The creative study of birds through illustration, photography, and writing

Dark-eyed Junco Subspecies in Idaho’s Winter

by Bryce W. Robinson

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For the Junco lovers that like this image, you can purchase a print by clicking on the image above.

Above is an illustration I just completed of some select subspecies of one of my favorite birds, the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) – Male and female “Oregon” (J. h. oreganus), “Pink-sided” (J. h. mearnsi), “Cassiar” (J. h. cismontanus), and the nominate “Slate-colored” (J. h. hyemalis). I think the junco is a favorite because it is polytypic, with some excellent variation in phenotypes throughout its range. I particularly am drawn to the Cassiar Junco because it is both difficult to diagnose (separate from Slate-colored X Oregon intergrades, if they even are different!) and little understood. For more information on this taxon, check out these links:

http://ebird.org/content/nw/news/dark-eyed-junco-races-oregon-slate-colored-and-cassiar/

http://nwbackyardbirder.blogspot.com/2011/04/not-slate-colored-junco-cassiar-junco.html

Here is information on its current and past taxonomic status:

https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.jsp?avibaseid=DED1C8F9EE711FCF

I also like the Dark-eyed Junco because from what we understand regarding it’s phylogenetics, it is a very recent radiation. Speciation well in process! See this article for an explanation:

http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/157693/5/POSTPRINT%20Mol%20Ecol%2025(24)%206175-6195%20(2016).pdf

Further, be sure to educate yourself with the Junco Projects great film – Ordinary Extraordinary Junco. I included a chapter of the film below that discusses the diversification of the species.

 

My illustration comprises the candidate subspecies that make up Junco flocks here in western Idaho. I chose to illustrate the male and female Oregon because they are by far the most common and provide the point with which to contrast and compare any outliers. The others are males, so as to provide simple examples of the other subspecies. Of course first-year and female types of these taxa can blend in appearance with the rest, which makes things much more challenging and fun.

Here I’ve included a rough and disorganized compilation of some information on what we currently understand about the Dark-eyed Junco and its sister species. There is a lot more out there, so if you love this as much as I do then be sure to explore more.

Here is a link and a few  references to investigate.

https://borjamila.com/speciation-mechanisms-junco-radiation/

Milá, B., P. Aleixandre, S. Alvarez-Nordström and John McCormack. 2016. More than meets the eye: lineage diversity and evolutionary history of dark-eyed and yellow-eyed juncos. In Snowbird: Integrative biology and evolutionary diversity in the junco. Ellen D. Ketterson and Jonathan W. Atwell (Eds.), Chicago University Press, Chicago.

Miller, A. H. 1942. Speciation in the Avian Genus Junco. The American Naturalist 76:211-214

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North America’s Zonotrichia in Winter: A Plate of Basic and Immature Plumages

by Bryce W. Robinson

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North America’s Zonotrichia: Basic and Immature Plumages. 18×24″ Gouache on paper. From the top: White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii; Adult (L) and immature (R)), Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla; Adult (L) and immature (R)), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis; Adult (L) and immature (R)), and Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula; Adult (L) and immature (R)).

I’m privileged to be teaching a better birding workshop at the end of the month focused on Idaho’s winter sparrow guild. The workshop is supported as a collaborative effort between Golden Eagle Audubon Society and Southwestern Idaho Birders Association (SIBA). I’ll be leading a 1.5 hour lecture that will present tips for increasing ones birding skills, as well as an in depth identification breakdown of Idaho’s winter sparrow guild (with Calcariidae added by request). We’ll also be taking these skills to the field for some applied learning. I’m excited, as it is the first birding centric workshop I’ve taught, so I’m sure to learn as much as I disseminate.

I have decided to attempt to illustrate all taxa that I will be discussing in the workshop. This is a bit daunting of a task to accomplish in only a few weeks, but I think I can do it! I just completed the Zonotrichia plate, which is shown above. I’ll share the rest as I complete them.

I learned a lot from this plate about the process of illustration. I’m feeling unsettled by the product, because I can’t seem to get past the messiness and untidy nature of my illustration. In the next few, I’ll focus on being more particular and using a lower water to paint ratio. I need to attempt to utilize the gouache not as watercolor but as a layering medium.

An Illustration of a Few of the Larger Eagles (Family: Accipitridae)

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Eagles – 18×24″ gouache on paper. From top left: Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), Crowned Hawk-Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus), Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus), Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Steller’s Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii).

I appreciate commissions because they provide the opportunity to paint something that I likely wouldn’t otherwise. The above painting of eagle heads is a great example. I have always enjoyed illustrating raptor heads floating alone, but I’ve never tried painting multiple on one canvas. My friend Mike Lanzone reached out to me to make a request for an eagle painting, so I was pushed to put together the concept and paint multiple birds in one place. It was a challenge for sure, but quite rewarding in the end.

Mike wanted the painting to gift to his wife Tricia Miller. Mike and Tricia are excellent biologists that work with many of the species in the painting. Mike is the CEO of Cellular Tracking Technologies, an awesome company that outfits wildlife researchers with the technology necessary to study movement ecology. Tricia is the Executive Director at Conservation Science Global Inc. Needless to say, they’re quite the power couple and I really look up to them. Among many great research projects, they are integral in Project Snowstorm, a research project aimed at understanding irruption and interannual movements of Snowy Owls. I’m honored to provide them with an illustration for their home that will help capture and celebrate the great work that they do.

If you like this image, you can buy prints here:

http://ornithologi.bigcartel.com/product/11×14-limited-giclee-print-eagles

 

Prairie Falcon Painting – In Flight

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) in flight. 12×16″ Gouache on watercolor board.