It has been raining constantly for the past week and Steven’s Creek, which can be dry in the summer, is overflowing it’s banks. Yesterday we came across a pair of common mergansers in the flooded stream and, while I’ve shied away from painting ducks in the past, these two in the stormy woods spoke to me.
Dave has been posting images of the colorful tanagers we saw in Costa Rica. Our local Central California tanager is the Western Tanager. It is no longer in the Tanager family but the name survives. We see these birds in the summer, particularly in the Sierras, when the males have brilliant breeding plumage. They have inspired many paintings.
In general I don’t like using Dave’s photos as references for my paintings - except when the photo is flawed in some way.. In this case the hawk in the photo was lopped off on the right side. But I loved the pose and used it as reference for this quick sketch. It was amazing to see this hawk up close on our trip through Panoche Valley.
I did not sketch any sparrows in Costa Rica but here is a painting of related sparrows I did a couple years ago. White-crowned sparrows are in the same genus (Zonotrichia) as the Rufous-collared Dave photographed in Costa Rica. They are super abundant in our yard in the winter.
One of the draws of driving to Merced National Wildlife Refuge is to see sandhill cranes. We did not see huge numbers as in past years but several groups were quite close. I love seeing the blue grey birds against dried grasses.
The last three winters we have driven two hours to Panoche Valley to look for Mountain Plovers with no luck. But this year they were there! In fact there was a flock of over 80. In spite of having ‘mountain’ in their name these are birds of short grasslands and were once associated with bison herds.