December 10th- kingfisher studies at Yorkshire Arboretum

I have always loved weather of all varieties, but I have to admit that this week has tested me. We have had day after day of murk and cloud, often with drizzle or heavier spells of rain. The light has been very dull and grey and visibility often poor or very poor.

A visit to Yorkshire Arboretum yesterday to continue my year long artist’s residency there was just what I needed. It was a real privilege to have the arboretum to myself. As I approached the lake I hoped that with fewer visitors I might have a chance of seeing a kingfisher. I found one almost immediately making use of the lakeside fence. The bird was a male with all black beak and allowed approach to within about 75m. On this dull morning the kingfisher was a real treat. It is amazing how a kingfisher’s colours can shine out on the dullest day.

I managed good views by scanning likely perches as I approached the lake. If you are looking for kingfishers this is your best chance of prolonged views. Most people see one flying away as they approach, but taking the time to look ahead can afford great views. Look at likely perches over-hanging or next to the water and you might be lucky. Knowing the call is also very useful in locating them. They can be surprisingly camouflaged, especially in shade, or even amongst bright leaves .

I had time to make numerous pencil studies and then began to block in watercolour. Having finished one study the bird flew but I had enough reference to finish a sheet of studies. It was very fluffed up in the cold conditions.

I moved on to make a study of the the lake with reedmace in the foreground. The aim of this watercolour was to try and capture the really dull light in mid-winter. The reedmace makes a really nice foreground subject. Looking more or less south the lake takes the eye up the Main Vista. As I sketched I listened to a group of crossbills in nearby larches. A large mixed flock of tits, treecreepers and goldcrests fed around me filling the damp air with their high pitched contact calls and behind me drake teal whistled whilst displaying. A mistle thrush sang heartily nearby, turning my thoughts to spring. Premature perhaps, because it really doesn’t feel like we have had any winter yet, but certainly a reminder that within two weeks the days will start to be longer.

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