Monday, 19 January 2015

Common Loon painting for a BirdingPal!

As recently recounted here, I visited Minneapolis last November and whilst there, met up with a local birder, Bob, who I'd got in touch with through BirdingPal. We spent a very full morning (commencing at dawn) visiting various fine birding spots around Minneapolis, and both the birds and Bob's excellent company made it one of the highlights of my trip. I got a fair few life ticks and wouldn't have been able to get to nearly as many different places on my own.

I wanted to send Bob a small gift to say thanks so decided to do a painting. When I asked what his favourite bird was, he said probably Common Loon (he is so Minnesota). I was very pleased about this as divers are amongst my favourite birds and I love to paint them. I worked from a photo and am pretty happy with the painting overall. The part I enjoyed painting most was the Loon's head and neck, I really like depicting iridescent plumage and specifically chose a photo that showed it well for that reason; the beady red eye is always nice too. The chequerboard back was a bit fiddly but came together at the end! So far in my paintings and drawings I haven't made much effort with backgrounds - the focus is on the bird and I am usually limited for time, also I find backgrounds much less interesting to depict than birds! However I felt I couldn't get away with that in a more 'proper' painting, so made a bit more of an effort. I'm mostly happy with the background except the water just to the immediate left of the bird, it doesn't look quite right to me - but hopefully the reflections in the foreground (which I was happier with) and the bird itself pull focus away from any shoddier bits.

The completed painting.

Framed painting.
I've sent the painting off today, so let's hope Bob likes it! :o)

Monday, 12 January 2015

First trip of the year - Rutland Water

Yesterday I was off on my first proper birding trip of the year, on the annual jaunt to Rutland Water with the West Midland Bird Club. Last year's trip had included such delights as Black-Throated Diver, Barn Owl, Black-necked Grebe and Black Redstart so we had high hopes for today.

From the coach en route to our destination we spotted several Red Kites, looking marvellous in the low sun of the early morning. I also was given unexpected gifts! Andy, ever the bargain-fan, had picked up a copy of Rob Hume's 'Life With Birds' in Poundland for me, and Phil had brought in loads of old copies of Bird Watching magazines for anyone who was interested - he'd saved me one with an article about drawing birds :o) Many thanks Phil and Andy! 

We started as usual at the dam where, although we didn't reach the giddy heights of last year's triumvirate of 'birds whose names start with Black', we nonetheless still saw a Red-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebes and Goldeneyes a-plenty, as well as the usual Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Cormorants.

Onwards to the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, where we had a quick peer over the fields adjacent to the car park and found a few Redwings on the ground while a friendly Robin watched us closely and a pair of Egyptian Geese flew over.

Watchful Robin.

We then spent some time in the centre, enjoying the heated viewing area - mmmm. Here our lists expanded considerably, with the addition of ducks galore (Pochard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Goosander, and loads of Pintail - apparently present in the highest numbers ever recorded at Rutland Water), as well as Curlew, Little Egret, Shelduck, and Lapwing. 

Then it was back out into the cold to investigate the feeders, where we saw Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Dunnock, Blackbird, Moorhen and Reed Bunting. No sign of the Marsh Tits spotted by some other members of our group earlier though....we set off for the hides around the older lagoons to see what else we might find. This turned out to include more Red Kites, Song Thrush, Common Gull, Stock Dove, Kestrel, Redshank, Green Sandpiper and four lovely Smew - a male and three females. Not too shabby! We stopped off at the feeding station again and had better luck - two Marsh Tits visited frequently, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits descended and engulfed the feeders for some time!

Couple of Long-tailed Tits, a Blue Tit and a Reed Bunting tuck in.
We then went to wait in hopeful anticipation for the emergence of a Barn Owl; while we waited a few Canada and Greylag Geese flew over, a Buzzard perched on an Osprey nesting platform, and a Green Woodpecker popped up in front of the hide. A keen-eyed member of our group found a Brown Hare lying low in the rough grassland; it had flattened itself down and was well-camouflaged, but we could see its eye peering out! I enjoyed checking in on the hare every few minutes to see if it had moved (I really like hares), it was still in place when we eventually left the hide so perhaps that was where it was going to spend the night. Alas, the weather grew increasingly dank and drizzly as the afternoon drew on, and this probably put off the Barn Owl, as we did not see one. The changing light as the sun set and the weather passed through was rather lovely though:

Out there, a hare is snuggling down for the night.