Right now I'm working two jobs, both of which are outdoors, which made your assignment of observing animals in the wild for inspiration pretty easy. One of my jobs which I've had for the past two years is working for UCSB's Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration on the restoration sites that surround the campus. Usually I work around the lagoon and the pathway out towards Sands Beach. My other job is interning for the Santa Barbara County Trails Council. For the past month I've been surveying hiking trails on the Gaviota Coast in order to write a report to submit to the city's development committee to make sure coastal access will be maintained even if the Naples housing project goes through.
Since I spend so much time outdoors around campus and on the Gaviota Coast I know of a few animals that I could collaborate with. There is a Red Tailed Hawk that lives on lagoon island who is interesting to watch because periodically groups of crows will attack it to keep him away from their nest. There is also a killdeer that recently made a nest by the beach access stairs at Manzanita Village. I suspect it might be the same one that made a nest on the Manzanita salt marsh last year but its egg was eaten by a raccoon right before it hatched. Hopefully this year it will be more successful since it chose a much more hidden location.
While I was at work Friday we observed a Great Blue Heron on the beach near East Depression. It's pretty unusual to see them trying to hunt in the ocean, usually I see them over at West Campus or by the lagoon trying to catch gophers. Over the next half hour we watch the heron slowly walk deeper and deeper into the waves until it managed to catch a six inch long fish. It was incredible that the heron was able to see the fish through all of the sea foam and that it had the patience to wait for the exact right moment.
I know that I would like to do my projects on wild animals, I just need to narrow it down to which species I want to do it with. This week I'll talk to my bosses and see if they know of any interesting animals around campus for me to do artwork with.
Another idea that I had is inspired by a book I'm reading right now called "The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature" by David George Haskell. The book is about a biologist who visits a one meter patch of Tennessee forest each day for a year and writes down his observations. I could go to a one meter patch once a day for a week or two and create an art series inspired by whatever animal(s) I happen to see in the patch that day. Somewhere around the lagoon would probably be the best place for this because it has the highest density of birds.