Tuesday, 30 April 2013

22. Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Wow, what an amazing photo. There's no way I'll be able to do it justice in my drawing but I couldn't resist choosing it.

Shoveler, ©chapmankj75, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Shoveler sketch.
Yup, this is seriously all over the place. I enjoyed drawing it though at least.

Monday, 29 April 2013

21. American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

This is a mysterious duck to me, unsurprisingly I've never seen one, I think its cryptic plumage only adds to its mystery! I liked this photo of a very busy-looking Black Duck:

American Black Duck, ©Just chaos, via Flickr Creative Commons.
American Black Duck sketch.

Only a very quick and rather unfinished looking drawing tonight though, argh Mondays.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

20. Pintail (Anas acuta)

Time for Pintail, a handsome duck indeed. This is one of my photos, unfortunately the pin-shaped tail is not much in evidence as it's lying flat in the water. That cheeky Pochard is trying to get in early too, it's not your turn yet Pochard!

Pintail, Slimbridge 13/02/2011.

Pintail sketch.

Am fairly pleased with this drawing although again I seem to have shortened the body slightly, seem to be a bit prone to doing that.

Sandwell Valley - April

I did my monthly volunteering stint at RSPB Sandwell Valley today. Spring had well and truly arrived compared to my last visit when I failed to even track down a Chiffchaff. Today I had my first Swift and House Martin (finally!) of the year. Also around were several Little Ringed Plover, 2 of which we saw mating - hopefully their breeding attempts will be successful this year. Unusually there was also a Ringed Plover present, probably just passing through. The Shelducks had finally moved on though, oh well!

There were 3 Common Sandpipers making their presence known, being very vocal and chasing one another around - normally just a passage visitor at the reserve, I wonder if they'll stick around?

Common Sandpiper, RSPB Sandwell Valley 28/04/13.
I got some more practice on White Wagtail too, feel fairly confident distinguishing these from Pied now....

White Wagtail, RSPB Sandwell Valley 28/04/13.
My drawings are once again very variable, but I was quite pleased with the Lapwing.

Sketches of Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing and Coot, RSPB Sandwell Valley 28/04/13.
I also decided to try and learn a new plant or two every time I go out as I'd really like to improve my plant ID skills, plus I've also just bought myself a copy of The Wild Flower Key: How to identify wild flowers, trees and shrubs in Britain and Ireland to assist with my studies, so I figured I may as well get using it straight away. This plant seemed vaguely familiar and I think I used to know it but have forgotten, I thought it might be a member of the nettle family?

Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), RSPB Sandwell Valley 28/04/13.
I think it is probably Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), hope I am right. The next one has been intriguing me for a while as there's some also growing in my front garden:

Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) (probably), RSPB Sandwell Valley 28/04/13.
I think it might be Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) but am not 100% sure, am going to wait for it to flower to verify!

19. Gadwall (Anas strepera)

It's the turn of Gadwall, a duck which looks grey from a distance but close to has very elegant and intricately patterned plumage. Alas I didn't have enough time to depict each individual mark accurately (I drew this one whilst on a train to Cheltenham) but I have at least tried to go for a generally speckled effect which was aided by the fact that I was listening to Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians - it lulled me into a hypnotic state most conducive to drawing hundreds of dots!

Gadwall, ©USFWS Pacific Southwest Region, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Gadwall sketch

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Clee Hills and the Wyre Forest

I've been a bit slack over the past couple days with my drawing and blogging. In my defence though, over Thursday and Friday I only spent about 6 waking hours at home and most of those were spent doing important stuff like eating and having a shower. On Thursday evening we went to see Tony Law's show 'Maximum Nonsense' which did what it said on the tin in hilarious style, and last night we went to see Iron Man 3, I'm not even embarrassed to say it was bloody marvellous (ho ho) unlike the first 2 which are pretty pants.

Most importantly though, yesterday I spent a very enjoyable day in the company of Alf and Colin doing some top notch birding in Shropshire. When I told Alf a while ago that I'd never seen a Ring Ouzel, he expressed disbelief (I know right?! I've been to plenty of the right places, even heard them a fair few times, but never managed to establish visual contact) and promised he would take me to find some when they returned to the UK. So with Ring Ouzel recently reported near the old quarry workings at Titterstone Clee Hill, we headed out to try and find them.

Part of the old quarry workings.
Where are you Ring Ouzels?
And did we find any? Um, no. Rats, foiled again! There was not an Ouzel in sight, as the most recent report had been from around a week ago we thought maybe they had moved on, or perhaps if they were present they were keeping a low profile as the weather, although mostly sunny, was rather cold, blustery and interspersed with sharp hail showers. I did get my first Wheatears of the year though, and the geology was also interesting - thinking back to the geology module I studied as part of my degree last year (still my favourite module so far!) I made a tentative identification of the stone that was quarried there as a dolerite:

Dolerite collected from Titterstone Clee Hill quarry workings.
It's very dark, clearly mafic in composition, and has a crystalline texture. The grain size is too big for a basalt though, so I decided on dolerite. Therefore I was pretty pleased to find that my limited geology skills don't seem to be too rusty!

After that we headed down to the Wyre Forest where we hoped to find some new spring woodland migrant arrivals. It wasn't easy to begin with, the weather was rather chilly, nothing much seemed to be around or singing and at first we didn't see an awful lot. However some careful searching eventually yielded great views of Wood Warbler, Redstart, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff - all firsts for the year for me. Other nice sightings included a pair of Mandarins drifting down the stream and a Marsh Tit bumbling around right over our heads, brilliant! We'd hoped for Dipper which didn't happen, but we were nonetheless very happy with our day's birding.

The Wyre Forest.
There were Wood Anemones everywhere, one of my favourite spring flowers:

Wood Anemones.
On the way home we also made a brief stop near Shenstone to look over the fields for Corn Bunting, we didn't see or hear any but we did see Yellowhammer, always a super bird.

Unfortunately I didn't get any sketching done, there was not much opportunity and I may have left my sketchbook in the car (ahem). However I will endeavour to do drawings galore to make up for it this weekend!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

18. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Here's the first of the ducks, the very familiar Mallard.A pretty quick drawing tonight as I spent most of the evening cooking an epic curry.

Mallard, ©brendan.lally, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Mallard sketch.

The Mallard is the ancestor of white domestic farm ducks, so you often see the weird results of them interbreeding:

Manky Mallard, Bakewell, 25/09/2006.
Manky Mallard, Bakewell, 25/09/2006.
The first one looks like it has more domestic duck in it, the second more Mallard. I think they were in eclipse at the time as well which just compounds the weirdness!

17. Bar-headed goose (Anser indicus)

It's the last of the geese today, and what a handsome goose the bar-headed goose is. Not native to the UK, most individuals spotted here are usual escapees from collections.

Bar-headed goose, ©BFS Man, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Bar-headed goose sketch.
The bar-headed goose is famous for its extreme migration habits - it flies over the Himalaya and is thus believed to make the highest-altitude migration of any animal. It is able to do this thanks to its specially-adapted physiology.

Monday, 22 April 2013

16. Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)

Today, feeling full of spring after yesterday's trip and in the mood to do something different from usual (and also because it's much cuter than the adult), I have decided to draw an Egyptian gosling.

Egyptian gosling, ©tristrambrelstaff, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Egyptian gosling sketch.

I'm not much good at drawing fluffy things, I get edgy when there are no nice definite lines to cling onto! I did a fair bit of smudging with my rubber and don't think it looks too bad though.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Smashing springtime at Frampton Marsh

Today was the West Midland Bird Club's monthly coach trip, this time to RSPB Frampton Marsh. With spring finally arriving and a good weather forecast we had high hopes for the day, and were not disappointed! 

Frampton Marsh.
The highlight of the day was probably a female merlin tucking into her prey (we thought probably a lapwing due to the profusion of black and white feathers) on the ground in the wet meadow area. A lapwing would have been a sizeable adversary for her but as everyone knows merlins are well'ard. This must be a good spot for raptors as about 10 minutes later we also saw a female sparrowhawk doing the same thing!

Brent geese loitering.
Merlin wasn't the only winter visitor still hanging around due to the delayed onset of spring, there were also hundreds of brent geese still present. However there were many signs of spring too:

Toads! Yay!
White wagtail.
Little ringed plover.
There were plenty of new spring friends around, I saw my first sedge warbler, whitethroat and little ringed plover of the year. My favourite though was the yellow wagtails that kept popping up all over the reserve, this was actually the first time I'd seen them in this country having only seen them in Malta previously:

Yellow wagtail struts his stuff!
My camera is not great but you get the gist, and luckily he came right up to the hide giving us super views! I didn't get any photos but another highlight of the day was the brown hares that were bounding around the reserve, love seeing hares.

Some more pictures of the reserve and surroundings:

Mmm, lovely saltmarsh.

Not as yellow as a yellow wagtail.

And I did do some sketching too although it was a bit quick as there was so much to see, I didn't want to miss anything!

Sketches of black-tailed godwit, gadwall, avocet and lapwing.
I think the best that can be said is that it's an improvement at least on my previous field sketches.

15. Ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Here is my slightly squat ruddy shelduck drawing, would have been lovely to do him in colour but this weekend has been rather hectic!
Ruddy shelduck, ©waitscm, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Ruddy shelduck sketch.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

14. Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

A quick sketchy shelduck today. I'm holding out for the shelduck pair at Sandwell Valley to breed, apparently they're still loitering there so fingers crossed. My shelduck's bill is a bit overenthusiastic and reminds me more of a platypus's. Oh well!

Shelduck, ©ahisgett, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Shelduck sketch.

Friday, 19 April 2013

13. Red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis)

Woo! Actual colour!! OK so I didn't really have time to do this and it took bladdy ages (compared to my usual drawings) but it'd be rude not to do this guy in colour. I ran out of time to do the feet properly, let alone any shadows, the red breast colour took me a couple of goes (and still isn't really right) and my acrylic paints had gone all weird and separated as they're so old, but despite these setbacks I'm still pleased with the result. It also still hadn't dried by bedtime hence the late posting! I sketched it out in pencil first before adding paint, I'm way too scared to just start slapping paint onto the page without having some kind of safety net. I should have a go at some point but fear the results may be dreadful......

Red-breasted goose, ©digitalART2, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Red-breasted goose, pencil and acrylic paint.

Red-breasted geese are endangered, due partly to the mysterious disappearance of half the world's population just over 10 years ago, which is now being investigated by means of satellite tagging.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

12. Brent goose (Branta bernicla)

Bit rushed today and as a result this brent goose is a bit shonky, most noticeably the shapes of the bill and the pale flank. I've also struggled to differentiate between the various shades of black, brown and white on the bird.....maybe some colour is in order. It does take me longer if I'm using colour but it is more fun and would be good practice. On a day when I have a bit more time, I'll try incorporating colour into a drawing!

Brent goose, ©Dow Lambert/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS Pacific, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Brent goose sketch.
Due to Chris's reading group taking place in our front room last night, I couldn't scan this until the next day - hence the delay.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

11. Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

Today I am feeling pretty frazzled after a couple of fairly manic days at work so felt like having some fun with my drawing. Luckily it was the turn of barnacle goose, my favourite goose! I've given it a whole page and drawn more of a portrait (this time it's meant to go off the edge of the page).

Barnacle goose, ©omarrun, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Barnacle goose sketch.

I had to sharpen my pencil a fair few times. Initially I did want to do it in ink but I wimped out, maybe another time! I think I made the body a bit too big and the head shape is not quite right, but at least drawing it has helped me feel less frazzled.

10. Canada goose (Branta canadensis)

I thought I'd do a group of birds today instead of a single one, to try something new and to make drawing the fairly everyday sight of a Canada goose a bit more interesting.

Canada geese, ©U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region, via Flickr Creative Commons.

Canada goose sketch.

Not too shabby. Although the middle one does look a bit like a mushroom with a goose's head sticking out.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

9. Greylag goose (Anser anser)

And it's the last of the grey geese, greylag goose, classic goose. I tried to do this one a bit more loosely and quickly without obsessing so much over detail which I am wont to do. Also I was a bit short of time.

Greylag goose, ©D H Wright, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Greylag goose sketch.
I've made the wings a bit too short and round.

White domestic geese are descended from greylags so you often see interbreeding between the two, leading to all kinds of weird and wonderful results:

50 shades of greylag. Yep I went there. 
(Snettisham, 09/11/2012).