It wasn't really a new year's resolution, more a notion to look more at what's on the doorstep. It's surprising what is stowed in the too-mundane-to-bother-with file, that really shouldn't be. Many gems are routinely passed-by in the car on the way to what are thought to be more exotic locations further afield.
Out of this thinking (yes, I know, me think? It's just not natural)came a list of subjects that I really ought to get to know better. Some natural, some man-made. Included among the ever-growing list of things to do are birds, mostly common species and a few less so.
Getting to know some of the birds better will be achieved by simply sticking my nose to the window and watching what goes on in the garden. And others by wandering out along the local lanes and seeing what's what.
Two for starters; the good old wren and the common old buzzard.
I've overlooked wren's as a subject for far too long, it might have something to do with the fact that they can be a nightmare to untangle from mist-nets when bird-ringing and have attained a nuisance status in my tiny brain because of this. However, if one visits our garden I now take the chance to watch and paint it, the more I see of them the more fascinating they have become for me.
We found the buzzard about three hundred yards from our house, during a birthday boy stroll this weekend. Normally we see them soaring over the house (an unusual sight in itself a few years past). Discovering one perched on fenceposts that enclosed a horsefield was too good an opportunity to miss. As we watched, it became clear that is wasn't resting, but hunting. Every so often the buzzard flew down to the horse-cropped turf, then back to a post. It wasn't clear if these lunges were successful as we didn't see it returning with any prey in it's talons. But, it was clearly going for any worms drawn to the surface by the heavy plodding of the horses and was using the posts as a vantage point to watch for any movement. I knew that worms and beetles were a big part of a buzzard's diet, but it was the first time I had seen one observing the actions of another beast to inadvertently aid them in catching their lunch.
So normal blog service is nearly resumed, though I still have the odd dream about Orcs. Ranting may return.
It was no good, in spite of my noblest efforts, the twitchitis still courses through my body - maybe a long session of colonic irrigation will flush the nastiness out of me? Whatever the cure, for now I had to sate my avian addiction with a twitch. The form of the temptress this time was a shore lark, a horned lark. Spooky! Perhaps I'm possessed by a little horny devil? Hey, it was only a fifteen mile dash down the motorway to the oysterbeds at Hayling, so why all the angst? There are madder buggers out there than me, yet like Gollum obsession can eat you up - shore lark? County tick my preeeecious.... Crikey, I'm scaring myself now. We only went for a walk in the countryside to look at some nice birdies, not look for a punch-up with the cohorts of Mordor!
So, there we were in the mouth of Sauron's breath..... stop it now and get on with the blog. But there lay the problem. If it's blowing a hoolie at home, then the effect is doubly felt at the oysterbeds, making viewing very uncomfortable and tricky. And so it took a little while to pin the little beauty down. Once we had worked out that the little brown stone tucked-up against some seaweed was indeed the shore lark, we could settle down ourselves and enjoy this little cracker with the tiny horns and improbable yellow face. Mike taking pin-sharp photos with his pin-hole special and me making out-of-focus sketches as normal. Eventually the numbness in my head became greater than usual and the general concensus was 'get thee to a pubbery'. Where ale and hot soup were readily supped - Rosie finally getting her bowl of soupy!
It had been too blustery to paint in the field. So once at home I quickly added some washes to the pencil sketches and put the 'can't see the lark for the geeses' painting together - it came from the moment I imagined I was at two feet distance from the lark, yet still couldn't see it!
Oh yes, I finally caught up with some Mergansers.
For a fuller account from a less confused mind, I suggest you take gander at http://chalkhilldigital.info/2012/01/strangers-on-the-shore/
Against my better judgement and the best medical advice available to mankind, I've been a bit twitchy of late. I know it makes me grumpy, I don't get any useful drawings done and it's not as if any of the birds involved were new to me. However, the symptoms were there and off we jolly well had to go, albeit the miles accrued were small and only once did we cross the border to foreign counties. But it was ugly twitching in it's rawest form, jostling with fellow twitchy idiots; we junkanoo'd with the junco, we paso dobled with the Spaniard, drank vodka with the Sibe and roughed it with a leggy buzzard - I felt dirty but fulfilled.
With pangs of guilt running through my veins and the need for a self-rigtheous birdy jesture, our next venture was to the local creeks in search of mergansers to draw. It was cold, damp, windy and we saw....bugger all!
Still, I'm now cured of all that unnecessary nastiness. Or am I? Shore lark over on Hayling......mmmm?
Actually, we had a very nice time, catching up with old pals and we saw some very smart birds.
If you're expecting words of wisdom from Dan and Rosemary you may be sadly disappointed. However, if you want to keep up to date with our current projects then pick up the feed at the top of this column.