Birdspot. On the road. Drawing birds.


6:30 am, Little Compton, RI. The birdsong starts before sunrise, but a gentle span before sunrise, as befits August: no spring/early summer mania at 4am. I, concrete-weary and tired of urban cacophonies, use the dawn chorus and the lightening sky as an alarm clock, and am up and abnormally awake.

First birds heard: possible Cuckoo sp (though I might have been dreaming that), Gray Catbird, American Robin, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird.


I am taking photographs on the property of a lovely couple; I am making a drawing for them, of whatever I want, inspired by their incredible environs. I spent the night in their guest loft over the barn. I am not birding, I am WORKING, but as always I am listening, listening, listening…

Birds heard, and added to the previous species, as the sun just begins peeking up: domestic Rooster, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow (with begging juvenile Cowbird), House Wren, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Song Sparrow. It is getting distracting.


Focus, I tell myself, you are at work now. Lose yourself on colors and patterns, compositions and ideas. I want to distill the visual and aural cadences around me into something else, and I need to get some interesting reference photos. It would be nice to achieve something beyond the mundane, though now there are 16 different avian species vying for my attention, tugging at me from multiple directions. Bird watching does not really a great drawing make.

Calls are rising with the sun: American Goldfinch, Red-shouldered Hawk (screaming, distantly), Blue Jay (nervously, nearer), Northern Cardinal (off in a more suburban yard), Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove.


The sun warms the fields, dew becomes mist, and a couple of bucks are feeding across the meadow. They have been eyeing me for a while, but we are all nicely together in a peaceable kingdom as I do my early morning reverie thing. Until, that is, I raise my long telephoto lens to take their picture, whereupon the larger of the two actually barks at me, stamps his foot, and off they go. Methinks those deer know a thing or two about rifles.

Insects must be moving more freely, because now I hear Tree Swallows! Eastern Kingbird! Barn Swallows are flying overhead as well, but silently. Chimney Swifts intersperse their chattering when they cross paths with the Tree Swallows. Eastern Phoebe (harsh “Phoe-bree”) and Black-capped Chickadee (softer “phoeebe”) immediately take me back to spring, and more distantly, to Vermont, and graduate school, and a host of other associations I don’t want to go into here. A Great-crested Flycatcher starts doing its harsh “Mreep”, sounding prehistoric. A Tufted Titmouse or three are off in the woods.


The light is rapidly changing. Larger (lazier?) birds are making their way across the sky: American Crows hold complex conversations with their wheezy juveniles (who sound like Fish Crows), a Red-tailed Hawk screams and makes the Red-shouldered shut up, and then, off to the south, I hear the plaintive, wimpy whistle of an Osprey, which makes me think that I should be at the water instead of these fields because shorebird migration is happening RIGHT NOW and there is just so little time and what if I’m missing something really good? Red-winged Blackbirds chuck at me as they fly to the water, a Northern Flicker calls from the eastern edge of the property, and a House Finch begins singing its rambling jumble of notes, near the house. A Great Egret squawks as it lumbers over. PLUS: everything from earlier is still singing, minus the elusive and potentially imagined cuckoo. 33 species, heard-only, in 30 minutes. It is amazing I get anything done at all.

14 Responses to “aug 10”

  1. Love love love the close up faded flower photos!!!

    What an amazing job!

    I thought of Vermont looking at your photos as well!

    I can feel the light and air off these images.

  2. Beautiful photos! Sounds like the life you want to live……

  3. Your writing skills are just as wonderful as your art!
    What a job! cant wait to see the results if you can share.
    Love the photos..blur of soft subtle colors…and light!
    I featured you last post on my Blogaholic Weekly reader…u can check it out if you would like.

  4. No sign of the sparrow tonight, just as there wasn’t on Saturday. One night on, one night off. If nothing else, we’re clearly dealing with Benson’s Semestral Perching Sparrow here.

  5. Heehee. I’m thinking the sparrow is using your porch as a roost. Maybe spends the other night at his girlfriend’s.

  6. Your imagery is brilliant; I believe I can already see where you are going with this commissioned work.

  7. Dawn: thank you for the feature: link: Blogaholic Weekly Reader

  8. Cuckoos=more calling now than a week or two back, at least around here, so maybe not so oneiric; RED-SHOULDERED HAWK or jay imitating same? You cannot tell. I have one jay that calls here as he/she comes near the feeder. Does a Red-tailed call; flushes birds at the feeders and the jay comes in and pigs out. Nicely written. Think about writing AND illustrating (drawings and photos) something natural historianish for publication.

  9. Beautifully written. The top photo is a favorite. I love the way the sun is peeking through the trees. I also love the early morning glimmer on the dew-soaked clover. I’m sure whatever you decide to do for them will be exactly what they want.

  10. Great eye – your “out of focus” photos really caught me – had me looking, taking them in – and thinking about new ways to use the camera

  11. Gorgeous! All of it!

  12. Gorgeous photos and a beautiful write up. I loved the shot of the stag!

  13. I enjoyed reading about your morning. Don’t let the larger birds know you think they’re lazy. They might shun you.

  14. Love you photos, especially the 5th one! I love the drawings of the shorebirds above as well. Have fun drawing the spots, can’t wait to see the progress. It was fun birding and having lunch last Saturday.

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