Sunday, November 16, 2014

November Osprey and Butterflies

Juvenile Osprey at Wissahickon. Ballpoint Pen and Watercolor Sketch on double-spread of Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook by Ken Januski.

Variegated Frittilary at Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Ballpoint Pen and Watercolor Sketch in Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook by Ken Januski.

As I have written elsewhere on this blog it was walking off what seemed to me the disastrous election of George Bush as president in November of 2004 that I came across the first Osprey I'd ever seen at the Wissahickon, less than a mile from our home. Over the years I've learned that it's not all that surprising to find one there, most likely during migration. But it is far less likely to find them in November.

So each November I make sure to spend a little more time birding the Wissahickon rather than other areas so that I can keep that tradition alive. Sure enough Jerene and I saw one last week, flying 15-20 feet above the water and only 15-20 feet away. Since he was here and gone so quickly I didn't sketch him or take a photo. But we could see enough white markings on him to identify him or her as a juvenile. We had a more cooperative juvenile here in 2013 and I'm showing the pen and watercolor sketch I did last year at the top of this post.

Because we've gotten used to seeing them in November it's actually more of a surprise these days for us to find butterflies, excluding the still ubiquitous Cabbage White and perhaps a Mourning Cloak. Yesterday we did see at least one Cabbage White, flying dangerously close to one of the highlights of the day, a Fox Sparrow, one of two together at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

But the highlight of the butterfly day was the Variegated Frittilary, pictured above in a ballpoint pen and watercolor sketch. My first reaction to the butterfly, without having really looked at the pattern, was that was a Great Spangled Frittilary. But as I read my guide books I saw that this was very unlikely as they mainly fly in summer. As I looked more closely I realized it was instead a Variegated Frittilary, a butterfly that flies into November.

That in turn prompted me to check another butterfly that we found in the same location in late November a couple of years ago. It was a Common Buckeye. Sure enough they also fly into November. But that was news to me! As I said I was actually more surprised by these butterflies than by the osprey.

Thinking about this convinced me to collect some of my artwork based on Osprey and butterflies, primarily those seen in November. I've added them to my Facebook Page. It includes these works along with 5-6 others, including an abandoned linocut of an Osprey seen at Valley Green along the Wissahickon in late November a few years ago. I didn't like the clunkiness of the print so gave up on it. But now I'm tempted to return to it.

As a side note I have to say it's hard to figure out how to use butterflies in an artistic composition. They in themselves are both striking and beautiful. But you really only see them in three positions: 1, with their wings spread flat, making for a very static composition; 2, with their wings closed, making for a slightly less static composition; and 3, in flight, where they are often too small to see. I'm new to painting butterflies but I can already see that they will be far more difficult than birds to work into a successful composition.

I did print the first color of the American Goldfinch and Thistle woodcut today. But it's light yellow on white/cream so not much shows up. Once it dries and I've printed another color I'll get back to posting on it. For now it seemed like a good time to instead celebrate the Osprey and butterflies of November.

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