11 April 13
Sketching Birds Around the Continent
I’ve been traveling for a month, visiting friends and family, availing myself of a 30-day Amtrak pass with 12 train segments. You have to be really fast to sketch from the train and a lot of the train sketches are blasted through in pen and colored in after the fact. This kestrel was seen from the train station at San Luis Obispo, where we stopped for about 10 minutes.
I kept a list of birds I saw from the train. Mostly large birds, of course, generally robin-sized or larger. The best bird from the train was the gray hawk that’s wintered in Carpinteria, California, but I was pretty jazzed about the sooty shearwater I saw off the coast west of Santa Barbara too, and the bald and golden eagles (Colorado and Nevada respectively). The short-eared and burrowing owls by the side of the tracks on the east slope of the Rockies were also pretty exciting, one after the other.
My cousin Maggie drove me up to the Sandia Crest from Albuquerque where I saw two life birds, brown and black rosy finches. Lots of other notables I didn’t see from the train, including American woodcock at my sister’s in Maine, pileated woodpecker at Dave’s in Pennsylvania, fish crows and more bald eagles at my brother’s in Juneau (no trains to Juneau, I flew there with my mother).
There were great extremes of temperature on this trip. I spent a day with my friend Linda looking for, but failing to find, a fieldfare in Carlisle, Massachusetts. It was sunny but bitterly cold. Marcia Bonta’s feeders had a good selection of sparrows and other passerines, feeding furiously in the snow. A roadrunner sang its mournful song on the banks of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque; it was close to 80° F.
It’s not the best way to bird if you’re looking for quality sightings, but I didn’t take this trip to bird. Birds were with me all the time, though, and I tried to sketch as many as I could. A small sample is included here. All sketches were made with a purple Pilot G4 pen with a watercolor wash.