Apart from the vastly improved roads that take us up't north to Coventry'nil, over the last twenty-odd years, the other joy when making the journey has been the increase in the numbers of Red Kites seen along the way. On the stretch of road from the north Hampshire to the M40 it's not unusual to watch many Kites gliding low over the verges in search of carrion. In the past, I've tried to keep mental notes of these majestic birds fresh in my mind and then quickly put them to paper when we arrive. But I have struggled to relive the moment and the end results never really satisfied.
So. On this visit to the old-duck-in-law's, I had pencil and pad at the ready and made sketches as we saw them and good fun it was too. We counted about twelve on this occassion, some encounters were fleeting, others stunning, with one or two flying very close to the dual-carriageway. With eyes on the birds, not the paper I was surprised to see that four pages had soon filled with their shapes, some pleasing others indecipherable. It was impossible to add colour at the time (ok so the roads are not that good), this was added later. Some feel that the whole sketching/painting process is only real if completed in the field. This is ok if practical, but colours always remain fresh in my mind and I like to let them develop a language of their own.
By the way, I did say that Rosie was driving didn't I?
Meanwhile, the frogs continue to amuse. I'll have an update on the frog porn soon (thanks to Paul for the pun).
BRRAAARP! BRAARP! BRARP! AYEEEIIIAYE! BRAAARP! BRAARP! BRARP! AYEEEIIIAYE! Paul McCartney's Froggy bloody Chorus bouncing round my head all night!
TWENTY SIX frogs at it all night - net result more spawn than water!
'Billions of blue blistering barnacles!'
Three Blue Tit (still!), two Great Tit, Wren and Dunnock. Desk-bound, so still only able to make ten minute sketches of birds in the garden. Luckily the weather is rubbish. Good fun though.
BREAKING NEWS ---- Blimey! I've never seen anything like it.
'I think you'd better come and see this' - Rosie had just popped downstairs to make a brew. We only have a glorified bucket for a pond, but it is hosting what I can only describe as a froggy orgy! Watch this space for the latest sketches, if can spare my blushes.
Desk-bound by deadlines, opportunities for getting out and about recently have been virtually non-existent, apart from a satisfying session of rhodo burning in Thatcher's Copse (dreadful name for a lovely wood!) on sunday. So sketching opportunities have been reduced to that of recording activities in the garden.
The main highlight has been watching a male blue tit courting his beau. With wings a constant quiver he dashed, dandied and fussed about her, with sweet cascading notes flowing around the rowan tree. Unimpressed she lead him a merry dance, but still he chased her. This pair have been with us for a while now, so it was nice to watch the development of their bonding.
With steam emanating from my old 'pooter as it faithfully laboured to save yet another massive file I had created, I chose to make a very quick sketch of his efforts. During which I noticed a second male watching nearby. And when the hen flew off over the house with our boy in close attendence, the dark horse followed also, keeping a discreet distance! Beware the third party my friend - Da Da Daaa!
We've been delighted by the frequent visits of a wren to our garden this winter. Today, Valentine's day, there were two, let romance be unbounded!
One kept to the usual routine of sneaking in and out of the ivy leaves. The other landed onto the shed roof and after an anxious stretch up to look about dashed like Speedy Gonzales across the roofing felt. The next second it had squeezed itself through a gap at the top of the door and popped into the shed. Fearing that it might bash itself on the glass, I prepared myself to go down and open the door to release it. The fear was unfounded as it became clear that the little troglodyte was on a mission, busily inspecting spider's webs for tit bits. Eventually our guest left via a hole at the base of the door - in through the top, out through the bottom.
Hopefully during this shopping trip it also made note of a few snug places to set up a nest for the summer.
Scattered like tiny WWII pillboxes, the sentinels of the field kept a watchful eye on the skies, themselves and us. We counted ten harey lumps hunckered down into the ground hardly moving, only occasionally taking the odd nibble of grass. Activity was considerably less compared to last weeks debauchery. It was perishingly cold again, maybe too cold for excessive running around and definately not the weather for any unnecessariness!
After a most welcome mug of coffee and a chunk of almond chocolate, we settled down to some sketching. Then from the right another hare appeared and ran straight to the nearest resting one. It stood facing the other, if not in a threatening manner, undoubtedly within the others personal space. Eventually the resting hare rose, slowly strecthed it's legs and with the interloper in close attendance made their way towards another of the seated hares. It was impossible to tell if they were male and female, but the newcomer ran alongside the other behaving as if it was a suitor. They soon reached the third hare, again indulging in a face-off with each other and again the sitting hare stood up. This time a spot of half-hearted boxing took place making it impossible to keep up with who was who. The outcome of this was that two hares wandered off and the other ran to another seated hare, where the same behaviour was repeated and repeated again with a fifth hare, each encounter ending in the same manner.
It was difficult to work out what all this was about, however, we had noted a number of other hares resting in adjacent fields to the main 'boxing' arena. Could these be immature males, watching and learning from the sidelines? The interloper certainly had the look of a young buck playing-the-field, rushing into a settled scene and stirring things up. Indeed the episode finished with a pair of hares loping off into the distance, over the hill and out of sight. Maybe he got lucky.
So, forget the Leveson inquiry, if it's intrigue, sex and scandal you are after, follow the Leveret investigations.
The sun was bright, the sky was blue, not even a cloud to spoil the view, but it was monkeys, brass monkeys in my heart! Never mind that is was perishingly cold, a hare is not just for Boxing Day it's for life and we there ring-side seat ready for the main bout, top prize the Meon Valley belt.
Tucked into the hedge we counted seven hares loosely grouped at the top of the field, most were resting, nibbling or grooming their impossibly long ears, but one pair was sparring. We watched as they began a frenetic interweaving dance, punctuated by sessions of duffing-up - wonderfully endearing and very amusing, just what we had come out to witness. His antics appeared to have the desired effect and the Jill gave him the 'come up and see me sometime' nod. To be frank, he wasn't that good at it! Although he humped energetically away for about twenty minutes, most of his efforts were well wide of the mark. Eventually, whether more by luck than judgement the Jack had his Geoff Hurst moment - 'they think it's all over. It is now' and with a wiggle of her tail and nose in the air she loped off, it certainly was all over.
Sketches and notes of all these activities were frantically made, most of which are too raunchy to post here and would result in a knock at the door by the local constabulary. So, I will only post some of the less shocking sketches for now, but our appetite is well and truely whetted, who knows what we'll post once all the hare bears start up.
We spotted a lone long-tailed tit in the garden last night. This situation always seems wrong to us and makes the world feel unbalanced - these little chaps need to be in gangs! After the coldest night of the winter, we were relieved to see it zipping around the garden this morning, but still by itself. So I've posted a lonely heart advert with portrait (ignore the yellow one, he already has pals) in the hope that other long-tailed tits read this blog.
Cute chick, non-smoker, gsoh, bit of a babe, with exteremely long tail, likes blowing raspberries. Looking for flock to have fun with.
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