bird behaviour, Bird paintings, Sketchbook, Sketching outside

Waxwings in Ampleforth

 

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Waxwings at Ampleforth. Watercolour. 13″ x 11″ £300 unframed

The Waxwings are on their way back to Finland and Russia. This is giving me a second chance to sketch them. I had many sightings as they moved west before Christmas. But now they are on their return journey. They have been seen around Ampleforth College orchards over the last week or so. Strangely this orange rowan still has a heavy crop of berries. Waxwings are truly beautiful. Some winters there are just a few in the country, but this has been a Waxwing winter and they have filtered West across Britain in their hundreds. They gorge themselves on berries in smash and grab raids, filling a pouch beside their throats, then retiring to digest them in a nearby tree. The current Ampleforth flock will be eating any berries they can find and in warm weather catching insects on the wing which they do with grace and agility, ahead of their North Sea crossing.

Waxwing sketch available. 13″x 11″   £300 unframed   email: jonathan@pomroy.plus.com

 

bird behaviour, Sketchbook, Sketching outside

Great Grey Shrike at Acaster Malbis, near York

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I will never forget the day I first saw a Great Grey Shrike. I was kept from attending school due to a virus, a bonus day to catch up on some birding from the lounge window! Suddenly the Greenfinch flock on the lawn scattered. Well, all except one unfortunate individual which was pinned down under a Great Grey Shrike. This was and still is a very uncommon garden bird, but was one of those moments which reinforced my life long passion for observing birds. Today I saw another at Acaster Malbis near York. A Great Grey Shrike is a true winter delight, cloaked in bold, crisp white, black and soft grey plumage. Ever watchful for prey, I did not have to wait long to see the shrike pounce on a vole. It carried the vole off, probably to impale it on a thorn. Shrikes do this to store food, hanging their prey on the the thorns as a butcher hangs meat on a hook, hence their other name butcher bird.

bird behaviour, Sketchbook, Sketching outside

Siberian Accentor at Easington, East Yorkshire

I rarely travel far to see birds, but having spent a lot of time observing bird migration on the East coast of Yorkshire this October, the appearance of the first Siberian Accentor on the British Mainland seemed to me to be the culmination of what has been one of the most exciting autumns I can remember. Thus on Friday morning I found myself amongst hundreds of birders at Easington near Spurn Point. The bird approached to about ten feet at times, though I found myself climbing a tree to see over other birders. This gave me the space and time I needed to sketch. Whilst the pencil sketching was done at height the watercolour work was finished at ground level. A really beautiful subject.

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bird behaviour, Sketchbook, Sketching outside

White- winged Black Tern at Sandsend, Whitby

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It is always nice to find something different. Yesterday whilst sketching the seascape at Sandsend a small tern flew in from the sea from the East. Fortunately it settled on the beach near the beck outflow. It rested for several minutes before being disturbed by a dog, but I was able to sketch the bird suspecting it to be a White- winged Black Tern as opposed to the more common Black Tern. It stood for a while by some Sandwich Terns giving a good size comparison, before flying back out to sea. A very memorable sighting and amongst the rarest birds I have found. These were my initial sketches made during and just after see seeing the bird.

 

 

bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Spotted Flycatcher

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Lovely views of a Spotted Flycatcher yesterday. How is it that Spotted Flycatchers have become so scarce? Every park, churchyard and large garden used to have a pair. They have a subtle beauty, with soft expression and elegant shape and for their graceful aerial sorties to catch flying insects. They cost me a grade or two in my exams, because rather than revise I would gaze for hours at the pair that used our open fronted nest box. I was transported today, back to my early days of birding when using my old Swift binoculars I would sketch and note their every move as they shared our garden in Summer.

Landscape in watercolour, Sketchbook, Sketching outside

Recent plein air sketching

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Rosedale Head, North York Moors
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Castleton Rigg from Westerdale Moor, North York Moors
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Murk Mire Moor, North York Moors
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Sandsend, Whitby
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North Bay, Scarborough
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Sandsend, Whitby

I have been clinging on to winter recently. I relish being out in and sketching in cold conditions. I enjoy all the seasons, but I always look forward to the return of winter. Cold weather sketching  produces unpredictable results. The watercolours on the moors were made despite the paint freezing on the metal tin! Sea spray can also produce some interesting results. But the experience of painting en plein air far outweighs any disadvantages. Wildlife just appears around you, the sensation of cold wind and the sound of birds or waves combine to make it an experience far removed and much more rewarding than painting in a studio.