The desire to learn both a fun and valuable skill brought eight young birders and parents together on a fantastic morning at Loya’s Little House Bed and Breakfast near Ames for our Field Sketching Workshop. Guest artists Dean Biechler (also our host) and Michaela Henke of Wild Birds Unlimited in Ames kindly joined us to share their sketching tips and expertise. We were excited to get started!
An important first step in sketching birds is to learn the different field marks of a bird, otherwise known as the bird “topography”. Executive Director Tyler Harms spent a few minutes discussing with us various field marks that are important to notice and sketch to aid in identifying birds later. The black forehead of the American Goldfinch or the rusty orange undertail coverts (the feathers under the tail) of the Gray Catbird are a couple examples of field characteristics on common birds that often go unnoticed when birding but are important to note for field sketching.
One of the first sketching tips from Dean was to practice skills in “seeing”. Sketching is highly dependent on good observational skills, especially in a field setting, so Dean encouraged young birders to practice observing nature and its many components (e.g., shapes and colors). We continued learning about other aspects of field sketching such as incorporating movement or habitat features. We also discussed perspective and how it can change depending on where you are relative to the bird.
Armed with these great tips from Michaela and Dean, we ventured down to Dean’s lower apartment (a.k.a. the bird blind) to practice our skills. Dean and Michaela worked with young birders as hummingbirds, orioles, and other birds quickly appeared on paper. It certainly didn’t take these talented young birders long to perfect this valuable skill!
We are grateful for the patient and wonderful instruction of Dean and Michaela. Thanks also to Loya’s Little House Bed and Breakfast and Wild Birds Unlimited, both of Ames, for hosting us and assisting with this fun event! You can view photos from the workshop here.