Wednesday, 27 April 2011

River Birds

Birds along the Severn (Caersws), linnets bathing and a yellow wagtail amongst highlights.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Longer evenings and warmer temperatures now, means painting for longer and in new areas that have been inaccessible all winter. Plynlimon, our highest mountain in Mid Wales has taken much of my attention recently. Not so much a classic mountain with any discernable summit but a high sprawling plateau of boggy wilderness. A desert (easy to get lost on) in the centre of Wales, only one teeming with life, subtle character and a variety of discoveries on closer inspection. To the North West is Glaslyn, a lake cut off by steep rocky gorges on three sides. This gives it the strange appearance of floating, especially when it reflects a clear blue sky. There is enough heather here to make the area one of the few good places I know to see red grouse in Mid Wales as well as Hen Harrier. On this day a Peregrine was busy seeing off any buzzards or kites that dared fly through the gorge.

Above, an A1 sketch made at a later date, same conditions of clear blue sky and lengthening afternoon shadows. Preparation for a more rendered studio piece of the same size.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Printing Plovers

These prints are based on drawings of the Plovers I've been watching this week. The top one is of a pair of little ringed plovers which have been busy dancing their mating dance along the shingle banks of the Severn at Caersws. The second image shows one of my favourite birds, the golden plover. I first saw these on a moorland ridge above my house in Carno and I've watched them every winter since, always in the same place amongst mossy hummocks and acid grass. This week was the first time I've seen them in spring with the dark black face and bib of their summer plumage. I hope they might breed. I stayed with them all day in really hot sunshine; mainly they stayed still tucked into the grass, disappearing completely when disturbed by a passing jet. In the evening they became more active, grooming like (this one in the foreground is shown mid preen) then feeding and squabbling - By 19.00 when I left, they seemed to be preparing for something, maybe to roost in a different location.

I'm really into this method of watercolour printing at the moment; It tends to keep the freshness of my original sketches whilst allowing me to use a strong palette - I'm hoping it will help improve my use of colour in the field which I really struggled with on the golden plovers - many subtle yellows and greys.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Little Ringed Plover Return

Top right: digging scrape

Courtship dance

Found Little Ringed Plover in the same place on the Severn as last year; a wide gravel bank on the inside of meander. For a long time I watched a single bird, a male I think (with more black on the face?), constantly on the move, stalking invertebrate (the rare 5spot ladybird recently discovered only here), its large eye bent to the ground as it ran in rapid whirring sprints. Occasionally it flew up and around the bank vocalising - a display. Occasionally it would sit in a favourite spot wings half open and rub its belly through the shingle, craning its neck and lifting its tail or pick pebbles from the indent; I guessed this would be a scrape for any prospective partner to lay in. At this point it was joined by a female and the courtship began. Chasing the female in a fast low sprint the male spread it's white flanks so the feathers stuck out beyond the dark upper body. The female would stop and allow him to approach and in doing so he would grow in height, pivoting his body upright and straightening the neck, creeping closer on tiptoes he would prepare to mount, jump and more often than not miss as the female steps out of reach, initiating another chase. Eventually the pair succeeded to mate a couple of times while I was there, the male returning to the scrape after each time.