Thursday, May 22, 2014

Flycatcher Time

Willow Flycatcher in Willow. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski

I'm not sure why but I've been taken with flycatchers for the last five years or more. While most birders are bored to death by the Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees that seem to be ubiquitous at the nearby Wissahickon from mid-May until sometime in August I always try to see them when I hear them.

Because flycatchers, at least the ones that are normal in this part of the country, can be both similar and drab I like to be able to look at them and try to both see and portray their differences. I really can't say if my motivation is primarily artistic or primarily educational, i.e. learning how to easily differentiate them, especially if they're not singing.

A later arrival than the Acadian and the Pewee is the Willow Flycatcher, pictured above. As far as I can tell it is one of the very latest breeding birds to arrive, at least in northwest Philadelphia. Today I happened to get a good look for a couple of minutes in my scope while birding Morris Arboretum. Two field sketches are below. Unfortunately he flew before I could spend any time on the head.

I did spend a fair amount of time looking at it but never really studied how it fit the rest of the body. So the sketch on left page below is a bit off when it comes to the head. The small watercolor sketch above tries to combine the field sketches with knowledge gained from my many photos of Willow Flycatchers.

Of course none of them were in that exact position. So I spent quite a bit of time drawing the underlying pencil sketch in the hopes of getting a complete rendering based on the field sketches below.

This is another sketch in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook and I've pushed the paper as far as it will go in terms of holding numerous washes. So this is done. Perhaps another time I'll try another more developed watercolor on actual watercolor paper. Or perhaps I'll end up greatly abstracting this in a print. For now it's just one more attempt to put down on paper the subtle differences between our various eastern flycatchers.

One nice thing about sketching birds from life is that even what many would consider boring birds are always interesting, mainly because you realize how very much more there always is to learn. It is and endless, and rewarding, challenge.

Willow Flycatcher, Carolina Chickadee, Tree Swallow Gray Catbird. Field Sketches by Ken Januski.

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