I lost my sketchbook at Limantour Beach today, probably in the parking lot... If by some chance you happen to be there and see it... please let me know. It had my name in it, and sketches from this weekend. Here's hoping.
Belted Kingfisher right off our deck in Tomales Bay. This male had been sitting on the wire for some time. I'd been enthralled with several Pacific Loons fishing just a few inches off the beach... As soon as I decided to make a sketch of this stationary bird, he went off to fish somewhere else. I tried to capture what I had noticed before he flew.
The star of yesterday's birding was this previously reported Prairie Warbler at the fish docks in Point Reyes. We knew it was a possibility, but we didn't expect to refind it, and were surprised how quickly it appeared. Lovely bird, and very active. The white outer tail feathers caught my attention, especially when the bird flew from one branch to another.
The last bird I sketched before I lost my book—here recreated, and hopefully improved through the experience, is one of the 200 or so Snowy Plovers we watched today. The "lost sketch" was drawn with the bird standing still, and without bands. This new image is closer to the experience we had today. As we watched the little birds "rolling" across the dry sand, Cricket and I described the field marks out loud to help us remember in preparation of the memory sketch. That proved especially useful as I had to memorize these field marks twice... Now, finally, I will look at the field guide and see if I remembered correctly.
The Pacific Loons fishing just off our deck, literally inches from the beach. The water couldn't have been more than 10 inches deep where they swam... Wonderful to watch, but they never stopped moving. The most obvious feature I noticed was the black margin between the pale throat and the silver gray nape and crown. This black line made a smooth arc from the eye to the water... an easy distinction from Common Loon, which is usually a jagged margin.
The coolest bird we found this weekend was a Swamp Sparrow at Limatour Beach. The bird was on the far side of the foot bridge, and yet we could hear it as we approached the bridge. It's metallic chip note stood out loud and clear against the many Yellow-rumped Warblers, but we didn't recognize it for what it was until it responded to pishing. And, oh boy, did it respond! It jumped up to the nearest perch and gave us a prolonged look. My sketch was made from memory, but I think captures the moment we first saw the bird. One of my favorite Sparrows and such incredible wood-stain colors!
Bewick's Wren at the Palo Alto Baylands today. The delicate checkerboard pattern typical of Wrens was clearly visible on the wings and tail of this feisty little bird. I also enjoyed watching as it wagged its tail from side to side.
At least four Sage Thrashers were in the area around the new restroom on BLM Road in the Panoche Hills today. One popped up in a bush beside our car. We took that as an challenge to sketch fast. Also present further up the road were very cooperative Sage Sparrows. We had other great birds today like 4 Cassin's Kingbirds, 2 Bald Eagles, and several dozen Common Mergansers at Paicines Reservoir. The Panoche Valley floor produced two Vesper Sparrows, one dark morph Ferruginous Hawk, at least 3 Prairie Falcon and hundreds, yes HUNDREDS of Mountain Bluebirds and Horned Larks widely spaced.
There were many Mew Gulls at the Radio Road ponds today. I love these small gulls, their dove-like features, and the fact we only see them a portion of the year. They make our Western and California Gulls look like thugs. Hooded Mergansers, Eurasian Wigeon and Barrow’s Goldeneyes were also in the area.
I wanted so much to sketch this bird when it was overhead on Saturday, but I didn't have my sketch book and pencil. So I had to cheat a little by looking at the photo below. Not quite a field sketch, but oh, well. I've also been really enjoying my solid graphite pencil 9B. It's very dark, and very soft and feels like a metal bar in my hand. Artists out there already know this I'm sure, but it's worth having one when you want that super black. It took me a while to justify the $5 for one pencil...
A few sketches from today's Sequoia Audubon field sketch workshop.
Tonight's presentation at Sequoia Audubon Society was a blast! My presentation went without a hitch, and there were quite a few questions afterward. I believe the message of the many benefits of field sketching was successfully communicated and that we'll have a few folks on Sunday giving it a try!
Part of the presentation was a sketch exercise. I showed a lovely head shot of a Black-necked Stilt and then took it away. Folks began drawing what they could remember, and when they got stuck, the picture reappeared... several times. This was the closest thing to a field experience as I could manage in the meeting room, but successfully demonstrated how challenging it can be to to draw from nature—also how rewarding. I think everyone enjoyed the experience. We'll do it again on Sunday, for real, with actual moving birds!
Today I found my first-of-season Common Goldeneyes at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View... I also lost my pencil sharpener. So if anyone sees it, go ahead and put it to use.
A surprise Solitary Sandpiper yesterday at Merced NWR. Very cool little bird, and a lifer for several members of our group. When we flushed it the first time, it flew OVER our group, revealing the all dark underwings. We also noticed a complete lack of wing flashes, so the more likely Spotted Sandpiper was eliminated from consideration pretty quickly. When we refound the bird, many photos were taken. Last time I sketched this species was in April, so the bird was wearing very different plumage.
I have to admit, I've never looked as closely at American Coots as I did today. I found them expressive, comical and super fun to draw. At one point, I laughed out loud as one ran across the path with its huge green feet slapping audibly against the damp pavement. Can't wait to sketch them again!
Red-throated Pipit at Sunnyvale WPCP... yes! Took a little while, but the bird was eventually seen by myself, Kenneth Petersen, Melissa Hero and others. Mike Rogers, the discoverer, was there with his wife Alma.
Bonaparte's Gull today at the Palo Alto Baylands. I've sketched this bird from life twice before—once last December (juvenile swimming), and then again in February of this year (various ages in flight). I still have difficulty with that bill... but I think the drawing looks slightly more confident.
Just found my first-of-season Mew Gulls at the Palo Alto Baylands. Several of them were resting on the duck pond, along with a selection of other Gulls, including a many Bonaparte's Gulls.