Apart from drawing from life or a photo, what other method would you recommend when I am trying to get an image of an animal?

I saw a wonderful documentary on TV of Brolga birds involved in their spectacular dancing. I taped this show and then played back the tape and stopped it at a number of exciting poses. It was wonderful to sit in front of the TV and draw these captured images in action. This is something that I simply could not have achieved any other way. It is no surprise to me that these wonderful birds are considered a treasure in Japan.