Tiger Match

In October World Land Trust runs a fundraising appeal where any donation that is made will be matched. This means that any donation given during the fortnight is doubled. This year the funds where going to WLT’s Big Cat Appeal.

As one statistical example show big cats need help. Tigers have lost 93% of their range in the last 100 years. So to do my bit I auctioned of a painting that I did of a tiger in the hope of raising a few pound towards the Big Cat appeal.

Tiger painting
Tiger – Watercolour, Gouache & Pen

The Tiger was painting using a combo of watercolour, gouache and pen. It ended up rainy £100 towards the Big Cat appeal.

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Painting Experiment

I’m now beginning to really enjoy drawing again and thought I would give painting ago.

I was never going to put the pen down as this is what I’m most comfortable with. I want to try to bring some colour into my work but I don’t want to work in a really tight way as I had always done whilst at college.

I’m really pleased with how it has turned out and I think I’ll carry on down this route of adding colour to my paintings to see what comes out.

Red Backed Shrike - Watercolour, Gouache and Pen
Red Backed Shrike – Watercolour, Gouache and Pen

Birding up North

Whilst on a recent family visit to the North, I ventured out for a day of birding. First port of call was Pennington Flash near Leigh. It boast to be ‘one of the premier bird watching sites in the North West’ so surely it had to be worth a visit.

Pennington flash
Pennington flash

We called in at the first hide and met some friendly locals who told me many a story about the place. How the flash is a 70-hectare lake created by coal mining subsidence. They also proudly mentioned the list of over 240 species of bird that had been seen there.

Whilst there I saw as many as 6 kingfishers, lots of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs along with lots of wild fowl. The highlights of the trip around the flash had to be Willow Tit’s feeding behind the first hide, unfortunately they were being heavily papped by some seriously large lensed photographers. Another highlight was a female Garganey which was a nice one for the year list. There were a couple of Arctic Terns when I was there and the following day there were up to 9, along with three or four Green Sandpipers.

Pennington flash
Pennington flash

After leaving Pennington Flash I moved onto Elton Reservoir as I has seen there were at least 2 Black-necked Grebes.

Elton Reservoir
Elton Reservoir

Now Elton Reservoir is in a place called Bury. You drive through an estate and then out the back you go over a bridge and it looks like to are heading to a prison, which actually turned out to be hospital. I wasn’t sure if the fences were to keep people out or to keep patients in. Either way to get the reservoir you follow a drive way to the sailing club and you come to this beautiful reservoir (well it was on this day I was there as it was beautiful and sunny). There were views over the town and to the hills beyond. There were sailing competitions going on whilst I was there, which made it look very picturesque. Luckily though the boats were only at one end of the reservoir. At the far end I could see large numbers of Coot with several Great Crested Grebe and when I got down there a Family of little Grebe. Then in and amongst this lot were two Juvenile Black-necked Grebe. Looking back through my note pads etc I could find no record of me having ever seen one before so I had bagged myself another lifer.

Thompson Common

I was trying to think of something exciting to call this post, but to be honest if you have ever been to Thompson Common then you know there is no need to call it anything else, the name should conjure up enough excitement anyway!

Common Darter
Common Darter

I visited Thompson back in June and fell in love with the place then. The combination of the wooded areas which let shards of light through the canopy to highlight many of the Pingos, combined with the open grassy areas which have pools full of reeds make this place feel pretty special.

Green-veind
Green-veind White

What this habitat does is provide home to many bird species, it was lovely to be surrounded by the sound of calling Bullfinches and Green Woodpeckers. On my first visit I came face to face with a few Roe Deer which looked more baffled than in fear of my presence. There are also plenty of Butterflies on this occasion, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Green-veined white, Ringlet and Common Blue.

Common Emerald
Common Emerald Damselfly

I think one of the things its most known for is the sheer number of Dragonflies and Damselflies. I believe there have been 19 species recorded. On my previous visit I managed to see one of its specialities the Scarce Emerald Damselfly. On this trip it was really rather staggering how many odonate there were around. Literally every step seemed to disturb one or more. I managed to record Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Darter and Common Emerald this time and managed to photograph a few, with the Southern Hawkers being very willing to be photographed.

 

Birthday surprise

4 June and it’s absolutely pouring it down with rain. I was determined not to waste the day. Armed with Ginger beer, cake and a map, along with all usual optical equipment I decided to try somewhere new and headed for Thompson Common and Lake. I had heard it was good for Odonata and wanted to take a look. I had also been reading another blog that said it was a cracking area for birds as well.

On arrival I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the correct place as it’s not well signpost which made it all the more appealing. Thompson common is part of the Pingo trail which makes for an interesting landscape with many pools for wildlife to inhabit.

Once I had made it through the trees I came to the first pool which had lots of Damselflies in the tall grasses and plenty of Marsh Orchids scattered about a little way from the pools.

Southern Marsh Orchid at Thompson Common
Southern Marsh Orchid

I managed to get a photograph of a few Damselflies one being the image below. I tried to ID the species myself when I got home but had no idea as to what it was. I contacted the British Dragonfly Society and was informed that it was a Scare Emerald Damselfly which are limited to only a few areas in the UK one of which is Thompson. It is listed as rare and recognised as vulnerable by the UK and at one time thought to be extinct.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly
Scarce Emerald Damselfly

I continue my walk all the way to Thompson Lake. This took me through Thompson Covert which was just stunning. It look like a place time had forgotten.

Thompson Covert
Thompson Covert

On arrival at the lake I sat down ate some birthday cake, had a ginger beer and watched the Swan family as they went about their business. Thompson has to be one of my favourite places to visit. Also the pub in Thompson itself is pretty good as well.

Swan family at Thompson lakes
Swan family at Thompson lakes

 

As seen on TV

Through work I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting people and also visit some interesting places. Well this continued on June 3 2014 when we were invited to visit the set of Springwatch at Minsmere and then be in the audience of  Unsprung.

We were asked to bring along any drawings that we may have and I genuinely and rather embarrassingly happened to have my sketch pad with me when I arrived.

The show is presented by Nick Baker and goes out straight after the main Springwatch show, and it was an interesting experience to see a live show being made.

Well Andy Warhol once said everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. I think I roughly had about 5 seconds when I was asked to show one of my pictures and say my name. Below is the picture I got to show live on national TV

Redstart - Pen and Pencil
Redstart – Pen and Pencil

 

Moody Skies over Hethersett

Stormy Sky look over Melton
Stormy sky looking over Little Melton

There was a storm brewing in the skies of Hethersett on this evening so I decided to try to experiment with some HDR photography.

I went about my business with my Nikon D80 in hand and my new-found understanding of the process. I took myself off round my usual walk, which also meant I got to check if anything new had appeared on my patch.

The first image was taken by the lakes overlooking Little Melton and the second looking over Hethersett towards the Water Tower.

Stormy Hethersett looking towards the water tower
Stormy Hethersett looking towards the water tower

I returned to the computer in an attempt to create the traditional HDR photograph using Photoshop. Needless to say this isn’t as easy or as effective as you would like to think. I decided to make use of the images I had taken with the above results.

Looks like I will have to do many more trials with HDR or just now use the Dan Bradbury method!

Birding in Costa Blanca

February saw me and a couple of friends take ourselves of to Spain for some birding. We stayed in a friend’s apartment near Algorfa, Alicante. The first evening was spent listening to a Scops owl calling not far from the apartments as well Stone Curlew.

A Mod, a Punk and a Krankie
A Mod, a Punk and a Krankie

It was an early start on the Saturday as we headed to the El Hondo reserve. We had a drive around the roads surrounding the reserve and saw Marsh Harriers and also Purple Swamphen.

El Hondo reserve
El Hondo reserve

On entering the reserve we knew we had made the right decision booking. The North gate of the reserve is only open from 8.30am and you have to book in advance. At first it seems like only a small reserve but once you are in the viewing platforms you soon realise what a vast area it covers. Luckily we were straight onto White-headed duck, Marsh Harriers, Red Crested Pochard and in the trees at the side of the main track was a Booted Eagle.

Flamingo sketch
Flamingo sketch

We visited the tower hide and were lucky enough to be put onto the Spotted Eagle, and numerous other species. After leaving the reserve we drove the perimeter and then we were lucky enough to have a Little Bittern fly across the road in front of us. Whilst having lunch Southern Grey Shrike landed in the reeds next to the car.

We then moved on to Santa Pola Salina for closer views of Black-winged stilt, Sandwich tern, various gulls and waders a Slender billed gull in full adult plumage.

Next stop was El Pinet dunes where there were Spoonbills, and in the trees in the dunes large numbers of Serin

El Pinet Dunes
El Pinet Dunes

Before leaving for Spain I emailed the Costa Blanca Bird club who gave us some great advice of where we should head out to. On the sunday we went to La Mata where there were lots of smaller birds. In the car park there were Crested larks and numbers of finches to be seen. After a short period of time we had a sighting that wash;t expected when someone in the vines flushed a Stone Curlew. We continued to make our way down the water’s edge. On the way we there were Sardinian warblers calling from the gorse. There were large flocks of waders and gulls and of course there were flamingos. In the pines there were tit flocks and a sighting of a Crested tit.

La Mata
La Mata

Then we head out to San Pedros Salinas and had a wander through the dunes. We also had Spotted redshank, Redshank, Ruff and Little Stint.

In the evening we had a walk round the golf course where we watched the large numbers of Cattle Egrets arrive back into the reeds for the evening roost along with the large numbers of Pochard on the lake.

On the Monday the other had to fly home in the morning so I revisited some the place we had already travelled around .I went back to the golf course and had the Hoopoe and spotted starling. Back at El Pinet was lucky enough to see a Dartford Warbler. I went back to Sand Pedros Salinas where there were new a few more Little Stint.

Slender-billed gull
Slender-billed gull
Ruff
Ruff

Full List of Birds

Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Willow Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff, White-headed Duck, House Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot
Marsh Harrier, Little Grebe, Booted Eagle, Greater Flamingo, Great White Egret
Osprey, Black-winged Stilt, Kestrel, Blackcap, Mediterranean gull, Starling
Pallid Swift, Cetti’s Warbler, Purple Swamphen, House Martin, Cormorant
Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Pied Wagtail, Stonechat, Collared Dove, Skylark, Corn Bunting
Greenfinch, Lapwing, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Black-necked Grebe, Swallow
Southern Grey Shrike, Black Redstart, Gannet, Robin, Blackbird, Yellow Legged Gull
Slender-billed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Dunlin
Curlew Sandpiper, Spoonbill, Avocet, Serin, Mallard, Cattle Egret, Shelduck
Red-legged Partridge, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Crested Lark, Little Ringed Plover
Stone Curlew, Linnet, Wood Pigeon, Sardinian Warbler, Sanderling, Long-tailed Tit
Crested Tit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Ruff, Great Tit, Dartford Warbler
Hoopoe, Spotless Starling, Parakeet, Great-crested Grebe

Let the drawing commence

A few months ago I was out with my 5-year-old twins and my daughter announced to someone she met that her daddy was artist. Now this is a nice thought, and would probably be over playing it a bit that I could be considered an artist. Either way it was really rather embarrassing as I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush, pen or pencil in years. So I decided the pens and pencils would see the light of day again to see what I could do. It started off OK, even if I was a little rusty. The drawings are from perfect, but I really enjoyed doing them. What I found was drawing again was really relaxing. I was back producing a piece of artwork because I wanted to and not because I had to. Anyway below are the first drawings on this adventure of rediscovering whether I can draw and paint again.

Redwing - Pen and Pencil
Redwing – Pen and Pencil

Common (fence) lizards

I personally know very little about Lizards but after a tip-off by my colleague and the author of the blog 27Butterflies I was at least able to photograph 7 common Lizards that were sunning themselves on one section of fence at the edge of Millennium green in Halesworth.

Common Lizard
Common Lizard

I’m lead to believe that these lizards are territorial, so for me it was interesting to see at least 7 of these Lizards sharing the same small piece of fence. The other thing that I found surprising was that they chose to use a piece of fence which was next to a high traffic pathway used by lots of people, bikes and dogs. They didn’t seem to remotely care that people and dogs were there, well unless you got far to close for comfort.

Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard
Common Lizard