A huge arrival of Swifts today. Large numbers had been held up by the recent cool weather. With the change to warm weather the ‘flood gates’ have opened and the sky is full of Swifts. Pairs are reforming in the nest boxes giving spectacular views as the approach inches from my face. I sat outside on the lawn and drew directly with my squirrel mop brush loaded with sepia watercolour. Such a joy to study that wonderful shape again and to hear them ‘screaming’ through a cloudless blue sky.
With the temperature at 3c and a very gusty onshore Northerly wind bringing sleet showers I thought that today’s en plein air hazards were clear cut. Always expect the unexpected when painting outside and never wander far from your painting! 22″x15″ watercolour of Whitby from Sandsend. Some wonderful skies today. Message me if you want a watercolour by me and a female Mallard!
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
This is a new large watercolour. Measuring 27″x 21″ I wanted to show the moors in their winter garb of ochre and sepia on what some would consider a drab winter day. For me, this is when the moors are at their best and they still look like this when the breeding birds return. The bubbling song of the Curlew joins the sound of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Snipe, Meadow Pipit and Red Grouse to form a very distinct moorland dawn chorus. I have avoided adding any birds to this composition. For those who know the moors, I hope you can stare at the vast sky and hear the upland birds and the sigh of wind through grass and heather.
To reserve this picture please email email@example.com
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.