Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Neglected Sparrows

As I was walking at Andorra Natural Preserve yesterday the brilliant, clear blue sky coupled with the yellows, oranges, even deep purple blacks of leaves got me to thinking that nature seems to offer one last burst of splendor before turning to the cold grays and browns of winter.

The remaining birds however, with the exception  of the Eastern Bluebirds and a few others, are more muted. Perhaps because of that, perhaps because they can be numerous, or perhaps because many of them dip into cover as soon as you try to identify them, sparrows can be given short shrift, especially by birders.

If you look at them closely though they can be really  beautiful birds. Among the most common but also the most beautiful is the White-throated Sparrow.. The reds, yellows, oranges of warblers are striking. But the combination of yellow lores, brilliant white throat and sometimes supercilium, coupled with a subtly muted gray breast, deep brown crown stripe and eyeline, and more brown variations of mantle and wings  make for an equally striking bird.

I don't know my sparrows as well as I should so I'm always looking for the opportunity to see more and in particular to sketch them. Above is a field sketch of  a White-throat  coupled with a small watercolor sketch based on a photo I took. I did the watercolor in the hopes of solidifying what I saw while out fieldsketching. This is a matter of both understanding them better to aid in identification as well as just being able to draw and paint them better.

I also  saw a lot of small, flitting Chipping Sparrows yesterday.  But they were too small and too far away for me to get any sketches of them. I'd of course like to see and draw rare sparrows but I'm also always on the lookout for the opportunity to draw more common but still striking sparrows such as the Chipping and the Swamp. The blue grays of the Swamp Sparrow are a siren song to me. So one of these days I'll be back with them as subject.

Oh yes, I did stretch out that top White-throat a bit. I was concentrating on a mental  image that included the streaking on mantle,  the facial markings and the way the wings  hung down. While doing that I got the total proportions off a bit. Next time!
After posting this I did a few more ballpoint pen sketches from my photos. They are the lower photo at top.

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