Friday 9 December 2011

Loose Ends.

The festive season draws close and brings to a conclusion what has been the most dramatic and traumatic year of my life! Lynn has finished her treatment and has finally gone back to work on a part time basis for the time being? My daughter is beating her depression and seems much better and I have started to turn my attention once more to Art and Music and earning a living? There have been some interesting birds arriving on my patch recently and I managed to get out to see some of them. Hen Harriers, Short-Eared Owls and a Great-Grey Shrike being among the highlights. As the weather turns I am anticipating more winter migrants turning up and I'm hoping that Lynn will be well enough for us to get out and about in order to see them?

The Great-Grey Shrike appeared out of the mist like a little ghost and alighted in a hawthorn at the top of a ridge. Shapes that were grey and colourless started to take form and substance and I could make out the line of a hedge stretching into the distance and the vague outline of fields behind. A red kite drifted into view and stooped to pick something up giving a sudden flash of red forked tail. Other birds began to materialise as the light grew stronger and I concluded that they were finches and sparrows? In a flash the shrike dashed towards us and swooped over the hedge like a small hawk, making the finches scatter in all directions! It was quite dramatic and we were treated to a lively performance for the next 20 minutes. As the mist rolled up the hill again it was as if a curtain had been drawn across the scene and we were obliged to take our leave? A magical moment!

A Hen Harrier was one of three that had been reported and together with a pair of Short-Eared Owls became the focus of attention for lots of local birders. We were on the 'Icknield Way', an ancient drover's path that crosses the chilterns and who's dust has coated many feet over the years from medieval pilgrims, anglo-saxon warriors and even the legions of rome! We followed it from Therfield Heath towards the market town of Royston and then up towards Grey's farm where at last we caught sight of our first Hen-Harrier! A 'Ringtail'. She swooped and stooped as she quartered the rough pasture and several times dropped to the ground, no doubt seizing a vole or small bird? There are lots of finches and larks here at the moment due to the farm being managed sympathetically for wildlife. A little while later we had even better views from the road leading into Therfield village! My paintings are of a pleasant memory of the occasion and even more so to see the smile return to Lynn's face after such a long time!
I am going to include a few more paintings and sketches from various encounters so as to tie up my 'loose ends' so to speak, in the hope that you will allow me to indulge myself in the sheer beauty of some of the many birds that visit my patch at this time of year? How can any artist resist the urge to paint them? or any photographer not want to capture their image? Poets may wax lyrical and great storytellers might bring them vividly to life in our imagination but lets all be thankfull that against all odds they are still here?

Although this isn't a recent sketch I saw a large flock of these gorgeous little finches at the RSPB headquarters at the Lodge in bedfordshire last week! They are very noisy and active and flocks may include common, lesser and Arctic Redpolls? I have always had trouble telling them apart? These are common redpolls feeding on Alder seeds.

Lesser Black Backed Gulls at Amwell. Hertfordshire.
May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a peaceful and wildlife-filled christmas and hope that even if you don't get everything you wished for? You at least get what you deserve?