My painting, ‘Sierra Tableau’ is part of Yosemite Renaissance 34, a juried exhibit on display at the Yosemite Museum Gallery, Yosemite, CA until May 5.
Yes, there are many beautiful birds in the Neotropics, but it’s not to say there isn’t beauty among the birds in North America. Indeed, we share many of our birds with countries in the south when they migrate to warmer climes in the winter. Floy and I have seen many northern species in the south, but they are often drab and do not show their breeding colors until the northern spring. The male Bay-breasted warbler is a member of this category, drab and plain in the Neotropics becoming a stunning showman in the northern summer.
This photo was taken in May, 2018 at Magee Marsh, Ohio
This is a small acrylic painting made from my hawk sketch and Dave’s photo
The Rufous-tailed Jacamar is a sit and wait predator. When a flying insect gets too close and it’s edible, it is as good as gone. Sit and wait predators make it somewhat easier to get a photo, but it’s not perfect because this species often perches in the shade.
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.
Floy pretty much described this bird in her post below. We see it show up in the spring in the San Francisco Bay Area, usually, but not always in riparian areas. It is a common summer bird in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
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.
I guess it’s time for a interlude from things tropical, well at least for a few posts. Floy and I did our annual trip to the migratory birding areas of San Louis and Merced National Wildlife Refuges and the Panoche Valley, all of which are in Central California. Panoche Valley is semi-desolate with some cattle farming. This area attracts birds that are not often seen in the San Jose, California area such as Horned Larks, Mountain Plovers, Mountain Bluebirds, etc. It’s not unusual to see the Ferruginous Hawk there in the winter. After rain, the Panoche area can be emerald green. Beware of the mid-summer because it can get very hot and dry there.
This is the same hawk Floy presented in her sketch below. Unlike other hawks of the area, this one spends a great deal of time standing in open fields. Scanning the vast fields of the valley it’s not uncommon to see them standing as a white pillar in the distance.
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.
This perky sparrow has an extensive geographic distribution occurring from Southern Mexico to the southern-most tip of South America. We encountered a small group of them at the entrance to Los Quetzales National Park, Costa Rica which is located near Cerro de la Muerte, the mountain of death, on the Pan American Highway. Once you drive this stretch of road the origin of “mountain of death” becomes apparent. These sparrows were seen around 9,000-10,000 above sea level.. It was a cold, blustery, gray day when I photographed these birds and I wished there was more light to work with, but their beauty stands out even so.
We ran into our first Silver-throated Tanager by accident when we saw something yellow flitting around in a nearby tree. We were amazed at its beauty. It’s namesake isn’t always apparent, the bright yellow head and the greenish wings with black lines catches the eye long before the silver throat.
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.
After awhile you don’t think much about the birds that occur where you live. This species is a desired bird to see by birders from all over the world. It only occurs over a small area of California. Whenever I run into someone who has come a long distance and is excited about seeing the Yellow-billed Magpie, it amazes me because they are just another local bird for me. I guess the same occurs when I go bananas over seeing a Dickcissel in Texas or a Fish Crow in Florida. One man’s rarity is another’s common bird.
Its cousin, the Black-billed Magpie has a much wider distribution over several lower states in the west, Canada and up into Alaska.
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.
Golden-hooded Tanager (David Zittin, Costa Rica 2018)
I know I have posted this species earlier, but darn, it’s hard to get tired looking at such beauty. A few birds really take the breath from me when I encounter them in the field and this is one of those species.
Some quick sketches I did while Dave was photographing tanagers in Costa Rica.
It’s hard to describe the feeling that a birder has seeing one of these for the first time. They are strikingly beautiful with a color combination that takes the breath away from the viewer.
This is also the first time I’ve tried painting a scarlet macaw! It was amazing to see them in the wild.
My first ever Motmot painting! This was inspired by a sketch I made in Costa Rica trip.