November 10th- little owl, hawfinches and hornbeams

Yet another very murky morning, but very mild. I spent the morning working at Yorkshire Arboretum. I almost turned back, it was that gloomy, but I am glad I didn’t. Nature offers beauty in all conditions and the trees were so still in the warm misty air. The remaining leaf colour was very muted but no less beautiful.

I spent some time sketching a hornbeam copse. I liked the patterns of the branches and the dark grey and green mossy trunks. I have watched these copses alive with hawfinches, but there are no seeds on the vast majority of trees. The branches were almost bare save the occasional withered cadmium yellow leaf. I could hear every sound it was so calm, blackbirds rustling leaves as they searched the leaf litter and the high pitched calls of goldcrests and treecreepers. Kingfishers called frequently from the nearby lake.

Having sketched the copse I moved on to walk around the perimeter of the site. I found a little owl in the top of an old sweet chestnut tree. They are such entertaining birds to draw. The whole sketching session felt like a staring match as we eyed each other with great intensity. With the scope set up I could relax and enjoy sketching this very cooperative life model. It typically held a pose long enough for me to record the necessary shapes in pencil, then moved to a new pose. This reminded me of quick pose sessions in life drawing classes; a great test for observational skills. A seven spot ladybird rested on my sketchbook for a while and a mistle thrush sang full spring song in the mild conditions.

The sun never broke through the cloud and mist as forecast. I am looking forward to more changeable brighter weather now, but I have made the most of these dull conditions. As I waked back I admired some stunning patches of fly agaric toad stools and looked down at the infinite variety of leaves. Redwings and fieldfares called as they flew over and best of all four hawfinches dropped in to some tree tops So much to enjoy!

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