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Category Archives: North American Birds

Cape May Common Birds Drawn with Paper by 53 for iPad

Carolina Wren

Marsh Wren

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

I’m still using Paper by 53, trying out different drawing styles.

There’s a LOT to like about this app:

  • one-click posting of drawings to Facebook or Tumblr! No more scanning or photographing and then uploading!
  • easy to add COLOR to the drawings. It doesn’t take much time at all. Unlike when I was using colored pencil or watercolor.
  • Plus, so far there are only 9 colors. So that alone eliminates a lot of time spent deciding on what color to use!
  • You can look at how other folks have used the same exact tools by doing a search for #MadeWithPaper on Tumblr. It’s inspiring!

And, these four drawings finish up my Cape May – Common – Spring birds!

Next I’ll be doing Cape May Fairly Common Spring, Prospect Park Abundant Spring, and Prospect Park Fairly Common Spring.


I May See this In Cape May This May

I drew 12 birds in two days! That’s some kind of record for me.

Red-Breasted Merganser –  medium-sized diving duck with a double crest. Prefers salt-water.
And looks like a Grebe!

Red-Breasted Merganser


Common Loon – State bird of Minnesota; appears in “loonie”, a coin of Canada; and famous for its strange yodel and loon laughter!

Sooty Shearwater (sounds like a person’s name) – also known by its Maori name “titi”! Oh, ask someone from the Philippines about that. In New Zealand, the tradition is for young birds tat are about to fledge to be collected from their burros and preserved in SALT. :0

Common Loon and Sooty Shearwater

Northern Gannet – I might have trouble with this one. It looks like a Brown Booby, except that it has less black on the wings and no black on the tail. It’s a very large seabird, 35-40 inches.

Northern Gannet

Draw Something, As Long As It’s Birds!

My trip to the US is one month from now, I was busy birding this month, I wasn’t able to draw everyday ..  I am now in cramming mode! Officially in cramming mode as of yesterday.

The good news is that playing the Draw Something app (available on iPhones, iPads, Ipod touch, and Android) kept my drawing muscles limber! So all of that time spent playing Draw Something did not entirely go to waste!

The last drawing I did before my official cramming mode.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet


The red tuft on the crown is usually inconspicuous unless the birds is aroused.

And now my drawing in cramming mode:

American Wigeon, male

I was very relaxed drawing this duck. Which is a good thing. I WANT to feel relaxed when I draw.  I think I felt relaxed because these North American ducks I am drawing  (especially number 3-12 on my list) look so distinctive that I’m not worried about having problems identifying them.

White-Throated Sparrow Speaking English

I used to find it weird to read bird songs described in words. According to many guidebooks, an American Robin says, “cheerily cheer-up cheerio”! And an Eastern Kingbird says, “kit-kit-kitter-kitter”. The birds are speaking English!! So I found it even weirder to read the calls of Philippine birds ALSO in English! A Large Hawk-Cuckoo in the Philippines calling out “brain-fever” ?  Seems totally inappropriate!

But, American birds speaking in English, I can accept! And the more I listen to the calls (in my iPad birding apps!), the more I appreciate the word descriptions. It makes it easier to remember the calls. I will have to read “The Singing Life of Birds an Intimate Guide to the Private Lives of Birds” by Donald Kroodsma to find out whether these word descriptions really are helpful or not.

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

I am willing to bet that Mr. Donald Kroodsma, “reigning authority on the biology of avian vocal behavior” will say word descriptions of songs ARE helpful!

Just listen to the song of the White-throated Sparrow (Zootrichia albicollis). It sings “Poor Sam Peabody” in the most haunting and doleful manner. It breaks my heart! Click on the player below to hear its sad, sad song.
  White-throated Sparrow recorded by Andrew Spencer. This is a link from Xeno Canto.

White-throated Sparrow.

I am so excited to see and hear this bird. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to recognize it from its song! Even if it looks so huge in my sketch. It looks like our common Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) but with yellow.

How to Prepare a List of Birds for a Birding Trip to the USA

Download it!!

At first, I tried to come up with my own list using eBird. Certainly a good place to start, but also very confusing! I tried generating an eBird report and converting into an excel file so I could sort out the birds from most likely to occur to least likely to occur. I wasn’t that happy with my data though. My list looked wrong. The eBird reports list sample sizes and species counts per week. One thing I noticed right away was that simply adding and dividing the counts by the sample sizes didn’t work for the species that weren’t counted in every week.

Thankfully, I soon realized that I could just download bird checklists for the areas I was interested in with all the info I was looking for!

I downloaded the bird checklist from Prospect Park & Regional Bird Sightings.

  • The list notes the occurrences for Spring, Summer, Early Fall, Late Fall and Winter.
  • It also indicates whether the bird breeds there.
  • And it includes 7 levels relative abundance: abundant, common, fairly common, uncommon, scarce, rare, very rare.

I downloaded the bird checklist from Bird Cape May.

  • The list notes the occurrences for Spring, Summer, Early Fall, Late Fall and Winter.
  • It indicates whether the bird is a regular breeder or irregular,  presumed, or recent former breeder
  • I has 8 levels of relative abundance and/or status: common, fairly common, uncommon, scarce, rare, very rare, pelagic, introduced

I downloaded a free iPhone app Audubon Central Park Birds

Source: via Sylvia on pinterest




If you click on Browse Birds, then Browse by Month you get a list of birds categorized according to 4 levels of abundance: abundant, likely possible, and rare or absent. Plus, it has the Birding Hot Spots that’s integrated with the data from eBird. This feature uses gps to show you the birds near your area! It also describes the various bird hotspots of Central Park.




How to Memorize A Lot of New Birds Using Your iPad and Birding Apps

I read Phoebe Snetsinger’s book “Birding on Borrowed Time. Phoebe Snetsinger was one of the most famous birdwatchers in the world. At one point, she held the record for seeing the most birds in the world. One of the things that struck me was how thoroughly she prepared for each and every birding trip. She wasn’t just a tourist being led around by a tour guide. She was known in the birding circles for her ability to find and identify birds. She had serious bird skills! One of the things she said was that she would study a bird until she could instantly conjure up an image of the bird upon hearing it’s name.  So if you said, “White-cheecked Bullfinch” to her, the image of a White-cheeked Bullfinch and complete with diagnostic field marks would immediately come to her mind!

I don’t expect to be able to memorize ALL the birds of the United States before my trip. Instead, I’m giving myself a very achievable goal of memorizing the birds I am most likely to see in Central Park, Prospect Park, Jamaica Bay, and Cape May in the month of May. And I want to memorize them Phoebe-level — I should be able to picture a the bird in my mind when I hear the name or name the bird when I it or at the very least a picture of it. I’ve figured that the best way for me to memorize the birds is to draw them since that will make me spend at least 15 minutes on each bird (probably more!). Plus, I enjoy looking at my sketches and they’re more memorable to me than some stranger’s photos.

Now, here’s where the iPad apps come in! The iPad is a great tool for looking at reference materials for drawing! I’ve already tried drawing birds from pictures in my iPad and I love it. I even scanned the pages of a book I wanted to copy because I find it easier to draw from the iPad than from a book.

Drawing from a Book vs Drawing From an iPad

  • the ipad lies flat!
  • you can zoom into the ipad!
  • the ipad can store a LOT of photos and take up very little space!
  • iPad wins!!

And so, obviously, I need a few iPad birding apps! I bought THREE:

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

This is the iBird app logo, it’s a Eurasian Hobby

iBird Pro HD . This app is on sale now! It selling now for $9.99, down from $29.99! I bought this app because I have been lusting after it since it first came out, but stopped myself from buying it because of the price and because I didn’t really have a use for it .. until NOW! This is my #1 reference tool for drawing US birds. This app is not arranged like a typical field guide with plates showing one family of birds. In this app, you can search for for a bird by one of the 15 “basic attributes” (things like shape, size,  or common location) or by keyword. For the keyword search you can search by common name, Latin name or band code.

When you click on the bird’s name there are several pages on the bird: overview, photos, Flickr, Identify, portrait, and  birdpedia. The “overview” includes a brief description of the bird and a field guide style painting. The “identify” section  has more detailed information plus a section called “Interesting Facts”, which really is interesting! There are also calls and descriptions of the calls. In the “Photos” are actual photographs of the birds.

So far, this is my favorite iPad app birding app for drawing because it’s easy to search, it has a lot of photographs, and it has the really interesting “Interesting Facts” section.  I get great but sometimes disturbing tidbits like, “Double Crested Cormorant: Captive birds will perch to dry their wings after eating, even if they have not gotten wet”.

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

This is the logo of the Peterson app. I now know that it’s an American Robin!

I also bought Peterson Birds of North America. This app is arranged like a traditional field guide, with families of birds grouped together in a single plate. This is very useful for looking at the differences among closely related birds. It doesn’t have photos. It was useful for drawing a Foster’s Tern because I couldn’t see the field marks in the photos that were in the iBird app. I bought this app because I’m a huge Roger Tory Peterson fan!

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

Audubon Birds – A Field Guide to North American Birds. I bought this app because it has a feature called “Find Birds with eBird”. Basically, you put in your location either manually or with the gps and it will tell you what birds have been reported in your area! You can also search for recent sightings in your area of a particular bird! Amazing!! The app integrates the data from eBird your iPad gps! I am sure this will be extremely useful when I am in the States. Right now though, not that useful. But, I’m excited to try it when I get to the USA! It’s also searchable and has descriptions, calls, and photos — just like iBird. It may have even more features that I have yet to discover. I haven’t used this one very much yet.

Next .. how I made my list of most likely birds and also the FREE iPad birding apps I downloaded!

Getting to Know North American Birds

This is what I do for fun. I want to familiarize  myself with American birds for an upcoming trip to the US East Coast. I also want to practice my bird drawing. So, I’m drawing the birds I’m most likely to encounter in the the top New York, Brooklyn, and New Jersey birding areas in May.

It’s possible to get the list of likely birds and the reference materials for drawing online. But having such lofty and commendable self-improvement goals has given me a great excuse to indulge in another hobby (of sorts) — perusing and buying iPad apps! So far I have 3 purchased apps and 2 free apps. More on the apps later!

Herring Gull

Laughing Gull

Semipalmated Plover