Tag Archives: kingbird

ADVENTURES IN LIMESTONE COUNTRY: part 2: Bunnies and Yellow-bellies

July  5/6, 2017

Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Sheffield


I return to Lime Kiln Farm the next morning – I want to experience the reserve during the early hours when wildlife activity is at its peak.

I get better views of the Alder Flycatcher today and make some sketches and color studies.  All of the empidonax flycatchers are subtle in plumage – the morphological differences between the species very slight.

Alder Flycatcher Study, watercolor on Fabriano cold-press, 8″ x 8″

The only reason I can be sure I’m looking at an Alder Flycatcher is the distinctive call.  Sibley describes it as “rreeBEEa”, but to me it sounds more like “zwee-BEEP”.  Either way, the accent is on the second syllable.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker flies in and lands on a nearby snag and I train my scope on it.  It’s a handsome adult male with a red throat and cap.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, watercolor in Stillman & Birn DELTA sketchbook, 12″ x 8.5″

Sapsuckers are common birds in the Berkshires, but become scarcer as you move east.  We see them often enough where I live in central Massachusetts, but they are largely absent east of Worcester County.

Suddenly, things are happening fast: a Cooper’s Hawk streaks in and alights, but is immediately driven off by a red-winged blackbird and a kingbird.  Then, I nearly step on a large northern watersnake sunning itself in the path!

Slowing my pace, (and watching my feet more carefully, now), I notice a cottontail in the meadow path ahead.  The rabbit allows me to approach quite closely , so I set up my scope to draw.  The bunny is a good model – moving occasionally, but sitting quietly for long stretches while I draw.

Sketchbook studies of a cottontail and a goldfinch, pencil, 6″ x 9.5″

A lot of the drama here will be in that bright bunny EYE, so I pay it close attention!

Clover and vetch enliven the scene with bits of color, and in the surrounding grasses, I avoid dark accents, hoping to achieve the soft, flickering quality of a summer meadow.

Cottontail at Lime Kiln Farm, watercolor on Arches rough, 12.25″ x 16.25″


Embracing the Greens

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Lincoln on June 10, 2015
This is certainly the busiest sanctuary I’ve visited so far on my residency. At 9:30 a.m. the parking lots are nearly full and the place is hopping, with buses full of school children arriving for the morning programs and tours. I soon find, however, that most of the visitors are headed for the Farm Yard with all its animal exhibits, working farm, wildlife sanctuary and more. The trails up onto the drumlin are quiet and peaceful!

From the drumlin’s summit (270 ft.), I’m captivated by the wonderful view down into the fields that dominate the southern end of the sanctuary. This is where the produce for the Drumlin Farm CSA is grown, and where other fields are set aside for wildlife. I get right to work on a watercolor, and as I’m painting I watch several groups of visitors touring the CSA operation. You can see one of these groups in the center right of my watercolor.

CSA Fields, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi

The CSA Fields, Drumlin Farm, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 7.5″ x 12.25″

A watercolor like this is a study in greens – I think I’ve used nearly every green that it is possible to mix from the yellows and blues on my palette – which intentionally does not include any green pigments!  I’ve found most commercially available green pigments to be too artificial and raw, and I much prefer to mix all of my greens. Note the shift in temperature of these various greens – some very cool and bluish and others very warm and yellowish. These contrasts in color temperature are what make the painting come alive!

Set-up at Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi
After lunch I’m back out on the trails, this time in search of birds. I linger by the big dead trees that stand in the middle of the WHIP Field. They are a magnet for birds, so I set up my scope and watch the parade. A kingbird, an oriole, tree swallows and a bluebird come and go, but the best models are a pair of red-winged blackbirds. They linger long enough for me to sketch and paint them.

Redwing studies, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi
Back near the overflow parking area I notice movement in an unmowed area near the split rail fence, and find two females, and one male bobolink. The meadow here is a verdant tangle of vetch, milkweed, and a yellow-blossomed flower I can’t identify. This mix of vegetation adds color and variety, and I take some digital photos of the plants to supplement my drawings of the birds. Back in the studio, I put together this larger watercolor using my field references.

Bobolink Pair, Drumlin Farm - at 72 dpi

Bobolink Pair at Drumlin Farm, watercolor on Arches rough, 16.25″ x 12.25″