Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Highlights of the Natural Year - 2015, Part 3

Male American Redstart. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.
Well it's true that most migrating warblers are gone by early June, and this year they were largely missing in action even in the month of May. But the breeding birds remain and one of the ones most frequently seen is this handsome male American Redstart. Since I posted few if any warblers photos in the last post it seems like a welcome corrective to add one here.

Soon after I posted this on this blog last June I realized that I'd forgotten to include a warbler that also breeds here and can often be seen less than a mile away at the Wissahickon. That is the Louisiana Waterthrush seen below. Oddly we really saw few, and heard even fewer, of them this spring. One of the most predictable signs of spring was gone: the unmistakable song of the Louisiana Waterthrush. I'm still puzzled as to the reason though it may be that we currently bird less frequently at the Wissahickon, where they are most likely to breed, than we used to.

Louisiana Waterthrush and Snake. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.
A few youthful experiences with snakes has forever left me I think as not one of their biggest fans. Still it was a nice surprise to run across the Milk Snake below while doing the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education's Breeding Bird Census last spring.

Milk Snake at the Schuylkill Center. Photo by Ken Januski.

June really is the month of breeding birds such as Acadian Flycatcher, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Eastern Wood Pewee, Willow Flycatcher among others. As the first of season arrives it is like welcoming an old friend. That is soon followed by watching them build nests, care for young etc.

I think because I've sketched and photographed them so often I actually did few sketches and took few photos this year. But I did do a number of works based on one of our favorite backyard breeding birds, though by the time they get to our yard in mid-June I believe that they are post-breeding birds. They are of course the endlessly fascinating Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Below are two versions of them, both done this summer. One is a watercolor with sumi brush pen. The other is a fairly complex woodcut. In both I was much more interested in portraying the actual experience of hummingbirds than I was in a photographic likeness. That's ususally the case with me but it is particularly so here.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Monarda. Watercolor and Sumi Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Turkey Vulture and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Multi-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

We are very fortunate in that hummingbirds were in our backyard from mid-June until mid-October. What a treat they are. One other bird that breeds here, particularly at the Manayunk Canal, is the Green Heron. But they are departing much sooner after breeding than they used to. Perhaps this is due to the abnormally cold winters in 2013 and 2014. They may have learned this is not a safe place to be when cold weather rolls in for good. Or perhaps all of the construction/destruction along the Manayunk Canal has just been too much for them. In any case below is a woodcut, one of my favorites, of three young ones that I did from the 2014 brood. One of the things I like about it is that you have to hunt a bit to find all three of them.

Three Young Green Herons at Manayunk Canal. Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Among the many birds and bird families that both Jerene and I are particularly fond of are rails. So when Soras, along with quite a few other interesting birds, seemed to take up residence at Heinz NWR we had to pay at least one visit. Below is another watercolor and sumi brush pen painting of two Soras seen at Heinz.

Soras at Heinz NWR. Watercolor and Sumi Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

It's tempting to add photos of the immature Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets at Heinz NWR, as well as two beautiful Tri-colored Herons seen at Heinz on the same day as the Sora and herons but there just isn't room. The beautiful and always welcome Orchard Oriole will also have to miss this summary. That's not to mention numerous dragonflies and butterflies. But there is only so much room and it is almost time for confusing fall warblers, vireos and flycatchers, many of which are migrating in August. Below is another sumi brush pen and watercolor painting of just that experience at Morris Arboretum during the last week of August. As with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird I'm more interested in the experience than in any photographic likeness. One reminds me of actually being outside seeing things; the latter reminds me of being inside looking at photos. Which would you prefer?

Confusing Fall Warblers and Vireos. Watercolor and Sumi Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

No comments: