Looking Back at My Rookie Season of Birding ~ Behind the scenes!

Some of you may have read my blog awhile back about the difficulties I had in my feeble attempt at trying painting plein air (on location).  It all sounded so romantic and I still imagine that it can be, given the ideal circumstances.  I still long to take my French easel out on the banks of a babbling brook or overlooking a marsh, in perfect weather, with no wind or bugs in an attempt to “capture the light” with quick impasto brushstrokes.  

My new passion of birding has a nice balance of outside and studio work.  It helps satisfy my longing to be outside, on location.  I travel all around looking for birds, photographing them, and then I work from my photos back in my studio, where I have all the comforts of home (music, coffee, TV, controlled lighting, etc…)

Everyday I wake up hearing the birds chirping outside and have the desire to grab my camera and go birding.  But with being self-employed comes discipline and a need to be productive.  Fortunately, I love painting; otherwise the birding might become an obsession.  

I’ve now turned Jen into a birder.  She is my official bird spotter.  She has a knack for spotting birds most people might not spot.  She’ll be even more useful to me now that she has her first pair of binoculars! :-)

Sometimes I fly solo (without my bird spotter) when she has website or other responsibilities at home.  When I venture out on my own, we go through a somewhat comical routine to make sure I’m prepared to go out into the wild.  

I always wear a hat, due to the fact that I had a spot removed from my scalp that was pre-melanoma.  I can’t afford any more holes in my head. :-)  Even though many birders wear the big floppy hat with the brim front and back I’m fighting the look, still sporting a golf cap.  I make sure I have my sunscreen on all visible exposed skin.  I take along a cell phone to make sure I’m within reach if need be.  If the ground is wet I might wear my rubber yard shoes.  Out of concern Jen will remind me not to go in the woods because it’s tick season.  Not to mention I am very susceptible to poison ivy and any other form of rash causing plants. :-)  It takes forever just to go out and take some pictures!

William R. Beebe birding!

William R. Beebe birding!

When we travel in tandem, it presents its own challenges.  Just the other day we decided to take a trip out to one of our favorite birding locations, Queens Lake.  Since it was a good hair day for someone, we decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to have the top down on the T-Bird, which was fine.  :-(  When we arrived and got out of the car we were inundated with what appeared to be a swarm of Mayflies.  Knowing how Jen has an aversion to all bugs, including mosquitoes and flies, I yelled,  “get back in the car”.  I’m not a bug person either, so I can totally understand her no bug policy.  On the other hand, I have that need once committed, to brave the elements in order to “get the shot”.  Who knows what is out there and what surprise is just around the corner.  

When I say, “brave the elements”, I must qualify it.  I am still always on the path, not in the woods.  I am fully protected against the sun.  I may have my rubber shoes on if wet, or sneakers if there is a long walk involved.  Many of the wildlife sanctuaries have paved roads, where we can be spotted in our convertible, camera and binocular ready, ears intently listening for the sound of woodpeckers and eyes wide open, hoping for an unusual bird sighting.

Working outdoors is always more romantic sounding than it actually is, especially for us “city folk”.  Our love of nature is always balanced with an abundance of caution.  It’s all new and exciting, but many times comical.  I was watching a YouTube video the other day of a couple bird watching in the Ding Darling Wildlife Sanctuary in Florida, and called Jen in to see the man wearing his big floppy hat and his wife with the binoculars.  We laughed and realized what we are becoming and how funny we must look to others who are not so inclined. :-)

I thought some of you might be interested in all that goes into producing one of my bird paintings.   Behind the scenes, it’s sometimes comical, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes uneventful, but it’s always something.  I’m willing to break out in a rash, get a little sunburn, and swat a fly or mosquito or two in order to capture a moment that I consider paint-worthy.  

In the studio with his bird paintings!

In the studio with his bird paintings!

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that Jen is a somewhat fickle bird watcher and that sometimes I have to go it alone!   We know we have gone to the birds, but it is all well worth it.  Please check back to see if there is an early bird special, something hot off the easel.


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe