Saturday, 8 December 2012

The humble Wood Pigeon

Well it might not be a great rarity but it's still a stunning bird and never fails to make a good subject to paint, alive or dead.  I found this dead one next to where I park my car - it's unclear how it died; it was under a roost tree, so perhaps of natural causes?  It seems unlikely to be cold weather as it's been relatively mild, and this bird is quite fat.  It hadn't been predated either - no signs of blood, and nor was it a road traffic victim.  A window collision isn't possible either.  I've just been so busy all week I've not had time to paint it until this morning.  I quite enjoyed doing it.  And then I wanted to paint it again but I was running out of time so I just did a few quick sketches instead.  Once you get started there's no limit to getting on with painting.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Grey Phal!

I just about managed to connect with this Grey Phalarope at Livermere - a superb record and a great find by Pete Wilson!  All the tracks at Livermere have been churned up by vehicles carrying wildfowlers.  The ducks were all very wary.  I was doubtful of seeing the phalarope - there was already a c.10,000 strong roost of mainly Black-headed Gulls.  I'd already scanned the lake three times with my scope, when suddenly I spotted it in the far NE corner at 4.23pm.  It was spinning like crazy and did a couple of short sallying flights over the surface.  I watched it a short while then headed to the NE corner trying to beat the fading light.  The light had faded further by the time I was closer, so I wasn't able to see all the plumage details.  It flew out of my scope view at 4.37pm by which time it was rather dark, and I could not pick it up again.  I wasn't sure how far it had gone, just a few feet, or further.  Unfortunately it was not seen the next norning, so it looks like it's gone.  Ah well, I did well to see it.

Mon 26th Nov, Dipper again

Just as I arrived the Dipper was back at the Bridge, I'd not expected to see it.  I watched it for maybe 5 minutes and then it suddenly flew strongly downstream and disappeared around the bend in the river.  I suspect that will be it for a while.  I immediately set to and got on with filling in the sketch below.  There was also an Otter which I had a brief view of.  Always nice to see, but I worry for them, they are so vulnerable to persecution.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Mon 19th: Waxwings again

I could probably re-name this blog 'I love Waxwings' or something tacky like that but I don't think it'd get me any extra hits, and I'd be a bit stuck the rest of the year when there aren't any around.  I've gone a bit overboard in filling in these shapes just so I've got a more "finished" image.  It shows the importance of getting those crucial basic lines down in the field.  Once you've got them, then "filling it in" is the easy bit.  I've spent enough time looking at Waxwings, I can now draw them in my sleep.  Yet there is always something new to say about them, a new angle, a slightly different pose.  I'll never run out!  And these are just in black-and-white (Bic biro), there's the whole unspoken world of colour yet to be explored...
I should say again that I hadn't planned to do these sketches and I only had my bins with me - it was too much hassle to have taken my scope on my bike which is what I really needed to do.  But if I'd done that I'd have seen none I expect - it's sod's law that if I'm armed with my scope, that'll be sufficient to deter them from showing.  I'd already been cycling the streets this morning looking for a flock of 27 reported by Lee Gregory from a wooded hill top by Ladies Estate  earlier in the day.  They'd already long gone, it seems they were just pausing en route to pastures new.  Birds never hang around long, you just have to be opportunistic in making the most of those times when you do connect with them.
These four birds will have been the same group that I saw the other day, separate from the 27.

 I did a bit more to one of the Dipper sketches from the other day:
And also to the one of Greenfinches dropping out of the sky from Scilly (from a previous posting):

Friday, 16 November 2012

Fri 16th Nov: finally, Dipper in Thetford

Finally after four attempts, I have seen the Black-bellied Dipper on the River Thet by The Bridge pub.  I hadn't planned to spend time drawing it so I didn't bother taking my 'scope with me, it would have been a lot of hassle to cycle with it.  But the views of the Dipper were so good that I was almost regretting not having it with me, nor my watercolour pad.  But I just accepted what I had, which was my A6 notebook and Bic biro.  I ended up spending three hours there!  Quite a few other birders there including what can only be described as a gang of photographers armed with 500 and 600 mm lenses who seemed not to understand the concept of field skills; talking really loudly, running up to the bird, at dire risk of flushing it, and unbelieveably running along a busy road expecting traffic to slow down for them!  They can't be described as birders, well they don't carry bins.  Even a couple of well-known photographers I saw there were appalled at their behaviour.  Just imagine what it's going to be like when  there is a twitchable Hawk Owl.  I might wait until the fuss dies down...
Anyway it was good to get good views, and once people drifted away I had even closer views on my own.  I met several kind birders there who invited me to have a look at the Dipper through their scopes - Swarovski ATS85 HD - and what amazing scopes they are, giving sublime views of the bird.  I've heard they are heavy, but I think one day I'll have to upgrade from my trusty Kowa TSN-603, if I can save the money up.

Wed 14th Nov: BXC again

I went back to The Flood; no Teal this time but a mass of Canada and Greylag Geese.  So late in the day for painting but I decided to try to paint a Greylag as the light was amazing, even if running out.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sunday 11th Nov: BXC

Evening walk on Barnham Cross Common - nice views of drake Teal on the Flood, but wished I had my scope.  Later saw a Barn owl...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sat 10th Nov: Waxwings arrive in Thetford!

So, back to birding...
I don't know who found them, but thank you to whoever did for putting the news out on the pagers!  Thanks also to Dawn for letting me know about the four cracking Waxwings on Wyatt Way (part of Fison Way Industrial Estate).  I can never tire of seeing Waxwings.  I cycled up there and there was nobody there, but I saw the birds almost immediately feeding in a lone ancient looking Rowan tree.  They suddenly flew up to perch high on the tips of a beech tree.  I was worried they were going to fly away completely and had to keep one eye on them as I franticly texted the news out to six other people (I'm good at multi-tasking!).  Thankfully they stayed put for a good while and were flycatching making the most of airborne insects in the mild weather.  The weather was dull and grey although the sun was breaking through from the west - would make a nice painting with all the subtle colours.  All four suddenly took flight and disappeared at 15.43 - we kept on them until they were specks on the horizon at 2-3 miles(?) away.  I don't think they're coming back.  At least they are around so hopefully we'll have others around soon.  We'll have to keep an eye out for Cedar Waxwing too! (one at Blacksod, Mayo, Ireland today - one can dream).

Thurs 8 Nov - London trip

I decided I needed to make the trip to see the annual SWLA exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London this year, just to see what people are doing, and perhaps for inspiration, so I made the trip down with my cousin Garth who's also a keen naturalist and artist too.  To be honest there were a few stunning paintings there, but there was also a lot of completely uninspiring dross too!  One wonders how so many apparent 'artists' can get away with producing such nonsense! 

Anyway, the undoubted highlight of the day happened before we visited the exhibition.  As we crossed Trafalgar Square we were distracted by the usual street entertainers and then I noticed a band set up where the act had yet to arrive.  I asked someone who was playing.  The reply was 'oh, Madness'.   We just happened to jam in by sheer chance on no less than Two-Tone Ska legends and all-time heroes, MADNESS!!!
What a complete piece of luck!  We waited for around 15 minutes, and then suddenly they appeared.  Suggs had his mirror shades on, they all wore slick sharp suits and looked like absolute rock stars (which they are), it was excellent!
Unbelievable!  As it happened I had a camera with me so was able to take a few shots.  They were there to record a video for a song called 'Never Knew Your Name' from their new album "Oui oui, si, si, ja, ja, da, da", released on October 29th.  They performed this beautiful track four times. 
Check it out here:

During a break, the ballerina suddenly bursts out laughing along with some of the audience as a toddler makes a bee-line for Suggs' tambourine which is on the ground!

When mum goes to retrieve junior, he's already run round and seized the drumsticks instead!
A moment of fame for him (and embarrassment(?!) for his mum).

Once they were done the boys just moved off and normal life continued; going to the exhibition felt like a let-down after this!

Seems like a good excuse to plug a few other Madness classics while we're on the theme:

Sat 27th October 2012 - Portland, Dorset

Bitterly cold strong northerly winds today.  I was doubtful about seeing anything much, but it actually turned into a wonderful and productive day with many birds showing quite well in brilliant sunshine - having a scope alowed quite reasonable views of the birds.  First off was a superb female Kestrel!:
Later the adult male Daurian (Isabelline) Shrike was re-located at Culverwell.  At one point it was mobbed by a Barred Warbler!

Field painting unfinished I'm afraid.  Still I have some useful stuff to use there...