Bird storiesPosted: January 3, 2018
The day started and ended with a bird story. On a morning bike ride through a wooded trail that crossed through a reservoir, there was an Anhinga atop a wooden post drying its wings (which are apparently not waterproof) by spreading them open in the sun. I’d only ever seen this bird once before, a few days previous, at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge where the bird was perched on a low hanging branch above a marsh, watching for fish in the murky water below. We stopped our bikes to watch the bird, even moved a little closer to take photos, and miraculously it did not budge. It stayed on its perch for so long I probably could have sketched it but eventually a runner went by and it flew away.
Later in the day I sketched the ominous sky and the wind in the palms across the canal. At one point I looked up and saw hundreds of black birds fly in, darkening the horizon as they landed on rooftops and trees.
At about the same time, a little blue heron landed near me on the dock. I reached into my pocket for my phone to take a photo but realized I had left it behind. The bird watched me for a long time, taking small steps closer and closer before eventually flying off. A few minutes later it landed again next to me, not two feet away, and this time it stayed, and stayed and stayed. It stayed so long I decided to draw it. I’m not an accomplished sketcher of birds like Cathy Johnson or Jean Mackay, but this little guy seemed to pose for me for a good ten minutes, certainly enough time for me to observe details in the blue-grey feathers and greenish legs. Seems like a long time in bird time. I would have loved to add a little shadow on the ground but the bird finally found something more interesting than me and flew away. And by then the moment had passed and it seemed strange to continue the sketch. I guess this story epitomizes what I love best about urban sketching. You sit down to do one thing and something else happens, just because you are there, watching and listening to what is around you. And in the end, I am happy that I forgot my phone, this one time, because when I look back on this day my sketch of the bird will mean more to me than a photo of it ever would.