Are you artistic – or a budding artist? Do you love nature? Or do you just need some good therapy, in these stressful times?
If you check any one of these boxes, then BirdsCaribbean’s latest coloring book is for you. It was produced for the annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) and then, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, promptly went online – “From the Nest.”
There was quite a craze for “adult coloring books,” a couple of years back. Coloring was considered to be relaxing, therapeutic – a sort of harmless pastime that is surprisingly satisfying. It helps you to “switch off” a bit. Well, we certainly need that kind of off switch nowadays. I remember, as a child, always coloring the illustrations of my favorite books (if they were in black and white). Below are two efforts of mine… from The Arabian Nights, which my father gave me for my seventh birthday.
But, what’s so special about the Endemic Birds of the West Indies Coloring Book? Well, it is online... Since the usual, much more sociable activities associated with the bird festival were not possible, due to COVID-19 restrictions. It has been unfolding daily for the last several weeks during the CEBF period, page by page. The book has tons of information about each bird, with maps, birdsong, puzzles, quizzes etc. Here, for example, is the lovely Scaly-naped Pigeon (Caribbean birds have such great names!) which I remember seeing in abundance in Grenada. The only part of the Caribbean where they don’t live is Jamaica and the Bahamas. You can download this one, and all the others, print and color away. It is guaranteed to keep restless children (and, perhaps, bored grownups) quiet for hours.
The illustrations are by Christine Elder, an Oregon-based artist and nature lover who is very well traveled and very knowledgeable about Caribbean birds. I remember her well from BirdsCaribbean’s International Conference in Kingston in 2015, when she was a great success at our children’s bird camp at Hope Zoo. What fun we had! Even “Bird Yoga” was on the agenda with Christine.
Now Ms. Elder is a perfect science educator. She is not intimidating, but in a rather gentle way imparts a vast amount of knowledge. I have attended a few of her bird sketching workshops online during the pandemic, and it has been a pleasant experience – a welcome break from some rather intense Zoom sessions, and an opportunity to learn. As a teenager I loved art and sketching (I seemed to have more time, then). Animals and people were always a challenge for me, trees, plants and landscapes much easier. So at Christine’s most recent workshop, I attempted a Mourning Dove.
Apart from the fact that he/she looked as if she had a stiff neck, it wasn’t a bad try, I suppose. I certainly learned a lot about doves and pigeons while struggling with my pencil and trying not to rub out too much.
So, there you have it. You don’t have to be a bird expert to enjoy sketching, coloring, painting birds. But I warn you… You might develop a great love for your subject matter, as you go along. Next minute, you will be out buying a pair of binoculars and a fancy telescopic lens for your camera!
Birds are addictive and I won’t even pretend I want to get “clean”…