As I sit here in cold Christchurch, hail sleeting down outside and wind rattling the trees, I am thinking of this time last year - when my husband and I stepped off a plane and into the midst of spring-time California. And, to commemerate that it has been a year since we had our grand adventure, I am drawing American birds.
Corvids, in fact.
Now, I am not hugely fond of drawing ravens and crows - as birds go, they're pretty nifty; but they're too black and angular and I struggle to draw and colour them.
So why, may you ask, is LemurKat drawing corvids?
Well, I love jays.
They're smart, quirky, daring and bold. And I had the fortune to meet a number of different species on our Western US roadtrip.
So, here are the first four (with anecdotes):
Corvids I have met #1: Scrub Jay
Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Due to various reasons, mostly involving getting confused over time zones, my husband and I managed to awaken early enough to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Walking back, the dawn was upon us and with it the many birds were awakening to celebrate the day. One such bird was my first Scrub Jay - trilling quietly to himself, atop a post. As I approached him (hoping to get a good photo), he scolded at me and flew away. I did not get a photo.
I was disappointed that my first jay lacked the characteristic crest that I mentally associated with kin.
(And looking back at my little bird identification brochure, it may not have been a Scrub Jay at all, but a Pinyon Jay. I def DID see Scrub Jays though! I have photographic evidence.)
Corvids I have met #2: Black- Billed Magpie
Location: Rocky Mountains, near Veil, Colorado
Corvids I have met #3: Clarke's Nutcracker
Location: Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
Pausing at a lookout with our hosts and guides, we found a small gaggle of children had caught the attentions and affections of some of the local fauna with the lure of nuts and seeds. Whilst they were intending it for the squirrels and chipmunks, this white bandit was hanging about, with his Stellar's cohort. I have heard they are quite the pirates.
Corvids I have met #4: Stellar's Jay
Location: Leggett, CA
We saw numerous jays on our wanderings - mainly Stellars and Scrub, the two seeming to share the same territory without quarrel or qualm. I chased them around a rest stop in Oregon, trying to get a decent photo (but they don't stay still) and in Leggett the landlord of the establishment where we were staying tossed out handfuls of seed. In order to get a decent photo, I went out early in the morning and poised myself, hoping that they might stay still enough for me to get off a few shots. These attempts were rather hindered by the presence of the skinny resident felines, who insisted on accompanying me - paying more attention to me than the birds, however.
Also, on the previous evening I had been doing a short nocturnal wander (until the insects drove me nuts) and noticed a bird kreeing overhead. Thinking it was probably a jay, I picked up my husband's ipad, which contains an app called BirdPro and played the jay's call. The jay answered back and we had a short arguement, with him flying back and forth above me, looking for the intruder in his territory. But I felt a bit bad about it, and stopped!
Three more to come: Raven, Crow and Bluejay. Or possibly Pinyon Jay, even though I don't have a background and anecdote for one.