Sunday, September 8, 2019

Bird Watching at the Arboretum

9/7/19 belted kingfisher

Our local Audubon Society offers free neighborhood bird walks through city parks and other urban areas with bird-friendly habitats. Yesterday we took advantage of ideal weather conditions (dry, not too hot or cold, overcast sky, which makes viewing easier) to take part in a walk at the Washington Park Arboretum. Larry Hubbell, who writes an excellent birder’s blog, led a dozen or more participants through the arboretum, telling us many stories of birds he has encountered in the park and nearby. In anticipation of possibly seeing certain species, he would stop occasionally to pull out a huge binder of astounding photos he has taken. Pointing out small details in his photos, he helped us learn to identify species and to differentiate between male, female and young birds.

9/7/19 green herons
Although I love watching and sketching the backyard birds at our feeders every winter, I’m not a serious birder. I don’t think I have the patience to scan quietly through a scope until I spot something hiding among the lilypads or trees. But I do enjoy the challenge of trying to sketch whatever I do manage to see.

For the first time, I tried sketching while viewing birds through binoculars, which was somewhat frustrating. I had to keep putting down the binoculars to draw, and when I looked back up again, it would take me a while to find the bird again. A spotting scope would make that a bit easier, I’m sure. Drawing through binoculars, though, is probably an excellent way to strengthen my visual memory: Each time I looked through the lenses, I tried to memorize as much detail as I could so that I wouldn’t have to look back again so frequently. I managed to make a few gesture sketches of a couple of green herons, which I’d never seen before (they look very different from and are much smaller than all the other types of herons I’ve seen), and a belted kingfisher high up in a tree.

We plan to participate in more of these fun and informative guided walks.

Larry Hubbell uses his own photos to show us different
bird species and details to help identify them.

Lake Washington's Montlake Cut, which borders one side of the arboretum, is where we spotted green herons.


  1. Thanks for the link to Larry’s wonderful blog! Even though I don’t live in the area (or Washington) it’s a joy to read about birds and nature from his blog. I love gesture sketches, they seem to have a life of their own.

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying Larry's blog, too! His bird photography is beautiful, and it's heartening to know that many birds continue to thrive in the urban landscape.


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