Tuesday, May 26, 2009
People sometimes ask me which bird is my favorite to paint. It's kind of like asking about my favorite food or animal or child. I really like the one that's in front of me at the moment. (although scallops in buerre blanc are right up there, and Chet Baker is my favorite animal hands down...hm.) But I can answer with some emphasis that I love painting chestnut-sided warblers about the best of them all.
They don't stay with us to breed, going farther north to Pennsylvania and New England. Chestnut-sided warblers love old fields, and sing their sweet sweet sweet I'll switch you! song from the tops of small trees and shrubs. Where I used to live in Salem, Connecticut, they nested right on the road to my cottage. Oh, how I loved them, but I have traded them for yellow-breasted chats, and the icky deer ticks for icky but not infectious wood ticks, and that is all right with me.
There's so much going on on this little bird--crown patch, back stripes, wing bars (yellow, no less!), flank stripes, moustaches, tail spots, eye lines. And all set off with that fabulous white belly. It really is a party to paint.
But the attitude and poses chestnut-sided warblers strike are just as charming as their outfits. They tend to hop along branches, wings dropped and tails cocked, wagging side to side as they hop first this way and then that.
They look carefully at the undersurfaces of leaves and hop up to glean insects off them. Then they'll flutter-jump, snag a treat, and keep hopping. Each warbler has a distinctive foraging style, and the chestnut-side gleans the undersides of leaves, always looking up.
Maybe that's why I love them so.
Here's a photo from last May I never got the chance to post. May's like that.