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June 1st- noctule bat, great spotted woodpecker and swift diary

Each day this week I am featuring a painting that would have been shown for North Yorkshire Open Studios. There is an online event taking place over the next two weekends. The featured paintings will be available for purchase on my website from this Friday evening. Today’s is a large charcoal (77x55cm) of one of my favourite winter subjects- a flock of lapwings. Like most species they face into wind when resting and on this particular day I managed to view them directly down wind with a telescope. The composition is made using sketches made on site. Drawing birds in flight is a challenge. I wanted to depict the birds as they approached into wind, slowing and looking for a space within the resting flock.

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Yesterday evening I was out swift watching at twilight when a pair of noctule bats appeared over the field at the back of the garden- there had been a big mayfly hatch and I suspect they were making the most of the bounty. The noctule is Britain’s largest bat with a wingspan of 32-40cm, a similar wingspan to a swift. I loved watching them against the clear north western sky flying with amazing grace and agility. Occasionally they mixed with a very late swift, something I have seen several times before.

We had a lovely walk in Gilling Woods this morning. The bluebells and wild garlic are now over. The wild garlic is now fading fast but still leaves a potent smell. It was cool in the woods and quite quiet birdwise. There was very little birdsong, but our attention was drawn to raucous calls coming from a large tree. A nest full of great spotted woodpeckers could not have done more to advertise their presence, a rather strange tatic which most birds would avoid. We watched a feed by the male bird through the telescope and left, knowing that next time we passed that way they would have fledged.

My son found a chimney sweeper moth around its pignut foodplant and heard, but did not see our first grasshoppers of the year.

Swift Diary

Some new swifts arrived yesterday evening and they really shook things up. Suddenly we are experiencing more flypasts and it looks like we have a prospecting bird that seems to have a mate. This morning we were treated to low flypasts by up to four swifts, whilst ours were still in the nest box, there was also some prospecting by a lone swift.

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