A studio for bird study

Tag: Audubon

California Gnatcatcher – Polioptila californica

by Bryce W. Robinson


This month I found myself fortunate to have the opportunity of illustrating a “Coastal” California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica). I was asked to do an illustration for Sea and Sage Audubon in southern California, and I decided to illustrate the California Gnatcatcher because it is perhaps the most pressing avian conservation issue facing southern California.

A few decades of rapid urban development in southern California’s coastal sage scrub habitat has left California Gnatcatcher’s with shrinking suitable habitat and a fragmented range. These pressures have taken their toll on the United State’s only California Gnatcatcher populations, to a point that in 1993 the gnatcatcher received threatened status.

Today it seems that the California Gnatcatcher’s presence and future in the coastal sage scrub is that of small fragmented populations. In essence, the damage has been done, and efforts now focus on preserving what quality habitat is left and ensuring that the small populations remain.

My choice to illustrate this bird was founded on 1. maintaining awareness for the plight of this incredible bird, 2. supporting a feeling of identity for those that live in the area and invoking the California Gnatcatcher as an important part of that identity, and 3. a reminder that these birds act as a symbol for the broad impacts human development has to the ecosystem, a symbol that goes well beyond single species conservation.

For more information on the history of the conservation effort for this species, and to stay updated on current action visit:

The USFWS’s Environmental Conservation Online System page for the Coastal California Gnatcatcher.



Singing Bluethroat

by Bryce W. Robinson

Singing Bluethroat

Singing Bluethroat – Luscinia svecica. 11 x 17″ prismacolor on bristol. Image copyright Bryce William Robinson.

On every North American birders “must see” list of Alaskan specialties is the Bluethroat – Luscinia svecica. Not only is this a bird with a restricted North American breeding range, it’s aesthetics and behaviors make it one of the holy grails of an Alaskan bird trip.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the habitat that the Bluethroat occupies. I’ve heard many singing males, and on occasion I’ve really listened to them. The Bluethroat sings a compilation song, featuring samples taken from sounds in its surroundings. When I’ve listened and put effort into teasing out each component, I’ve heard the iconic “cricket” chirp which interrupts a mash up of American and Pacific Golden-Plover, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Arctic Warbler, and many more. It’s a strange challenge, but a lot of fun. The Bluethroat tends to sing in flight, while doing a flutter like display before descending to a perch. However at times I’ve seen a Bluethroat in an intense song bout, perched atop a willow. It’s these times that I’m able to really watch the Bluethroat, while listening to his repertoire.

It’s no wonder why birders fancy this bird. The male has a multicolored throat that stands out in the brown landscape during their pre-breeding displays. As a mimic, their song fits an old world trend which betrays its natural history. The Bluethroat is an old world species, with a breeding distribution which just leaks into North America. For the birder that goes beyond sight and sound, the distribution adds to the allure.

I don’t get to illustrate much while doing field work here in Alaska. Rarely, poor weather and a break in the work will provide me the opportunity to sit down and draw. I’ve had the Bluethroat on my list for a very long time, so I thought I’d seize the rainy days here in western Alaska. Next I’ll be focusing on more Gyrfalcon illustrations.

Illustrating for the 2015 San Diego Bird Festival

by Bryce W. Robinson

San Deigo Audubon's Bird Festival Flier

I was invited by San Diego Audubon to illustrate their pamphlet art for the 19th annual San Diego Bird Festival in March of 2015. I illustrated the Osprey above, as well as some pencil drawings included in the brochure. Additionally I’ve been invited to lead a bird illustration workshop.

ORNITHOLOGI will also have a booth at the festival, selling artwork and prints. I plan to have a good stock of both originals and prints for sale.

I have a lot of friends in San Diego, of which I’m looking forward to birding with again. I hope to see them at the festival, and make many more new friends as well. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for March!

Male American Kestrel for Conservation

by Bryce W. Robinson

Male American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11X17" Prismacolor on bristol.

Male American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11X17″ Prismacolor on bristol. Copyright Bryce W. Robinson

I illustrated this male American Kestrel for a silent auction to benefit my local National Audubon Society Chapter, Golden Eagle Audubon here in Boise, Idaho. Let’s hope this illustration gleans some monetary attention.