Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Big Freeze.

Well it finaly arrived and plunged the whole of the british isles into a mini ice age with record low temperatures! The ice and snow are only now loosening their grip in the the far north and in the hills and the mountains! Minus 16 degrees was recorded not far from where I live and we had a huge dollup of snow that was as deep as it was beautiful. Large flocks of winter thrushes descended on my patch and I was priviledged enough to see Fieldfares, Redwings and Mistle Thrushes in abundance. They provided excellent entertainment and superb sketching and photographic opportunities. I visited an ice-bound Rye Meads and got great views of a Bittern and several Common Snipe while the garden feeders were well and truly ravaged by flocks of finches. I just love the juxtaposition of shapes and forms that some birds make when feeding and so I have indulged myself unashamedly in my interpretation of a group of Redwings among crabapple trees. I hope you approve?
The Bittern showed itself well in the exceptional circumstances and was forced to seek out more open, ice free water. Not that those lucky enough to see it were complaining?
Of course, where there are flocks forced together they always attract the attention of predators and I witnessed a spectacular kill by a female Sparrowhawk right outside my living room window! She came in like a lightning bolt and took out a Collared dove that was sitting on the fence! Then disappeared! The kill was instantaneous and the victim stood no chance! A blood-stained heap of feathers lay on the ground, twitching it's last life's gasp! The death of one provided a meal for another! Such are the nature of things in the wild and I stood in awe as the beautiful huntress glided into view to claim her prize. The pitiful calls of a collared dove's mate were heart renching and went on for some time! I suppose I watched for about half an hour as the breast was plucked and consumed and then the Sparrowhawk took off, carrying her prize with her. Without sentiment and silent!
I want to leave you with a sketch of some Curlews that I am including in my display this coming June at Rye Meads from my exhibition titled 'Wonderful Wetlands'. The exhibition runs from 2nd to the 10th June 2012. Full details will be published in a future blog! Cheers for now!

Friday 3 February 2012

Winter Wanderings.

As I write this, the snow is once again upon us! The temperatures across northern europe have plummeted to more than minus 30 degrees? At the moment where I live it is a balmy minus 8! Recently I was able to get some sketching in before the cold had strengthened it's grip and was rewarded with the sight of carpets of winter aconites stretching along the edge of an ancient ditch that borders our local golf course. A song thrush was busying itself amongst the leaf litter and melting frost and it emerged from time to time with a snail or two. Nuthatches were noisily chasing each other through the naked branches and woodpeckers rattled and drummed from high in the canopy. Once again I find myself in a paradox of winter sounds with yet just a hint of spring in the air? Have the birds changed their tune a little too early or are the long cold fingers of siberia stretching out towards us once more? Don't discard your thermals just yet!

There are Larch and yew trees on my walk some of which are of great antiquity and I often see Goldcrests scrambling among the needles in search of insects. How these tiny birds manage to survive our winters is a miracle but even after the most severe weather they always seem to bounce back? If you stand perfectly still they will pay no attention to you and carry on regardless.

I have some exciting news to announce? The RSPB have invited me to exhibit some of my paintings and sketches at their RYE MEADS reserve to coincide with the Springwatch events taking place around the country. It will be held on the weekend of June 2nd/3rd and I hope to have my work on show through to the following weekend? I will give more details in a future blog and I hope to have lots of new sketches done by then? I am also extremely pleased to tell you that Lynn has responded well to her cancer treatment and is at last gaining confidence enough to ditch the headgear and show off her gorgeous new hairstyle! I will sign off this current episode of my blog with a coulple of winter birds. A Kingfisher from the river Lea and a Goldeneye seen at Amwell nature reserve. I dedicate these to winter birders everywhere.