Monday, February 16, 2015

GBBC 2015 Day Four - Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye on Schuylkill River. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

It seems I can't escape days with windchills of around zero for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Still here those cold temps do not come after many feet of snow as in areas north of us. The cold is a bit trying but our lives have not been made miserable. I'm sure there are a lot of people in the northeast who cannot say the same.

I decided to try a brief walk along the Manayunk Canal and Schuylkill River this morning, testing out both the temps and the birds. Most of the Schuylkill has frozen since I was last there with just a few channels open. I didn't even bother with the much smaller Manayunk Canal. I hoped to see some waterbirds and soon enough I did. But what were they? I saw deep mahogany/burgundy/black head with what seemed like a long bill and very sloping head.

I'm not as familiar with water birds as I am with some others. My first thought was Redhead due to the color of the head, then Canvasback due to the sloping forehead. But when I got home I realized that due to other characteristics they couldn't be either of these. It took me awhile to finally figure out that they were Common Goldeneye, a bird we saw about this same time in same location last year. Of course the golden eyes should have been a clue. I guess my brain was frozen.

Other birds were fairly scarce though I ended the walk with a look at the Peregrine Falcon I'd seen a few days ago, back on the church steeple. As I drove home I checked the mileage -- about one half mile from the Peregrine to our house. Hard to believe!

Since I'd survived the brief foray in the cold I decided to also visit Morris Arboretum, where we'd seen quite a few birds on Saturday. Due to the cold there were extremely few visitors there. I even feared that the arboretum might not be open. But it was and I had a pleasant walk. Towards the end I decided to see if I could find the Northern Mockingbird I'd briefly seen on last visit. Sure enough he was there fighting off four Eastern Bluebirds and two American Goldfinch. It is amazing how territorial they are, especially when food is scarce and it's as cold as it is.

All of the work I've shown over the last four days has been completed in less than an hour. There are always many things that I have to ignore when I want to produce something so quickly. But as I said I enjoy it and learn from it. I think it's a good practice. Though some artists work too quickly probably more dally along forever, trying to think out a picture rather than paint it. No time for thought with these!

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