A studio for bird study

Tag: christmas

Gyrfalcons in Flight Print: A Gift for the Falcon Enthusiast

by Bryce W. Robinson


Gyrfalcons in Flight. From left to right, juvenile gray morph, adult gray morph, and adult white morph. 10×20″ Giclee print comprising three Gouache paintings by Bryce W. Robinson. Purchase this print in the store. $40 + shipping and handling.

If you’re looking for a gift for a falcon or raptor lover, or even for the general bird lover, consider this print available in the ornithologi shop. This print details three Gyrfalcons that I painted while working in Alaska in the summer and fall of 2016.


The Christmas Bird 2014 – “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco

by Bryce W. Robinson


This year I chose a more common and well known winter bird for my annual year-end illustration The Christmas Bird. I chose a Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis, more colloquially known as a snowbird. The bird is fitting to represent the season, but I thought I’d make a bit of a twist to satisfy the nerds among us. I illustrated the subspecies mearnsi, the Pink-sided Junco. Those in the Rocky Mountain west are familiar with this bird, as it frequents feeders in mixed flocks with other Junco subspecies. It’s always a treat to see the distinctive pale blue-grey hood with a dark mask. I make sure to pay attention to the subspecies composition of Junco flocks here in western Idaho. We have flocks consisting mainly of “Oregon” Juncos, but occasionally we have “Slate-colored”, “Cassiar”, and the “Pink-sided”.

It is a bit strange to think that we are all at that point in the year once again. I certainly had a great year full of many birding adventures (3.5 months in western Alaska), plenty of satisfying illustrations, and loads of study and learning. I hope that others had an equally satisfying year. Here’s to another year of study and learning. Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.

A Zonotrichia Christmas Bird Count

by Bryce W. Robinson


First-cycle Golden-crowned Sparrow- Zonotrichia atricapilla

Yesterday I joined Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware, and a number of other folks for the Nampa Christmas Bird Count in south western Idaho. The day started out right. We began at Caldwell Ponds before sunrise for an attempt at turning up a few owls. Sure enough, a few Barn Owls hunted the fields, trying to squeeze in a meal before light.

When it was light enough, we started working the thickets for sparrows. Flocks of White-crowned Sparrows were sounding off, which is always promising, as they often hold something special in their ranks. Sure enough, Jay called out two Golden-crowned Sparrows. The Golden-crowned Sparrow is hard to come by in Idaho, but each year Jay and Heidi have participated in the Nampa CBC, they have found a GCSP at Caldwell Ponds.

I stayed behind with the sparrows to attempt some photos. The birds were rather tolerant before the sun rose. I managed a decent photo of one GCSP, but in poor light. When the sun finally rose, the birds seemed to avoid me, and although I spent ten minutes stalking the birds, I never managed  a photo in the golden morning light.


First-cycle Harris’s Sparrow- Zonotrichia querula

When I caught up to the group, they were working a thicket, sifting through another healthy flock of White-crowned Sparrows. I went around the group to head off some outside individuals. While sorting through a small group, I spotted a recognizable pattern deep in a bush. I didn’t want to cry wolf, so I held my tongue for a bit. Soon enough, the bird popped up onto the top of the bush, and showed itself. I alerted the group, Harris’s Sparrow!, our third Zonotrichia species for the hour.

"Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow- Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii

“Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow- Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii

I soon realized that after getting the hardest Zonotrichia, the GCSP, so early in the day, seeing all four was a distinct possibility. All we needed to find was the White-throated Sparrow, an uncommon bird for winter in Idaho. The bird is uncommon, but multiple individuals are found every year. In fact, I had found one two weeks ago in Boise. The reality of reaching the goal was there.

Later in the day, I split off from the group with Heidi. We were charged with checking a few hotspots, and we both had one bird on our mind. Heidi has never seen all four Zonotrichia in a day, so the goal was looking sweet to her eyes as well.

For the rest of the day we sifted through sparrow’s with no sign of the fourth Zonotrichia. We turned up other good birds, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and two Bewick’s Wrens. But by the end of the day, as the sun set and we continued to look through White-crowned Sparrow flocks, we came away without our prize.

Well, we almost “pulled a Zonie”! I kept telling Heidi I was going to make “a Zonie” the term for seeing all of North Americas Zonotrichia species in one day. It’s a worthy goal, and a respectable badge, that deserves some title, even if it is a bit dorky.

I didn’t realize how doable a Zonie is for Idaho, but it sure is. I’ll be after that goal now. I have heard and seen photos of a man in southern California that had all four at his feeder one day. That is remarkable. So now I have a new goal on the horizon, to see and photograph all four of North America’s Zonotrichia sparrows in a day, or simply, to pull a “Zonie”. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a nemesis goal, or white whale, or whatever you might call it.

Here’s the bird that got away.


Adult White-throated Sparrow- Zonotrichia albicollis

The Christmas Bird 2013: American Tree Sparrow- Spizella arborea

by Bryce W. Robinson


Every year I illustrate a bird for the holiday season. This year, I’m a bit early, but only because I wanted to open the Christmas Bird for purchase as a print. You can visit the ornithologiart store, and purchase a print. Available are 4×6″ for $8.00, 5×7″ for $12.00, and 5×7″ matted for $15.00. Click the photo to purchase, or simply follow the link: ornithologiart.

The American Tree Sparrow is a breeder of the high north Taiga lands. It migrates to the lower parts of North America during winter, and is a favorite feeder bird of many. I chose the American Tree Sparrow because I feel it captures the spirit of the season, and is emblematic of the winter solstice. This is a great holiday gift for any birder.

From both Caitlin and I, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Solstice. However you choose to celebrate the season, we hope you have a great time with family, friends, and of course, birds.