Monday, July 14, 2014

The Warblers of May, in Philadelphia, in Watercolor

Northern Parula at Carpenters Woods. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Ovenbird at Carpenters Woods. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

May passed by in such a flurry of activity that, just like an eventful vacation, it seemed undigested. Like a good meal that was eaten in such a hurry that only afterwards do you actually enjoy it.

Such was the case as I looked through some of my photos from May. Such good looks at Worm-eating, Hooded, Prairie and Northern Parula Warblers as well as Ovenbirds and waterthrushes. Since I spent so much time trying to sketch them it's doubly surprising to see how many good photos I got.

I'd like to recommend the place where I saw them, an Important Bird Area called Carpenters Woods, only a couple of miles from our house. The reason I don't recommend it and don't visit much except in May and perhaps September is that there are so many loose dogs, even though it is illegal to have them in Fairmount Park, of which Carpenters Woods is part, without a leash. By May I'm so angry with anger at the dogs and their owners that I no longer enjoy being there. This battle, between birders and dog owners, is playing out across the U.S. When we first visited Carpenters Woods about 20 years ago we ran into a co-worker. When she saw we were birding she asked if we were familiar with the conflict between dog owners and birders. We weren't and were surprised by the question. Now it's all we think of when we visit.

But if you don't mind dogs running loose, scaring up rare birds, and perhaps ruining their nesting attempts then it's a great place to bird. It's been known for years as such and has, as best I can tell, declined tremendously over the last 10-20 years. But I say this only from hearsay not experience. Though we birded there 20 years ago we were too inexperienced to appreciate what was or wasn't there. This year though it seemed as full of birds as the far better known Magee Marsh of Ohio. I know it wasn't but if it seemed like it then who can complain?

In any case I was surprised to see what nice photos I had of some Northern Parulas, a beautiful bird that we see often but of which I have next to no photos. Nor very usable field sketches. Given the number of good photos I couldn't resist the watercolor sketch above, again in a Stillman and Birn 7x10 Gamma Sketchbook. My intent more than anything else was to get a sense of its striking colors as well as its pose.

Ovenbirds were incredibly visible this spring, both at Carpenters Woods and elsewhere. They are a thoroughly endearing bird, perhaps due to their cuteness, perhaps not. In any case we saw very many and I couldn't resist another watercolor sketch in the Gamma sketchbook. Luckily this year we've continued to see them in Philadelphia through the month of June. So though I've heard second-hand reports of a decline in breeding birds in Philadelphia, reports I've never really investigated, we're happy to report that at least some have stayed for the summer and most likely bred.

Eventually I'll get back to printmaking but for now I feel like trying to improve my skills at watercolor.

No comments: