A studio for bird study

Ardea alba- The Great Egret

by Bryce W. Robinson

The world is saturated with paintings of the Great Egret, and for good reason. I myself have always made plans to paint the bird, but I never made the effort for fear of falling short of producing an image that truly captures the beauty and grace of the fine creature. Finally, I felt comfortable with giving a go at painting my first Great Egret.

The all white egret juxtaposed against any landscape is stunning. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes little sense why any animal would want to wear plumage of piercing white, unless perhaps their habitat was a snow covered ice land. Thriving in tropical climates, the Great Egret defies any sensible survival strategy and boldly stands out as a symbol of the grace and allure of the avian world.

Deep in the mangroves, a bird studies the shallows. Calm and steady, with long flowing plumes, the beauty of the Great Egret stabs through the shadows. Densely covered forests filter the light, creating a dark world of wonder. Sunlight filters through the shrubbery, and the bright white plumage of Ardea alba shines with vitality. An image of elegance preserved in time, preserved through time.

The Great Egret, Ardea alba. 18x24" oil on stretched canvas. Original not for sale.

Preserved is precisely the word. Saved from the lustful commodification of the new America, the Great Egret now stands as a symbol of what is that might have been lost. Plume hunters at the turn of the 19th century sought after the long white decorative feathers that the egrets wear in breeding season. The stunning feathers adorned the hats of many wealthy women, who served as eyesores against the beautiful white decorations worn upon their heads.

How such a creature could be disrespected leaves me grasping. I have never been able to pass an egret without stopping, stepping back, and paying homage to its exquisite nature. I now see the Great Egret as the powerful symbol that through sacrifice and near extinction, awoke humanity to their destructive nature, resulting in the birth of the conservation movement. No wonder the bird is chosen to accent the National Audubon Society’s logo. Their name reflects their human heritage, and their symbol reflects their avian awakener.

It is nearly the first of January, and multiple reports have come of these birds in the marshlands of the Great Salt Lake. If you have never seen a live egret, make a diligent effort to do so. Perhaps when it is found, it will awaken you much like it awakened America. Perhaps you will see the elegance, the beauty, the allure, and the importance of the natural world.


Common Raven- Corvus corax

by Bryce W. Robinson

Often I find myself frustrated with the sight of the Common Raven. Searching for raptors becomes a game of disregarding Ravens from afar to avoid spending needless energy focusing on a bird that is not only common, but prevalent. Birders understand the lack luster feeling of seeing common birds. Although common and at times a nuisance for the birder, the Common Raven is remarkable and deserves respect and admiration as one of the most intelligent creatures of the wild.

Corvids are cunning, to say the least. Particular species have been documented using tools, and it is easy to see their wit when you meet a Corvid in the wild. The way the birds caw and crow makes you wonder whether their communication system is at a level equal to our own. Only a few species of birds have been symbolized and present throughout the cultures of humanities history, and the Raven is among these.

When friends discover my ability to paint and illustrate, I often offer them their choice of bird for a painting. Many times I am asked to paint the Raven. People still hold this creature as a symbol of the intelligence and cunningness of the wild. For those that love the desert landscapes of the southwest, the bird also captures the spirit of the place. I will always love the opportunity to paint Corvus corax, and I am sure that from now until my end, I will create the Raven on canvas time and time again.

Common Raven, Corvus corax. 16x20" oil on canvas.

My first Raven is in portrait style, much like my other birds. I painted it with a dark background in hopes of capturing the personality and depth of one of the avian worlds most intelligent creatures. Mischievous, playful, even mournful are documented behaviors of the Raven. What a wonder we so often overlook. Sincerely watch the Raven, and your mood may soon shift from disregard towards an appreciation for a very common, but truly amazing bird.