So, before I get into the heart of my post, I wanted to present you all with a little back-story.
I am a huge fan of an artist known as Jennifer Miller. She is an amazing wildlife/fantasy artist that I discovered on the internet shortly after my mom passed in ’03, and I’ve been following her ever since (online, not in the creepy way, I promise).
A couple of years ago, I noticed that Jennifer seemed to be painting less gryphons and dragons, and more ducks. Despite being in a wildlife management class, I ended up learning about the Federal Duck Stamp competition from her, not from my professor (probably because I couldn’t pay attention to the lectures to save my life).
This didn’t help me with the class (I failed it, twice) but it did lead me towards my next step with art.
The duck stamp is a little bit larger than a postage stamp, has a picture of a painting of a duck on it, and typically costs about $15 (though the price recently went up). Something like 98 cents of every dollar goes towards buying wetlands for conservation.
Duck stamps are a hunting permit, which means if you want to hunt waterfowl, you must have one. However, they’re such a huge help with conservation that it’s encouraged for birders and other non-hunting people to buy them as well (and many do. I myself buy them, and I do not hunt waterfowl).
Some states have competitions with wildlife artists to pick the next painting that will go on the stamp. Every year there is a federal stamp as well, which is the big one. It’s quite well renowned in the wildlife art industry.
This year Jennifer Miller won, which was very exciting. She painted a beautiful pair of ruddy ducks.
Somehow, this got me interested in ducks. Perhaps it was Jennifer Miller’s enthusiasm, perhaps it was my innate love of birds, perhaps it was realizing that not all ducks look like mallards and that some are really cool.
Whatever it was, I decided that I too, had to try out for this federal stamp.
I wanted to paint ducks, but first I needed reference. I couldn’t just use images on google, as many of those are copyrighted.
So, what was I to do?
I had joined some duck stamp groups on Facebook when I learned of Sylvan Bird Park in NC. Supposedly they had every type of waterfowl in North America. I simply had to go.
So, while making a trip up to VA to see family, we stopped in NC. This allowed us to see the red wolves I mentioned earlier, as well as Sylvan bird park.
The park was fantastic. It was simply breath-taking and beautiful. The birds there were everything I had hoped they would be, and I’m already planning my next visit for more pictures.
I highly recommend this place for anyone interested in birds for any reason, either because you love birds, because you live in NC, or because you too want to learn to paint ducks.
I will share some of my photos below, though I won’t be showing all of them, as some are being used as reference images for paintings.
For more info on the Federal duck stamp program, check out their page here: http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/
Interested in visiting Sylvan Heights? Check out their page here: http://shwpark.com/