Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GBBC Day Four - Green Winged Teal

Green-winged Teal.Watercolor by Ken Januski

Field sketches for GBBC 2013 by Ken Januski

Yesterday I concluded the GBBC with a marathon day at Tinicum(John Heinz NWR). Unfortunately the impoundment had frozen over and there was almost nothing on it other than a few Ringed-billed Gulls and some sparrows along the shore. Darby Creek on the other hand was not frozen and a bit more lively.

We really don't see that many ducks in breeding plumage so that was one of my goals in going to Tinicum yesterday. But as I said there were very few there. However I did manage to see my first Green-winged Teals of the year as portrayed at top in a small 5x7 inch watercolor. Like many birds these seem to settle down just beyond the range of my binoculars where I can ID them but really can't see enough to do much of a sketch. The watercolor is based on a few photos that I took.

So I ended up with no satisfying looks at ducks in breeding plumage but I did walk a LONG way there, familiarizing myself with new areas. So perhaps as the weather warms and before the ducks fly I'll get another chance for some good views. A few years ago we were birding at 'The Meadows' in Cape May in New Jersey. A fellow who was visiting his mother there and riding around the preserve by bicycle stopped to talk to us. It was obvious that he thought looking at birds was a mighty odd activity and couldn't possibly be interesting. Until we let him look through our scope at the ducks. When you get a good look at a duck it's hard to be impressed by much else in the world. They have an intricate beauty that's hard to beat!! Perhaps next time we go to Cape May we'll run across him and his new scope.

Beneath the watercolor is my sketchbook from the GBBC. Nol much in the way of  sketches. But it was pretty cold most days, generally below freezing. But I do want to keep up the practice of sketching as much as possible. Each time I do I learn something.

The illustrations I've done for the last four posts are really more illustrations than anything else. They are all done in 30-60 minutes with no intention of being 'finished' work. They're just meant to illustrate the day. There is something quite rewarding about that type of work however. It can get me to try things I normally wouldn't. Who knows where they may lead but my guess is that at least one of them will be the basis for a future print or painting.

I ended the GBBC with 42 species. It would have been 43 if I included the House Sparrows of the backyard. A high count wasn't my goal but once you start counting it does become hard to stop. Still that's not why I bird and I probably won't do such an extensive count again. But it was fun and it continues to grow. My guess is that the organizers will have a wealth of useful data about birds in the US and the world when they're done.

This year the data was entered through ebird and already offers an amazing view of the data entered. I spent last evening checking to see where some of the more unusual species I'd seen in Philadelphia had also been seen and how many had been seen. It was fascinating. My one reluctance and hesitation about all of this online data is that it can become easy to see the numbers and nothing else, missing the entire point of birding and being out in nature in the first place!

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