I stood in Helmsley market square this morning, my sketchbook on the car bonnet, gazing skyward. I was watching and sketching Swifts. It is wonderful to see that crescent shape in the sky again after nearly nine months. The Swift watching lead to another, much more unusual observation- three large birds, just white specks against the blue sky were Spoonbills, three of them moving North. I later discovered that three Spoonbills left RSPB St Aiden’s reserve near Leeds, heading North East a little over an hour before- the same three? This sheet of studies was painted in Ampleforth this morning. The sky was cloudless and this modest first arrival of Swifts should be joined by many more in the coming days and weeks. In summary I counted 9 over Helmsley, 4 over Ampleforth and none in Gilling East.
It is currently 3c and pouring with rain here in Gilling East, but I find myself surrounded by memories of high summer. I am currently working, with Mascot Media, on a book of my appreciation of Swifts due to be published in August 2018. The book will launched on my art marquee stand at Birdfair 2018. It has been a pleasure rummaging back through old diaries and sketchbooks to relive days spent with Swifts. These sketches take me back to different times in my life; primary school, art college at Bristol, our first house near Bradford on Avon right up to our present life here in North Yorkshire. Throughout this time summers with Swifts have been a constant joy.
The book will bring together my love of painting skies with more intimate drawings of the Swifts in their nest space. I hope the book will share my passion for watching and sketching these remarkable birds and raise awareness of the need to protect them.
I have had a new limited edition print made of my recent Swift studies, scanned from the original painting and approved by me. Now available here http://jonathanpomroy.bigcartel.com/
Not many Swifts around today!
Recent watercolours on location. The Eiders were sketched at Hartlepool. Wonderful to be so close to these gorgeous sea ducks. The drakes were displaying and making their “ahhooooo” call to the females. The light was fantastic for painting.
Then on to Skinningrove where an Eastern Black Redstart has resided on rocks near the jetty since arriving in the Autumn. This is a race of Redstart which should be thousands of miles East of here at the moment. This stunning little bird has entertained hundreds if not thousands of birders over the Winter. This morning I had him mostly to myself. He approached within 4 feet at times. He can be seen in the top left of one picture.
Both paintings for sale on GALLERY page.
I completed this 22″ x 15″ watercolour at Sandsend this morning. Hampered by a biting south easterly wind the conditions were challenging for watercolour en plein air. But the experience is always so rewarding. Fulmars were busy on the cliffs nearby. Hardy souls walking out to or back from the headland peered down at my work from the nearby steps. I enjoy people watching me painting and sometimes wish they were less shy about coming to have a look. That said, I was too busy to talk any sense. Watercolour outside changes fast and dries slowly and demands great concentration.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.