Sunday, 24 March 2019

Just by 'being around'

You don't need to travel far to conjure up some interesting observations. Just by being around and about the garden throughout the day, and pausing now and again to glance up, I managed to record a second record for the garden (a Peregrine that circled high for a couple of minutes before being lost to view), my earliest ever Holly Blue and a steady dribble of Common Buzzards that headed south to south-westwards. I also paid my respects to a Peacock that alighted momentarily on a patch of earth (above) - I don't think that there is a butterfly that can beat it.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Down by the river

The National Trust have recently - well, maybe three years ago now -  opened up a footpath along the northern bank of the River Mole between the Stepping Stones and Box Hill Bridge. Until this morning I had not trodden along this rather delightful stretch of prime Surrey habitat. Meandering along the flood plain at the base of the North Downs, it looks as though regular coverage would pay off. There are shallow sections of the river, deeper pools, a few small vegetated islands, copses, hedgerows running back up the hill and livestock inhabited farmland.

A handful of singing Chiffchaffs announced that Spring was truly here, and a pair of Grey Wagtails gave the impression of scouting the area for possible nest sites. It was, however, a pair of Kingfishers that stole the show, with one bird, a female, giving close and prolonged views perched up in the dark tangle of waterside vegetation (above and below.)

Crossing the A24 I strolled along the southern bank of the River Mole between Westhumble and Mickleham, where the avian highlights were a pair of Mandarin Duck and a gathering of 10 Little Egret, most of which alighted in a dead tree (below). The day was rounded off with attending the Surrey Botanical Society AGM at Box Hill Village Hall, where it was a pleasure to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Stained-glass effect

Last status check, I promise. This morning I decided to go with a 'stained-glass window' theme to the painting, building up the composition out of cells of colour. This treatment will extend to the Reed Bunting as well. As with all my work, how it ends up is not so much pre-planned, more a case of it being haphazard, but that is where the fun lies. I might not get a chance to work on it again for a few days, but when complete I'll be sure to post it.

If it turns out alright that is...

Thursday, 21 March 2019

It's white-arse time!

The past couple of days has seen a large influx of Wheatears into southern England. I have been checking on the high, open ground of Epsom Downs and Canons Farm with some regularity, but with no success - until this afternoon. Standing by Reeds Rest Cottages (at Canons Farm) I was talking to Gordon Hay on the phone, moaning about the lack of Wheatears, when a smart male flew into view. The spell of taking in this most wonderful of birding moments - the year's first white-arse - was broken only by the appearance of another male alongside, and then a third. All flew off, over the green barn, before then alighting on Broad Field, where they were joined by a female Stonechat.

I moved on to Mogador, just north of Colley Hill, where the open ground has been a magnet to chats in the past, but not this afternoon. There was some compensation with a pair of Marsh Tits being extremely vocal in Margery Wood, where I haven't recorded the species for a number of years.

One more picture of a Wheatear? Why not...

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Colour and pattern take over

A little more headway has been made on the painting (detail above.) I'm at the stage where the subject matter takes a back seat and the colour and pattern take over. Whatever little realism existed will now be pulverised under layers of paint - if a colour combination doesn't work it will be painted over - if a pattern jars then it will be replaced. Gouache is a forgiving medium. Ultimately it is all about the detail and not necessarily about the bird or the leaves, which is just as well as realism is not my strong point!

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Backlit bulrushes

Sometimes the birding can get stodgy - little is on show, you seem to be watching the same birds, inspiration is in short supply - and at times like these you grab at anything that excites. This morning found me squelching through the mud at Holmethorpe, a little bit jaded, when I came across the Bulrush bed at Spynes Mere. It was a delight on the eye, the backlit bulrush heads revealing cotton-wool edges to the cigar shaped tops. All that was missing was a feeding Penduline Tit...

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The painting evolves

Another spurt of work on the painting has seen the central subject - a male Reed Bunting - added to the composition. As is the way with my artwork, it will be dominated by shape and colour rather than realism. This is down to two things: firstly, I cannot produce work that the likes of Rose, Lewington and Jonsson can: and secondly, my interest lies in creating images through a layered build up of abstraction. I can spend hours just nudging away with the paint and brushes this way which is good for the mind. Om mani padme hum...