I heard at least one of them as soon as I stepped off of the sidewalk along the Walnut Lane Golf Course and into the woods of the Wissahickon. The problem was that I hadn't heard these trills in 9 months or so. Was it a Pine Warbler or a Chipping Sparrow? The nearby White Pines suggested Pine Warbler but the golf course also has a number of Chipping Sparrows around April each year. As I walked along the trail down to Forbidden Drive I heard the call again. I was about to give up on finding it and just continue down to the Wissahickon at Forbidden Drive, where migrants are often more plentiful. But then there was a particularly insistent call. So I stayed. And finally was rewarded with a view of my first warbler of 2008, a pine warbler!
I think most birders who live in areas where there are four seasons will tell you how exciting it is to see the first warbler of the year. There are of course many other migrants which tell their own story about the seasons. But the warblers are among the first of the neotropical migrants, many of which stick around for less than a month before heading further north to breed. They indicate both the beginning of spring and the beginning of another all too short season of spring migration. But like the Bloodroots which are just starting to bloom in our small woodland garden, they are somewhat ephemeral. You need to enjoy them while they're here because they won't be here for long
I also saw an Eastern Phoebe, in more or less the same spot where I saw my first one of 2008 a few days ago. Other birds include 10+ Common Grackles, 13 Canada Geese, far more than I normally see in this area of the Wissahickon, Reb-bellied Woodpeckers, many Robins, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Juncos, Carolina Chickadees, Song Sparrows and American Crows among others.
Why I Love Sketching From Life
I did this small drawing of Canada Geese in the Wissahickon while on this walk. It was drawn in 30-60 seconds and I added a bit of watercolor when I got back home. It's nothing exceptional, to say the least, but it does remind me of the excitement of working from life. There is something about sketches that often seem to capture the dynamism of life. Though the best art is often considered to be that which is most developed I often find myself admiring the sketches of some artists more than their finished work. Rembrandt springs instantly to mind. I also have great admiration for the sketches of Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff though I also love their paintings. Perhaps because their paintings also have much of the spontaneity of their drawings there doesn't seem to be such a dichotomy. This also reminds me of how much I enjoy looking at the sketches in 'Drawing Birds' by John Busby and how much more fulfilling I find them than much more finished and polished 'wildlife art.' They capture both the vitalty of the subject and something of the airy quality of being outdoors. Perhaps in another time, where I spent more time outside I would find this less valuable. But today there is something especially appealing and rewarding about art that exudes both vitality and a sense of the light and atmosphere of the outdoors.