"Don’t start with the details"
When you’re drawing from nature you’ll often face challenges like complex feather patterns or spots on a reptile. Our eyes are drawn to these intricate details because they’re fascinating to look at, and that’s all good. The trouble starts when these surface details take priority over getting the basics of our drawing established first. I struggled with this for the longest time. I would become seduced by some little detail and end up with pictures where every minute hair was precisely drawn, but the overall image was very flawed structurally. Much like having a house with fancy light fixtures and granite counter tops, but with crooked walls and a collapsing roof.
So what’s the best way to start a drawing? With a gentle line, establish the basic shapes, proportions and angles first. This is key. If these aren’t working, no matter how well you draw the details, your drawing will never feel right. Worry about adding details afterwards, at the start it’s just a distraction.
If you have trouble seeing through the spots and patterns, try looking at the world slightly out of focus. Squint (or take off your glasses if you wear them). It’s simple and works every time.
For the example image, I’ve drawn the basics of this Veery (died from striking a window) using a dark 2B pencil. This is just to make the drawing more visible here. Normally at the start I’d use an H pencil so that the lines would be very faint and easy to correct.
Good luck and have fun!