Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sporting Art...sort of.

Branta Canadensis, Pen and Ink Study

There's a place mentioned in my last post where I frequently paint, even year round. A bike trail runs along the edge of the lake there. Cottonwood trees and marsh grasses edge both lake and trail. I've seen deer, fox, beaver and muskrat there. Owls and hawks of different species hunt there, as sometimes do eagles. East of the trail are ranches. On the other side of the ranches is the edge of town. Beyond that are the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. 

Canada Geese are common here, as I think they are everywhere in North America. In winter, geese will sometimes bed down out on the frozen surface of the lake. Occasionally on winter walks out on the ice I've come across imprints left in the frost and snow by a bedded down flock, probably from the night before. Each goose leaves an oval imprint with webbed footprints on either side, and ample goose droppings.

A couple winters ago, I walked to the end of the bike trail, hopped the creek there and set up to paint a landscape on the other side near the frozen lake. Nearby was a flock of Canada Geese bedded down on the ice. I thought it was strange that the geese were relatively close to the marsh grasses and brush at the lake's edge. They were also strangely quiet. 

As I painted, a couple little shore birds came along checking the edge of the stream's unfrozen banks for morsels. One of the shorebirds passed by giving me a wide berth. The other walked right under my easel as I paused to watch.

As the painting neared completion, I turned to look at the geese again. They were still quiet. They were still bedded down in their same places. They were still in the same poses as earlier. They were - within shotgun range of the nearby brush. That's when I realized these weren't geese - they were decoys! I had set up to paint near a goose hunter!


The hunter(s) wasn't visible, but hunting camouflage these days is so good that you could be right beside a hunter and not see him. It's possible the hunter couldn't see me because of some nearby thick brush between us. Or he could and just didn't worry about it. Nevertheless, I finished painting as quickly and quietly as I could and got out of there. Still, I don't think I messed up the hunter's outing. There was never any sight nor sound of Branta Canadensis that day. If any had been within a mile or so, I think I would have noticed. Canada Geese are rivaled for noise only by Sandhill Crane, and would have probably made their presence known. 

These days, I try to be more aware and careful of where I set up to paint. Steel shot would not help my painting!

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