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.
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.
Lovely to have a Hawfinch near to home again. I hope to spend much more time with this charismatic bird over the next few weeks. When I sketch a Hawfinch it feels like drawing a cartoon bird with its large head, huge beak and beady eye. The head is packed with muscle which operates the beak to crush hard seeds and fruit stones such as cherry to extract the kernels.
Most swifts will be leaving us soon. Enjoy them while you can. Here in North Yorkshire there seem to be quite a few late breeding swifts, delayed no doubt by the cold May and June. My sketch from the nest camera shows two nestlings which will not fledge until mid August.