Saturday, March 31, 2012

Phoebe with No Leaves

At this time of year there are two birds that really herald the arrival of spring to me: the Eastern Phoebe and the Killdeer. You could argue that Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, the American Woodcock we never see, are also fine signals. But practically speaking the first birds that we see regularly are the Phoebe and the Killdeer.

We've seen the first of each over the last week or so, a bit later than normal I think. Soon it will be time for the early warblers, Pine, Palm, Yellow-rump and Louisiana Waterthrush. They've been reported at a few locations throughout Pennsylvania for the last few weeks but we haven't seen any, no matter how hard we tried. Better to wait and enjoy them when we do see them.

My paintings and drawings of Eastern Phoebes from this time always seem evocative of the season. There are no leaves on the trees. There are just bare limbs and often a gray sky. In that setting the rich brown of the Phoebe's head is striking. Later it will be a dull bird amidst the vibrant colors of late spring and early summer. Like the Killdeer those rich browns are plenty for now.

I've also done a few field sketches of Phoebes and Killdeer over the last week or so. But they're nothing special. So instead it seemed better to try a watercolor based on some photos I took yesterday of this Eastern Phoebe seen at Andorra Natural Area, a part of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

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