Yup! All very lovely, but I wouldn't have minded a bit of 'sun, sun, sun here it comes' George Harrison - a Beatle, before it all goes brown.
The signs of ensuing mellowness have been evident in our garden, with a steady flow of chiffchaffs and willow warblers, flitting through the yellowing leaves of the silver birch. And a brief but welcome visit by a wheatear.
Elsewhere, autumn's growing hold on the countryside has been clearly evident. We enjoyed watching a bundle of yellow wagtails, busily weaving among a group of cattle. Dashing and snapping at flies disturbed by nonchalant bovine munching.
I love Beacon Hill and I particularly delight in it's colour and beauty at this time of year. But after an hours fruitless trundling up and down it's steep slopes in search of silver-spotted skippers, I was convinced that escalators would be a fine addition to the landscape.
The skippers were eventually tracked-down. The peculiar thing about them is, that although watching them is good value, their emergence, along with that of the brown hairstreak heralds the end of the butterfly season and as such the summer. This feeling was underlined by a steady stream of swallows and house martins passing overhead, enroute to warmer climes. A red kite drifted by as well, which reminds me!......
.......As is the way with books, the publication of the red kite book has drifted and should now be out for Christmas. The delay however, has given me the opportunity to add a couple more paintings to the book. So it should be a corker when it comes off the press. Or something like that!!!! We've also contributed a number of paintings to an insect book being written by Andrew Tyzack - director of The Land Gallery More of that later.
Other projects have been steaming away, we've been busy putting calendars together along with other new Tatty products and these will be going into the shop section of our site in the blink of a hare's eye.
Oh yes and if you have the chance, please come and see us at the Keyhaven - Lymington bird event on Sunday 16th. Details on the Hampshire Wildlife Trust website.
AND we dropped in to watch the hares for a while. Mostly they were in loafing mode, pottering about the big field nibbling and grooming. Perfect for leisurely painting and shape collecting. The height of the winter barley is beginning to make it a little harder to make out the 'harey lumps' in the field, but it has also accentuated areas of the crop where the hares have chosen to graze. The favoured patches are distinctly shorter in stature and are a slightly different tone of green.
I think the local humans are used to coming across this daft couple staring intently at a field and now pass us by with a cheery wave. This time, I heard a car coming and waved to the occupant as it went by, I then heard it stopping and two things crossed my mind, the first that the driver was pulling up for a chat and the second that it was a good thing for him to stop because Rosie was sat in the middle of lane sketching flowers.
It turned out that the gentleman was the estate farmer and a very interesting conversation ensued. He told us of some of the background to the area and the farming methods employed. The key factor in there being such a good number of hares present, is that they are not shot and apart from having to get out of the way of the odd tractor, they are left pretty well undisturbed. As we chatted a red kite flew low over the big field punctuating the idea that modern farming and wildlife can make good bedfellows.
At the nearby copses we pootled about looking mainly at the flora. Carpets of wood anemone and dog's mercury prevailed, with the anemones giving an impression of patches of freshly fallen snow. Peering closer we picked out the new shoots of Solomon's seal and the tiny flowers of the aptly named townhall clock or moschatel. Chiffchaffs, blackcaps and a garden warbler celebrated their successful migration from winter quarters with bursts of melodic song, well maybe not in the case of the chiffchaff, but he was happy. A 'pitchoo' call, drew our attention to a marsh tit, as we watched it was joined by two others, all three carrying soft material and taking it into a nest box. Not seen that before.
Making our way back to Beacon Hill for a coffee, we noticed two red kites circling low over the watercress beds at Warnford. With a screech of brakes, we pulled off the road and bundled out the car to enjoy these superb birds at close quarters. Sadly an unnatural gap in the primary feathers of one of the birds, suggested that not all landowners in the area have the same enlightened regard for wildlife as the gentleman we met earlier in the day.
With deadlines conveniently juggled we managed to contrive some time to be out and about this week - destination harebears. Arriving earlier than normal at their field our first task was to pour ourselves a mug of medicinal coffee. At first it all appeared very peaceful, the hares relaxing in their usual locations, but within a whisker's twitch all things can change and a calm scene can quickly transform to 'carnalage'! I'm not sure what the hare equivalent is of 'come on over big boy', but first one doe gave it to her beau, followed swiftly by another doe to hers and after a few rounds of boxing, the towel was well and truely thrown in. For a while the scene was similar to that of recent activities in our pond, but not so wet. Pleasantries were short in duration but frequent. Once unnecessariness' were complete peace broke out in the form of some indifferent grazing interspersed with periods of grooming, which continued until the next twinkle shone in her eye! This cycle of events continued throughout our time with them. We were both able to make useful sketches, but only between the moments when our eyes were not blushfully adverted. Exhausting stuff and we were only watching (is there such a thing as 'hare dogging'?)!!
To recover we popped over to a nearby wood, only to discover that there were Wildlife Trust volunteers tidying it up. So much for it being quieter during the week. Onto woods number two then, all was quiet here and a very pleasant couple of hours were passed looking for signs of spring. Rosie painted sweet violets, accompanied by a bee-fly. I mooched around watching a chiffchaff, a lot of brimstones, commas, peacock, red admiral and queen bumble bees.
And onto Beacon Hill. Here mooching activities were resumed. Nuthatches greeted us with a fanfare of calls, a red kite drifted over at treetop height and a pair of bullfinches slipped silently through the hazel coppice. Brimstone butterflies were in abundance, with males patrolling manically along the pathways and females basking in the glorious sunshine. Making our way back to the carpark I caught up with a couple of bee-flies, sporting their fine long noses. All signs that spring is starting to sprung with force.
Finally as we pulled into our close I noticed a deal of gull activity just over the houses, looking closer we picked out a red kite flying among their ranks being comprehensively escorted out of the area.
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).
Sunday's weather was too good to be spent around the house, hence the day was devoted to exploring Beacon Hill area of the Meon Valley for Hares and Kites. Less ramblings, more pages from the sketchbook for this post!
The morning Herald!
We looked too hard for the Hares, they were only a few feet away from us all the time, but sneaky with it though.
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.