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219‐6982 pond overview garden, bristol ink pen A4 sketchbook
Effort at showing the stage of development of the pond… a snapshot of whats happening in and around the pond in early april… but its one of things a snapshot can’t do…. unless you make a Hockney ‘joiner’. More reason to make the detailed studies so that I can simplify better in attempting the overview.
Components are… soft rush in its new landbound location (used to be in baskets in water).. water plantain having survived the winter is now starting to get its leaves above the surface. Marsh marigold just opening its flowers… tadpoles have now spread over the whole pond (where they had just been in shallow end). Cuckoo flowers and celandines have been flowering for a while. Duckweed multiplying…the shepherds crooks of harts tongue ferns unfurling surrounded by a bed of primroses flowering profusely.
More effort at gaining fluency with describing these lawn type plants. From a distance they form a pretty uniform green turf, but under scrutiny …. how to describe the depth of their growth forms?… just repeated looking and sketching and gradually understanding a bit more. After last years patchy effort at recording the way the mini meadow developed I know I’ll be glad that I paid attention to this early development.
18‐6981 salad burnet, self heal & mystery umbellifer garden, bristol ink pen A6 sketchbook
daisies, self heal & clover
Getting a better look at the male newt… seeing how deep the tail is and the lower portion a milky luminous pale blue with half spots of orange along the bottom. The crenellated crest stretching well up the back. Leopard spotting dark brown on fawn? Coming up for air he exposes his black spotted, orange belly.
Seeing 4 newts chasing each other around the deep end of the pond mid afternoon. Not able to watch immediately but later sketching a couple of them. The female very fat around the middle and has a swollen lipped effect.
The male much more dramatically marked with big spots, which are especially pronounced on the lower tail where they are against a luminous bluish pale background. He chased the female around and would suddenly dart ahead of her and twist his tail around at 90 degrees with a threatening kind of swish. Must be impressive from her perspective.
Pond also teeming with activity. There really are more than a thousand tadpoles in there, now starting to move into the deep end but mainly gathered in huge shoals in the shallows… mouthing wordlessly as they wriggle and writhe.
Water plantain survived the winter and is just starting to break the surface. Marsh marigold leaves gradually fill out.
A newt briefly showing itself… I thought I saw another more boldly marked one but was called away and by the time I got back it had hidden itself. The one sketched here was marbled with dark spots up to its goaty eye.
Since expanding the pond and introducing the regular feed of freshwater (from the back of the studio roof) there have been many more pond skaters… at least 10 at the moment.
Adult frogs are now scarce but odd ones and twos.
29‐6973 frog ink pen A6 sketchbook
29‐6972 newt ink pen A6 sketchbook
171‐6974 pond skater ink pen A6 sketchbook
18‐6969 allotment behind garden ink pen A4 sketchbook
Under the back fence the dog rose cuttings taking and 2 of them ‘layered’ over the winter seem to be doing well. Leeks that went in around August last year patchy (they’re in shade of fence and very wet ground) but good eating and some are thickening up well.
Compost bins recently moved onto beds to let ‘goodness’ go straight into the growing grounds.
Under the rowan Aiko’s rosemary seems to be doing well.. Chives and marjoram alongside. Borage showing big flower buds. A mullein next to one of the four echinops that went in last autumn.
A couple of rows of peas put in on saturday protected against the slugs and pigeons.
Starting to sketch some of the minutiae of the allotment and meadow. I want to be able to better describe larger spaces, which means being able to simplify small things within that space…. and describe changes with time, which at the moment means describing things that can easily be missed because they are so small, and to a casual glance might seem dull.
18‐6971 dove's-foot? cranesbill, lady's bedstraw? ink pen A6 sketchbook
18‐6970 salad burnet and umbellifer sp.? ink pen A6 sketchbook
18‐6967 common spotted orchid, yellow rattle & plantain garden, bristol ink pen A6 sketchbook
All artwork on hold for a month whilst I attended to pressing domestic matters…. lovely spring conditions but no time for sketching.
Last year there were just 2 common spotted orchids (second year that I’ve watched them come up in the same place) on the ‘mini meadow’… this year I’ve been waiting for their emergence like an anxious father and hoping there might be more. Seeing the first of them last week and then nothing… today I finally saw the second one back in the same place and then realised there was another one immediately alongside. So at least there are three…
I went shaking the dried flowerheads around last autumn to make sure none of their miniscule seeds were wasted. They apparently need to find a particular fungus to germinate.
The yellow rattle has taking hold full strength, thousands of tiny seedlings. They have thickly colonised an area of dense clover. So I’m hoping that they’ll do their stuff and gradually help to allow other species to come on.
214‐6968 yellow rattle amongst clover
The other highlight of the day was a Red kite flying over about 11 o’clock going east.. Third one I’ve seen from the allotment and they’ve all been drifting towards Bath at about the same height. The herring gulls make a particular call when raptors go over…usually its a buzzard but they’ve now alerted me to the kites and last years single osprey on april 6th.
Meanwhile in the pond there are thousands of tadpoles all congregated in the shallow end… I’ve glimpsed newts but they are staying well concealed under leaf litter.
I hung the mini exhibition at prema arts centre in Uley, Gloucestershire yesterday. Pretty much a revamp of the Slimbridge exhibition but I think they look much better in this space. The exhibition doesn’t officially open until 3rd March and isn’t labelled as yet, but if you are in the area it is a good place to visit with tea room etc.
The frogs in the garden pond hit a maximum of 16 back at the weekend. Didn’t seem like the amount of spawn increased hugely.. all of it laid in the shallow end of the pond. Just ones and twos now.
The most unusual sighting of recent days was a peregrine sitting on the school at the back of our allotments. A great vantage point looking over most of Bristol, first time I’ve seen one perched from the house, even flying over I don’t see them that often.
Blackcap song a couple of days ago and blackbird starting to become the backdrop.
Huge leylandii at the base of the allotments, end of our neighbours garden being felled as I write so a lot more light for the allotment and more skyscape from the house.
214‐6892 pond frogs
Not wanting to deviate from focus on Senegal studio work but I do want to get better at posting nature notes… especially once my mini meadow gets going. First UK butterfly for me last w/e. A comma sunning at the end of the garden on Sunday.
Pipistrelle bats were out on tuesday evening… saw something flit by at last light that didn’t look like a bird and went out to check with bat detector…
Frogs started to appear in the pond at the w/e and were up to at least 10 yesterday. Today the first patches of spawn.
Lots of bird song at extremes of day, wren, song thrush (these usually disappear before doing any nesting) and slightly subdued blackbird. A male blackcap has been a regular at the bird table for a few weeks, haven’t noticed him singing yet. Last winter there was a brown headed bird around for months. They seem much more catholic in their tastes nowadays…taking chunks of bread off to a bush to chew on.
Turned colder again now but definitely feels springy.