|Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe and Bufflehead on the Schuylkill River, Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski|
The explosion of Red-necked Grebes and other unusual waterfowl continues throughout Pennsylvania. So we couldn't resist a quick drive to the Schuylkill River today hoping to see something unusual, even though it was about 20 degrees cooler than yesterday.
Oddly enough we saw a grebe that we should have seen a long time ago, a Pied-billed Grebe. That is the grebe we expect to see so it was shock to find a Red-necked in 2014 before seeing a Pied-billed Grebe. Today that was rectified.
We also saw numerous Common Mergansers and two Bufflehead. Though we'd seen a number of female for the Philadelphia Mid-winter Bird Census in early January this was our first male of the year.
It was too cold to try sketches and my time was limited. Instead I took one photo of the buffleheads. The watercolor sketch above is based on it and other photos I've taken. Since I wanted to get four birds in I changed to a slightly larger, 7x10 inch Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook.
I normally wouldn't put a second title in this post's title, as though I'd reverted back to the type of title used in the very first British novels from centuries ago. But I wanted to emphasize that this is a painting that is about composition more than anything. I wanted to do more than just a portrait of one bird.
But how to you get more than one bird on a piece of paper or canvas without everything looking staged? None of the scene above actually happened, outside of the close proximity of the Common Merganser and Pied-billed Grebe. This is an attempt to put all four birds together in a way that both seems believable and is artistically exciting. I think that I've succeeded. (Please don't tell me otherwise...........)