Singing Reed Bunting

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In a visit to a local nature reserve I heard the first singing Reed Buntings of the year. It is not a song that will blow you away, more three notes repeated with not much musicality. If you look toward the reed patch, dry flower heads or bushes, the contrasting black cap and white collar, which is often fluffed up when singing, will reveal the singing bird. Watercolour and pencil on Wacom tablet.

Goldfinches fighting

goldfinches-fightingnewGoldfinches have an underserved reputation of gentle birds, but, if you have spent any time watching them feed, either in gardens or in fields margins of brownfield sites where teasels and burdock grow, you’ll realise are quarrelsome birds that defend their flower head aggressively. Usually a hunched posture -bill open, pointy as a dagger- towards an oncoming bird suffices to scare it away. Other times both birds fly and chase each other fiercely, hovering with their tiny claws trying to grab the enemy.

Redwing on Hawthorn

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The Redwings are in town. At the beginning of the winter they tend to keep to the countryside, when there still a plentiful supply of hawthown on hedges, but as they finish the berry crop they move inside the city in search of milder climate and more berries, often in January. They often feed in the company of blackbirds, but being warier and much more cryptic often pass unnoticed. I drew a Redwing on a hawthorn with barely any berries in it using watercolour and pencil on my wacom tablet.

Shelducks

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On Sunday I had the chance of watching some Shelduck displaying and chasing. Shelducks are truly spectacular ducks, large, with very striking plumage and bold behaviour. The males displayed raising their body outside the water, neck outstretched, showing a dark band down their chest, and then quickly bowing down. The females, which look similar to the males but lack the know in their bill and are noticeably smaller, bowed and moved quickly following their preferred male and enticing him to chase the other with pointing movements. All this activity was accompanied of much noise, a cackling call in between a duck and a gannet, reminiscent of a laugh. In this scene the female, in between her partner at the front, calling, and an intruder swim together before the resident male gave chase and the intruder flew away. Watercolour and pencil on Wacom tablet.

Rattling mistle thrush

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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.