Friday, July 31, 2009

Let it Grow!

This week I saw a kestrel hovering over a patch of long grass on a roadside verge that, until this year, was kept cropped.
It was heartening to see. This particular verge is a very wide strip of land that stands at the entrance to a farm on the Yorkshire Wolds.
The farmer's decision not to mow it down this year has meant that this bird of prey, and hopefully many others, now has somewhere to hunt.
I have been campaigning to try to persuade landowners to resist the urge to make their driveways neat and tidy and instead leave the grass long as a habitat for wildlife.
Click here for more on the issue as detailed in my latest Yorkshire Post column.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Duck for FERA

The government has launched a new Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) which is to be based at the Central Science Laboratory here in Yorkshire.
To mark the new facility, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs bought one of my bronze sculptures. This now graces the entrance hall to the buildings in Sand Hutton.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn unveiled the new sculpture, Water off a Duck's Back, at a ceremony to mark the launch.
I was invited to go along and found it a very interesting experience. Mr Benn appeared to have a real interest in wildlife.
For a closer look at the sculpture, click here. And for more information on the new government department, click here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Devoted Parents

The family of tawny owls that feed from my garden bird table each night are growing up quickly.
I have learned a lot about how devoted parent tawny owls can be as I have watched the chicks visit with their parents each night. It won't be long, though, before these very same parets shoo them away and they have to leave to find new territories.
To find out more about this family of owls follow this link to my latest column in the Gazette & Herald.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What to paint next

I'm always keen to hear about which animal or bird people would like me to paint next.
This summer, during my exhibition, I thought I'd ask. I printed a questionnaire onto the raffle tickets asking people to share their ideas.
There were some interesting suggestions, such as octopus and kiwi. But the overall favourite was red kites, which I agree is a great plan.
I spotted some red kites in Millington Pastures for the first time this year and it would be very interesting to follow them and find out more about where they are settled.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Raising funds to help birds on the Wolds

This year I used my exhibition to raise funds for a new conservation project that I'm planning. Nest Boxes on the Wolds will involve building and putting up nesting boxes of all shapes and sizes on farmland in this area. I'm hoping the boxes will boost, and support, bird populations here.
So far it has been very successful. I raised £247 at the exhibition via a raffle in which I offered £150 worth of wildlife prints as first prize. I'm pleased to announce that the winner was Alison Vickers. Well done Alison and thanks to all who entered for helping me make a start on my latest conservation project.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Candid Camera

A friend of mine works as a researcher for the Central Science Laboratory in Sand Hutton. She is currently working on a project tracking the movements of wild boards in the Forest of Dean. Last week she brought some new infra red equipment up to Fotherdale to test it out on my owls.
What I didn't expect was for her to capture me on camera. She tracked me as I went out to tie some bait to a tree. Seems the equipment works perfectly!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kermit the Kestrel- a new arrival

Look at this little baby Kestrel! I've called him Kermit. A couple were walking along the Wolds Way when they spotted this little bundle on the floor. Alongside it was a dismembered leg & a head. So it seems like the whole nest has been raided probably by tawny owls. This one had probably jumped off the nest to escape during the scuffle. It had been lucky to survive as the nest is some 70 feet up. Tawny owls can be vicious birds and once they know that there are chicks of other birds of prey they will keep returning to the nest until every last chick is killed. So I've decided to hand rear this little chick and then release it into the wild. I've done this several times before and sometimes it is a success and sometimes it's not. I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Young Presenter

I was delighted to meet George Till, who is 8, at my gallery. He's been following my work closely and is a big fan of my owl paintings! George had just done a presentation on me & my work as part of Art Week. All of the other pupils had chosen an 'old master' & I was the only living artist! Well done George, I hope you get top marks!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hockney at Fotherdale

This is the view that David Hockney chose to paint of the Wolds & guess who's house is featured on it... mine!! BBC did a documentary on him painting the Yorkshire Wolds and the opening shots were of my house. It gave me quite a suprise! Click here to see the programme.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Kids on the Block

You'll remember the tale about my poor male tawny owl's eye. See below. Well no need to worry as three new models appeared on the boundary of my garden last night - the male's three chicks. At first they waited on the side lines and then they came closer.

And then they were gone!

PS It's my birthday today!