On January 27, 2018, 18 young birders and parents kicked off the 2018 field trip year at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge for our Junior Duck Stamp Day. Brian Murillo, award-winning wildlife artist who has placed in both the Junior Duck Stamp Contest and the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, graciously joined us to share tips about sketching and painting waterfowl for the Junior Duck Stamp. Young birders were excited to get started!
Doreen Van RysWyk, coordinator of the Junior Duck Stamp Program in Iowa, started our exciting morning with a brief overview about the Program. Doreen shared with us the history of the Federal Duck Stamp Program, which has deep roots in Iowa. The first winner of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest was Iowa cartoonist Jay Norwood (“Ding”) Darling, and the only five-time contest winner is Iowa wildlife artist Maynard Reece. Young birders learned how art contributed to both the Junior and Federal Duck Stamp Programs has had a huge impact on habitat restoration and conservation education.
Next, Brian shared with us how his passion for wildlife art started, sketching and painting all sorts of birds and other wildlife as a kid in central Iowa. He provided valuable tips to young birders on creating a life-like painting or sketch of waterfowl and other birds. We learned the importance of contrast between the bird and background, about establishing a light source, and about scale of the creation. Young birders then put these tips to work by sketching birds of their choice while Brian provided advice and encouragement. An Eastern Bluebird, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Piping Plover, and Redhead emerged on paper. What amazing talent our young birders have! Young birders then presented their artwork to the group and shared why they chose their bird of interest. We finished this activity with some “Duck Trivia”, learning about life history characteristics of waterfowl.
Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm day, we finished our morning with a brief hike around the Prairie Learning Center. Raptors provided the best show, with both Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles soaring overhead. We were lucky to see the resident Bison on the Refuge and observed a recently-burned portion of the prairie and learned about the importance of prescribed fire for managing prairie habitats for birds.We have many people to thank for this fun day. First, a huge thanks to Brian Murillo for taking the time to share with us his passion for wildlife art and some tips for becoming artists, as well as for the amazing Wood Duck prints! The day would not have been possible without the assistance of Doreen Van RysWyk, and we’re grateful to Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge for hosting us and for providing snacks. And, as always, many thanks to our young birders for their enthusiasm for birds and for art! You can view photos from our day here.