100 days of sketches and notes from Gilling East

100 days of daily sketches and notes from Gilling East. At least 30000 words and 7 sketchbooks filled and somewhere near 300 watercolours. Lockdown has pushed me to stay very local with my observations. I have gained so much through this project creatively, but it has also increased my awareness particularly of tiny, but precious areas of habitat. I can plot bird territories in all the local hedgerows and woods. I have come to know individual plants and watched them burst into leaf and flower, I have watched the whole transformation from early spring to mid summer. All the common summer migrant birds have arrived culminating with the dramatic screaming of swifts around the eaves again. I have seen so many wonderful skies. All this using less than a quarter of a tank fuel in my car. I could have seen far more species by travelling but I don’t think I would be anymore fulfilled than I have been these last three months.

Of course I recognise how lucky I am to have some beautiful and varied countryside so close to home. But I want this experience to change the way I watch wildlife for good. Of course I will go out again and visit favourite haunts for various species but nothing like as often as I did, and even when I do I don’t expect it to compete with really knowing a local patch. I have been very grateful for comments from readers far and wide. I always saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself artistically, but never expected to reach so many people. Thank you for sharing this time with me. For now I am going to carry on with daily notes and sketches. My aim is to complete a year of local patch sketching.

Swift Diary
The colony remains quiet with no sign of those non breeding swifts. At least today has seen warmer temperatures and feeds for the chicks have been frequent. With very strong wind forecast for tomorrow they are wise to make the most of this day. The absence of younger prospecting birds has been felt widely this year. Friends with large colonies in many areas of the country have reported quiet skies save breeders coming and going discretely to their nests.

For those trying to attract swifts to nest it is a frustrating time. The younger birds they are trying to attract are simply not here. I still think they will return with warmer weather but for now swift watchers across the country just have to be patient and hope the weather changes.

10 thoughts on “100 days of sketches and notes from Gilling East”

  1. Wow, what an impressive and inspiring compilation of your recent work, Jonathan. The sketches and delicate watercolor portraits are particularly amazing to me, a testament to both your observational and artistic skills.

  2. I very much enjoy your work – sketches and writing. Quiet and modest, but exquisitely observed and noted. Thank you.

  3. Dear Jonathan, Thank you for all your sketches, paintings and daily updates on your wildlife. It is truly beautiful. I look forward to opening your emails daily to read your notes and check in your Swift diary.
    This is my first year with 3 Swift boxes installed, inspired by Clare Porter of HEY Swift Conservation. I know I must be patient and I’ve been playing the Swift calls as often as possible considering the inclement weather. Your sketches/paintings are wonderful. Out of a year of Covid sadness there does come peace and beauty and a return to appreciating our nature at first hand and through your art. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much Melanie. The period of weather since 27th June has been very frustrating, I imagine especially so if you are trying to attract your first pair. I do feel confident that they will return this weekend so cling on to that! With my very best wishes, Jonathan

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