Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Highlights of the Natural Year - 2015, Part 4

Black and White Warbler. Photo by Ken Januski.

As I finish off this roundup of the natural year in Philadelphia in 2015 I'm reminded of one of the more interesting warbler facts: there seemed to be far more in the fall than in the spring! We did spend a few days at Cape May in the spring and might have missed a few because of that but I think that in general warblers were just missing in action in the spring. So it was great to be able to see so many in the fall, including the common Black and White Warbler pictured above.

Great Blue Heron and Common Yellowthroat. Sumi Brush Pen Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

CommonYellowthroat at Houston Meadows. Watercolor and Brush Pen Painting by Ken Januski.

Far more common than the Black and White Warbler in Philadelphia is the Common Yellowthroat. And yet, at least in NW Philadelphia where we do most of our birding, there just didn't seem to be many. So when they finally started appearing in numbers in September all was well again with this species. Above is a sumi brush pen field sketch that served as the basis for the watercolor and pen painting done later that same day.

Common Buckeye. Photo by Ken Januski.
Blue-headed Vireo. Photo by Ken Januski.

Along with warbler came many butterflies, dragonflies and other birds. Though it's hard to beat being out on an early May morning seeing birds in particular, it's almost as exciting being out as mornings start to cool in September and finding vireos, warblers and other birds as well as both dragonflies and butterflies. One of the most common butterflies this fall and many falls is the Common Buckeye, pictured above. Though like dragonflies their flatness makes them hard to work into an artistic composition. One bird we always love seeing, largely because it used to nest outside our cabin at Shenandoah National Park, is the Blue-headed Vireo. And each year the same thing happens. I keep trying to puzzle out which warbler it is, until I figure out that it isn't!

Marbled Godwit at Heinz NWR. Photo by Ken Januski.

We don't see many godwits anywhere so when one or more Marbled Godwits hung around Heinz for more than a day we had to go down and look for them. Hardly had we started walking through Warbler Woods, looking out to the impoundment to the right, than we say this one. This definitely was a highlight of the year. Soon after one or more Hudsonian Godwits were also found I believe but we weren't able to get to Heinz to look for them. Three is only so much time in the day.

Pectoral Sandpiper at Morris Wetlands. Sumi Brush Pen and Watercolor Painting by Ken Januski.
Another shorebird that we don't see all that often is the Pectoral Sandpiper. Above is the first one we ever saw at Morris Arboretum. It stayed for a couple of days, when the wetlands water level was extremely low, and turned out to be the last shorebird we saw in Philadelphia in 2015(barring a Killdeer I think, and they can be here all year long).

Purple Finch in Sweetgum. Photo by Ken Januski.

Well I have to say that Purple Finches are a highlight of both this year and last year. After years of rarely seeing them anywhere, most particularly in Philadelphia, we saw them everywhere we went in NW Philadelphia for a 2-4 week period in October of last year. We hoped that would happen again this year but I believe we saw them just once, at Andorra Natural Area, feeding with American Goldfinches and their rarer cousins, Pine Siskins. As I said a real treat!

Sharp-shinned Hawk in Backyard. Photo by Ken Januski.

November and December really are the months for woodpeckers and raptors. It was very hard to choose what to show. That mature Bald Eagle flying over our heads as we got into our car at Morris Arboretum? The Red-shouldered Hawk at the Manayunk Canal? Any of the many Pileated Woodpecker photos I've taken during the last two months? Finally I decided on this much more common bird, mainly because it's such a nice photo I think. This adult Sharp-shinned Hawk was all over our backyard and that of our neighbors hunting our feeder birds. Even with the extraordinarily warm weather I think we will continue to see Sharpies and Coopers for the next few months.

What a great year it has been and how lucky those people are I think who can take enjoyment from the cycles of nature.

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