A new Yellowhammer

People often ask if the birds are replicated in the logbooks, and of course some have to be, as we are fortunate that many of our British birds pop up in different habitats, and the main focus of the logbooks is to showcase some likely (and less likely) contenders for your walk, bike ride or holiday.

I am also pretty limited with the amount of copy – around 100 words – in the text box, so again, a good phrase or pithy description necessarily needs to be reused if it can be utilised effectively in the description of the bird in another environment.

This means the area I can bring most differentiation is with the illustrations…and I suspect most folk only look at the pictures anyway rather than poring excessively over my prose!

Yellowhammers are in Farm, Seven Sisters, and South Downs, so I thought I would do another version. I used a stock photo as well as some of my sketches of observed Yellowhammers (we have them here) for the final illustration.

It’s my intention to have different illustrations for each book so I don’t have to double up, but in order to get the correct representation I try and use illustrations that really capture the character of the bird, and sometimes it’s a bit reinventing the wheel to repaint in a similar pose! An alternative is to use the females of the species if they have a distinctive plumage; there is a female Blackbird in Urban, just to ring the changes and celebrate the gorgeous (if understated) suite of browns compared to the black-with-yellow males.

I had a great birdwatching walk a few days ago, where I spotted the pair of Mandarin Ducks that have taken up residence on the Cuckmere River at the Cuckoo Trail. The Cuckoo is also back: he sits in the poplars at the back of my neighbour’s land but sometimes heads over the fields and sits in the horse chestnut trees halfway up the track. I always find it odd that we are so fond of a species which has such unfortunate breeding habits, but us humans are marvellously inconsistent when it comes to wildlife! Here are some sketches I did when I got back:

I do take a notebook and pen out with me but I find it difficult to concentrate when the dog is staring at me with his ball at my feet, and I only have one propelling pencil which I keep forgetting to take with me! So, I find it easier to sketch when I get home, drawing from the mental snapshots of the birds I’ve seen.


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