Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Snowy Squeal of Spring

First Wood Ducks of Sprigng - Eating Snow. Watercolor by Ken Januski

Once I start seeing new birds, or hearing about others seeing new birds, every day presents a temptation to go out. I can exercise, sketch, bird all at the same time. Today wasn't all that inviting but I'd remembered seeing a very early Eastern Phoebe along the Wissahickon last year and decided it was worth a try, even with a weather forecast of rain and flurries.

The flurries started almost as soon as I got there. But all it did was make the day more beautiful. Snow always quiets the environment but it does so particularly in a natural setting and even moreso along a stream. In this weather the stream seems to belong to the wildlife not the human visitors.

Part way along I heard a familiar squeal - that of the Wood Duck. Though a few had overwintered in the swan pond of Morris Arboretum I hadn't yet seen any along the Wissahickon, nor heard their squeal.

As I made my way to Valley Green the two grew to at least 13. The snow came down harder and this female couldn't resist snapping out at a flake.

As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to give it a try in paint. Without the looseness of yesterday's Killdeer painting I doubt I would have tried this. How in the world was I going to render the falling snow, the extreme darkness of the water, the snowflake? I think yesterday convinced me not to worry about it and just improvise.

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