Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sketching Tree Swallows

                                (Click o the image to enlarge)  Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, QoR watercolors

Connecticut has some really spectacular natural wonders in the late summer and autumn. The most spectacular is the great tree swallow migration. There are only two spots on the entire North American continent where tree swallows gather in huge flocks of tens of thousands before they migrate south for the winter. One is in southern Louisiana, the other is an island in the lower Connecticut River less than 30 min. from where I live.  Beginning in late August the tree swallows start to gather in local flocks.  In the sketch above you can see one such flock that has congregated in and around our pond.  We have tree swallows all summer, nesting in the snags in the pond, but in late August they begin to gather in greater numbers.  Last week the entire flock rose up out of the trees agitated by two hawks.  The large flock is gone now, headed over to join the "super flock" 20 or so miles away.

Over the Connecticut River each evening tens of thousands ( some estimates say 250,000) of tree swallows perform what many refer to as a spectacular aerial ballet, often culminating in a giant funnel or tornado maneuver.  The Audubon Society says that the tree swallow roosting ritual is more astounding than the migration of sand hill cranes over the Platte River in Nebraska and the snow goose in the arctic.

Next week I am going on a cruise down the Connecticut River to witness the tree swallows pre- migratory roosting ritual. I'm bringing my sketchbook naturally.  I've looked at photos and videos of the event and they are less than spectacular and everyone who shares these emphatically says that the photos and video do not do the event justice and that it's just too big and amazing to capture on film.  That's when an event, captured through an artists' eye in a sketchbook can really shine.....capturing what can't be simply gotten with a camera.

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