Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Honey, I'm home!

Email and phone message triage accomplished, suitcase excavated, laundry begun... I must be home at last. Yesterday was a blur of planes, trains, and automobiles. Somewhere today I misplaced my jacket. I must be warm again.

So. The first of the promised adventures of the journey: a little time with Darwin's finches at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. It was probably NOT the best idea to tackle these things fresh off the boat from Colorado, before I had a working rhythm or even thawed out fingers... but tackle them I did. Denis, of course, did a stunning piece of western meadowlarks collected by John James Audubon on his Missouri River expedition. Nice yellows, big bold stripes and spots. Me? I chose a tray of unassuming brown and gray birds. Subtlety not being one of my stronger suits, I spent a lot of time muttering to myself. But I waded through it anyway.

For starters, a little pencil sketch. From top to bottom:
Certhidea olivacea, collected 1897; a critter about which I am now perplexed, marked C. salvini ridgio and collected 1901; and male and female Platyspiza crassirostris, collected in 1937.

I did a color version, too... but it didn't have the character of this little sketch. Weaker composition, for one thing. Too close to lunch and I was hungry, for another.

While we were working, the ornithology curator was also at work, quietly showing a young woman the technique for creating study skins. It was nice to listen to them... Nate was a patient teacher and Ashley an engaged high school senior. Outside the wind howled and the cold was bitter, but inside we were a cozy scene of concentration and bird-geeky camaraderie. In all, a nice way to spend a morning.

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