Monday, November 18, 2013

Regrets and Feeding Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Prickly Ash at Bartam's Garden.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Bartram's Garden in Philadelphia.

The last week or so has been full of regrets for me. The largest by far was not applying for the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition. Since I was in the previous two years I think I had a good chance of also getting in this year. But the costs were just so high last year, mainly due to needing to hire a courier to deliver them on a certain day and pick them up on a certain day, that I told myself I just couldn't apply this year.

Then I noticed, much too late, that it was the 50th exhibition, surely one to be in! And one of my favorite bird artists, Nick Derry, won a couple of awards. On top of that David Attenborough was there for the opening and gave a Wonderful Talk on Art and Nature. Once I read reviews of the show I knew I'd made a mistake regardless of costs.

The second regret? On Saturday a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was reported at the storied Bartram's Garden. John Bartam was America's first great botanist. Among his visitors the early ornithologist Alexander Wilson. There is far too much history associated with the area for me to go into. Suffice it to say it's an area that is special to us, and many. Unfortunately we haven't been there in years.

Once a photo was posted of the bird it was even harder to avoid driving down to try to see it. And yet we did, finding other things to do on both Saturday and Sunday. I immediately regretted not going in the beautiful weather of yesterday. Then today also turned out nice, in the high 60s in fact. Once I heard that the bird had been seen, and after getting errands done, we headed down.

We rarely hunt rare birds, preferring to just go to a good location and see what's there. But I did expect that we'd have to work to see the bird. That was not the case. Over three hours we saw it at least five times in various locations.

Above are two of the best photos: the first showing him in a Prickly Ash. It's not as good as some other photos but I like the fact that it shows him in the shrub whose berries he was eating. Below that is a better photo but I'm not sure what the tree is. You can see how striking he is.

In addition his axillaries are orange like his lower belly and his tail opens widely when he flies. All in all he's a bird not to be missed, or forgotten.
Field Sketches of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by Ken Januski.

Above are two field sketches that I tried, the first not as good as the second. I didn't have my scope with me so these were done by staring at the bird through binoculars then trying to get that memory down on paper. There is a thrill to that which cannot be matched by photos. If I'd had the scope I might have done more developed sketches. As it is I'll use my sketches, my memories and my photos to do at least a painting if not a painting and a print.

Finally this short video of him after he did what flycatchers normally do: catch a fly, or in this case something larger, perhaps a dragonfly. You can hear Jerene in the background suggesting that it was big. It's always great to see a new and rare bird, but it's also nice to get a chance to study his behavior, in this sense flycatching and eating the berries of the Prickly Ash.

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