Adventures in Birding and Drawing


I went on my first official bird walk last week. I’ve always been quite fond of birds, but not quite fond enough to wake up at 6:00 am on a Saturday to go on a bird walk. But when I was invited to a 7:30 am weekday bird walk near my office recently, I jumped at the chance.

I arrived at the designated location in the Public Garden to find around 12 other Nature Conservancy members. They were a friendly bunch and many of them seemed to know each other. I instantly felt like an amateur because of the size of my binoculars. Mine looked like mere opera glasses compared to other people’s. But some casual walkers hadn’t even brought binoculars, so I didn’t feel terribly embarrassed.

We were led by the state director of the Massachusetts Nature Conservancy, Wayne Klockner. He was amazing! He’s been a birder for most of his life. Many of the other walkers knew their stuff as well. We saw an Ovenbird, a Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Warblers, and many robins and sparrows. I probably saw about half of the birds that others saw, due to my tiny binoculars. But even when I couldn’t find a bird, it was fun to hear the others exclaiming about its location. “11:00, at the very top of the branch. Look for the movement of the leaves!” I think the most exciting spotting was an indigo bunting, which I failed to spot. We ended the walk with a sighting of a hawk who was protecting a nest on a ledge under the clockface of a church.

In theory I can see myself enjoying this hobby, but there are two things working against me: (1) early mornings and (2) binoculars. You see, I can’t look through both lenses of binoculars at the same time. For years, I just never felt right while looking through binoculars. A few years ago, I realized why when I was diagnosed with stereoblindness. It’s not harmful for me to look through binoculars (I don’t think), but it feels a little odd and uncomfortable after a while.

So onto drawing!

That same day, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts to check out its weekly “Drawing in the Galleries” event. I hadn’t properly drawn anything in at least two decades. I decided it was time to pick up the pencil again.

I imagined myself sitting in front of a still life painting and trying to re-create it on drawing paper. So I was surprised to find around 15 people sitting in front of a live model and trying to re-create his seemingly awkward pose on drawing paper. Not that I have anything against live models—I was just stymied by the task of having to draw hands and feet and ears.

I still found it relaxing, though. The model held a pose for 15–20 minutes as classical music piped out from a small speaker in front of him. Then he would take a 5-minute break before coming back and holding a new pose. During the break, people would get up and walk around and look at each other’s drawings. I spoke with one woman who attends every week, and she told me that there is a different live model every week.

I stayed for three poses and then went on my way. I enjoyed myself and will probably draw again sometime.

So those were #34 and #35. Up next: walking the Southwest Corridor and visiting the Dorchester Historical Society. Until then…










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