A studio for bird study

Tag: falco

Desert Peregrine

by Bryce W. Robinson

Peregrine Falcon- Falco peregrinus. 11×14″ colored pencil on bristol

At times I am asked to check on and re-assess the activity of raptor or raven nests on transmission towers here in the desert. This task requires me to sit vigil to the nest for at least a four hour period, or until I see activity in the nest. Last week I was asked to check on a Red-tailed Hawk nest in a particularly sandy and desolate section of the desert. The first hour was uneventful, until I noticed a bird sitting on the edge of the nest. I hadn’t seen the bird fly in, and so assumed it was a raven that had jumped up to stretch and take a rest from incubation. The bird was dark, and small, but when I looked through the scope, it was not a raven that sat in the nest. The unmistakable face pattern of the Peregrine falcon left me excited and confused.

For the next twenty minutes I tried wrapping my brain around why a Peregrine Falcon, a cliffside nester, would inhabit a Red-tailed Hawk nest in the middle of the desert. They have been documented using old hawk nests, but surely not in the middle of this desert, entirely out of their range. These falcons feed primarily on birds, and this portion of the desert is certainly lacking any bird activity that would sustain a single falcon, let alone a family. The only thing that made sense was that the bird made the daily trip some thirty miles east to the Colorado River to hunt. This seems highly unlikely. After fifteen minutes, the bird hunkered down into the nest. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Soon after, the bird left the nest, circling high, riding thermals, and making a straight line fly for the south east. I was perplexed. Certainly this bird was not nesting on the tower. I expect it was passing through, and took advantage of the only shaded roost for miles, only to rest. Still, what an enigma.

This mysterious bird is the only Peregrine falcon I have seen all season. It makes sense as they are not seen often in the desert, and certainly do not nest or winter in the area. It is out of their range. I love when birding presents the unexpected. As birds have wings, they certainly can turn up anywhere.

I have been meaning to illustrate this falcon for some time. Today I decided that given last weeks experience, I ought to put forth the energy towards illustrating that distinctive face that left me puzzled and surprised. The bird was very far away, so I couldn’t use my camera get a decent photo. I did make an attempt to use the scope and my phone to get a photo. Certainly there is no mistaking it. The bird was not a Prairie Falcon, a bird that frequents the area I was in. I cropped the photo substantially to make sure the bird was shown clearly.

I also thought I would include another digi-scope attempt I made as I watched a family of Burrowing Owls. These guys were a blast to watch. I only wish I could have used my camera to get some better pictures. Maybe the opportunity will present itself soon. The Burrowing Owl is such a charismatic bird. I love every chance I get to watch them and their antics.

A Full Bodied, Perched Merlin

by Bryce W. Robinson

Merlin- Falco columbarius. 11×14″ colored pencil on bristol

I felt the urge to try putting together a full body Merlin today. I got crazy and made an attempt at making this a really dark looking bird. I’ve never seen a Pacific or “Black” Merlin, so I don’t know how close I came.

I’m going to start illustrating the raptors as they appear in the air. I have always wanted to get into painting raptors in flight, but it has always been an intimidating task. It takes an almost obsessive compulsive attention to detail. I’m not sure if I have what it takes, but I plan to try.

A New Medium and the American Kestrel

by Bryce W. Robinson

Male American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. Colored pencil on bristol.

Yesterday I decided to get adventurous and branch out to a medium both unfamiliar and intimidating to me. I bought a set of colored pencils, and chose to make my first pencil attempt at an untouched subject, the American Kestrel. Although common, the American Kestrel is one of my favorite birds. They are extremely adept hunters, and taking time to watch them as they search for prey is certain to be an enjoyable show. The males are brightly colored, begging the question how such a brightly colored hunter is as successful as these birds are. Truly, the bright plumage is a wonder. These queries intrigue me to no end. I would love to know if anyone has ever looked into the possibilities of why and how the kestrel’s developed the plumage they have. As for now, it remains a mystery to me.

I love the new pencils. I am going to take some time away from painting to get to know the new medium. They are much more laid back to use. I look forward to learning more about how to use the pencils, and figuring out some tricks that will help me prod

Merlin- Falco columbarius

by Bryce W. Robinson

Merlin- Falco columbarius. 11x15" watercolor on paper

The Merlin is an extremely interesting falcon. Three distinct subspecies split the Merlin; the Taiga, the Black or Pacific, and  the Prairie. Each subspecies exhibits a particular plumage type, a fact that undoubtedly adds to my obsession with the bird. Most commonly seen is the Taiga. The males are a beautiful slate blue, with orange hues on the breast. The female is a paler version of the male, with brown tones replacing the blue, and lacking the orange hue. I have had many encounters with the Taiga this winter, and I am sure there will be more before the seasons end. I have also had a few opportunities this year to see the Prairie Merlin. The Prairie is a very pale version of the Taiga, easily distinguishable. The final subspecies is the Black Merlin. True to its name, the Black is a dark Merlin. Captivating for the onlooker I am sure, but alas, I have never personally seen a Black Merlin. I am sure that with diligent effort that fact will change. For whatever reason the Merlin is a favorite of mine, and I find every encounter a blessing. I look forward to meeting the bird time and time again, photographing, watching, and painting the bird thousands of times over.