To view all SENEGAL FIELDWORK consecutively please click on this link. I’ll start another ‘category’ for studio work… choose from ‘categories in sidebar.

arctic terns shetland

Towards the end of our time on Shetland we got 2 days of sun. Great to have pitched up at a bay where there was an arctic tern colony.  They were sitting on young chicks and eggs both down on the beach and in the boulder field above.
One of the great things from the trip was having the air full of seabird sound… here the electric sore throat fizzings of the terns (Shetland name apparently ‘Tirrick’, which does a much better job of conjuring the bird than its English name). The thoughtful ‘poo-weet’ of ringed plover (don’t know what the Shetlanders do for that one).  I think the plover were all with well grown young.
Manic ‘kleeping’ of oystercatchers chasing each other around in parties and nearly tripping over their bills in head down piping contests. We saw a bonxie strike one down from one of the groups as they flew round the bay. Clobbering it to the ground, didn’t see how and then bludgeoning it with its bill with the other oystercatchers mobbing it for another 20 minutes or so whilst it plucked and ate a good portion of the bird.

arctic terns - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5686 – arctic terns – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic terns - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5685 – arctic terns – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic tern & ringed plover - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5684 – arctic tern & ringed plover – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic tern, ringed plover & oystercatchers - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5683 – arctic tern, ringed plover & oystercatchers – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic terns - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5682 – arctic terns – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic terns - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5680 – arctic terns – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

arctic terns - shetland - ink pen -  A4 sketchbook

5679 – arctic terns – shetland – ink pen – A4 sketchbook

otters – shetland

We had 2 days with good viewings of otters. The first looking for them on the falling tide on Fetlar. My sketching falling apart with the excitement of seeing them. There is a shape shifting aspect to the otter, changing personality rapidly. So the initial struggle to hang a four legged creature on the page using an ink line is challenge enough in itself…let alone trying to capture this change in character.
With time for the images to settle I seem to then do a little better…otter - shetland - ink pen -  A4 sketchbook

5670 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A4 sketchbook
I think I draw this journal type page in the campervan in the evening… and the following morning there was a new otter to practise on & by this time we were on Yell….. swimming across the bay where we’d spent the night.

otter - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5669 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

otter - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5668 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

otter - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5671 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

otter - shetland - ink pen -  A5 sketchbook

5674 – otter – shetland – ink pen – A5 sketchbook

My last view was of on on the west mainland, again from the campervan as it was starting to get dark. Susan wondered what the Arctic terns were all making such a fuss about, hovering over the mouth of the burn. I looked down and there was the broad backside of an otter shambling down into the sea. Disappearing and then a bobbing slicked head appearing a few yards out… free of the, clicking call, bickering bills.

gannets – bass rock

gannets - bass rock - ink pen & gouache -  38 x 56 cms

5600 – gannets – bass rock – ink pen & gouache – 38 x 56 cms

Back from 3 weeks in Scotland. First the ‘John Busby seabird drawing course’, the 25th year it has run and the first one without John. I think he would have been happy to look down on us. It felt like the group of ‘students’ gelled quickly and we four ‘tutors’ were more actively leading activities… warm up exercises, Betty Edwards type things like continuous line, blind drawing, left hand etc. All seemed really healthy.

Then on to the Shetland isles for 2 weeks.
I’ll try and get to a series of posts about the trip….
Starting with gannets on the Bass.

gannets - bass rock - gouache -  38 x 56 cms

5599 – gannets – bass rock – gouache – 38 x 56 cms

300615- Bass
hanging. braced fore-wing. unders shaded. diving mask tapered-goggles. arched rump. saw tailed fan flails down. flanked by paddling black marigolds. shorter inners.
deep bruised sea as wind gets up. volcano law another world.
black thumb, bulbous yellow, flailing hand, wiped moustache.
cloud masses rise out from land to cielo blue. above rock ledges teeming, feathers ruffling, mad making guttural growling honk.

gannets - bass rock - gouache -  38 x 56 cms

5604 – gannets – bass rock – gouache – 38 x 56 cms

gannets - bass rock - gouache -  38 x 56 cms

5605 – gannets – bass rock – gouache – 38 x 56 cms

 

Wallasea Island RSPB/SWLA project – short-eared owl printing

short-eared owl & earth movers - wallasea island - monotype -  50 x 38 cms

5582 – short-eared owl & earth movers – wallasea island – monotype – 50 x 38 cms

More owl printing, jumping up in size for this one.

 

 

 

short-eared owl monoprinting

short=eared owl & digger - wallasea island - monotype -  28 x 35 cms

5576 – short=eared owl & digger – wallasea island – monotype – 28 x 35 cms

Unusual day where I managed to persist with the same ingredients for 3 monoprints… usually ink misbehaves, or the press does something untoward…. but today free to just try different things. Using small rollers, brushing and playing with the balance of the three colours.
Somehow replicating the freedom that I might have when scribbling in the sketchbook, except that in the studio there is a sense of time standing still and the moment morphs.

short=eared owl & digger - wallasea island - monotype -  28 x 35 cms

5577 – short=eared owl & digger – wallasea island – monotype – 28 x 35 cms

short=eared owl & digger - wallasea island - monotype -  28 x 35 cms

5578 – short=eared owl & digger – wallasea island – monotype – 28 x 35 cms

Wallasea Island RSPB/SWLA project

dumper, bulldozer & digger - wallasea island - gouache -  36 x 48 cms

dumper, bulldozer & digger – wallasea island – gouache – 36 x 48 cms

Not long back from Wallasea Island RSPB/SWLA project. Earth dug out from under London has been shipped to the Essex coast not far from Southend. It is being used to raise the level of the ‘island’ A huge area raised by between 3 and 5 metres. Sculpted to create lagoons, pans, ditches etc this should provide a home for lots of natural history as well as alleviating flood risk.
The major earth moving has already been done. It would have been interesting to watch the earth being taken off the barges via massive cranes and a sophisticated conveyer belt system but that stage was over.  We did watch massive earth moving vehicles roving around, mainly digging ditches where I watched and then taking that earth up to the raised area and levelled by bulldozers. Took quite a bit of time to get the head around the nature of the various machines and what their tasks were.

digger & dumper - wallasea island - ink pen & gouache -  36 x 48 cms

digger & dumper – wallasea island – ink pen & gouache – 36 x 48 cms

earth movers & digger - wallasea island - gouache -  36 x 48 cms

earth movers & digger – wallasea island – gouache – 36 x 48 cms

Plenty of natural history interest despite the noisy industrial processes… lots of singing corn & reed buntings.

digger crane, gulls & rape - wallasea island - acrylic -  48 x 36 cms

digger crane, gulls & rape – wallasea island – acrylic – 48 x 36 cms

Gulls milling around the machines, avocets occasionally going over already occupying existing scrapes. Yellow wagtails not long in. Down on the saltings alongside, the pew’ing of redshanks, migrant whimbrel 7 note call, a summer plumage bar-tailed godwit. Hen & Marsh harrier, a very distant rough legged buzzard hovering.

short-eared owl & digger - wallasea island - acrylic -  48 x 36 cms

short-eared owl & digger – wallasea island – acrylic – 48 x 36 cms

The real nature highlight though was a succession of great viewings of short-eared owls. At least 2 birds still around.  We also watched a very tawny barn owl one evening.

short-eared owl  - wallasea island - acrylic -  48 x 36 cms

short-eared owl – wallasea island – acrylic – 48 x 36 cms

Artistically I knew I wanted to spend time trying to understand how to distill the machinery so that I might be able to draw it alongside the nature with some kind of fluency… that accounted for the first day (2 & 1/2 days was our allotted time).
Then deciding to try out a stencil and foam roller approach to making imagery… not easy with a brisk easterly snatching at the stencils…. not sure about the results but the process of cutting blocks outside was interesting and quickly broke up the picture space in ways I wouldn’t have achieved with regular painting.

short-eared owl - wallasea island - ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

short-eared owl – wallasea island – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

short-eared owl - wallasea island - ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

short-eared owl – wallasea island – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

mini meadow 2014 – other insects

I’ve already covered the bumblebees in separate post

Butterflies

common blue butterfly  – first seen on 27th may feeding on the cut-leaved cranesbill. (see the yellow rattle post for more about common blues)
meadow brown on rattle pods -  ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

meadow brown on rattle pods – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

Meadow brown & Ringlet – didn’t keep much record of numbers but I think there were a lot more around than the previous year. First meadow brown on 12th june. first ringlet on 16th june
Gatekeeper – plenty around, I think of them as mainly on brambles and marjoram June/July but no good records of numbers or dates.
Peacock
Small tortoiseshell – steadily more of them around it seems, no caterpillars seen despite our neighbouring nettle beds.  Maybe I need to do some cutting back of nettles to encourage fresh growth which is what I think they like.
Red Admiral – plenty seen but no particular records kept
Comma – seen regularly but no records, usually basking on bare soil.
Large skipper –  on 22/24 june
Small skipper – First seen 12 june.  I don’t think there were as many as previous year… I’d guess at maximum count of 10 or so (but this is just on the 4 x 4 metre mini meadow).. often nectaring or sunning  (or establishing territory?) on ragwort.

small skipper on bristly oxtongue -  ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

small skipper on bristly oxtongue – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

small skipper - garden, bristol -

small skipper on rattle seedpods – 2014-06-26

small skipper - garden, bristol -

small skipper on rattle pods 2014-06-26

Brimstone – only really noticed in the early days of spring.
Whites – no serious notes made… there is that time in august/september when they seem to floating around like blown paper scraps…
Speckled wood – first of year on 15th april…

Moths –
No moth trapping this year and only really paying any attention to the more showy species.
Seemed like a lot more cinnabar moths including some egg laying on the ragwort. I’ve a note on them for the first time on 14th June… and garden tigers the same day (lots around the 22nd june). We seem to have lots of the tigers … whizzing frenetically around quite high on summer evenings… last year I managed to see one gradually narrow its orbit until it found a female resting on an elder leaf, presumably transmitting pheromones that he was locking on to.
Only one or two burnet moths and no sign of egg laying.

 garden, bristol -

burnet moth – 2014-06-22

Dragonflies –

broad-bodied chaser - allotment bristol -

broad-bodied chaser – allotment bristol – 2014-06-12 18.35

2 female broad-bodied chasers on 12 june.

Lots of southern hawkers emerged from the pond along with azure and large red damsels as well as common darters. These don’t really feature on the ‘meadow’. Migrant hawkers  are over the allotments from august (?) on.

large red damselfy emergence -  gouache -  A4 sketchbook

large red damselfy emergence – gouache – A4 sketchbook

large red damselfy emergence -  ink pen -  A4 sketchbook

large red damselfy emergence – ink pen – A4 sketchbook

mini meadow 2014 – birds

Highlight of the year birdwise was this cuckoo on 1st may. Seemed extraordinary… in continuous rain I kept thinking I could hear cuckoo from the studio, but couldn’t believe it… thought it might be someone playing around with speakers. Took a very long time to track it down to the top of beech tree, well hidden in the canopy. It was there all day, presumably grounded by the rain. With so much focus on African migrants earlier in the year it seemed all the more amazing that this bird would probably have been in the Congo a few weeks earlier.

cuckoo singing in beech in heavy rain -  ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

cuckoo singing in beech in heavy rain – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

{id} swifts -  ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

swifts – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

swifts arrived over house on 3rd may
I trot out to look each time the herring gulls make a particular alarm call that says there is a raptor overhead. Usually it is a buzzard coasting over… peregrines have usually shot straight through with a flock of pigeons floundering in their wake…but occasionally watched spiralling high.  Just once (or twice?) a kite drifting eastwards towards Bath in a purposeful kind of way.
Surprisingly little that I can think of to note down about the smaller birds. Finches have deserted our bird table… I did have one lovely eyeful of greenfinch male feeding on borage… zinging green, yellow & blue but never making it to the paintbrush.
Goldfinches are ever present at least in the ears… often up in the tops of beech, birch or larch… also making use of the great variety of seeding plants up on the allotments.
Willow warblers make their fleeting appearance in early april (6th i noted), coinciding with the air drizzling green.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are around… Blackcaps all year now.
Green woodpecker is often on the allotment and I’m nurturing ant hills for their benefit. Great spots are in the garden.

green woodpecker -  ink pen -  A6 sketchbook

green woodpecker – ink pen – A6 sketchbook

We still have masses of sparrows, though there is a season (late summer?) where they disappear and I think we may have lost them… but then they come back in mid winter (?).

mini meadow 2014 – bumblebees

31 Mar 2014 buying the bee id app. By NatureGuides Ltd.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/bumblebees-britain-ireland/id657077156?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8

having seen boldly marked bumblebee this morning. Seems like it is Bombus hypnorum the tree bumblebee. One of the 6 commonest spp. Probably a queen… very black abdomen with white tip… ginger thorax the most striking feature.

Following on from this I started to get familiar with our regular bees. The app. is really well designed I think and has helped me to learn the basics very quickly.

Buff-tailed (terrestris)–  is probably our commonest bumblebee and it seems like you can see them in any month nowadays…. I watched them on the yellow rattle and where the garden bumblebee (horturum) would whizz from one rattle flower to another (with its tongue lolling) terrestris would be slow moving and I think they had to get to the nectar through the back door… certainly they did with the comfrey flowers (most of which had holes cut in the back to allow access to these bigger shorter tongued bees).  A lumbering bear compared to hortorum.

garden bumblebee (bombus horturum) with tongue hanging

garden bumblebee (bombus horturum) with tongue hanging

early Bombus pascuorum… mainly remember these on comfrey and on the garden plant Nectaroscordum (a garlic type) . They are really distinctive, small and fast moving,  with sulphur yellow bands and the end of the abdomen a hairy egg yolk orange.

I don’t remember seeing many red-tailed (lapidarius)… a big queen throbbing on the outside of the studio…. should have made notes though… can’t be sure there weren’t more.

common carder bumblebee (pascuorum)… probably the second commonest after buff-tailed and they really liked the yellow rattle.

tree bumblebee (hypnorum) was also really common, another one using the back entrance of the comfrey and they were on bramble quite a bit. They also seemed to be round the front of the house a lot (on the street), that is quite a sun trap.

I was never convinced that I’d seen white- tailed (lucorum)… so it seemed like we have 6 species in good numbers. I’ll try and keep better track of when they are active in 2015.  Only seen the odd buff-tail so far (mid feb).

Scan001324

think this must be garden bumblebee on comfrey – 26th may

2014-05-27 09.47.55

carder bumble on rattle

mini meadow 2014 – yellow rattle

Second year of yellow rattle action on the mini meadow.  Proliferated hugely from the previous year. It seemed to do best where there were concentrations of clover. 44C0C77DD87C428DB05D902270DDED6628 Mar 2014 – yellow rattle rife amongst the clover

26th may

26th may

the c. 1metre squared bare patch - 26th may

the c. 1metre squared bare patch- 26th may

I experimented with cutting plugs from the most dense area of rattle and planted them in areas of allotment and garden which wouldn’t be mowed (banks, edge of the pond, the triangular mini meadow in the garden). These took fine…
So then I was left with a bare patch and I sprinkled that with more seed… a lot of birdsfoot trefoil and some wild clary. I think the slugs got the clary but the trefoil took well, Far better than in the areas where it had competition.

birdsfoot trefoil growth

birdsfoot trefoil growth – 26th june

By August I would see common blue butterflies on that little patch every visit, males and females and they were definitely egg laying. Really seemed a graphic example of how to improve an area for a species…get the food plant going and they stick around.
Previously the blues had been passers by (as is the small copper which I’ve now sown some sorrel for… ).
I didn’t get any photos of them on the trefoil but managed this one on ragwort (which seems a good nectaring flower for for them and more so for the small skippers which I see most on the ragwort).

common blue butterfly on ragwort - 5th august

common blue butterfly on ragwort – 5th august

garden bumblebee on yellow rattle - early june

garden bumblebee on yellow rattle – early june

I’ll write another post about the bees.

I harvested a big bag of seeds and I’ve spread those over those areas that I mentioned above that won’t be mowed. The idea is to gradually undermine the coarser grasses and allow more interesting meadow flowers to proliferate.