After the fun and excitement of last weekends show at Titchfield Haven, this week, it was nose firmly back to the grindstone. Working on interpretation paintings for Cow Green Resevoir and grabbing any moment while the washes dried to paint the garden birds.
It's starting to feel more like autumn/winter, so it won't be long before the Blackcaps are back and feeding on the fatballs - providing the Starlings leave some morsels for them.
We were able to get out and about a little last week. A morning meeting over in the New Forest gave us the opportunity to have a mooch later on in the woods. Tantany Woods is one of our favoured places and after a cracking pasty lunch bought from the Brockenhurst bakery, we were out exploring these open forest woods. Greeting us was the 'chacking' & 'seeping' calls of winter thrushes, a scan through the berry ladened Holly Trees unveiled Fieldfares, Redwings and Mistle Thrushes - a pleasing start to our visit and a sure sign that winter's cold clasp would may soon be upon us.
As we made our way deeper into the woods, apart from a background drone of helicopters there was a deadening silence hanging in the air. For some time now we had wanted to look at fungi, not with any conviction of putting names to them, but just to enjoy them. We tracked down a few among the fallen and rotting Beeches & Oaks, giving them original names based on their colour. We soon felt expert in the field of mycology, throwing around science such as 'there's a white one' and 'ooh! pink that's nice'...you get the picture. However, it was the tiny ones that really appealed. Candel Snuff was one fungus we did know and closer examination revealed a bizarre, surrealist landscape of grotesque sculptures, where giant spiders roam. As I sketched the scene, I noticed small movements in the leaf litter; a quick look showed that they were made by Wood Crickets - a new species for us (as far as I recall).
Eventually a few birds came out of their hiding and deigned to visit us. I couldn't resist painting a Wren as it flitted amongst the roots of the fallen trees - probably hoping to find a Wood Cricket.
We walked on and out onto a New Forest lawn, munched down by the ponies. Again few birds were in evidence, but we were surprised to find Devilsbit Scabious and Saw-wort still in flower. By now the light and warmth had faded from the day telling us that we had to rejoin the ratrace - soon found on the M27!
Looming deadlines and work overload have kept me honest and at my desk for the last few days. They have prevented me from getting out and about much - not even being able to get over and play with the delightful Blandford Otters. Nevertheless, I was determined to keep up with the sketching momentum I had built up of late. Therefore, I decided that the first half-hour of each working day would be spent trying to capture the avian activities of 'our' garden birds on paper. My idea was to give myself a time-limit, to make me work very quickly and thus learn how to gather as much information about the light and birds, without the images becoming pedantic. Generally, I was quite pleased with the way it was all turning out.
This morning I looked out and noticed the usual suspects rousing themselves for the rigours of the day. Blue Tits, Goldfinches and Blackbirds were all posing nicely for their portraits to be painted. My pencil was poised to start, when a handsome male Great-spotted Woodpecker stole their limelight, flying in and landing briefly on the Birch Tree. He allowed just enough time for me make one rapid drawing, before undulating away stage left. I was reasonably happy that I had captured him on paper and while the moment was still alive in my mind, I kept drawing, painting and adding surrounding elements to the page. By the time I had completed the page, the half-hour was up, compelling me to get the nose back-to-the-grindstone.
Couldn't help posting a few more pages from yesterday's encounter with otters and other friends of the river bank.
Our run of bad luck with seeing beasties had to come to an end soon, surely...... So it was with confidence that we set off with friends to Blandford, to watch wild otters - in the daytime!
We arrived at the River Stour, wandered around, encountering kingfishers, little egrets and grey wagtails. All very nice, but no otters. We bumped into a local chap who informed us that he had just seen two further along the river at the weir, just ten minutes ago! We dashed off expectantly, but to no avail. Then the heavens opened and it chucked it down.....eventually it abaited and the search resumed. We met many other locals who enthusiastically retold their otter stories. We listened politely, but the portents were there, another opportunity missed! Blarst!
And then in the blink-of-an-kingfisher's-eye, it was there right in front of us - astonishing, one of nature's shyest creatures doing ottery things without a care in the world.
For the next hour or so we watched, sketched & photographed this confiding beast. It mainly spent it's time fishing and very good at it, it was too, catching numerous bullheads. Occasionally stopping to have a look at it's growing audience, at one point just ten feet away from us! Eventually it was joined by a larger dog otter, who quickly had a few joice words with the youngster. And then they were gone.
It was clear that the local people are proud of their otters and it was a privilage to share these trusting otters with them. I only hope that we don't betray their trust.....
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.