Emerging from what seems like a long winter, I’m always happy to get back into nature to pursue my favorite pastime – birdwatching. The Great Backyard Bird Count was last weekend, and I’m happy to report that our winter bird population is vibrant and healthy. In fact, we’ve seen a robust return of common redpolls and pine siskins, whose numbers were very low last year.
Birders know better than most the fleeting nature of outdoor birdwatching opportunities. An after-hours Woodson Art Museum tour this week introduced local birders to year-round in-gallery birdwatching opportunities.
Although the National Audubon Society’s first Christmas Bird Count was in 1900, my first foray was a few weeks ago when I joined Mary Backus and Sarah Sabatke, members of the Wausau Bird Club. Before this, most of my birding occurred in the spring, summer, and fall. Sure, we keep tabs on the birds coming to our backyard winter feeders, but the idea of going out to search for birds in the winter never really appealed to me – too cold and not a great variety of birds to see, or so I thought.
What secret sauce whets someone’s appetite to pursue a passion for art, birding, or both? Maybe it starts when a child assembles and customizes a birding journal cover. Perhaps it continues through careful observation while sketching basic body shapes and then characteristic details of crest, mask, or beak – all while seated in Woodson Art Museum galleries or on a tree stump in the field.
The whole bird vibrates. Side-lit by sun, a bobolink spills song across new meadow grass on old farmland in Westminster, Massachusetts in May. Notes vector out from half a head of open beak and half a buffy helmet, aquiver with sound. With wing-pumping, reverse-tuxedo verve, this bird makes “going out on a limb” look good. I am in the field with my teacher, Barry Van Dusen, in mid-spring – out early in the day, out ready in the field where things are just beginning. It’s my first bobolink. And I’m completely happy.
Throughout the past year, I’ve developed more than a passing interest in birds and bird watching. My interest was piqued last spring when poor weather stalled a variety of migrating birds that happened to end up in my mother-in-law’s backyard, right here in Wausau.
Although Birds in Art opening weekend festivities are behind us, Museum staff are still relishing the final email exchanges with artists and guests who, like us, are returning to daily routines. Last year, around this time, I joked I had completed my official hazing at the Museum – having made... Read More
I survived. The Birds in Art opening festivities served as my institutional initiation, and I can now say with confidence that I’m a part of the Woodson Art Museum family. It all began to sink in Friday – how truly special Birds in Art is and what this annual exhibition... Read More