Field Sketching

I’ve been in contact with the South Downs Wildlife group about possibly collaborating over a logbook to go with their guided birding walks which I think will be a great way to introduce people to some of the species they are likely to see. It’s also been suggested that I lead some art/sketching sessions which would be amazing. I have been wanting to improve my field sketching skills for a while now, and being back at life drawing classes has rekindled my enjoyment of observation and gesture.

I took my Forest & Farmland logbook out with me as I wanted to see what I could spot on my dog walk. We have had some glorious autumn days here in Sussex, with all the plants festooned with gossamer, and I was able to take my time as my dog, Ned, is very patient and is quickly learning that if I drop the lead and raise my binoculars, that’s his cue to stand still and wait for me to finish.

The farmhouse has a large yew tree at the front, and there’s a whitebeam tree along the track, and hawthorn in the hedges and copse, so there are many fruits for thrushes to eat. I heard the distinctive “chakka chakka” of Fieldfares and although they are always flying away from me, or in to the sun, I did spot the dark tail and contrasty plumage so I am pretty confident it wasn’t a Mistle Thrush. I did see one of those sitting rather lugubriously in the foliage but they are much brighter, and of course they do hang out with the other thrushes. Today I think I spotted Redwings as they were smaller (Starling-sized) and darker but I didn’t see the red flank…it is so difficult with low sunlight as it throws so many shadows.

It’s been a good few days for birds. Here is my list for this week:

  • Pheasant
  • Jackdaw
  • Rook
  • Carrion Crow
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Buzzard
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Mistle Thrush
  • Song Thrush
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Kestrel
  • Blackbird
  • Wren
  • Great Tit
  • Robin
  • Yellowhammer
  • Magpie
  • Lapwing
  • Dunnock

Here are my sketches, as well as some practise ones copying from field guides.

I have heard Tawny Owls, and there is a Chiffchaff still singing. This morning I also saw a fallow buck standing by the gate – yesterday I heard the strange belching bark of the males in the wood and a couple of hinds were wandering along the woodland edge looking enquiringly in to the cover so the rut has clearly started.

I found this blog and this website with some useful tips on field sketching, and I have bought a couple of books which I will share with you when they arrive.

In the meantime, I am going to paint a Redwing!

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