Demo at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

This past Saturday, April 14, Maria Cecilia (Cissy) Freeman and I were at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History as part of the annual Art of Nature exhibit. We were there to demonstrate our skills, tools, and techniques for visitors. Cissy worked on a preliminary graphite drawing of a Coast Live Oak gall. She had a specimen with her so our audience got to see part of the process of how she constructs her gorgeous watercolor botanicals.

I chose a somewhat less traditional approach. I pulled up the streaming nest cams from three different nest sites across the country and sketched from the images on my laptop. Since the cameras offer spectacular views and ones difficult to witness in person, I like this option for doing public demos.

The first nest I used was the Peregrine Falcon nest at San Jose City Hall. Three of these eyases hatched on Sunday, April 8 and one hatched the next day, Monday, April 9. The next nest cam I used was the Great Blue Heron nest at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This nest has 5 recently-laid eggs and one of the adults was there, patiently incubating the eggs. The last nest cam I used was the Bald Eagle nest at Decorah, IA. These eaglets hatched over a few days, from April 1-6. The nest cams not only give us an intimate perspective on the nest sites, but also provide invaluable scientific information as well.

I like drawing from the nest cams because of the unique perspective and also because it gives me a chance to engage the audience with my subjects. While I was sketching, I was also talking to visitors about bird biology, the incredible recovery of both the Peregrine Falcon and the Bald Eagle, and my time at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For me, this is the best use of my skills as both an educator and an artist.


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