Wednesday, 28 September 2016

House Martin painting

I finally finished this painting a couple of days ago - I'd started it quite a while back, but then with all the upheaval of moving house and starting a new job in June it had taken a bit of a back seat. My partner Chris had asked me to paint a bird for him and we chose House Martin as it's one of his favourites - they used to nest outside his bedroom window back at his parents' house in York. I was quite pleased with the final result especially given my past difficulties with drawing and painting birds in flight! Hopefully my next painting won't take so long....

House Martin painting.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Art class at Hereford Museum Resource & Learning Centre

Things are settling down into a new routine now after we moved house and I started a new job at the end of June. We now live in Malvern and it's marvellous, we're 15 minutes' walk from the hills and I'd added Raven and Peregrine to my garden bird list within a week or two of being here! I'm hoping to post some more paintings soon; here is the first one in a while.

Yesterday morning I went to an art class at Hereford Museum Resource & Learning Centre, which I really enjoyed! We were drawing and painting bird specimens from the museum's collection and I was looking forward to being able to closely observe the birds in (relatively) lifelike poses. I've blogged previously about drawing and painting from a dead bird which I didn't enjoy so much, mainly due to its lifeless pose and closed eyes. This time was much more enjoyable, in part because the birds were posed, and also because it was a refreshing change from how I usually paint. We only had 2 hours, and would be working at a large scale on A2-sized paper. First of all we had to choose a bird from the many on offer - here are a couple!

Green Woodpecker.
I chose a handsome male Black Grouse; I've enjoyed drawing one previously, especially the blue iridescence of its plumage, and thought I should be able to produce something passable within 2 hours. I used my preferred medium of watercolours.

My chosen specimen!
I didn't quite finish in the allotted time, but was pleased with what I had done. I was able to complete it at home later!

Nearly there...
The finished painting.

Friday, 29 July 2016

30 Days Wild | Day 18 - goodbye Bardsey

What with my crazily busy June (moving house and starting a new job) I wasn't able to complete 30 Days Wild this year but I don't think I did too badly at least getting some bloggage in for the first 18 days (some of it admittedly posted rather late!). So here is my final post for 30 Days Wild 2016...

Day 18 was the day we left Bardsey to return to life in the real world :o( I didn’t really want to leave, except to have a shower, but leave we must. As we sat at the harbour waiting for the boat, we listened to the Grey Seals in the bay; their eerie wails and cries had become a constant background to our time on Bardsey and rather than spooky I found them comforting. I’d loved my time on Bardsey and hope to return there at some point, perhaps in September one year for some cetacean and migration action. I would highly recommend a visit to Bardsey, and especially a stay in the Bird Observatory, to anyone interested in nature!

Colin's boat coming to collect us.

Colin's boat coming to collect us.


Seals chilling out.
Apparently they can't digest their food very well when in the water due to the pressure, so lounging around on land is actually a very important seal activity!
A cute wee fella.
Lounging and digesting seals.
Seals on the seaweed.

Seals in the sun.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

30 Days Wild | Day 17 - a fuzzy surprise

On day 17 of 30 Days Wild during my stay on Bardsey, I was strolling along the path through short turf along the cliff top near the lighthouse when I suddenly realised I was about to stand on an Oystercatcher chick! It was hunkered down in the grass, its cryptic brown fluffy plumage making it look for all the world like a cowpat. Luckily I avoided standing on it and instead carefully took some photos. It was completely motionless apart from its breathing and blinking, and for the first few seconds after I found it I wasn’t quite sure whether it was even alive. However it was of course just keeping a low profile (literally) to avoid detection by predators!

Is it a cowpat?
No it's an Oystercatcher chick!
Today's HDR scenes:

View across the bay.
An arch in the cliff.
The lighthouse.

Looking down to the south end.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

30 Days Wild | Day 15 - Little Owl mayhem!

On day 15 of 30 Days Wild, like nearly every day on Bardsey, I saw a Little Owl. In fact on this particular day I saw two; the wardens estimate however that there are probably an amazing SEVEN pairs nesting on the island this year! They are Bardsey’s only resident owl species. The easiest ones to see during my stay have been a pair which have a nest burrow in one of the stone/earth walls; if you go and stand around nearby or show some interest in the nest hole, one of the adults will soon come and start shouting at you! They are always easy to see as they like their prominent perches – fence posts, tops of gorse bushes, and sticking out branches. Today I saw one of this pair, and also another Little Owl just after sunset in another area where they are often to be seen – around Carreg Bach, a little house with cheerful red window frames and door.

Here are some photos of the Little Owl scolding me for coming near its nest burrow!

Little Owl (view full size!)
Little Owl (view full size!)
 Today's HDR scenes:

View towards the mainland.
View from the south end towards the mountain.
The lighthouse and the mountain.
Inside the Abbey.
View towards the mainland at sunset.
Looking down from the mountain at sunset.
Sunset from the mountain.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

30 Days Wild | Day 16 - my first Greenish Warbler

This morning just before I was about to have breakfast I bumped into Mark, one of the assistant wardens at the Observatory, who said he’d just trapped a Greenish Warbler in the Heligoland trap and they were about to ring it. I grabbed my camera and whizzed straight over there! Steve the warden told us it was incredibly the fourth Greenish Warbler they’d had at Bardsey this year – and in the same time period there’d only been ten records of this species in the whole of the UK so Bardsey was really getting the Greenish Warbler monopoly. It was a life tick for me of course! It looked very like a Chiffchaff, but with perhaps a slightly greener tinge, a longer pale supercilium and a narrow pale wingbar.

My first Greenish Warbler.
My first Greenish Warbler.
 A couple more HDR scenes from today:

When I showed Chris this photo, his comment was 'Craggy Island!'.
Down by the harbour.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

30 Days Wild | Day 14 - botany-tastic

Today was rather grey and somewhat drizzly to begin with, so I decided to do some botanising around the lighthouse and south end of the island (where crucially much of the grass is grazed very short so I could avoid getting soggy shoes – a problem from previous days). I found lots of nice stuff, some that I was already familiar with and some that was new to me. I’m going to make this a general botany-themed post with lots of photos of plants I found on both today’s lighthouse walk and throughout the week. Hope I got all the IDs correct!

The school and Bird Observatory in the misty murk.
The south end.
The lighthouse.
Spring Squill (Scilla verna).
Thrift (Armeria maritima) with a Green-veined White (Pieris napi).
Brackish Water-crowfoot (Ranunculus baudotii) and Ivy-leaved Water-crowfoot (Ranunculus hederaceus).
Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris).
Lesser Swine-cress (Coronopus didymus).
Adder's-tongue fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum).
A centaury, but I'm not sure which.
Thrift (Armeria maritima).
English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum).
Eyebright (Euphrasia agg.).
Allseed (Radiola linoides).
Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula).
Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus).
Brookweed (Samolus valerandi).
Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris).
Eyebright (Euphrasia agg.).
Sheep's-bit (Jasione montana) with Golden Hair Lichen (Teloschistes flavicans).
Rock Sea-spurrey (Spergularia rupicola).

Sand Spurrey (Spergularia rubra).

Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris).
Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Thrift (Armeria maritima).
Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis).
Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella).