bird behaviour, Sketchbook


There were well over a hundred Waxwings this morning. They were puffing their feathers up in the cold northerly breeze. As usual most of the time they sat trilling in the top of the ash tree occasionally descending in grateful flocks to feed on rowan berries, which are dwindling in number by the hour. As this food source is consumed I expect them to move on. I watched another twenty from the studio window this morning, flying around and eventually settling in the top of a birch tree.

Waxwings on 24th November- watercolour in sketchbook
bird behaviour

160+ Waxwings

The local Waxwing flock now numbers at least 160 birds. Standing sketching with cold fingers whilst chatting to local people has become a regular part of my working day recently. They have a very evocative and constant “trilling” call which to my ears is beautiful and evocative. I find myself trying to imagine the remote northern forests where these birds have travelled from and the places they have stopped on the way and feel very priviledged to be watching them here in North Yorkshire. The first photograph shows Waxwings with three Starlings which gives a good indication of their size.

Waxwings and Starlings
Waxwings, part of a flock of at least 160.
Work in progress

Helmsley Arts Centre exhibition 28th November- 23rd December

Click on the Helmsley Exhibition tab at the top of the page to see a selection of the 35-40 paintings to be shown at Helmsley Arts Centre from 28th November until Christmas Eve. For further details see the Exhibition page. If you would like an invitation to the private view on Sunday 28th November 2-4pm please email me with your name and address on All pictures shown are watercolour unless otherwise stated. I will be painting at Helmsley Arts Centre on Sundays 5th, 12th and 19th December between 11am- 3pm.

Red- throated Divers near Scourie, Sutherland- watercolour
bird behaviour, Work in progress

Fieldfare painting

I was watching very large flocks of Fieldfares yesterday which reminded me of some sketches I made last winter. During snowy weather last winter Fieldfares came right up to the window giving me an excellent opportunity to make many sketches. Recent sketchbook studies of windfall apples from our tree were combined with the Fieldfare in snow sketches to produce this watercolour. The Fieldfare flocks which graced this part of North Yorkshire were by far the biggest I have seen this winter. Great flocks were plundering hawthorn trees for berries and dropping down to feed in pasture often in the company of Redwings.

Fieldfare- watercolour
bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Waxwings in Kirkbymoorside- now at least 70

I make no apology for including more sketches of these beautiful birds. This morning I found at least 70 gathered in a large oak tree north of the rowans where I first found 9 on 29th October. Small parties were breaking off from the main gathering point to feed at different rowans. Some were flycathching. What seems strange is that it is still early to be observing them. It will be fascinating to watch the distribution of Waxwings as the winter progresses.

Waxwings- watercolour in sketchbook
Waxwing- watercolour in sketchbook
Part of the Waxwing flock at Kirkbymoorside 6th November- photograph
Work in progress

Oil Paintings of the North Yorkshire coast

I have been working on a couple of oil paintings to be shown at my Helmsley Arts Centre exhibition(28th November- 23rd December). Oil makes a great contrast to the watercolour I normally use. I particularly enjoy painting with a palette knife. Storm at Sandsend was painted using this method whilst Stormy weather at Scarborough was painted with hog hair brushes. Both were painted from watercolour sketches made at the time.

Storm at Sandsend- oil painted with palette knife
Stormy sea at Scarborough- oil painted with hog hair brush
bird behaviour

Waxwings in Ampleforth

Soon after dawn I heard Waxwings, then saw a small party flying over with some Redwings. I worked with the window open in the hope of hearing more. At 11.30am my concentration was disrupted by the sound of Waxwings; a party of 13 flew very low over the back garden. I downed the oil covered palette knife and ran down the road hoping to find them. It took a while but I found them near the church in the top of an ash tree. Some were flycatching, but mostly they sat swaying on the branches in the very gusty westerly breeze. When I returned home I realised that I had spread  oil paint on the door handles, binoculars and camera in my rapid exit to follow the birds- well worth it though!

bird behaviour

Waxwings in Kirkbymoorside- now 40

Went back to Kirkbymoorside for some lunchtime sketching today and to my delight the flock had increased to 40 birds. Their trilling calls filled the mild November air and they made a fine sight all facing into the blustery westerly wind on the swaying top most branches of a birch tree. Some were flycatching, making graceful aerial sorties to take flying insects. As the perched birds turned their heads their crests were blown sideways by the wind. I made a number of watercolour sketches with pedestrians passing and people in passing cars wondering what on earth I was looking at with telescope on tripod in the middle of the town. Usually I sketch in solitude, but Waxwings nearly always find me in well populated areas. I always see this as a good opportunity to share my sighting with others if they are interested. I am sure more than a few people were first hooked on birdwatching after the excitement of seeing their first Waxwings.

Waxwings- watercolour in sketchbook
Waxwings- watercolour in sketchbook


Waxwings in birch- photograph digiscoped