Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Field Sketches

Field sketching

In my last post I talked about starting a nature journal/sketchbook. In the above photo you can see some of the simple tools I use to sketch in the field, in this case a small set of watercolors, a micron pen, and a sketchbook. You don't need a lot of fancy stuff to get started, just enough to record what you see. 

So far my good luck with nests and birds has continued giving me lots of opportunities to give nature sketching a try. On one of my walks recently I startled a spotted sandpiper off it's nest. Sandpipers nest on the ground creating a small depression in the sand lined with some grasses. The eggs are usually colored like the ground and well camouflaged with spots and splotches so I had to step very carefully until I found the nest. Rather than keep the bird from it's eggs I took a photograph, then created this sketch from a safe distance.
Spotted sandpiper nest and eggs

 On another walk I came across a mother Killdeer which is another type of bird that nests on the ground usually in a rocky area. The mother bird will try to lead you away from the nest by crying loudly and flopping around pretending to have a broken wing. Knowing this behavior put me on alert for the nest so I started walking carefully and looking hard for the nest among the rocks. Instead of eggs I saw a small ball of fuzz with very long legs running ahead of me. It was a baby killdeer, cuter than any baby bird I've ever seen! They are fully able to run about and feed themselves shortly after they are born and are marked very similarly to an adult bird and blend into their surroundings quite well. If it hadn't run ahead of me I would have had a hard time seeing it. Because they are ground dwellers until they can fly being well camouflaged is important to hide them from predators.
Here is my sketch of that cute ball of fuzz.
Baby killdeer
As you can see I have been having a lot of fun trying to sketch nature. Unfortunately, nature sometimes can be harsh. Many baby birds don't survive because of predation. Another ground nesting bird I found was a California quail. 
Momma quail on her nest
Shortly after I took this photo of her on her nest with thirteen eggs a neighborhood cat was found in the nest. It had killed the momma quail and destroyed some of the eggs in the struggle. As sad as it was to discover this it gave me an opportunity to sketch one of the unhatched babies and a partial eggshell.
Unhatched baby quail

I thought it was a fitting way to pay tribute to this tiny soul, that even in his death knowledge could be gained and beauty could be seen. I chose to add this tragedy to my sketchbook because it is a part of the cycle of life and the struggle we all face to survive. It helps me to appreciate and be grateful for all of life and to learn to take the good with the bad. I think another fellow sketcher said it best " sketching nature is sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes hard, but always amazing!"

I hope you will take the time to get out in nature, enjoy the good with the bad and be AMAZED!