Today is in honor of John James Audubon (1785-1851) as he was born on this very day a whopping 231 years ago in Les Cayes, in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). He arrived in America in 1803, and for nearly half a century he was the dominant wildlife artist in the young little country. His seminal Birds of America, is a stunning collection of 453 life-sized prints and is considered to be one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. In the early 1900’s, the National Audubon Society was officially incorporated and named in his honor. Its mission is “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.”
For my part, I decided to doodlewash a Little Blue Heron because I saw it was listed as a priority bird on Audubon’s site. Surprisingly, it’s thought to be a close relative to the Snowy Egret. When it’s young it looks very similar but then molts to a dark slate-blue plummage when it grows up. Males put on quite a display with various alluring postures and vocalizations to attract females. If a mate is found, the male will gather nesting material for the female, but she has to do most of the actual work of constructing the nest. As ever, not terribly dissimilar to some human households.
John James Audubon was an avid observer of nature because he loved being a part of it. Many of us who love to sketch the natural world feel the same. He once remarked, “During all these years there existed within me a tendency to follow Nature in her walks.” Later in life, Audubon made some excursions out West where he hoped to record the Western species he had missed, but unfortunately his health began to fail. He died in his family home in on January 27, 1851 but left a legacy behind that few would ever achieve. This day reminds us to appreciate nature and everything she has to offer. As Audubon said, “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
Join me any and all days you like during April by celebrating a National or International Day with a doodlewash! Tag your image #doodlewashaday and I’ll feature everyone who played along on doodlewash.com at the end of the month!