Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: alba

Birding the Beach- A Winters Day in Sunny SoCal

by Bryce W. Robinson

Brown Pelican- Pelecanus occidentalis

Brown Pelican- Pelecanus occidentalis

Over the weekend, I found myself once again at the end of the continent, facing the expansive Pacific Ocean. Something about the ocean draws my spirit, and I feel the desire to answer and explore its waters. There will be a day when I make the journey aboard a boat, and explore what can be found above and below the sea, but for now I find myself satisfied with what lives along its shores.

Years had passed since I last saw the ocean, and I could tell. I watched the waters as if I had never known the sight. The excitement of the bird life that I could see riding the waves and flying about gave me the familiar giddiness that birding often brings. I was in a new place, with new birds, and I was happy.

Previous trips to the beach had no focus on birding. I was a young member of a rowdy crowd of miscreants who focused more on the simple fun that the waters bring. This trip was different, as I found myself solely focused on finding birds and testing my knowledge. As it is in the depths of winter, the crowds were minimal and the birds were active. This provided the perfect setting for photographing the birds and learning the new species that I found.

The shores of southern California house many wintering birds. As I scanned the waters with my binoculars, I was delighted to see the large groups of Western and Clark’s Grebes. Scattered about I found a few members of a bird that is new to me, The Red-throated Loon. I did not expect to see the bird, and at first sight I celebrated with a few strange noises of excitement. Loons wear drab basic plumage, and it is often difficult to identify specific to the species. Still, the Red-throated Loon is distinctive and I feel confident with my ID. I was unable to photograph the loons due to their distance from the shores. I was fairly disappointed, but there will surely be a time and opportunity for me to photograph the bird in the future.

Another bird that I saw but was unable to photograph was a bird that I originally set out to find. I am, of course, a raptor enthusiast, and I had never seen the White-tailed Kite before. In the distance I saw a hovering kite hunting. It was incredible to watch it dance through the air with rhythmic wing beats as it looked for food. Other raptors engage this technique, but the kite is king as its form is unmatched. I will make it a point to find the bird again and photograph the scene of the hunting kite, but for now perhaps a painting will have to suffice.

Overall the birds were friendly and I was able to have many enjoyable photo shoots with numerous birds. I would rather let the pictures speak for the birds than summarize the experience with each species. The delicate detail of life is incredible, and I encourage you to take the opportunity and time to truly experience the birds by engaging the photos, zooming in and exploring the detail. The birds are photographed as one would see them, and many are acting in behaviors precisely as the guidebooks describe.

I hope these photos communicate the beauty of the birds, and encourage you to get out to enjoy and appreciate them as I do.

Long-billed  Curlew- Numenius americanus

Long-billed Curlew- Numenius americanus

Long-billed Curlew- Numenius americanus

Long-billed Curlew- Numenius americanus. Note the closed Nictitating Membrane shielding the eye.

Willet- Tringa semipalmata

Willet- Tringa semipalmata. Adult in basic plumage

Willet- Tringa semipalmata. Adult in basic plumage

Willet- Tringa semipalmata. Adult in basic plumage

Willet- Tringa semipalmata. Adult in basic plumage

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa. Adult in basic plumage

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa. Adult in basic plumage

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa. Adult in basic plumage

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa. Adult in basic plumage

Marbled Godwit- Limosa fedoa. Adult in basic plumage

Black-bellied Plover- Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover- Pluvialis squatarola in basic plumage

Black-bellied Plover- Pluvialis squatarola in basic plumage

Black-bellied Plover- Pluvialis squatarola in basic plumage

Sanderling- Calidris alba

Sanderling- Calidris alba. Adult in basic plumage

Sanderling- Calidris alba. Adults in basic plumage

Heerman’s Gull- Larus heermanni

Heermann's Gull- Larus heermanni

Heermann's Gull- Larus heermanni

Juvenile and Adult Heermann's Gull- Larus heermanni

Juvenile Heermann's Gull- Larus heermanni

Yawning juvenile Heermann's Gull- Larus heermanni

Ring-billed Gull- Larus delawarensis

Ring-billed Gull- Larus delawarensis

Ring-billed Gull- Larus delawarensis

"1st winter" Ring-billed Gull- Larus delawarensis

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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.

Barn Owl- Tyto alba

by Bryce W. Robinson

Barn Owl- Tyto alba. 16x20" acrylic on stretched canvas. $400

Of any bird, the Barn Owl carries the most mysticism in its ghostly glare. As it flies through the air, it resemble a specter floating through the sky hunting for what it desires. Its mystic nature is also matched with an elegant aura of regality. This creature is certainly stunning.

The last time I met the gaze of the Barn Owl was along the Jordan River, in a grove of tall cottonwoods. I was birding a series of shallow ponds, seeing a number of Avocets, Killdeer, Mallards, and many other typical wetland inhabitants. As I stalked a group of Avocets, I made my way around the base of a large tree. With my senses tuned to the slightest movement, it still seemed spectacular that I noticed a large figure silently take to the sky directly above my head. I was ecstatic as I watched the retreat of a Barn Owl into a cottonwood grove some 50 yards away. I could not see where the bird had settled, so I scanned the trees in hopes of discovering the timid owl. Through the lens of my binoculars, my eyes came to a deep and dark marbled glare. The bird, hidden in the trees, far from me, was still watching my movement. This predator knew my intentions, and was certain to watch until I had gone. What an intelligent creature. After minutes in a lockdown stare, I continued about my business to leave the owl in peace. How I respect Tyto alba, the Barn Owl.