As the weather gets colder, many birds are rushing off to a warmer climate. Something many of us humans wish we could do as well. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved the Northern Cardinal, or Red Bird as my family called it, because he always stuck around to freeze his little butt off with us. It’s hard to complain about the cold when a tiny bird a fraction of your size seems undaunted by the drop in temperatures. And I always found this quite comforting. With precious few other birds around in the winter, this showstopping beauty with his fiery red feathers can be seen flying across the winter snow, stopping every so often to sit on a frozen branch. The enhanced contrast with the white of the snowy landscape is gorgeous and one of the reasons that have made this bird into a holiday icon. Well, that and the fact that he’s red, of course.
There’s just something magical about these birds. Despite being incredibly common where I live, seeing one always causes a rush of excitement as though one has just spotted a unicorn. Actually, while visiting my mom in Texas, a story came on television about the famous-at-the-time unicorn named Lancelot. He was the star attraction of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during the mid-80’s. He was covered in white fur and had a single horn and so people just assumed he must be magical. In reality, it was nothing more than a common billy goat that had its horn fused into one shortly after birth. This has nothing to do with red birds, I know, I’m just easily distracted. Except, I guess, to say that sometimes when we want to believe something is special, it just is. No matter how common it may actually be.
So the sight a red bird during the snowy winter months will always thrill me. One was sitting just outside the door to our snow-covered terrace last year and I stood there staring at it, completely fascinated. Actually it was staring back at me, so we ended up in a staring contest that lasted until he suddenly flew away. I’m not sure how the rules of staring contests work when one of the opponents is actually capable of flight, much less has an extra eyelid, so I had no idea how to declare a winner. But it didn’t really matter. It was just wonderful to experience such a magical moment. A beautiful red visitor to add a little burst of color in the bleak midwinter. Perfectly ordinary, yet suddenly amazing.
About the Doodlewash
Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Sennelier Red, Red Orange, Burnt Sienna, and Ultramarine Deep. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!