Silhouetted redshank


What a pose this redshank struck with a strong tailwind ruffling its feathers and giving the impression of upending the bird.  An altogether charming sight.


I settled down one afternoon to watch this group of redshank and pair of black-headed gulls. The redshank were backlit by the afternoon sun which outlined their shape and eliminated detail . . .  sometimes it is better not to see every feather.


These sketches were done using ultramarine, cadmium red (mixed together they give a wonderfully powerful black-brown) plus yellow ochre and cobalt turquoise light.



Dunlin, Deer . . . and Denny

Updated 3 AprilIMG_1715

On the face of it you would not expect to see dunlin and roe deer together but that is what greeted me this morning.


There were two deer, a doe and a young buck, by the water’s edge in front of Denny Island with hundreds of dunlin flying behind them. I was downwind of them but feeling very conspicuous standing out in the middle of the marsh and expected to be spotted at any moment.


The young buck looked past me towards the docks.


A handful of dunlin – there were hundreds here this morning.


To my surprise there were 2 more deer a few hundred yards further down the marsh. . . IMG_0804

. . .  a more mature buck with a  yearling doe. I recognised this group of four from a previous visit.


Both bucks were sporting velvet covered antlers.


It was great to watch the deer but even more enthralling when accompanied by the aerobatics of hundreds of dunlin – a very special sight in front of the Firefly navigation buoy.


Storm at Battery Point

IMG_0445The storm raged at Battery Point as the sunset lay across the bay.



Hardly able to stay upright in the full force of the gale a lone figure on the headland leaned into the wind.


Intermittent sheets of near horizontal rain blew across the salt marsh. The stinging rain lashed my face and blurred my vision but I could just make out a small flock of dunlin on the wing.


Their progress was painfully slow head on against the ferocity of the gale but when they veered in the direction of the wind they were swept out of sight at breakneck speed.

I was struggling to steer a straight path in this buffeting wind so quite a feat for these featherweights to stay on course. Nevertheless they made repeated forays fighting their way across the tops of the surging waves at the very edge of the salt marsh.

Turnstones with nowhere to land

Updated 21 February 2014IMG_0040IMG_0038


Usually there are plenty of places around Battery Point for these little waders to rest and feed. As their name suggests they search for food under the pebbles and seaweed in the rocks at the far end of the salt marsh.  This is a watercolour and oil pastel sketch of turnstones at low water – I have had so much fun with my 40 year old oil pastels that I have just treated myself to a set of Sennelier oil pastels and this is their first outing!


It was one of those enormous spring tides when the sea rises so high that landing places for the turnstones are in very short supply.  With a 14.6 m high tide the salt marsh and most of the rocks are underwater so the turnstones fly back and forth looking for a spot to land.


At first they jostled for a place on a raft of flotsam swept against the promenade wall . . .



. . . but then repaired to the top of the wall to promenade with the rest of us.


Promenading on the sea wall is unusual for the Bristol Channel bunch as they are typically wary but today they had little choice.


On the same high tide a bird-watching friend saw a flock of turnstones cadging a lift on a large tree trunk floating up the channel (you can see the photo on his excellent local bird watching blog . . . and on another occasion I heard a report of a channel navigation buoy festooned with turnstones on a similarly high tide.


Sketching birds as a part of the wider landscape is quite a different challenge to a detailed study of birds where they are the main or only focal point and the background is either non-existent or secondary. I learn so much doing these preparatory sketches, which, of course, is the whole point of the process. The end sketch may not always be what I had intended, and all too often leaves me with some angst (must do better), but frequently it is those from which I learn most.

Joining these 2 sketches gave an added perspective between the foreground and middle ground birds and indeed the overall panorama (the joined sketch is near the top of this page).


Salt marsh pheasant

Updated 30 January 2014

I see pheasants on the salt marsh regularly . . .  an interesting backdrop for a pheasant!

A cock fight in December



There was much parallel walking as these two cock pheasants strutted and postured on the salt marsh . . .


. . . and then a flurry of feathers. In the background the cargo vessel Danica Sunrise edges her way into Portbury Docks on low water.


This territorial dispute went on for ages and so engrossed were they that my presence remained unnoticed.

Colours in the cockfighting sketches : indian red, cadmium red, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, raw umber and cobalt turquoise light plus the addition of raw sienna in the sketch above.


On a previous visit . . .

IMG_3580 . . . a sudden flurry and that lovely staccato purr of wings of a cock pheasant bursting from the flooding marsh just ahead of me. It is such a pleasure to see and hear them on the marsh . . . and the navigation buoys, docks and Denny Island make for an unusual view.



The buoy is the middle one of three marking the right hand (starboard) edge of the shipping channel into Royal Portbury dock. 

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Teal – jinxing and jiving

Sketched between September and January
IMG_9396Although the wintering teal have now left for their summer breeding grounds I thought I would add some winter time sketches that I have just been leafing through.

I find these small, fast flying ducks that jinx and jive in flight fascinating. Their teal green wing bars shimmer in the winter sunlight, though even on a grey day they don’t disappoint.

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Beautiful purple sandpipers but oh gosh its cold!

Seen 30 March 2013
Sketch of purple sandpiper using 2H and HB pencilsThe best time to see purple sandpipers here is at high tide when the only rocks still above water are those close to shore.

Battery Point is a great place to see ships passing within feet of the shore, or to get a good view of wintering purple sandpipers and this morning I was not disappointed on either count. It was actually a sunny morning but oh gosh it was cold with such a bitter, bitter easterly wind blowing a gale it felt like mid winter instead of spring.

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