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Moon , Venus and Jupiter

The last few evenings have seen beautiful configurations of some of the brightest objects in the sky. Tonight they are in diagonal- from top to bottom, moon, Jupiter and Venus. I listened to the last Blackbird song of the day and heard the first calls of Tawny Owls watching the beautiful formation of planets and moon in a deep blue sky.
But perhaps the best evening was that of the 25th when the slimest new moon lay on its back with the two planets in close proximity. On the night of 12th/ 13th March Venus and Jupiter will be only three degrees apart in the twilight sky and should make a beautiful sight if skies are clear. For Nasa’s explanation see here.

Moon, Jupiter and Venus- 28th February, 7.26pm
bird behaviour

Not so warm here!

Cladonia lichen- photogragh copyright Jonathan Pomroy 2012
Cladonia lichen- photogragh copyright Jonathan Pomroy 2012

Whilst a large part of the country basked in unusually warm February temperatures, in this part of North Yorkshire we missed out. 12 celsius was the best we managed here whilst other parts of the country saw more than 18 celsius.

On the moor it felt decidedly chilly in a strong south westerly breeze. But I did hear the first male Golden Plovers way up above calling their plaintive “peeeoo” song. Some Lapwings were also displaying, it won’t be long before the Curlews are back!

Crossbills were very vocal and at least one was seen carrying nest material. Their song is both rich and far carrying and when several are singing in the same vicinity the resulting sound is surprisingly exotic though the temperature is not. I had some lovely views of Crossbills descending to drink. They have to do this very frequently as their diet of pine seeds is very dry.

I found these beautiful Cladonia lichens on old pine stumps. Look how the water has gathered on the cups. There is so much that is beautiful out there, but sometimes you have to get right down at ground level to see it- wet knees a small price to pay!

bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Winter thrushes suffering

Fieldfare(left)and Redwing puffed up in snow- watercolour in sketchbook

I sketched a Fieldfare and a Redwing today, both of whom seemed to be in trouble. Today the Redwings were exceptionally tame, feeding on roadside verges. This Redwing was extremely puffed up. The Fielfare seemed to be in very bad shape indeed, not moving when others were feeding around it. Today the temperature has again not climbed above freezing, even the dusting of snow settled on branches yesterday evening is preserved unthawed.

bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Redwing in snow

Redwing in snow- watercolour in sketchbook

This study of a Redwing was completed this afternoon. It is now snowing hard again after a couple of hours of freezing rain. The snow is settling readily on top of that which remains from a fall of five inches or so last Sunday. The Redwings continue to feed in the field of sheep along with a few Fieldfares and a flock of two hundred or so Starlings.

bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Woodcock in snow

Woodcock in snow- watercolour in sketchbook

The recent snow and very cold temperatures have forced Woodcock out into the open again. I saw three yesterday in exactly the same area I saw them in December 2010. Although of course this means the Woodcock are pushed to find enough food to survive, for me it means another rare opportunity to see this elusive woodland wader out in the open. Redwings are becoming very tame. They feed amongst sheep in the field near our house, taking advantage of the areas of snow cleared by sheep finding grass to eat. This morning these normally shy thrushes were feeding within twenty feet of where I stood.

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Slimbridge Festival of Birds- 4th/5th February

Waxwings in birch- watercolour
Long- tailed Tit- watercolour

I will be at Slimbridge WWT this weekend selling original watercolours(including the two above) and cards at the Festival of Birds. There is lots happening around the reserve and early February is a brilliant time to visit with masses of wildfowl on the reserve and presently excellent views of Bittern from the Zeiss hide. This is the reson I am heading down very early on Friday morning, a full day of sketching at this exciting reserve before setting up my stand late in the afternoon! For latest sightings at Slimbridge click here.

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Birdwatching walk at Crayke- 11th February

We will assemble at the Dutch House cafe at 8am for cooked breakfast and coffee, where I will give a brief talk about local bird life. At 9.15am we we walk around the village of Crayke on the farmland of the Crayke estate. The Crayke estate has farmland rich in birdlife and we hope to see a good variety of species. As well as looking we shall be listening to bird songs and calls. To book a place please contact the Dutch House.

Lapwing, watercolour- a bird we hope to see on the Dutch House walk.