Sunday, March 21, 2010

F.O.Y. - A True Calendar

In birder parlance 'F.O.Y.' means 'First of Year.' Though the unseasonably warm weather of the last few days should convince anyone that spring is here, I actually prefer to gain that knowledge by seeing certain natural events that always take place at the same time of year. For instance, the arrival of the first Tree Swallows, who tumble through the air in what looks like boundless enthusiasm. Of course it's probably more simple: they're hawking insects. The first kildeer of the year are the same, and the first blackbirds, chipping loudly and then singing their 'Conk-a-ree' song. These events are what convince me that spring is truly here and that the new cycle of warm seasons has begun. Winter is fading.

We saw our first of year Tree Swallows and Red-winged Blackbirds today at Morris Arboretum. We also saw one Kildeer. And we saw many angry geese, constantly squawking and chasing one another, head down like some vicious snake. We'd never really noticed this behavior before but I'm sure it was territorial - one more sign that spring is truly here.

Finally I'm nearing the end on this watercolor based on some photos I took last week of the first Kildeer of the year. I did a quick watercolor last week but I wanted to do something more developed on better paper. That inevitably causes me to lose some spontaneity I think. And I used a lot of gouache to regain lost whites. I'd prefer to get my whites and light colors through better planning and saving the white of the paper. But for now this will have to do.

Someone, I think Ellen from The Spicebush Log, once mentioned that drawing and painting birds must be relaxing. It is. But it is also tense. One of the tensions is getting what you want down on paper but still keeping the white of the paper so that there is a sense of light emanating from the paper. It is tense but it's also one of the things that I think makes art addictive to artists. You always try to do a little better, and you always know that what you've done is not perfect. So you may be thrilled with it. And yet over time you see the next plateau on the horizon.


Ellen Snyder said...

Good to know that tree swallows will soon be here in NH. Every day in spring is such a gift, with birds arriving, buds opening, and the garden soil warming. Happy Spring.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Ellen,

Well I hope the recent weather hasn't convinced them to head back south! We went to same place on Saturday, hoping to see our first Eastern Phoebe. But no phoebes, swallows or kildeer. But we did get one great surprise: a mature Bald Eagle. So migration does continue, just not in the way I expected.

But spring truly is here. Almost time to plant some lettuce. Happy Spring!