15th February- woodcock

Woodcock have been seen regularly on our recent walks. Yesterday morning I braved the icy wind at dawn, actually a wind of change with the slow progression of milder weather from the west. It was certainly slow though, the temperature crept up from freezing at dawn to two degrees above by dusk. I walked a regular circuit along the Holbeck. This freezing weather has been something of a luxury for walking, with solid ground beneath our feet. With the thaw will come very muddy, hard going terrain again.

I flushed several woodcock, however despite relentless scanning I failed to obtain a view of this gorgeous woodland wader feeding. I looked back at my sketchbooks to find some studies of feeding woodcock shown below. Numbers have certainly been swelled here by a cold weather influx from the Continent in the last week. Redwings were unusually confiding, turning leaves on roadside verges in the village, a small flock of yellowhammer showed well, their yellow underparts easily the brightest sight on the walk and there were occasional snipe bursting up from the Holbeck banks. All this before very welcome coffee and croissants for breakfast!

I spent the afternoon watching three fieldfares in the back garden, enjoying the opportunity like so many in lockdown to see this normally shy Scandinavian thrush up close. I pondered its journey back over the North Sea, trying to picture in my mind its nesting habitat in May. Our goldcrest made it through the cold spell, often sustained by the fine grated suet on our Christmas tree, which incredibly still looks good in its new position on the patio!

Today as I write the lawn is green again. In a brief burst of sunshine I saw a peacock butterfly and a flock of lapwings flew over, perhaps heading towards their breeding grounds. As the thick ice melts the natural world will respond rapidly this week, signs of spring will accumulate and as an artist I will struggle to keep up with the frenzy of sketching subjects presented to me between now and late May.

Below- woodcock in snow, available as an A3 limited edition print in my shop https://jonathanpomroy.wordpress.com/prints/

Woodcock- field sketches at Ampleforth

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