detail without the hours and hours of work.
I've never really been a great note taker either. It's easier to just memorize the bird and what it does. I'm not the best at photo quizzes because half of IDing the bird is habitat and habits.

Allen Chartier said...

I think you'd enjoy using acrylic paints. It allows you to put white on top of black, in essence, to erase. I started with watercolor but found them difficult to control. I also used magic markers for a while (there are fine-pointed sets with dozens of colors). I tried oil a couple times. What a mess!

Linda Jones said...

Hello ! I would love to know where you located the owls at Irvine Regional Pk. I enjoy your blog! I am a photographer who frequents the SJponds and Back Bay. Heres a few photo albums of the wildlife I shoot in OC. Any questions please ask! [scroll down to albums]