Friday, October 7, 2011

Out in October

We've spent most of the last three beautiful sunny days outside. Morris Arboretum, Carpenter's Woods, Wissahickon Environmental Center at Andorra and Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education are all very local birding spots and we visited them all, often more than once.

I'm never fond of the shortening days of fall. But days like the last three make up for it: blue skies, sun, comfortable weather, the smell of decomposing leaves, leaves starting to turn color, the familiar sound of migrating Blue Jays, but most of all the migrating birds. Most are passing through on their way south. But some are new arrivals from the north that will probably stay here.

So our lists for last few days are full of the former; Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Tennessee, Northern Parula, Black and White and Yellow-rumped Warblers among them. At the same time some of the latter are also appearing, including the handsome Swamp Sparrow portrayed at top, White-throated Sparrows which will probably stay until next May, Field Sparrows, which may have been here all summer. Rusty Indigo Buntings are sparrows that are on their way south as is the White-crowned Sparrow.

The season is turning from one of warblers to one of sparrows. And ducks if we visit water. It's a great time to be out and see this variety of birds.

We saw a few Swamp Sparrows a couple of days ago at Morris Arboretum, the first of the fall. I did a field sketch that just didn't turn out. The watercolor at top is based on a photo I took of one at Higbee Beach in Cape May, NJ about this time last year. They are a truly handsome bird. They're not as bright and bold as warblers but still subtly handsome in their own way.

I'm not thrilled with this watercolor. Though I tried to sketch out some detail for the background it disappeared as I tried to get the color and light to work. But I'm not unhappy with the sparrow. It shows I think that wonderful combination of dark gray, dark brown and chestnut. Catching that was one of my main goals and so I'm happy to have gotten that.

If I'm lucky I'll have a few more weeks of warm weather in which to see and sketch these beauties.

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