Pelicans, egrets and osprey: sketching the birds of Sanibel

Today’s long bike excursion was to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a repeat of something we did last year, except this time with sketchbook in hand (or in my bike basket).

The website says that at different times of the year there are up to 275 different types of birds, but of course we only saw the more common ones like the pelicans, egrets and herons as we rode the 4-mile path. With the help of a docent we also had the privilege of looking through a high-powered lens to see a roseate spoonbill and a yellow crowned night heron.

I knew it might be hard to paint along the way so I drew the birds on site, and painted them when I returned home. These are the ones that were quite close to the path — the egrets in a marsh by the side of the road and the osprey in a nest above us.

Sketching the page was so much fun that I decided to make it into a double-page spread, so I walked around our condo and saw a group of ibis feeding on the grass, a pelican near the water and my friend the little blue heron.

On site, I also did a pencil drawing of a bigger scene of great white pelicans out on a marsh, and painted that one when I got home. Saving the whites is hard in a scene like this so I used Titanium White watercolour when the water washes were dry.

18 Comments on “Pelicans, egrets and osprey: sketching the birds of Sanibel”

  1. Judy Sopher says:

    These are so very nice. I love birds. We have put up feeders everywhere we have lived and loved to watch. But–never thought to sketch them. What a great memory of your trip. Love the 2 page spread.

    I have a question: How did you ever choose Sanibel to vacation? I never heard of it before. You really do travel. And I am enjoying it vicariously.


    • Hi Judy. We chose Sanibel because I had always heard great things about it. As you can see I love nature, and the possibility of lots of places to ride bikes to made it very attractive. I know the gulf coast of Florida because my family went to Siesta Key for many years, but this is a little further south. So that is the story of how we ended up here and keep coming back.


  2. Lee Kline says:

    The reason we love Florida so is because of the birds: Ibis, Egrets, Hawks, Anhingas and Herons to name only a few. Our home sits at the edge of a marshland and we are constantly entertained by our wildfowl neighbors. We also get to see foxes, coyotes, river otters, bobcats and terrible feral hogs.


  3. Gorgeous Shari! And lucky you! I especially like your scene of white pelicans, but your ibis and egrets are also striking against the blue-green backgrounds. Thanks for bringing Florida’s birds north to my inbox on a cold day in New York.


    • Well that is a huge compliment coming from you, the bird expert. Have you ever been here? You would really love it! Glad I could bring you a little warmth.


      • I have not been there, though I know of Ding Darling and long ago I consulted (from a distance) with the Sanctuary Golf Club on habitat conservation and environmentally-sensitive management practices. Sanibel is really “out there” on the margin of land and sea. I’m sure I would love the wildlife refuge! Enjoy!


  4. Kirk says:

    Nice pages!


  5. Sadje says:

    Very talented paintings.


  6. I am tempted to sit in nature (if the winter weather allows) and sketch with words for some poetry.


  7. Diane McDaniel says:

    Oh , it;s so beautiful. All of my summer buddy birds are there! Thank you for sharing your giftings and holiday with us. It is so very kind of you. Love the double spread. and I can smell the sea salt in the air.
    God bless,


  8. Donna says:

    You are having such good weather! Such beautiful clear colors. Someday I’ll learn to put put the right color down with the first stroke in order to get that magic that you do.


  9. Miú says:

    Beautiful birds, Shari!
    I particularly like the way you frame them, with parts of their body sticking out from the coloured background.


  10. joantav says:

    I never seem to have good luck getting birds that stay long enough for me to sketch them unless they are so far away that I can’t see the details on them. lol You, my friend, have it down pat. The birds, composition, and the lettering came out great.


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