Sketching birds

This has been a tough winter here on Cape Cod for getting outside and doing much sketching so most of my bird sketching has been done from inside. During one of the first big snow storms I sketched some of these little guys that were visiting my feeders.

012Birds move quickly so I have to sketch really quickly to keep up with them. Mostly I go for a quick gesture or detail. I can take photos, and I do, but the sketches are just more lively.

I work at a small table by a window overlooking the feeders in my tiny back yard in Hyannis. I get a surprising number of birds.

011One day I may concentrate on flickers and another on nuthatches or Carolina wrens.

034I like to add little notes, making it a bit of a bird journal as well as sketchbook.

008And some days I just draw and sketch cardinals. They tend to hang around the longest…

Cardinal sketches by Mary Richmond Cape Cod Art and Nature

035People ask me often what the secret is to drawing birds. It isn’t hard. You just have to be patient and willing to make some silly looking drawings. Be observant before you make the first line. Birds repeat motions. Which poses are most indicative of the species? Start slowly and practice. Have fun!






Happy New Year!

Wow, the last few months have just flown by me and I have been remiss about posting here. If you’re on Facebook, that is where I am every day with new pictures, latest sightings, etc. but I will try to be better about posting here for those of you are not Facebook sort of folks….

It’s hard to believe there’s still snow on the ground but it sure has been cold out there! There is even still snow at the beach…

and for those of you keeping track of the birds you see this year, this Iceland Gull at Craigville Beach is very accommodating and easy to see in the parking lot there…

Stay warm out there!

Sunny but cold and windy….

We have been so spoiled by warm weather this winter that a windy cold day like today on the beach is almost a shock. Yesterday was much windier but today was…..brrrrrrrrrr! It was so bright and sunny though that I decided to just head down Cape to see what I could see…

First stop was First Encounter Beach in Eastham. Can we say frigid with a brisk wind blowing off the bay? It sure was pretty though…

Even the dunes and wind blown cedars were pretty….

and I’m a sucker for a pathway that leads to the sea….

then off to Coast Guard Beach…where it was also just plain cold…

There weren’t too many long distance beach walkers but there were a few…

The sun was so bright it almost hurt my eyes….

It was low tide in the marsh….

On the way back home I stopped at Corporation Beach in Dennis where the gulls were all hanging out on the sand….

A few came by to see me, hoping I had food I think. The minute I opened the car door about a hundred gulls were on the wing and on the way to see me up close and personal.

This one looked at me from one side and then turned to look at me from the other side…

It was a cold morning, but a beautiful one and well worth venturing out for….

Of Ducks and Swans….

Winter is a great time to get close up looks at many of our more common ducks and swans and some of the less common ones, too…

like these gadwalls…

These swans and mallards are much friendlier…

in fact they hurried right over–probably hoping for a handout…

as they got closer, however, they ran into an obstacle…

There was a thin sheen of ice at the edge of the pond and you can see the swan above checking it out–great reflections, too!

I had a lot of fun photographing the various combinations of birds and reflections…

the one above is probably my favorite–it has such an abstract quality about it.

but then there’s the simplicity in this one above and the one below….

and just think, when I got there this is all I expected…

What a beautiful day it’s been today–I hope you got to get outside for some of it!

Spring is Sneaking In….

Sorry I haven’t posted this week but I’ve been sick and was unable to post. I have tons of new pictures to share, though, so be sure to visit over the weekend.

One of my favorite early spring signs is seeing the snowdrops bloom. This year they at least didn’t have to bloom in the snow!
Skunk cabbage is growing in wetland areas….
All the budding bushes and shrubs are giving the landscape a pink tinge….
And there’s something different in the ponds….
Green plants are already growing, reaching for the sun!
And winter ducks, such as this male red-breasted merganser are courting and displaying even as they prepare for their long journey north to breed and nest.

The Eagle has Landed!

If you live on Cape Cod you probably know that sighting an adult bald eagle is not very common, even in winter when we do get a few eagle sightings.This winter there have actually been a fair number of eagles about, including this adult that has been hanging around in Mashpee. This photo is by Mary Noonan Keleher of Mashpee for although I did get to see the eagle I have no pictures to share. Let’s just say the eagle is a dark speck with a white head in my photos.

Bald eagles nest a bit to our north and also to our south and west but so far not on the Cape itself. As you probably know, eagles are birds of prey and eat just about anything from ducks to mice to fish. They are also scavengers and will eat the prey of other animals as well as hang out at the dump.
Have you ever seen a bald eagle?

Ruddy Turnstones

One of the first shorebirds I could identify for sure as a kid was a ruddy turnstone. They have very distinctive markings, are not very shy and if you watch them long enough they do exactly what their name suggests. They turn over stones to look for food.These guys were found at Dowse’s Beach in Osterville this week. There were about a dozen mixed in with the local winter sanderlings. Turnstones don’t generally winter here though they are seen sporadically. I don’t know if these have been here all winter or if they are early arrivals on their way north. They are in winter plumage that is turning.
They have the most wonderful markings.
Here is one getting behind a stone or shell to turn it over.
What did it find? Mostly they are looking for invertebrates to eat such as worms, small crabs, etc.
In this picture above you can see the orange on the legs. Have you ever seen one of these birds?

Winter Sanderlings

I love sanderlings and sandpipers. They accompany me on many a beach walk, especially in the fall and winter….

For many folks all the little birds running around on the beach are sandpipers and although that is not always technically correct it is often close enough. Even good birders refer to the whole group as “peeps” or “pipers” and sometimes indentifying them, especially in winter can be tricky.

I took this photo at quite a distance but I believe these are sanderlings in the top picture. The area I took the photos in has had both dunlins and western sandpipers over the last few weeks as well as sanderlings and winter shorebird plumages can be a tough call. You need to look at the overall shape, size, behavior, etc.
I believe the bird in the second photo is also a sanderling. I thought it might be a dulin, which are a bit chunkier and have a longer bill that curves down a bit but another birder I spoke with is pretty sure it is a sanderling. I am happy to be corrected so please feel free to chime in.
These two shots are definitely of sanderlings. Jaunty little guys, don’t you think?
They are often on our beaches all winter and will soon be molting and getting their summer plumages. The dunlins will, too. Then they will all be off to the north where they will mate and nest. They will return here in the fall.

Eider Ducks

If you walk along the Cape Cod Canal or along the Sandwich beaches you will find huge rafts of common eider ducks. These northern ducks gather here by the thousands late in the fall and stay here all winter. Although smaller groups may be found all along the coast of the Cape each winter these mussel loving birds really congregate in this area due to the huge concentration of mussels, sea urchins and other favorite foods.The beautiful males or drakes are marked with lovely and distinct black and white patterns.
The females are also lovely but a more muted brown. Eiders nest much farther north than the Cape (though it is thought some are nesting here now) and are colonial nesters, meaning they like to nest in large groups. The color of the females helps them blend into the sand or dirt they scrape a nest in.
In any flock of eiders you may see what look like oddly marked birds that are neither marked like males or females. These are the immature or young ducks that haven’t got their full plumages yet.
At one point eiders were hunted almost to extinction for their beautiful feathers. If you’ve heard of eider down, that referred to the soft down from the eider duck’s breast. Coats and jackets were also made from their skins. Today these birds are safe from this sort of hunting and their populations have made a good come back.

Robins at High Head

It’s a beautiful morning here on Cape Cod and I thought I’d share these pictures of robins sitting in the sun that I took up in the dunes at High Head in Truro earlier this week. As you probably know by now, these robins are visiting from up north and are eating berries from our cedars, privets, hollies, etc.They seem a little larger than the robins that nest here but don’t forget that birds puff themselves up to stay warm.
Soon they will moult and grown new, fresh feathers and their colors will be more vibrant.
By the time spring arrives they will be full of rich, beautiful color.