Workload is such that getting out n' about has been on hold for a bit. So thought I'd post a couple of paintings from the forthcoming Hants Bird Report for 2011 that we have been working on.
The Red Kite book is still evolving - 'rolling a log on the chest of a slave' - sorry went off on an Asterix tangent there. Along with a number of other exciting book projects - 'secrets my preeeciouss' - mind wandering off again, must be time to open a bottle of Rioja.
Ok. So in summary:- Total hours spent looking for ring ouzels this autumn - Too many to shake a stick at.
:- Total hours spent watching said birds - zilch, nadir, nil, zero, bugger all.
:- Total hours wasted looking in bush because I heard one calling from it - too embarrassing to mention.
Liklihood of said chump looking for them again:- high. Though collecting postcards of Victorian statues would probably be more productive.
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.
Apart from Hazel Irvine's verbal inanities that trashed Elbow's contribution to the Olympic closing ceremony, Sunday turned out to be a very pleasant day indeed.
For the first time in ages the weather was decent and we headed off up the Meon Valley to see what's been unfolding in our absence. We pulled into the entrance to the Hampshire Hogs cricket pitch and there to greet us was a sky full of tumbling kites, buzzards and a raven - I've never seen thermals so full in my life! It is still joyous to see kites over a Hampshire downland and I doubt that this feeling will ever fade.
Onto a quick reconnoitre at the 'Big Field', to check the state of play there and at last the crops have been harvested. There was too much of a heat-haze to pick out any hare-bear-ears, so an early morning or evening visit is due soon.
Back to Beacon Hill. To walk out on chalk downland in full flower is a privilage and delight. Clustered bellflower, autumn gentian, marjoram, round-headed rampion, field scabious, eyebright, harebell all added to a wonderful mosaic of colours. Among the flowers, danced chalkhill blue and tiny brown argus butterflies, but sadly we couldn't locate any silver-studded skippers. I hope that we simply missed them and they have not been lost from this site.
Perhaps I should have allowed the mellowness of the day to continue back at home and extended Elbow's sentiment of 'open arms' to overactive gobs, but honestly why do they do it! I'm not normally grumpy.............really!
Well something must be happening somewhere. Before starting work at the coalface this morning, I had a quick look out the studio window (posh name for back bedroom!). With no great expectations of even seeing a sausage - knock-me-down-with-a-featherduster the birch tree was full of chiffchaffs.
Flitting, hovering and generally busying themselves in search of food amongst the leaves. Some where greyish others bright yellow. I quickly collected a page of shapes before they gathered together in one group and moved on to grace another garden. I counted seven at one time, but I suspect there were more.
The birds are the keepers of our secrets.
Apart from getting a right soaking at the Butterfly Conservation event in Longstock at the weekend. We've just come back from leading the first ever eco-dragonfly tour to Slovakia. Very hot out there 38 degrees, superb wildlife, lots to see, eat, drink and last but not least the best of company.
Crikey just when you're trying wind down a little, the adrenalin hits the whirry thing. It went something along the lines of 'how are my red kite illustrations coming along?'..... 'When do you want them by?'....... 'Oh that soon'.....'Ahh!'...... Oh poo! Net result, two days of mayhem and whizzing brushes, equalling fourteen pics painted, scanned and in the post. Ah well, sometimes it goes like that. The book should be out for the Bird Fair - Red Kites - Ian Carter, published by Langford Press.
Still you can't beat a good rootle. I believe it was the Bard that wrote 'There's something rootle in the state of Denmark'. Great stuff! And that's what we've been up to..............................
.........Childing Pink, what's that all about? Answers via pigeon post please.
OOOPS! Fell asleep for a moment there, sorry about that.
Still you can't beat a good furtle - depending on your definition of furtling that is. I think it was Shakespeare that scribed in one of his lesser known plays 'I am that merry wanderer of the forest..... and sometime furtle I and make me smile'. Or perhaps it was Morrissey, always get those two mixed up.
Anyway, in between the wind and rain we've been out a few times in our usual haunts bothering the wildlife. Overall it's been a really odd spring and I suspect an even stranger summer is to come.
'And if it rains all day, call on you, I'll call on you.'
It's as if spring had been put on hold by the constant rainfall of the past three weeks. But a short break in the clouds told us to get out and be quick about it. The copse appeared to have changed little since our last visit, the only clues that the countryside was crawling towards summer were revealed in the flora. Moschatal and common dog violet was still growing strongly, but their ranks had been joined by barren strawberry, lily of the valley and goldilocks buttercup.
Orange tips patrolled the pathways and one even paused a while to feed on a violet.
Bird activity was fairly quiet and the only migrants we heard were chiffchaffs and a blackcap. Swifts and swallows passed overheard showing us that migration is still in full swing. The marsh tits were busy feeding young in the nestbox, with three adults serving the nest.
Surprise, surprise, the weather soon closed in and we headed home, but not before dropping in to see the hares - who looked very content in a sea of winter barley.
Well there you go, this week I allowed myself the luxury of a halfhour seawatch at the Haven. It's an annual event, just to prove to myself what a waste of time staring at the Solent is. We even went down at the prime time of three in the afternoon to give me the best chance of not seeing something and blow me down if a bloomin' shearwater didn't go by at a great rate of knots, blowing my theory clean out briney ocean. It displayed dull brown upperparts and dirty coloured underparts, pointing to it being a Balearic Shearwater. A handful of Arctic Terns also battled the foul weather conditions, who were then followed by a distant bundle of bar-tailed godwits. Chastened we returned home to the comfort of a cuppa and Lovejoy.
Activities have in the garden have continued apace, mainly negative in nature. With magpies, but mainly ####$&$&%% cats trashing any attempts at nesting. The blackbirds are now on their third nest, the woodpigeons are simply sitting around looking shell-shocked (to be honest they have that expression most of the time anyway), the wrens have gone along with the long-tailed tits and I've no idea what's happened to the dunnocks. Surely cat owners could be a little more sensitive to the needs of birds at this time of year.
On a positive note: the pond is still a wriggling tadpole soup, the spuds and the fruit trees are looking good, the blue and great tits are keeping their heads down and sometime soon we are going to be invaded by young starlings and house sparrows. Also, Rosie has put some feeders in our front garden postage stamp, these have attracted goldfinches in, so I've taken the chance to sketch them when they come in for a nosebag later in the day. This is great, but I'm now way out of touch with what's going in Emmerdale. Something about a vicar?
Come on Coventry City FC your time has come!
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.