Tuesday, January 29, 2013

College project

 I have finally got a bit of time to work on one of my final projects for the year where I am able to write my own brief. I decided to illustrate identification plates for the 4 small harriers to be found in Ireland, Hen, Northern, Pallid and Montague's. I am aiming to produce a large piece on each species covering all plumages and another showing just the juveniles. If I have enough time I am also hoping to finish plates for pipits I started during the summer and have not had time to work on during terms.
These are some of my initial roughs for the juveniles, hen on top, northern below. I don't think they work to clearly and need a little tweaking, extending the 'hands' to show the primary pattern more clearly. The upperwing also needs to be shown in a  simpler pose.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ring-billed returns

Last winters ring-billed gull re-appeared on the canal last week but has been very un-predictable in its appearances. I have seen it a few times going to and from college but never when I have had time to stop. Spent the morning there throwing out bread and it continued to ellude the camera or sketch book.
I have been checking an area of wasteground on my way to college all winter which attracts a good number of large gulls most days. There has been atleast 3 great black backs most of the winter but in the last week, numbers have built up. This 3rd winter herring gull caught my eye as a caspian candidate on jizz, but plumage didn't back it up. I would like to get a good oppurtunity to study caspians and their structure.
 The long, parrellel edged bill, streaked nape, long wings and legs and quite an upright stance, especially as it walked helped it stand out. Have a lot to learn about gulls.

 A few studies of herring gulls from during the week. It is a handy place to sit and sketch birds, though the surrounding fence makes it a bit frustrating as any little movement by the gulls means I have have to adjust position.
 This sub adult argentatus was on the wasteground on 25, it was a real monster of a bird, larger, heavier and darker backed than the surrounding birds with huge white primary tips.
 While sketching the gulls during the week a flock of more than 70 waxwings landed in beside me, unfortunately they didn't hang around for long. I had 20 the previous day near college but they were the first in over almost a month. This flock contained a lot of adults compared with the mostly juv flocks before christmas. Wonder if the current wave is a fresh arrival following the cold weather further east.
This cattle egret was sketched earlier in the month in Donegal near Inch lake, finally got around to scanning it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Something to look forward to.

 I spent most of Christmas working and saving and booked flights today for Shanghai in early May, the number one target is spoon billed sandpiper. By May they should be coming into summer plumage, if there are any...
 I drew a few sketches of birds from videos on youtube, trying out some water colour pencils. A few birds are seen annually in spring on the mudflats of Rudong near Shanghai, and fingers crossed, a few will linger into May this year.
 Field sketching has been limited over recent weeks because of work and college projects, these are a few sketches from Dublin zoo over christmas. The red pandas seem to love the cold weather, and frosty mornings seem to see them most active. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year dipping!

To make up for not getting out much over the christmas break, I headed up north with friends today to try for the bittern that had been present for the last week or so at Inch Island.
With several other birders around and news that it hadn't been seen at all yesterday despite dawn to dusk searching, we set off for the nearby cattle egret. Almost as soon as we arrived, the farmer showed up and led us to his cow shed where the bird was feeding. Over the next hour or so it flew back and forth from the cow sheds to the pig field. Only got a few photos and sketches of the bird due to its flighty nature and strong wind, the best is above.
We moved to Blanket Nook and had a few Slavonian grebes off the sea wall, but little on the lake. The weather turned and heavy rain fell for most of the afternoon. We moved to Inch again and 22 pink footed geese showed in the distance through the driving rain in the fields around the pump. Found the Smew at Inch after a long search, but it quickly disappeared again. Trying a few different vantage points we picked up 2 wintering male ruff, and eventually the smew showed again but distantly. The rain intensified and we didn't bother trying for the bittern again. A good day out despite missing my main target.
Pink footed and greylag geese at Inch