Great Tit

My RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Count

I have been getting ready for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for several weeks now.  I always like to feed the birds in the garden in the winter, mainly to help them, you understand, but it is wonderful to be able to watch them so closely.  As the Birdwatch date approaches I find myself watching that bit closer and finding tastier morsels to put out in the hope of being able to record something unusual.

This last week I have been fortunate to see a female siskin and two bramblings along with the usual visitors.  What excitement!  However I think it must have been the low temperatures we were experiencing then, because come Birdwatch time and higher temperatures there was no sign of them. Do they know we are trying to count them do you think?  Well that’s just how it is!

Here is just a selection of the birds I see in my garden:-

Blue Tit

Blue Tit

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Great Tit

Great Tit

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

My aim is eventually to have a go at painting all my local birds.  There’s a long way to go but the research will be enjoyable!

 

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

The nuthatch really stands out in the crowd!  Not only because of its beautiful colouring, but also because it is the only british bird that creeps down a tree.  The tree creeper and the woodpeckers all search for the insects they feed on under the bark by going up the tree, but the nuthatch will go up or down.

I am not fortunate enough to have seen a nuthatch where I live in Norfolk, although this does not mean they are not there. I do not have the patience to wait for birds to appear, although it is very exciting to see something new.   I can remember a few years ago, whilst walking in Derbyshire,  we stopped en route for a coffee.  There were several bird feeders hanging near the door to the pub, which were very much in use.  On one which contained peanuts was a nuthatch, completely oblivious to the comings and goings of the pub just a few feet away. Where birds accept and feel safe around humans it is so much easier to watch and appreciate them!

With its beautiful colours and markings it just cries out to be painted!  This time I have gone for a smaller piece – just 6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm).

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon -Falco peregrinus

Oh what a beautiful bird is the peregrine falcon.  It is the fastest of our native falcons and can reach 120 mph when hunting.  During the last century numbers in this country fell to around 400 breeding pairs, thought to be caused by persistent pesticides.  Thankfully this trend has reversed and there are now around 1,500 breeding pairs.

One success began in 2011 when peregrines began to nest on Norwich Cathedral.  A platform had been put up by the Hawk and Owl Trust after peregrines had been sighted in 2009 and 2010.  In the wild peregrines nest in mountains and cliff ledges, so the Cathedral spire was thought to be ideal.  This proved to be the case and the public can now view them at a watchpoint in the Cathedral Close. http://upp.hawkandowl.org/

My peregrine watercolour was conceived whilst looking at the pictures of the Norwich peregrines.  I will be taking him and others to the Art and Craft Exhibiton at Wymondham Arts Centre in Norfolk, UK at the end of this month.

 

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

I painted this in memory of a lovely lady I used to garden for.  She adored her garden and one of her favourite plants was the blue hydrangea.  She would grow them in very large half barrels in special acid compost.  In the part of Norfolk where I live the soil is alkaline and the hydrangeas grow in various shades of pink.

It is a fact of human nature that we always seem to cherish the rare or unusual.  I am sure those who garden on acid soil would love to grow  the pink hydrangeas.

The painting took me quite a while as it was important to show all the different shades of the warm lilac blue in the many bracts.  The flower itself is insignificant, with the modified bracts holding all the colour.  As the whole is essentially a ball shape (hence the name mophead hydrangea) the shading had to show this whilst not being too dark as to lose the light airy feeling.

I have chosen to paint in a botanical style, but a looser style would also work – they are so spectacular.  It makes you feel good just to look at them.

 

       “Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realising one’s sensations”

Paul Cezanne

Swallow

Summer Visitors

As I write we have less than two weeks left of summer here in the northern hemisphere.  Autumn officially begins on 22nd September this year and you can already feel the beginnings of change.  The light is starting to mellow from the harsher sunlight of summer and the foliage on some trees is starting to change.

We count ourselves very lucky to have a pair of swifts come every year to raise a brood under our roof edge, but they have long since left to spend their winter in Africa.  Their arrival in the Spring is awaited with great anticipation – will they make it this year?  It is such a relief when they finally arrive and a joy to see them swooping and screaming through the air on summer evenings.

Swallows no longer seem to be attracted to our part of the village but I could not resist painting one after having seen several in the air round me as I worked one day.

They are still around but it is a sign that summer is finally over when they begin to congregate on the telegraph wires in preparation for their long flight south.

 

Tawny Owl

Owl Experience

In May we went for an ‘Owl Experience’ at  Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre in Lincolnshire.  We were booked for one person to ‘experience’ and one person to observe.  I was the observer with my camera.  Although I am not very proficient at photography I just wanted to capture an owl with personality that I could paint.

We met a selection of different owls from the very small one named Frost – a white faced owl with a huge personality – to the very large Eurasian Eagle Owl.  It was a fascinating day – I hadn’t thought about what a large range of owls there are in the world.  Throughout the visit we learnt such a lot about the lifestyle and habit of the owls and even saw many of the young that are reared there.  Unfortunately I couldn’t make a note of the names of all the owls we saw (lack of organisation on my part) but here are a few of the photos:-

There were also many other owls which flew on different days that we could see in their pens.  Of these I managed to photograph a very obliging Tawny Owl who posed for me very nicely.

 

It was definitely a day to remember and well worth a visit.

 

Crocus

When is the first day of Spring?

Spring is here at last!  This year it was 20th March at 4.30 in the morning.  This is the day when the day and the night are of equal length and is called the Vernal Equinox.  This time does change very slightly which explains why I always looked forward to 21st March as the first day of Spring.  That’s when it used to be!

A meteorological season is different.  Spring begins on 1st March and ends on 31st May which makes it easier for forecasting and recording weather trends.  However I have noticed this does seems to create at lot of confusion in the media.

Spring has seemed a long time coming but then it always does.  That is what makes us appreciated it all the more.  This year with the warmer winter the spring flowers seem to have shown their heads earlier than usual.  There was some concern that they would all be over too soon, but not so.  The garden is full of crocus, daffodils and hellebores.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger

The snowdrops are still bravely hanging on and the tulips just starting to form.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Tulip

Tulip

 

 

The colours of spring flowers are so clear and fresh they raise the spirits,  even though the temperatures can still be very chilly.

 

Iris reticulata

Irises

 

” The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also”  –  Harriet Ann Jacobs

 

Painting Again!

I’m still having internet problems!  At least now its not a problem of no internet, just very, very slow internet.  It is very frustrating and makes you realise how much you have come to depend on it.

I have been having a lovely time lately.  Gardening work ceases for me at the end of December and doesn’t begin until March so I can concentrate more on my painting.  Having more time means that more thought goes into a painting and in my case I try to give more attention to composition.  This has always been difficult for me as I am too impatient when I have an idea of what I would like to paint.  I know it is best to plan a painting carefully, but if I am enthused by an idea I usually plough straight in and worry about the setting later.  This usually results in either too little space or too much to put in a realistic background.

Feeding the garden birds in winter is such a joy as you get wide a variety of birds on the feeders.  I have been watching some coal tits and decided to paint them as they waited in the ornamental cherry tree which hangs over our garden from next door.

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

Coal Tits on a Cherry Tree

They are such lovely birds, as are the long-tailed tits which come in gangs about 4 o’clock in the afternoon almost smothering the fat ball holder

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

One bird I hadn’t seen this winter was the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but at last today it was there on the peanuts.  It is such a magnificent creature, although the other birds  do not seem to appreciate it.  They all keep well away when the woodpecker is around.

GS Woodpecker done

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

The warmer weather this year seems to have had an effect on the winter visitors.  I have seen no bramblings or siskins on the feeders.  Such a shame!

 

 

 

Robins and Others!

I have not posted for a while as I have been unable to get internet access for almost seven weeks!!  This has been quite difficult as it made me realise how much I have come to rely on it.

I do a lot of research on line before I start a painting, for ideas and to make sure I have the details correct. It is interesting to see how other artists approach a subject and whilst it may not be your style, it can lead your imagination on to other ideas.

Blogs are another thing I have missed.  I read a lot of other blogs, particularly those on botanical art.  Some are factual, which helps and inspires the learning process, and some are friendly chat about all things botanical.  Painting can be quite a lonely business and it is lovely to feel that there are other people out there with the same issues as you.

I have recently become interested in painting birds.   I have always loved watching birds and would like to be able to catch their character in watercolour.  Once I have painted the eyes in it brings the painting to life.  Depicting feathers is quite a challenge, but I have found plenty of advice from other bloggers.

Robin

This Robin was my first attempt

Blue Tits

Blue Tits came next

Wren

and then the Wren

I apologise for the brevity of this post, but I am not totally confident that my internet connection is now Ok and I wanted to make sure I had posted.

 

 

 

Join in the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly PosterIt is time for the Big Butterfly Count in the UK.  It runs from 17th July to 9th August and the general public are asked to get involved.  All you have to do is count the butterflies you see during a fifteen minute period at any sunny spot you choose.  This gives an idea of the state of the environment and is a really fun and educational thing to do.  I have done it twice now, downloading the identification chart from www.bigbutterflycount.orgButterfly ID and have learnt a lot about the different species.  The first time I took my dogs for a walk along a nearby track to the forest and was amazed by the amount of small brown butterflies I saw.  Without the identification chart I wouldn’t have been able to tell what sort they were.  Some meadow browns, speckled woods and gatekeepers that I had never identified before, with the flowers of the blackberry brambles being very attractive to them.

Red Admirals

Red Admirals as Asters

The second year I decided to count the butterflies in my garden.  I have planted lots of butterfly and insect friendly plants in my garden, so I was hoping for a lot of different ones.  However I was a little disappointed to find they were mainly peacocks, red admirals and cabbage whites with smaller amounts of commas and small tortoiseshell.  (Quite a lot really, but the identification chart makes you aspire to greater things!)

Isn’t it always the case that when you want to see something it is never there!  To be fair though some species and just not around at this time of year.  The orange-tip flies very early, in the Spring.

Orange-Tip

Orange-Tip

The large blue is a very beautiful butterfly, but one of the rarest in the UK as its life cycle depends on the grubs of the red ant.  This makes them very vulnerable.

Large Blue

Large Blue

If you are interested in butterflies and haven’t joined in with the count, have a go this year!