An unexpected encounter with a Goldcrest on a local park, I watched as it came down to a pool covered on duckweed and rubbish in a local park, looked around and had a long bath, with I partly captured on video. I love the head on look of a Goldcrest, with their eyes looking like stick on jet buttons surrounded by a pale ring giving it a quizzical look.
A quick pencil sketch of a male Pied Wagtail on a wall.
A quick pencil sketch on my sketch book (not a digital one for a change) of a Tawny Owl. Last night at about 4:20, I heard a single lear hoot from the lime tree just outside my window, the first one of the year. In the early months of the year the owls become more noticeable by the hooting of the males and the response of females ‘kweek!’ as they establish territories and start nesting.
In mid November in a local park, I had the chance of watching a Mistle Thrush guarding a patch of small rowans laden with berries. The thrush would rattle to fend off a couple of blackbirds that dare land on its tree. Every time it called its rattling call, it would lean forward and flash its tail and wings, displaying its white underneath. It worked! After a while, it settled amidst its bright red bounty. When set to sketch the bird, I was thinking of one of my favourite wildlife artists, the late and inimitable John Busby, who could convey behaviour with a few pencil lines and watercolour washes, and who illustrated the book Birds and Berries by Barbara and David Snow.
As they are unpredictable in their appearance, it is such a thrill to see Waxwings. Today I watched a small flock as they fed on the last berries of a line of rowans by a busy road in the middle of the city, and try to drink from a little puddle, the only available liquid water as it was a frosty morning. They seem to always be in a rush, and at some point the flock became agitated, flew to the top of a tree and off they went in search of more berries. The whole experience was just about ten minutes, and my photos weren’t that good so I was encouraged to draw one in the same posture of the first one we spotted. Watercolour, ink and pencil on Wacom tablet.
In a recent trip to my hometown in Spain I visited my childhood park a few times. I spent many hours birdwatching there in my teenage years, before the arrival of the Collared Dove, now extremely common. In my last visit, I watched a Firecrest feeding atop the pine trees: hovering briefly in front of bunches of pine needles in search of minuscule insects and spiders. I drew the bird with its little crest erect, face on, to highlight how colourful they look in comparison with Goldcrests, the black eye stripe flanked by white highlighting its dark eyes. Watercolour, inkpen and pencil on wacom tablet.
The other day, while I was in a meeting at work two Grey Herons passed over my building. Flying Grey Herons are impressive birds, their wingspan reaches up to 1.75 m, and their massive wings are curved downwards. They look front-heavy as they keep their head tucked between their wings and legs spread back. A pencil sketch on the Wacom tablet.
There was a nervous drake Shoveler today on a local urban fishing lake. The low sun made its beautiful breeding plumage almost glow, with the green iridescence of its head and rump very visible. Shovelers are quite small ducks, which feed on tiny aquatic invertebrates, zooplankton. They get these animals from the water with their oversized, shovel-like bill, which contains a filtering device looking a bit like a fine comb. A relatively quick sketch with pencil and watercolour on the tablet.
This seems to be a good year for Goldcrests, I have been coming across them almost every day the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, on a walk in my local park I found a flock of five feeding on the bare branches of a sycamore. They often hang from branches, looking for invertebrates in the small cracks on the bark. One left, calling, and the others one after another followed suit. I am starting to be happier with the results of my drawing tablet now, and I am quite pleased with this little beauty.
A group of Goosanders, known as Common Mergansers in North America, winter in East Park regularly. The drakes have a unique pale plumage, with orange and pinkish hues, that appears to glow, and makes them distinctive from a long distance. Drakes can change the shape of their dark iridescent green head noticeably fluffing up their feathers: when flattened they have an almost cormorant-like profile, but when fluffed up, their head bulges at the front and at the back, with a prominent bun. As they start to pair up and display at this time of year, with ritualised head shaking and drinking, and speed chases making they look like little motor boats, they are a fascinating wintering species to watch in our local area. A pencil and ink pen sketch.