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Nov 26 12 4:50 PM

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Hello Feedersketchers,

Beck, here.  I'm one of four PFW: Sketch facilitators that'll be checking in on the forum and also learning to sketch birds alongside you in these next eight weeks.  We thought it'd be good to start the project off by asking folks to write about what you hope to achieve in the next eight weeks, why you signed up to participate, and to share anything else you'd like to about your hopes and/or fears with regards to drawing, birding, or specifically drawing while birding.

I'll chime in along with everyone below, but I wanted to go ahead and get this post up and invite everyone to go ahead and contribute your thoughts and stories.

Happy sketching!

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#1 [url]

Nov 26 12 5:23 PM

Thanks for doing that Beck.  It has been a long time since I have sketched back in 1973 so yes scary.  When My girls were in High school and surpassed any thing i ever did sketch I was shocked.  So This will be very interesting.  Ginny H.  

Ocean Co. South NJ Walled patio 10 Crape Myrtle, Pine forest and bushes oak cherry lawn pond. one seed feeder, one suet, 4 hummingbird feeders, one sock.

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#2 [url]

Nov 26 12 5:51 PM

I am hoping to improve my observation skills so I can get better at identifying more difficult birds (like distinguishing between different kinds of finches or sparrows). I often forget to look at the details (like bill or leg color). I am terrible at drawing but my daughter is an artist so maybe there's a little bit of ability in there somewhere!

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#3 [url]

Nov 26 12 7:18 PM

Hello all,
I love birdwatching and while I enjoy photographing birds, sometimes a photo is just not possible (e.g., camera unavailable, the bird's too quick or too far away, etc.) and a sketch is what you can do. Plus, drawing is fun! I'm looking forward to getting a lot of bird-drawing practice in, and getting better at creating images of them.

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#4 [url]

Nov 26 12 10:30 PM

I am really looking forward to getting better at identifying birds.  I love being outside and we have a lot of birds come to our feeder, and the most I am able to say right now is "look at that small brown bird."  I am also a kinetic learner, so I hope that through drawing I will be able to notice more than I can looking through a book.  I am excited to get started!

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#5 [url]

Nov 27 12 11:42 AM

I hope to keep up on filling my feeders, first and foremost! It's a rare thing to see all three of our feeders full at the same time. Otherwise, I am just hoping to slow down. There is a lot going on at this time of year. Sitting down and looking outside with pencil in hand sounds like a good remedy.

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#6 [url]

Nov 27 12 4:25 PM


Hi, Erin, nice to see you here. I agree with your sentiment about hoping to slow down, especially at this hectic time of year. I, too, am looking forward to what new things I may begin to notice about the world around me -- birds in particular, which I don't really know that much about -- as I take the time to look at things more closely throughout this project. Good luck with slowing down and keeping your feeders full this season! 

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#7 [url]

Nov 27 12 4:42 PM

I was sort of an accidental participant--I thought it sounded interesting, so I signed up, but I really didn't have a goal in mind.  Maybe just to loosen up and get a little quicker at sketching notes?  I think it will be faster to draw than to write descriptions as I have been doing.

West central WI in a large tract of county forest with a 20-acre woodland wetland just to the south. 
BOSS, sunflower hearts, nyjer, suet, dried meal worms (all year); nectar and grape jelly (spring thru fall).

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#8 [url]

Nov 27 12 5:00 PM

@ivy Glad to hear there's another kinetic learner out there (it's part of why I love science museums!). There is something great in having a physical process to learn to identify birds- I'm not sure where I would start if we weren't beginning with sketching.  When and how did you figure out you were a kinetic learner? And how long have you had a feeder in your yard?

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#9 [url]

Nov 27 12 5:08 PM

Hi mambird, welcome to Project FeederWatch: Sketch. I definitely understand what you mean by having difficulty distinguishing between different sparrows. I also struggle with them, despite the fact that they are so plentiful at my feeder.
Until just recently I did not realize that field marks (distinguishing marks to look for) can differ by species. My father has an entire book that identifies ducks by their feet and bills. However when it comes to hawks, I've heard the key to identification is not their feet or bills but the shape and length of their tail. I wonder what features or marks distinguish species of sparrows from each other? 

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#10 [url]

Nov 27 12 6:21 PM

@hutchgigi -- Why were you sketching back in '73 and why did you stop?

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#11 [url]

Nov 27 12 6:30 PM

I've been sketching as a way to take notes and convey messages to others for the last five years, but the only bird I drew in that whole time looked like this: 

I hope that by the end of these eight weeks, I'll be able to identify birds that I can't identify now, which is nearly all of them! And that I'll have a better understanding of bird behavior.  And that I'll get more practice at drawing the real world around me instead of concepts in my head.  Both are worthwhile, but I definitely have more experience with the latter. 
I also hope I'll make some new friends. 

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#13 [url]

Nov 28 12 12:59 AM

"If your goal is to make pretty pictures, then every time a drawing does not work out the way you wanted, you will be disappointed and then less likely to pick up your pencil the next time. Instead make it your goal to learn to observe more closely and to remember what you have seen. With these goals, every drawing will be a success and you will keep drawing. As an artifact of making more pictures, your ability to draw will grow naturally. The single most important thing you can do to improve your art is draw more often. Your improvement never ends. Draw to observe the world around you, to learn from your observations, and to remember." p.2 from The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws. 

During Project FeederWatch: Sketch I would like to challenge myself to draw with the mindset of a lifelong learner.

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#14 [url]

Nov 28 12 7:58 AM

@Beck -- I do sketch already. Most often I practice during boring meetings, I'll admit. :-) I am glad to have the excuse to sit down and make a point of creating art deliberately, rather than while doing something else. It's like emtrix said -- a reason to slow down.

A couple photos for you, from our back yard, as requested. (I have more from travels or zoos, but this is feederwatch so back yard it is.)

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) -- male in the foreground with the red, females both behind on the feeder and in the background on the branch.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk (...I think -- this one's really tough to tell, as you can't see the bottom of the tail) (Accipiter cooperii)

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

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#15 [url]

Nov 28 12 9:40 AM

@Julia-I grew up with a feeder, and then when I moved into my own place, I knew I wanted a feeder because it was comforting and served the birds.  However, my main interaction has always been just to keep it full, and laugh at how the squirrels find new and unique ways to try to get at food. I am excited to be more engaged.

As for kinetic learning, in fourth grade I was having a horrible time with spelling tests.  My teacher and parents started using scrabble pieces with me and I could move the letters around to spell out words, instead of just trying to write on paper.  I also used the sign language alphabet to spell.  Having a physical movement associated with the verbal words helped my memorization immensely.

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#16 [url]

Nov 28 12 2:56 PM


In my time working as an exhibit developer at the museum over the past six years, I've always been careful to clarify that "I'm not a designer" and leave all the aesthetic questions up to the designers in my department. One of the mantras of this project is that "anyone can sketch," and in getting on board with that mindset one of my primary goals as a participant is to convince myself that I, too, can sketch and am capable of expressing myself with visuals instead of just words. Getting more comfortable with a sketchbook and pencil in my hand is one of the things I really hope to accomplish throughout this next eight weeks. If I learn to identify a few more kinds of birds along the way -- at this point I'm only confident about robins and cardinals -- that'll be icing on the cake. 

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#17 [url]

Nov 28 12 3:43 PM

For my part, I'm really looking forward to linking representation, observation, and knowledge. It's been a while since my last art class, but I'm excited to begin with sketching to represent birds and and move on to sketching to understand and identify birds - in my head it seems like a great left-brain/right-brain crossover.  I also agree with Elizabeth and emtrix that getting a chance to slow down and observe nature is very welcome!

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#18 [url]

Nov 28 12 4:17 PM

@ ivy - Thanks so much for sharing. I love what you said about it being comforting to have a bird feeder - it is great having that momentary connection with another creature as bird drops on by your feeder, isn't it? Not sure if that's what you meant, but I know here in MN it's nice to have positive interactions with the outdoors when it gets down to deathly temperatures, and know things are still moving smoothly out there in the cold. I like that these activities will give more focused time to those interactions, and that comfort. 

That's awesome that your teachers and parents brought out the scrabble pieces as tools (I bet you're killer at scrabble), and really impressive of you to be able to master spelling in both ASL as well as the letters we're typing here. Attacking a problem like spelling from so many angles really does cement it in the brain, right? Have you ever used drawing before as a means of learning? It almost makes me want to get a giant piece of paper just so the act of drawing and observing birds could be a full-bodied experience. 

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#19 [url]

Nov 29 12 2:09 PM

@leinawea - Thanks for the photos. Can you help me understand what's difficult about figuring out if that's a Juvenile Coopers Hawk?  Is it simply because you can't see the tail feathers and that would indicate something?  (Forgive my birding naiveté.) 

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#20 [url]

Nov 29 12 2:13 PM

@hazel - I was talking with Elizabeth about this very thing the other day.  She's new to birding, but her default approach is to write things down. How has it been so far to sketch? Is it faster? Do you notice anything different than with your writing?  Or is it too soon to tell?

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