Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hummers, Flycatchers and Lazy Birding

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, Wetlands of Morris Arboretum. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Jerene and I have often found that lazy, sit-down birding can be some of the best birding of the day. That proved to be the case today at Morris Arboretum. Though there were heavy rains last night and it was cloudy today, presaging both wet and probably poor birding conditions, I decided to take advantage of Morris Arboretum's early 8 a.m. opening. You just never know what you might see at this time of year.

Well it turned out to be pretty quiet. That explains the sketch of clouds and wetlands at lower left above. I was sitting down waiting for something to fly by and sketched it in the meantime. A few minutes later the bird above it flew in - a nice Yellow Warbler. This one stayed still for a bit longer than usual so I got a chance to sketch it.

When I got home a Ruby-throated Hummingbird rested on some telephone wires. So I looked at him until he flew with my extreme close focus binoculars, tried to memorize what I saw and then came up to the studio and  did sketches at right. I'm happy to be able to pursue sketching them. Who knows?Perhaps eventually a painting or print.

Indigo Bunting at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Ken Januski.

Soon after the Yellow Warbler appeared another small very dark bird landed even closer to where I was sitting. Though there wasn't a hint of blue my immediate thought was Indigo Bunting. Experience has told me that a small dark sparrow-sized bird is often an Indigo Bunting, even though I rarely see them at Morris. Sure enough that's what he was and he was close enough for me to take some of the closest photos of them that I've ever taken. Next time, if there is one, I'll have to try to sketch instead. But the main reason I include this photo is just to prove how good birding can be when you just sit down. Birds forget you are there, or get used to you, and resume their normal behavior, allowing you a much better chance of observing them closely.

Possible Olive-sided Flycatcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, et al. Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

A couple of dsys ago I started off the day at the Manayunk Canal and soon saw a flycatcher that didn't seem quite right. For one thing I rarely see flycatchers there. I got three glimpses of this one, two from a 3/4 view, i.e. partially from the back and partially from the side. He looked like a large Eastern Wood Pewee, but more the size of an Eastern Kingbird. The last look was from the front. I was so struck by the very dark mottled gray vest that I immediately thought Olive-sided Flycatcher and reached for my camera. And then he flew not to appear again.

I should have known better than to reach for my camera but I did because Olive-sideds aren't that common here, especially in late July. Once he was gone I did my best to put down what I'd seen in the sketchbook. But the only thing I really remembered was the length of the bird, when seen from 3/4 view, and the dark vest when seen from the front. I also noticed a large bill, with the lower mandible yellow-orange. But I really didn't notice the head. When I sketched it in I only made the top half dark, more like an Eastern Kingbird. But after checking photos of Olive-sideds I realized that their head is mainly dark. I didn't see the head in either case, at least not from the front so I figured it was okay to change it to an all dark head. When I did so it  looked more like an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

It's hard to say for sure. It would be early for them and  he was much lower than they normally are. Still it was a large flycatcher and had a very dark vest. I still think it was an early Olive-sided. I have seen them at Morris in mid-August so he was on my wanted list for today. Unfortunately though no flycatchers were to be seen.

Along with him are more cooperative birds that I was able to view for longer periods of time: a young Green Heron and another Yellow Warbler on the left and a Solitary Sandpiper and young Killdeer on the right.

Crouching Green Heron. First color of second block of two-block woodcut by Ken Januski.

Yesterday I decided to experiment with a second block for the Crouching Green Heron woodcut. The first color on good paper is above. Next I'll add a blue and perhaps a maroon and then most likely print the black of the first block. And then seen what it looks like and what to do next. It will probably surprise me as much as you.

No comments: