Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Barn Owl

I don't think there is a more popular bird than the Barn Owl. I painted this study and wanted to get that feeling of late summer evening light which casts such deep blue shadows. Sometimes in the summer, when I am leaving the stables, I see a Barn Owl, quartering a field or flying in to perch on a fence post. They are so instantly recognisable because they appear so white in flight. It is easy to see why they were once believed to be the restless spirits of the dead wandering the woodland edges. It is a real treat to see these owls and to know that the farmer whose land the bird is nesting on has had the foresight and interest in wildlife to leave some areas of wild meadow and headland undisturbed where they can hunt. Maybe with such care these beautiful owls will flourish in our countryside and become a more common sight.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Riding in West Sussex

My favourite way to get out into the countryside is on horseback and it is a great way to watch wildlife, especially deer and birds of prey. This weekend I have been riding Zennobia ( pictured) a beautiful and gentle grey Arab mare. When I am not painting I often take people hacking in the wonderful West Sussex countryside for a company called Rural Rides. West Sussex is such a pretty county of rolling Weald, graceful beech Hangers and wonderful panoramas from the chalk downland. In September the golds and reds of Autumn are slowly spreading across the landscape, hedges are heavy with fruit and the dusty tracks littered with chestnut and beech husks. It is hard to find a better way to spend the day! Fantastic horses, wonderful riding and great company. I am not sure what I love the most......... painting or riding!

Kayaking and Curlews

Paddling down the Beaulieu River last sunday in a kayak proved to be the perfect way to watch Curlews! I have only rarely seen these pretty waders with their haunting calls which are so reminiscent of windswept marshland, and here they were right on my doorstep. Drifting silently past the muddy banks and their scores of wading birds in a kayak was a wonderful experience. I will definately be trying this again but I think carrying a sketchpad or a camera might prove tricky! Like horse riding this might be one activity you just have to enjoy and remember the wildlife you encounter on the way.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Whale watching in the Bay of Biscay

After a summer of exhibitions it was great to get away for a few days and a trip down to Spain to look for whales sounded perfect. Travelling with The Company of Whales we were assured a wealth of expert advice on both cetaceans and sea birds. Unfortunately, the weather was against us. We set sail from Portsmouth in torrential rain and gusting winds and then endured two days of force 9 gales and heaving seas! It was exactly how I had envisaged the Bay of Biscay! Fighting sea sickness our group of determined whale watchers scanned the seas for a sign of a spout, whilst struggling to stand against the wind and shifting deck! No whales but dolphins in the English Channel and plenty of wonderful sea birds. Gannets and Shearwaters, Fulmars, Storm petrels and Skuas soared past on the wind, skimming the wave tops and totally at home in the environment. How amazing to think that these incredible birds spend most of their lives at sea, only coming to land to breed and raise their young. Many thanks to Dave and Judd for working so hard to find us some whales....Maybe next time!!