Sunday, July 26, 2009

Arboretum Birding

I think it's three weeks in a row now that we've spent a few hours birding at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia on Sunday. We've birded there for years but I think what has motivated us to get there three weeks in a row is my desire to work from life. Because the highlight of Morris birding is the pond there are a lot of water birds, some shorebirds, a variety of other birds, and maybe most important the space to put up a scope and get a good look at many birds. Over the last three weekends we've gotten good looks at Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfishers, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, Kildeer and Eastern Kingbirds among others.

Both I and my wife have been able to do a number of sketches. Mine from this weekend(seen at top) are primarily Wood Ducks and ducklings, a Great Blue Heron and a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The small watercolor pencil sketches I did in the backyard last weekend.

I've been preaching the virtues of working from life for years but it's only this summer, partially through the influence of the Wildlife Art forum at, that I'm really trying to make a regular habit of it. I have to add that Debby Kaspari at her blog has suggested working from life for years as well. But for some reason seeing so many people working from life at the wildlife art forum was enough to finally push me over the edge. Happily, my wife Jerene, has also been doing her own sketches. So this is working out well for us. There's still a long way to go but I'm already seeing progress. One of these days maybe my more finished drawings and paintings will actually be based on live fieldsketches rather than photos that I've taken.

I can't remember how many years ago it was that Morris started developing its entrance, and Paper Mill Run, as a wetlands area. I'd say at least five and probably more. Over recent years it's become a better and better spot for birding. Shorebirds, herons and egrets, warblers, vireos, ducks, raptors can all be found there and all on the same day. We first started going to the Arboretum to see the trees and shrubs, which are of great interest to us, but since the wetlands appeared we never do much at the arboretum other than bird the wetlands. But on a slow day there always are the shrubs and trees to admire. Today's highlight I think had to be blooming Ironweed and Joe Pye Weed.

To wrap up this post I'm just going to list the 28 birds we saw today:
Northern Flicker - 2
Willow Flycatcher -1
Belted Kingfisher - 3 (one a youngster?)
Song Sparrow - 6 at least
Northern Mockingbird - 1
Wood Ducks - 2 adult females, 4 juvenile and 6 ducklings
Red-winged Blackbirds - 20+
Catbird - 2
Great Blue Heron - 1-2
American Goldfinch - 5
Eastern Kingbird - 3 (1 young?)
Cedar Waxwings - 5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 1
Eastern Wood Pewee - 1 (heard only)
American Crow - 1
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Common Grackle - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
Mourning Dove - 2
Black Vulture - 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Carolina Chickadee - 2
Tufted Titmouse - 1
Red-eyed Vireo - 1
Yellow Warbler - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Robin - 1


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

This sounds like a lovely place to sit and sketch. Bravo to you both!

Ken Januski said...

Thanks Pam,

I'm very happy that Jerene is also doing some sketching. We've always been lucky in that both of us like to bird. Now I feel doubly lucky that she's not getting bored with my sketching but is also doing some herself.

Yes the Arboretum really is nice. Though we live in a big city it's really amazing how much good birding is within 15 minutes of us. I think that's one of the especially nice things about Philadelphia.