Sunday, February 23, 2014

Signs of Change

First Hermit Thrush of 2014. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

Even week after week of cold and heavy snow eventually must acknowledge that the seasons are changing. It is still a bit of tough going out walking. Though many days in the 50s have melted the snow on well-trodden paths and walks the less well-trodden areas where we've gone birding recently still offer some surprises. Just when you put your weight on one foot to stride forward down it goes into the snow, throwing you off balance.

Yesterday I started the day viewing 50 Snow Geese flying NE outside my studio window. Later in the day a walk through  deep snow at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education ended with 25 very low-flying Snow Geese. We've never seen more than one flock in a day. But just as we parked the car back home another flock, this one of 100 or so, flew over honking as they flew. I later learned that someone else in Philadelphia saw 5100! yesterday.

Yes there are signs of spring about. We also noticed yesterday that our 'Arnold Promise' Witch Hazel is starting to bloom.

When we arrived at Morris Arboretum this morning we were greeted by singing Red-winged Blackbirds, the first singing ones we've seen this year. We ended up seeing 29 birds, none particularly exciting. Again we saw a Common Merganser in the Wissahickon, the second time this year, after never having seen them previously. Much more exciting though were our first Hooded Mergansers of the year, in a tributary of  the Wissahickon, At the same time appeared the bird portrayed above, our first Hermit Thrush of 2014

Though they can be here during the winter they always are more likely early migrant birds. This is the earliest we've ever seen them. We do often see them in spring, though we sadly missed them last year, and I've done many sketches of them. Their signature pot belly and slowly lifting reddish tail are a welcome sight. So I'm happy to have the chance to add one more watercolor sketch to my collection.

Around the house the House Finches have been singing for a couple of weeks, even with all that snow. So have the Mourning Doves and the Song Sparrows, though it's hard to tell if the Song Sparrows actually ever stop.

In any case spring is definitely on the way. There is more snow in the forecast and an end to these 50 degree days. But no matter, spring will win out.

I'm more and more convinced that my artistic future lies with more abstract work. But for now I  couldn't resist this more or less realistic portrait of the handsome Hermit Thrush.


Ellen Snyder said...

Hi Ken,

This warms my heart reading that you are starting to see spring migrants. A long winter here...still plenty of deep snow and cold, cold week ahead. One cheery note--bluebirds are visiting our suet. Such beauty. Spring will come--thanks for the reminder!


Ken Januski said...

Hi Ellen,

Nor just me but others as well. They are the vey early migrants like members of the blackbird family. But they are on their way.

It has been a long cold winter and I'm sure much more so up where you are. Spring will be more welcome than ever!

I planted my first lettuces the other day inside. I hope I won't be sorry. Soon it will be on to tomatoes, peppers, etc. I just hope that a having such a cold and snowy winter doesn't also indicate we'll have an extra long one. If so I'm going to have some very tall transplants to put out eventually!